I flew to Seattle knowing that Jennifer quit like she did because she alleges that the COO of Edgington Inc’s west coast office not only sexually harassed her repeatedly, but he also supposedly accosted her in her office and several times at her home. No police reports were ever fired and there is no physical evidence that anyone is aware of to substantiate her claims. I don’t know Jennifer well enough to assume whether she’s being truthful or not, but I find it hard to believe she’s making it up.
Either way, I’ll be conducting an investigation while I’m out here in addition to sitting in on interviews for a replacement. For the moment, the COO has been placed on unpaid leave until everything is sorted out. We’ve already contacted lawyers and I’ve spoken with all of Jennifer’s support staff to find out what they know.
The general consensus is that Franklin’s behavior was inappropriate. A few of the female employees reported feeling uneasy around Franklin. He was too in their personal space or he made inappropriate comments about their wardrobe choices.
After we meet with Crystal Norris I can tell Russell is equal parts agitated and nervous. She claims that Franklin asked her if she kept her fuck me shoes on in bed. I thought Russell was going to snap his pen in half when she said it. I’m pretty sure his head is going to explode.
“It looks like replacing Jennifer might not be our only task out here,” I say once we’re alone. I’m assuming Jennifer is planning on seeing a lawyer. If Russell is smart, he’ll settle out of court and she’ll focus on going after Franklin personally.
“That’s a given,” Russell sighs.
“Well, I’ll get the word out to the big headhunters unless you have someone internally in mind to promote,” I say.
“I do have someone internal I’m thinking about,” he tells me. “I’m thinking about pulling Sophie Anne over from the Chicago office,” he tells me. “Then that would leave an opening there that I’d need to fill but that would be easier since I’m there.”
One headache traded in for another. Fan-fucking-tastic.
“What about Lorena Ball?” I suggest.
“Hmm,” he hums. “Lorena wouldn’t be a bad choice. This is why I bring you with me to these things.”
“Oh you’d do just fine without me, but thank you,” I smile. “How long before something leaks to the press?”
As much as Russell probably doesn’t want to fire Franklin, he’s going to have to.
“It’ll hit as soon as Franklin gets his walking papers.”
“You know… This could be a stretch, but maybe with Franklin gone Jennifer might consider coming back,” I suggest.
“I have a meeting scheduled with her on Tuesday,” he smiles. “I’m keeping my options open in case she doesn’t agree. I know you want to get home, so I’m trying to make this go as fast as possible.”
“I do want to get home but I don’t want to rush this and have to come back here in six weeks,” I tell him.
“I won’t make any decisions until I’m sure, Sookie. Also, if something else happens once we’re home I won’t bring you along until after you’re back from maternity leave,” he says. “I have a sister and I know how uncomfortable it is to travel when you get further along.”
“I don’t even want to think about it. I’m going to have to go shopping. I think I went up another dress size or two and I’m only at eleven weeks,” I pout.
“You’re gorgeous, sweetheart. You’re growing a human; it’s perfectly acceptable to gain weight.” He gives me a small smile and adds, “You also chose one of the biggest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting to procreate with.”
“Well if I would have known I would have picked someone smaller,” I chuckle.
“It’s part of a woman’s DNA to be attracted to the bigger, stronger men. They’re protectors, they’re supposed to be able to provide. It’s not always a conscious choice. It’s nature,” he shrugs.
“I used to think Eric was funny.” These days I’m not so sure.
“I’m sure he still is,” Russell says. “Your relationship has changed and he’s not trying to impress you anymore. How long have you known each other?”
“God… almost eleven years, I think. My best friend dragged me to this costume party for Halloween because she wanted to impress the guy she was dating. Except he ended up with some chick dressed up like Pam Anderson’s Baywatch character. She was so upset about it that we left the party early, only her mom’s station wagon had a flat. I had no idea how to change it, but lucky for us these two big, burly guys came along who were willing to help a pair of slightly inebriated ladies out. She’s marrying one and I’m carrying the other one’s baby. Fate is funny sometimes,” I recall with a smile.
“Something keeps you around after all these years,” Russell points out. “He may not be funny, but you like something about him still.”
“I do. I’m just having a harder time figuring out what it is these days. This isn’t your problem, though.” I close my laptop and start putting away my notes.
“No, but I’m always here to listen or offer any advice I can. You’re my employee, however, I also consider you a friend,” he says fondly. “I wouldn’t allow just anyone to stay with me, Sookie.”
“And here I thought you were taking pity on the poor, pregnant lady,” I tease and stand up slowly. I still get the occasional head rush. I’ve discovered several things in the last seventy-two hours that Butterball doesn’t like, and it always causes immediate evacuation. In addition to melon, Butterball does not like peach yogurt, the smell of cooked broccoli or the smell of popcorn.
“I pity no one, Miss Stackhouse,” he winks.
“Except for Mitzi,” I chuckle. It’s his teacup furball of a dog. She looks like a little cotton ball with glossy black eyes.
“That’s only because she’s stuck with a whiny Talbot until we’re back.”
“Just be thankful he can’t carry your child,” I say as I stand up. I can easily imagine Talbot traipsing around in a Juicy Couture muumuu, weeping for his lost waist and swollen ankles that prevent him from fitting into his favorite Gucci loafers.
“Of that I am truly thankful,” he laughs.
“I bet,” I laugh.
“Go relax, Sookie,” he tells me. “You look tired and you need to stay healthy for that baby.”
“I’d love to, but I made plans with Bill,” I tell him.
“Ah,” he nods. “Well, have fun with him. He’s a nice guy.”
“And there’s no Mrs. Compton or any little Comptons I should know about?”
“Not that I’ve ever met or heard of. I’ve known him for about five years now and he’s always been a bachelor. I would warn you if I didn’t think he was on the up and up.”
“I appreciate it, thanks,” I smile. I’m a little confused about why a long-term bachelor would want a pregnant woman, but I’m sure he’s got his reasons.
I pick up my bag and Russell follows me out of the conference room. I’m betting he’s off to have a talk with the legal department about everything we just learned. I, on the other hand, head for the elevator. As it’s going down I decide to text Eric.
Me: Things are fucked here. I don’t have a return ETA yet.
I haven’t told him about Bill either but I don’t see a reason to… yet.
Eric: I’m sorry. I hope things come together soon so you can come home. I miss you guys.
Me: I miss you too.
Eric: How’s Butterball treating you?’
Me: Not too bad. He doesn’t like melon though 😦
It’s too bad because I love honeydew. I’ll have to nix it this summer unless Butterball changes his mind.
Eric: That sucks. I know you much you love it in the summer. I think I’m going to have to fire Longshadow. I think he’s stealing; I just need to find proof.
Me: Ugh, that’s disappointing.
Hiring the guy was a risk and Eric knew it, but he didn’t want to shut the guy out based on rumors. Longshadow has a history of supposedly sticky fingers, but there was no proof at his other jobs either.
Eric: Yeah. I called in the security company to set up some new hidden cameras behind the bar and in the stockroom. Cases of beer have come up missing; also my accountant discovered about 15k missing on the book for last month. This is bullshit.
Me: That sucks. I’m sorry 😦
I know Eric likes Longshadow. He can be a little surly sometimes, but he’s generally a good bartender. Overall the customers like him, as far as I know anyway.
Eric: It’s alright. I’m working it out. I’m pressing charges as soon as I have the proof. I’m not worried about that as much as I am how you’re doing. Is it that shitty? The situation, that is?
Thunder rumbles overhead as I exit the building. I walk through the garage toward the SUV Russell rented for me. I’m parked in the spot reserved for Jennifer. Thank God for the GPS in the SUV or I wouldn’t be able to find my way beyond the end of the driveway.
Me: It’s not as simple as just replacing Jennifer, unfortunately. I’m about to get in the car though so I’ll call you tomorrow.
Eric: Okay. Have a good night and tell my baby I love him. Love you too Sook.
Me: Will do.
I set my phone aside and pat my bump.
“Daddy wants you to know he loves you, kiddo,” I say before I start the car. I already saved the address of the Asian restaurant I’m meeting Bill at.
I don’t know what is going on there, but he’s been polite and perfectly charming in the last few days, even with the melon making me puke.
Rain is falling steadily as I navigate through Seattle. It’s a beautiful city. If I wasn’t pregnant I might have told Russell to transfer me. I can only imagine how Eric would react to that. Sometimes I think he likes the convenience factor of our relationship. He says he loves me in text messages, but face to face I’m like one of the guys.
I used to think maybe it was just bad timing and maybe someday we’d figure it out. Now I think maybe we’re supposed to move on. I love him and all, but enough is enough.
I pull into the parking lot where I’m supposed to be meeting Bill and hope that Butterball doesn’t reject the orange chicken I’ve been craving all day long. If he does I may have to put him on the black market.
Since Sookie’s been gone I’m back to spending sixteen hours a day at the bar. It allows me to watch what’s going on, and I’ve notice nothing has gone missing in the last two days. Maybe I should take a night off to give Longshadow a chance to lift something. The only problem is, I don’t know what to do, other than sleep. I don’t like going to clubs, I’m just too old for that shit. Not to mention that if I want a drink I can drink right here in my own damn bar. That’s when it really hits me I have less than a handful of real friends, Sookie, Alcide and Maria, who I count as one, and now Holly. I haven’t had time to maintain relationships with a lot of people. I have acquaintances and employees, and my mother, but that’s it.
I’m sitting in my office, flipping the cameras back and forth between my camera on the register and the two in the storeroom when there’s a knock on my door. I flip the camera feed to the dance floor and call out to whoever it is to come in.
The door opens and Holly sticks her head in.
“Hey,” she says with a friendly smile.
“Hi,” I smile back. “Come on in.” I motion for her to come in and stand up from my desk, walking around to lean on the front.
“How’re you doing?” Holly comes in and closes the door.
“Stressed.” I hold out my arms for a hug.
“Awwww,” she pouts and comes over to give me the hug I need. “Anything I can do?”
“Ask Longshadow to stop stealing my shit and get my baby home,” I sigh as I rub her back.
“I don’t know if I can do anything about the baby, but if you point me toward Longshadow I’ll give him a karate chop to the windpipe for you,” she offers.
I smile as I tilt her head up to kiss her hello. “You’re too kind,” I chuckle when I pull back from the lingering peck.
“I actually took karate as a kid,” she tells me.
“I believe it. I’m sure you could take him too, but I’ll stick to the police once I catch him on camera,” I tell her. “What brings you by?”
“Oh yeah?” I smile. “What about me?”
“Well I hate to be Captain Obvious, but you’re kinda cute,” she says. “Plus you’re a great kisser.”
“Using me, huh?” I ask before dipping my head to kiss her again. I lick her bottom lip before slowly suckling on it for a few seconds.
“Mmhmm,” she hums and then her tongue swipes my lips.
I open up for her, granting her access. Her warm tongue meets mine in a slow kiss. She’s a pretty good kisser. Definitely good enough to make my cock twitch when she nips my bottom lip. I slip my hands down her back to grip her ass as we start to make out.
Holly moans into the kiss and leans into me a little. She reaches between us to stroke my cock over my jeans while her tongue duels with mine. I groan into the kiss, rocking my hips against her hand. I’m getting harder and harder with each stroke.
I break the kiss to breathe, placing wet kisses along her jaw, down her neck. “How long have you been thinking about my cock?” I purr against her neck as I slip my hand between her thighs from behind.
“Mmm… only a few days,” she admits.
“What took you so long to come in to get it?” I ask, rubbing against her opening through her panties.
“I’ve been busy,” she pants. “Plus I didn’t want to look too eager.” Her head rolls to the side and she puts my other hand on her boob. They’re not as big as Sookie’s, but still a handful.
“You’re in luck. I’m taking the night off,” I tell her. I squeeze her tit, tugging her nipple as I release. “I don’t know why you even wore panties.” I push them to the side to rub her wet pussy. I can tell she wasn’t lying. She’s been ready for this for a while.
“So you could rip them off, silly.” She unzips my jeans for me.
“Smart girl.” My eyes lock onto hers as I move my hands up under her skirt so I can rip the seams of her panties. I lift them dangling them between my fingers and say, “Mmm, if you’re shy I can use them as a gag when I fuck you so no one can hear.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” she says. Holly backs up against the nearest wall and tugs her skirt up over her hips so it’s out of the way. She reaches down to touch herself and moans when she slowly circles her clit.
I keep my eyes on her when I move to my file cabinet to grab a condom, slipping it into my pocket. I walk over to where she is and drop to my knees. I pull her hand away, sucking her wet fingers before I lean in to rub her clit with my tongue. Holly hooks her leg over my shoulder, giving me better access as I start to suck and lick.
“Ohmygod that’s good,” she moans. Her fingers run through my hair and her hips start to move a little.
My eyes flick up to hers. I bring my hand up to slide two thick fingers into her pussy, pumping slowly while I start to suck. I start to scissor my fingers to stretch her in preparation for my cock. I use my other hand to pull my cock out of my pants and I start to stroke. I’m already solid as a fuckin’ rock and ready to go, but I need her to cum first. I curl my fingers to find her sweet spot, rubbing when I find it.
“Ohgodohgodohgod right there,” she pants. Her heel digs into my back and her walls grip my fingers hard. “Fuuuuck!”
“Mmm, perfect,” I smile before kissing her clit. I pull my fingers out to suck her juices off of them and then reach down to pull the condom from my pocket. I rip the wrapper and roll it on before I stand up, lifting her with her thighs over my arms on the way. This girl is light as a feather and easily manhandled. Thankfully she seems to like it. “Put me where you want me, Holly,” I tell her and tilt my head to kiss her so she can taste her pussy on my tongue.
She kisses me back and rubs my tip up and down her slit a few times before she puts me at her entrance. I thrust my hips up, filling her easily with how wet she is.
“Jesus fuckin’ Christ,” I groan, breaking the kiss to rest my forehead on hers. She’s still crazy tight.
“Holy shit, you’re so big,” she purrs and rolls her hips.
“That’s not hard with how Goddamn tight you are,” I grunt. I rest my hands on the wall, so I’m pressed tight against her. My hips start to move, slow at first before speeding up until I’m smacking her ass against the wall. Her moans tell me she likes it, which is good since I prefer to have it hard. I like her but slow and sweet isn’t supposed to happen with her. Slow and sweet is only going to be reserved for Sookie if we ever work our shit out. Although, I know Sookie likes it rough too. Fuck. Don’t think about her, Eric! You’re balls deep in another girl.
I put all my focus back on the sweet girl I’m driving in to. I give her long, lingering kisses every few strokes until I feel her walls begin to pulse again.
“Yesyesyesyesyes!” Holly cries out. Her head smacks against the wall but she doesn’t seem to notice or care. She digs her nails into my back as her orgasm grips her.
“Mmm, that’s good,” I growl. My hips move even faster. It only takes a few more thrusts until I feel my orgasm building. “I’m gonna fucking come, Holly. You want to swallow it?” I pant.
“Yes,” she moans.
I pull out, making her groan. The condom goes flying as set her on her feet and push her to her knees. I hold her head in place, tilted back so her open mouth is cock level. I pump my shaft in my hand a few times before I fuckin’ lose it.
“Fuck!” I shout when my release shoots out, filling her mouth, dribbling down to her chin. Goddamn she’s sexy. Not as sexy as my… no, not thinking about her.
Holly moans and licks my release from her chin. Her eyes are full of lust.
“You know I’ve never tried anal,” she confesses as she’s still cleaning up the mess I made on her face.
“Are you offering to let me fuck you in the ass?” I ask. I don’t know what the fuck it is about me that gets chicks to offer it. I don’t think I’ve ever had to ask. That being said, as tiny as Holly is, I may break her if we try it.
“I’m just mentioning. Are you into that?”
“I’ve been known to enjoy it,” I shrug. “It’s not something I go out looking for.”
“What do you go looking for?”
“I don’t usually look for anything.” I help her off of her knees. “I like having a good time and I’m having a very good time with you.”
“Are you sure I can’t karate chop Longshadow for you?”
“It would be adorable,” I chuckle. I kiss the tip of her nose and suggest, “Why don’t we get out of here instead?”
“That sounds like a great idea.” She tugs her skirt down and fixes her top.
I tuck my cock away and turn to find the condom. It’s stuck to the side of my file cabinet. Gross. I peel it off and throw it away before grabbing a Lysol wipe to clean off the cabinet. If nothing else, I am clean.
“My place or are you hungry?” I ask.
“I wouldn’t mind a snack,” she answers.
“In the mood for anything specific?” I ask. I walk over to my computer to lock it while I grab my keys. “We can always order in, too.” Holly hasn’t been to my house yet, so if she comes by this will be a first.
“Ordering in is fine with me. I’m not super picky.”
“Alright. Follow me?” I grab my keys and motion for her to follow me. On the way out I tell Chow to watch the place. He’s been my acting manager any time I leave lately. He has a set of keys so he can lock up the joint.
Once we’re on the road, Holly following close behind me I make a quick call to Antonio’s to order a cheese and sausage pizza for delivery. I’m just pulling off of the highway when my phone rings. Sookie.
“Hey, mama bear,” I answer.
“Hi. How’re you? It’s not too late, is it?”
“You know I don’t sleep at night,” I chuckle. “I’m good. I’m actually leaving the bar so hopefully I can catch Longshadow on video,” I tell her. “How are you? Butterball treating you okay?”
“He’s alright. I’m awake because of me for a change,” she says.
“Is everything okay? Or are you working?”
“I’m at home. I’ve been pacing since I got back… from the date I went on.”
“Ahh… a date?” I say, I want to ask what the fuck she’s thinking going on a goddamn date, but then I remember Holly in the car behind me. “Why are you pacing?”
“Because I like him,” she admits.
I sigh. “So… all that about us maybe working something out…” Fuck. I knew her going to Seattle was a bad fuckin’ idea.
“It was one date, Eric,” she sighs too.
After the talk with Holly I’ve decided I’m going to try to be better and not flip my shit even though I’m ready to drive to Seattle to kill the fucker thinking he can take my girl, and baby, on a goddamn date.
“Okay,” I say, I’m sure it’s a shock to Sookie that I’m not losing my shit. I am, I’m hiding it for once. “You know I don’t like it, but I can’t stop you. I… I want us to be a family,” I admit for the first time. “I’m not just saying this because of what you told me. Well, maybe I am. I wanted to wait until you’re home so we can talk face to face.” Fuck… again.
“Oh…” Sookie says softly. “Eric, I… I don’t know what I want anymore.”
“Because of your date or because of the way our relationship has been these last few months?” I can admit I’ve been a little extra dickish lately, mostly because I’ve been tired, but it’s no excuse.
“Both. If I’m being honest, Bill reminded me of the way it should be. We haven’t had that in a really, really long time. I think… I think I gave up.”
“I love you, Sookie,” I tell her. “I always have and I can admit I’ve gotten lazy in showing you.” I did not want to have this conversation over the phone but I want to get it out before she gets too attached to Bill.
“Of course you love me. You always decide you love me right when I’m ready to move on. It never lasts, Eric,” she reminds me.
“That’s bullshit, it’s never stopped,” I reply. “I wanted to tell you when you got home,” I sigh. “This isn’t because you’re trying to move on. This is because I’ve been crazy about you for eleven fucking years but I always manage to fuck it up. I’m tired of being the fuck up, Sookie.” I want my fucking family. This is why I’ve been holding back. She tries to tell me it’s not real every goddamn time.
“What if it’s too late?”
“Are you telling me it is?” I ask, holding my breath.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
My heart sinks. I want to scream and tell her that she’s wrong…
“We’re having a baby,” I whisper, “We… it can’t be too late…” I’m sure my voice is fucking creaky like I’m about to cry like a pussy. I’m not going to cry.
“Is it really me you want or just that you don’t want anyone else to play daddy to the kid?”
“It’s always been you,” I answer without hesitation. “I’ll always be the baby’s father, whether you’re with someone else or not. You’ve always been the girl I want to marry someday. I guess I fucked up and expected you to be there when that day came… I guess I thought you felt the same.” I won’t make that mistake twice.
“We haven’t changed, Eric. You still hate my job and the fact that I love it so much. You proved that before I left,” she points out. “Bill knows about the baby and he’s okay with it.”
“Of course,” I sigh. “I love that you love your job, Sookie. I hate how much you work. I hate that I only get to see you when I sneak in at night. You’re right, that’s not changed and I’m sure it never will. That doesn’t mean I don’t want us to at least try one more time…” Because I’m pretty sure it would work. The fact that I haven’t flown off the handle should be a sign that things are changing. For me, at least.
“Of course it’ll work if I’m willing to be the one who cuts back so you can keep working as many hours as you do. Eric, let’s be real here. We’re both selfish and neither of us likes to compromise. That’s a terrible combination destined to fail,” Sookie says.
“What if I promise to cut back too?” I’ve never offered that.
“Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it,” she snorts.
“I can’t show you if you don’t give me a chance to,” I remind her. “I’m leaving in the middle of the night now. Chow is locking up.”
Sookie lets out a breath but she sounds more annoyed than relieved. “Eric, I have to go,” she says.
“Of course,” I sigh. “Call me tomorrow?”
“If I have time.” She hangs up before I can reply.
Fuck. This is why I didn’t want to say anything. Fucking Seattle. Fucking. Fuck!
I pull into my parking space. Holly finds an empty space near me. I’m sure she can tell I’m pissed as soon as she sees my face.
“Uh oh. What happened?”
“Fuckin’ Sookie,” I grumble. “Unless a fuckin’ miracle happens it sounds like the risk wasn’t fuckin’ worth it.”
“I’m sorry,” Holly frowns.
“Thanks. She’s met someone in Seattle,” I tell her as we walk toward my apartment.
“Already? That was fast. It hasn’t even been a week yet, has it?”
“Yeah, which is really fuckin’ shitty,” I grumble. We get to my apartment and I open the door, allowing Holly to go in first.
“That’s rough.” Holly goes inside but doesn’t go beyond the living room.
“I ordered pizza on the way here. Can I get you anything to drink?” I offer as I flip on the lamp on the end table.
“Mmm… I think Sookie’s announcement calls for a beer, don’t you?”
“I don’t know. I might get drunk and really piss her off if I drunk dial her,” I joke. I go into the kitchen go grab two Heinekens.
“What if I promise not to let you?” Holly offers. She takes one of the beers when I hand it to her.
“And how do you intend to stop me?” I ask with a flirty smile. I reach up to twirl the end of her thick, blonde hair.
“Oh I plan on keeping those hands occupied,” she says with a cocky smile. “It’s been ages since I whipped some ass at Mario Kart and I happened to notice the game system sitting out there…”
“You’re on,” I growl, giving her a light smack on the butt.
Holly and I go to the living room so I can fire the game up. It’s been a long times since I dusted off the Wii. We end up drinking the entire case if beer. We call the game a draw since I hate losing so bad. The night ends with us curled up and passing out on the couch. She’s a sweet girl and I appreciate having someone around to help me through this shit with Sookie since we can’t seem to talk anymore. Even when I try she ends up getting pissed so it always ends in a fight. I hate it. I hate that she’s in Seattle and I hate even more that she met someone. What I hate the most is her not willing to try anymore. It hurts. A lot.