My flight landed in San Diego on time. The flight wasn’t completely full but it still took a while to empty out. I turned my phone on as I entered the gate area and followed the signs for baggage claim. I sent Amelia a text to let her know I’d landed. When I got to baggage claim a short time later the bags from our flight hadn’t been unloaded yet.
I was playing around with my phone and I got the feeling someone was watching me. My eyes flitted up and I looked around for the source of what was giving me the heebie jeebies. It didn’t seem like I was being watched. If I was, the guilty party had already looked away.
A bell rang in warning and lights flashed before the luggage conveyor belt started to move. Bags came out in all kinds of odd ways. My Louis Vuitton bag was toward the back and of course my short arms couldn’t reach the damn thing. It never failed.
“Go go gadget arms,” I muttered. Of course nothing happened.
Maybe after everyone else got their bag mine would slump down enough for me to reach it. I hoped that was the case.
A large, burly man reached out to snatch up my bag. “Is this yours?” he asked when he turned toward me. He was tall, not quite Eric tall, but close. His eyes were emerald green and beneath his scruffy beard he had perfect white teeth as he smiled at me.
“Yes, thank you. These things were built for giants, I swear,” I answered.
“Possibly,” he chuckled. “I think you’re too pretty to not have your own personal porter anyway.”
“Awww that’s sweet of you.” I detected a little bit of a southern twang to his speech. It kind of reminded me of home but not quite. My much taller luggage wrangler plucked my heavy bag from the belt like it was full of cotton balls.
“I’m Alcide.” He set his bag down before holding out his hand.
“Sookie,” I replied. I shook his hand and curtsied a bit. I wasn’t sure if he could tell thanks to the maxi dress I was wearing. His hands were tan and calloused. There was a little scar on the back of his hand and I noticed another on his inner bicep.
“Nice to meet you, Sookie. Louisiana?” he guessed.
“Yessir,” I nodded. “Mississippi?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He gave me a dazzling smile. “You here for a visit?”
“No, I’m living here now. I’m staying with some friends while I house hunt,” I explained. Why I told him all that I wasn’t sure. His smile really was nice. It was friendly and welcoming. I wanted to see it again. He was still holding my hand but I didn’t mind that either.
“Good to know,” he winked. “I uh… I need to run, but would it be okay if I call you sometime?”
“Sure.” I had to let go of his hand to fish my phone out. Having him punch in his number was so much better than writing it on his hand or something.
“Thanks. I hope to hear from you soon, Sookie.” Alcide picked up my hand to kiss the back of it.
“You will,” I promised him.
In fact he had barely walked away when I sent him a text so he’d have my number too. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt a spark like that but I liked it.
“Thanks for the time off,” I said to Eric while we were mid-shift Thursday.
“No problem,” he replied. “It’s not like it was a vacation a week after you started.”
“True, but I still appreciate it.” He didn’t need to know all the details of the trip.
“Amelia said you were bringing back cookies from Levain. Is that true?”
“It is,” I nodded. “You an addict too?”
“Not an addict per se, but if they’re close I want one,” he chuckled.
“I may have a few extras,” I said. Actually I’d been able to put in an order for six dozen.
“I’ll give you my second born for one,” he said with a cheesy grin.
“Or you could use the magic word.”
“I’ll bring you one tomorrow,” I promised. “If I had known I would have brought one to day. What kind do you want?”
“Chocolate chip is fine. I’m a purist when it comes to my cookies.”
“I’m not so picky. Then again, my favorite cookie is a shortbread turtle.” Buttery pecan cookie with caramel and chocolate? Get. In. Me.
“Ugh, that sounds orgasmic,” he groaned.
“If I could cook I’d make you some.”
“I appreciate that,” he laughed. “I can cook, but I’m not the best baker.”
“I’m not the best anything in the kitchen,” I laughed.
“That’s a lie. You’re the best expeditor I’ve ever had.”
“Can an expeditor cook?” I snatched up the new ticket that came in and put it up in front of me.
“Technically, you should be able to,” he laughed.
“No one ever taught me how,” I shrugged.
“Do you want to learn? I’m an extremely patient teacher,” he said over his shoulder when he turned to the stove.
“I probably should. I want to have kids someday. They’ll probably want to eat, right?”
“Most likely. I can even teach you how to hide veggies in meals if your kids refuse to eat them. Jo was picky when she was younger. She’s a pretty good eater now.”
I called out the order on the next ticket, making sure that everyone heard me. Eric smiled and grabbed a chicken breast out of the fridge. Plates came up so I cleaned the rims and put up the sauces before calling for service.
“Hey Sookie, we’re out of blackberries,” Luna informed me.
That was a problem. The blackberry grilled cheese was a favorite.
“Thanks. I’ll let Aude know,” I replied.
I slipped out of the kitchen to go find Aude. She was at the hostess counter.
“Excuse me, Aude?” I said politely.
“Yeah?” she said, looking at me with a genuine smile.
That was new.
“We have to eighty-six the blackberry grilled cheese. We’re out of blackberries,” I told her.
“Okay,” she smiled. “I’ll let the girls know. Thanks, Sookie.”
I felt like I’d stepped into the twilight zone.
Back in the kitchen more tickets had come up while Eric had completed another table. My cell phone buzzed in my back pocket and I snuck a peek at the text message waiting for me… from Alcide. Immediately my heart did that flip-floppy thing and I could only see his dazzling white teeth in my mind while I read.
Alcide: Got plans Saturday?
You knocking me?
Me: Only if you’re free 😉
Alcide: I am. As a matter of fact I’d like to have dinner with you.
Me: I’d like to have dinner with you too.
Cue the dopey smile…
Alcide: If I sent you my address would you be willing to be there at 6?
Me: Depends. Are you a serial killer?
Alcide: Nope. I also order take out like a champ.
“Sookie, no phone on the clock,” Eric said as if he had eyes in the back of his head.
Me: No phone allowed at work. I’ll call you later.
I slipped my phone back in my pocket before Alcide could respond. It was probably for the best. My focus was already shot.
“It’s fine, don’t let it happen again,” Eric replied.
“I won’t.” Getting my head back in the game wasn’t so easy. Nor was wiping the silly smile from my face.
“Something wrong with your face?” he teased when he turned around.
“Nope.” The smile was still there. “Is smiling on the clock not allowed?”
“Yes,” Mel answered for him.
“You just never smile like that,” Eric said, ignoring Mel.
“I met someone at the airport last night,” I admitted. “He rescued my Louis and he just asked me to dinner.”
“Awww,” Eric smirked. “He saved Louis, it must be love.”
“I don’t know if it’s love but I wouldn’t mind making out with him while I figure it out.”
“Someone’s been talking to Dawn too much,” Aude said from behind me followed by a little giggle.
“Not at all, actually,” I chuckled. “He’s got the prettiest green eyes…”
“Green eyes are nice. I prefer blue,” she replied, glancing back at Eric who was back to work.
“Blue is good too.” I ladled up some of the house vinaigrette to add to a table.
Aude went back to the front of the house and I slowly started to get my mind back on work. The rest of my shift seemed to fly by thanks to the lunch rush. I had an appointment after work to meet with a real estate agent to look at a townhouse with two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms and a rooftop deck that would be ideal for entertaining.
I went back to the office to get my purse. I was getting out my chapstick when Eric walked in.
“So… you met someone, huh?” he asked with a smile as he walked past me to sit in his office chair.
“I did,” I replied.
“Good. It’ll be good for you to see what it’s like out in the dating world,” he said. “Maybe if this thing with him works out I can teach you how to cook something for him.”
“That would be fun.” I needed to learn one way or another.
“He ask you on a date?”
“He invited me to his place for dinner,” I said.
“Be careful going to someone’s house that you barely know,” he warned.
“Don’t worry, I’ll leave his address and phone number with Amelia.” I wasn’t stupid.
“Good. You want to come over tomorrow night for your first lesson?”
“I could do that.”
“Cool. We can start with something easy like spaghetti or something.”
“Spaghetti is good,” I nodded. “Maybe I’ll use my oven for something other than storing sweaters for a change.”
“Probably not a safe place for clothes,” he laughed. “Hey, how’s your tattoo doing?”
“It’s good,” I smiled. “I’m lotioning it regularly as told.”
“Good. Mind if I take a look at it?”
“Nope.” I tugged my top up some and lowered the waist of my capris for him. It was a little scabby, but that was a good thing.
“May I?” Eric lifted his hand as if he was going to touch it.
“Yeah.” He was almost a manic hand washer so I wasn’t worried.
He traced the shape of the cage with his fingertips. His touch was light as he studied it. “It’s healing beautifully,” he said without taking his eyes off of the tattoo.
“Thanks. I think so,” I agreed. “Rene does great work.”
“Mmm, and he has a light hand,” he replied.
“He does.” My phone buzzed in my pocket again and I pulled it out to find a message from the realtor with the address I was supposed to meet her at.
Eric still had his hand on my hip when the door opened. I heard a gasp behind me. It was Aude.
“Hey Aude,” I said with a smile. The look on her face told me her bitch switch had been flipped.
“What are you doing?” she growled at Eric, making him give her a confused look.
“Why does it matter?” he asked.
“What are your hands doing on her? Huh? What makes you think it’s okay to touch another girl so… intimately?”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” She took a step closer, making Eric lean back.
“What do you mean? Did the other night mean nothing to you?!” Eric arched an eyebrow at that. So did I.
He sighed before saying, “No, the other night didn’t mean anything and you know that. It was a drunken fucking mistake.”
I stepped out of the way in time for Aude to lose her damn mind and charge at Eric like she was a linebacker for the Saints on Superbowl Sunday.
Eric caught her hands when she tried to slap him. “We talked about this, Aude,” he said as calmly as possible while trying to restrain her.
“You motherfucker!” she yelled, trying to wiggle out of his grasp.
“Aude. Leave,” he barked. “If you don’t calm the fuck down I’m calling the cops.”
I wasn’t certain about what had happened but I could guess. My gut said Eric violated his rule about sleeping with an employee. For whatever reason Aude probably thought he was coming on to me but that wasn’t it at all.
“Aude, nothing’s going on between Eric and me. He was just looking at the tattoo I got last week,” I calmly explained.
She turned on me. “And you,” she hissed. “You’ve been trying to seduce him since the moment you walked in here!”
Crazy bitch say what?
“That’s it, Aude. You’re outta here,” Eric growled. “I’ll mail you your last check.”
“Good! I’m tired of watching you two flirt all day!” Her eyes narrowed at him. “I can’t believe you’d do this to me.”
“Out,” Eric growled again.
Wait what? Eric and I didn’t flirt all day.
Aude needed to double her dosage.
That crazy bitch was probably going to slit my tires on her way out. She definitely shoulder slammed me.
“Hey!” I yelled after her, not that she cared that she almost knocked me over. Psycho. “Geez, did you fuck the sanity out of her?”
“Apparently,” he sighed. “It was an accident. I ran into her at the bar the other night. One minute we were taking shots, the next I was waking up next to her. I don’t even remember leaving with her.”
“You might want to see a doctor about the crazy side effects women experience after going for a ride on that thing,” I chuckled and grabbed my keys from my bag.
“It’s not my fault I’m so good,” he winked. “I’ll go easy on the next girl.”
“Good, or she’ll be throwing Molotov cocktails through the front window during the lunch rush,” I snorted.
“Sorry she bumped you.” He dropped his head back. “Fuuuuck!” he shouted, making me jump. “I have to change the fucking locks. I’m going to have to have someone else pick up Jo from school.”
“I’d offer but she doesn’t really know me.”
“I’ll see if Heidi can get her,” he sighed. “If not would you mind coming back after your appointment to meet the locksmith?”
“I can do that,” I agreed. “It shouldn’t be too long. I can stop by your place to get the keys for the café and then you don’t have to worry about having someone else get Josie.”
“You’re a lifesaver, Sookie. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll call you when I’m done. The house is a few blocks from the bay. If I get the house we’d only be a few blocks apart.”
“Oh that’s awesome,” he smiled. “I’ll be sending good vibes your way, if you like it, that is.”
“Thanks. I hope I do. I’m ready to be in my own space again.”
“I bet. I’ve stayed over there enough to know what it’s like,” he chuckled.
“Yeah,” I laughed. “I’m grateful for everything they’ve done for me, but it’s time. Especially with the new guy and all that…”
“Hmm, good luck with that too. You deserve to find your own happiness and not what everyone else wanted,” Eric said sincerely.
“Thanks. That’s the plan. Well, I should get going. I’ll call you when I’m done with the walkthrough,” I told him.
“Thanks again. I’m going to call now to make an appointment with the locksmith. I’ll see you later.” Eric turned toward his computer to start looking up a locksmith.
I walked out of the restaurant half expecting Aude to flying tackle me from out of nowhere but that didn’t happen. Did sex really make a person go crazy? Maybe it was just crazy good sex that did it. I didn’t know and I was a little afraid to find out.
For the moment I put my focus into house hunting because I really did need to get out of Amelia’s place. If I was about to experience sex that would make me lose my mind, I didn’t need Amelia listening at the door like the nosy bitch she was. I put the air conditioning on full blast and backed out of my parking space to go meet my realtor across town.