It was a slow day at Hicktown Hunters, so I was out in the dog run playing with my pack of Lacy pups. Church, my undisputed favorite, made a mad dash down the run to fetch the tennis ball I hurled for him. Miley, Tank and Bingo all went running too, but Church was my catch dog. Bingo was by far the fastest but Church was the one who closed the deal. He snatched up the ball and hauled ass back my way.
“Good boy, Church.” I scrubbed between his ears.
I started Hicktown Hunters with a few of my buddies. Texas had a big problem with wild hogs and there were plenty of ranchers looking for help catching the sumbitches, and that’s where we come in. Not only did we work together, we were living in a house together in Kendall County, right in the heart of Texas hill country. For a group of young bucks, we were doing alright for ourselves.
Our business was right there on Main Street. It used to be a bed and breakfast for Sam’s folks decided to move on and spend their golden years over in Florida fighting off hurricanes and gators. Committing to the house and the land was a big deal, but it was the right move. In the last year our business had grown. At the moment, Sam and Al were out with a few new guys, trying to see if any of them would be useful. There was damn good money in hog hunting if you knew what the hell you were doing.
The key was a pack of good pups. Church had been a birthday present the year before and from the second we met, he and I got on like gangbusters. You wouldn’t find a better catch dog than Church.
We had converted one of the two cabins out back into a business office. Back there we had our maps, walkie talkies, computers and tracking stuff. It was also where our business phone was and the master calendar so we didn’t overbook the clients. We had a three car garage that housed our pickup truck, the Jeep and the ATVs we used for hunts. Sam liked going horseback and so did I for smaller jobs. We had two horses stabled on my dad’s ranch in Bandera, the next county over to the west.
The phone rang in the office so I had to leave the dog run to go answer it. I didn’t recognize the area code but there were tons of ‘em in Texas.
“Hicktown Hunters, this is Eric,” I answered.
“Eric?” a soft, sweet voice said after a short silence. “It’s Sookie.”
“Sookie?” It took me a minute to place her. The voice was different but the name… Talk about floodgates opening. “Sookie Stackhouse? Good God girl, it’s been years since I talked to you.” We had been pretty hot and heavy for a few years when we were still kids. Well, she would probably say we were kids but I was living on my own – albeit in a crappy trailer – and busting my ass at the same business I was nurturing now.
“It almost sounded like you didn’t remember me there for a moment,” she said with a humorless laugh. “I know it’s been… too long. Do you have a minute to talk?”
Her Texas drawl was gone and she used to have the sweetest lilt to her voice. Not anymore. That was what she wanted, though. She wanted the big city and all the fancy things that I just couldn’t give her when she broke it off with me. It had chapped my ass pretty bad. Broke my heart, too.
“For you? I have three,” I joked. “How you been? This isn’t a professional call, I’m guessing.”
“I’ve been… better,” she told me. “I don’t know why I even called, really. I guess I just needed to hear a familiar voice.”
I didn’t really know what to say to that. When we split up she made it clear that I was everything she didn’t want. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense considering how good we were together. We had fun and she was the first girl I really fell in love with.
“But you’re happy where you are, right? You don’t regret leaving?” I was past being bitter about it. She’d been gone five years. I moved on and I was sure she did too.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “There’s just so much that’s different here. It’s not what I expected it to be. I’m… I’ve had some recent health issues and it made me think about what I might be missing at home.”
“And you called me?” That was a surprise. I didn’t think missing me was on her agenda since she was so ready to move on by the time she dumped me.
“I didn’t know who else to call,” she said softly. “You were my best friend for so long.”
That was true. For a while there she was my best friend. She threw all that away for reasons I still didn’t completely understand. I probably never would.
♥ ♥ ♥
“You do not want to live in New York,” I laughed as we lay on the bed of the truck, watching the sun set for the night.
“I do to,” she replied, resting her hand on my stomach and her head on my chest. “It’s so fast paced and exciting.”
“It’s full of nameless faces and weirdos,” I countered.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to disappear for a while? Not have your neighbors know everything there is to know about you? I think it would be freeing,” she said.
“No one knows we’re here right now,” I pointed out. We were out in the middle of my family’s ranch. It could take hours for anyone to find us. “I could strip you naked and have my way with you right here and no one would know.”
“They’d all figure it out eventually,” she giggled. Her hand wandered a little lower to dip under my belt buckle.
“Only if you get to screamin’ my name…” I teased.
“Sound does carry out here,” she agreed. “I like the slow pace out here, but New York is so… different.” Her hand wiggled a little lower so she could stroke my cock.
Of course my body responded to being touched by her. Sookie wasn’t my first but she was the first I felt that connection to you hear about in books or in love songs. She turned my world inside out.
“New York is the kinda place you visit, not the place you raise a family, darlin’.” I kissed her forehead and groaned when her thumb swirled around my tip.
“Then maybe I’ll wait on the family,” she told me. She slipped her hand down a little further so she could play with my sac. “Move to the suburbs before I start to have babies.”
“You fixin’ to have babies with someone else?” I had no desire to move out of Texas. I was happy there. I had my own business and I was doing good. New York wouldn’t work for a guy like me.
“No, I’m trying to sweet talk you into coming with me,” she giggled. Her small hand wrapped around my thickening shaft and she started to pump slowly.
“Baby, you know I adore you, but New York just isn’t in the cards for me,” I told her. I could see by the look in her eyes she wasn’t done trying to convince me yet.
“Not even for a few years? We could go see a Broadway play whenever the mood struck, or go get pizza from a cart on the side of the street. It would be an adventure, Eric.” She pulled her hand out of my jeans and shifted so she was straddling me. “It wouldn’t be as fun without you, baby.”
“Pizza from a cart, huh?” I smiled up at her. “Sounds soggy.”
“Maybe a little, but then we could walk two carts down and get a hot dog,” she giggled. Her nimble fingers started working on the buttons of my shirt.
“They got brisket carts up there?”
“We could open the first one. You make the best brisket and you could show those New Yorkers what they’re missin’,” she smiled, pushing my shirt over my shoulders.
“And what would you do?” I pulled her tank top over her head and she got to work taking her bra off. She had a beautiful, curvy little body. Sookie wasn’t rail thin like girls in magazines. There was padding in all the right places and she carried it with sass and confidence. “You know I wouldn’t get to watch you ride horses up there.” My eyebrows wiggled.
“I’d let you watch me run up the stairs in our apartment.” With that Sookie sat up on her knees and started to bounce a little, giving me an example of the way her tits would bounce on stairs. “And then I’d let you take me in any way you wanted to.”
She yelped in surprise when I rolled her under me. I looked into her eyes and asked, “When you see the future, what do you see?” I knew what I saw, but I was starting to worry our pictures weren’t the same.
“After living an adventurous few years in New York City, I see myself settlin’ down with you and startin’ a family,” she answered. “I just need to get out of this tiny town with more horses than people. At least for a while. I need to see what I could be missin’.”
I sighed but didn’t say what I was thinking.
What she would be missing was me.
♥ ♥ ♥
“That was a long time ago, darlin’,” I said. I wasn’t the same fella she left behind.
“I know. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called. I’m sure you’re married and have a baby or two. You don’t need me calling and stirring things up.”
“Nah, it’s nothing like that, although Freyda wasted no time tryin’ to console me after you left,” I chuckled. Hell, Freyda tried consoling me while Sookie and I were still together. Sook didn’t much like that.
“I’m sure she did. I don’t need to know if it worked,” she said. I could tell there was more she wanted to say. “Still, it’s not fair of me to call out of nowhere after all this time.”
“Darlin’, it’s alright. For your peace of mind I’ll remind you that I don’t like boney girls and she’s got them weak bird legs.”
“Then I shouldn’t tell you New York didn’t agree with all my curves,” she chuckled. “At least for a while it didn’t. They’re starting to come back.”
“You didn’t get on one of those fancy diets where alls you can eat is celery stalks and the dreams of unicorns, didya?”
“Not quite. That apartment I told you you could watch my tits bounce in was on the fifteenth floor and the elevator was broken more than it worked. I got more cardio and less beef,” she said.
“Are you callin’ to ask me to ship your boney behind a brisket?” I joked. Kind of.
“I told you it’s coming back. With the… health issue, I’ve been in bed a lot lately. I hope to be able to go back to work soon.”
“What health issue? Let me guess… Malnutrition from soggy cart pizza.”
She stayed silent for a moment before I heard a quiet sniffle. “A miscarriage,” she told me. “I was four months along.”
Oh… Oh shit.
“Damn. I’m sorry, Sookie,” I said sincerely. At that point I plopped my ass in a chair.
“It’s not your fault,” she sniffled again. “I need… I should get out of here, and away from him, but it’s not that easy, you know?”
“Away from who?” I suspected she meant the baby’s father.
“John,” she said quietly. “I don’t… this isn’t something I should talk about with you.”
“What’s wrong with John that you need to get away from him?” My mind went nowhere good with the possibilities. I doubted it was because he made her too many grilled cheeses or fluffed her pillow too often.
“He’s just not as nice as the boys at home.” I could imagine her shrug. “It’s not what I was expecting.”
“Did he hit you?” I asked point blank.
“Once,” she answered. “That was all it took.”
My stomach dropped into my ass.
“All it took for what?”
“For me to stop sassin’ him… and to tumble down the stairs…”
That son of a bitch.
“Is that how you lost the baby?”
“Most likely. It could have been a number of other things,” she said. “He was due on your birthday. Maybe that’s why I chose to call you… I’d just been thinking about you since I found that out.”
I sighed and said, “I’m sorry you lost your baby. What are you doin’ up there, Sook? What happened to the strong, sassy woman I used to know?” I was also a little afraid of her, but only because she was a tough cookie who didn’t back down from a fight. Her endurance was way better than mine. It wasn’t like I was really losing by letting her win our fights. If she was happy so was I.
“I don’t know,” she sniffled. “I haven’t seen her in so long, I forgot she existed.”
“She did,” I assured her. Boy, did she exist.
♥ ♥ ♥
I left for three minutes to change my shirt and I walked out back to find Al and Sam laughing their fool asses off… And Sookie standing proudly over a hogtied Andre.
“What the hell?” I laughed.
“He thought it would be okay to smack my ass,” she told me. “I kindly reminded him that honor is saved for you.”
“She lassoed his ass from fifteen yards and he ate dirt,” Sam added.
“Untie me, dadgumit,” Andre ordered.
Sookie leaned over him and commanded, “Apologize for touchin’ me inappropriately, and mean it. Then I’ll think about untyin’ you.”
“I wasn’t talkin’ to you,” he said.
“You’re her catch. You know the rules,” I replied.
“Maybe he needs a few hours to think on it,” Sam suggested.
“I could roll him into the barn and hoist him up so he’s hangin’ over the pig pen. You know how nosey they get. I’m sure they’d love to get a sniff of you, Andre,” Sookie smirked.
“Don’t even think about it,” he growled.
“So that’s a yes, you feel like swinging around a while?” Sookie tugged the ropes, pulling him a few inches closer to the barn.
“So help me God, Sookie,” Andre warned. If he thought threats would get her to back down, he was mistaken. “Northman, control your woman.”
Not on your life.
“Sorry, Andre, I’m only the boss in bed,” I informed him. I knew my place. I wanted to keep it.
“I could just leave you here to bake in the sun,” she offered. “Apologize to me and we can call a truce.”
“You know ice cold beers sound awful good right now,” Sam said.
“They sure do,” I agreed. “Let’s go get some.” I grabbed my girl’s hand. “Come on, baby. Give him time to think it over.”
“Sounds like a good idea.” She lifted my hand to kiss the back before she followed behind me.
“Dadgumit, untie me!” Andre yelled as we all walked away. “Sookie! Sookie!” She ignored him and climbed up into my truck. Her name was painted on the passenger’s side door. She had more than earned it.
“I ever tell you that you are the sexiest woman in the great state of Texas?” I asked her.
“Not recently.” She scooted over to the middle of the seat so she could put her hand on my thigh.
“You are. Hands down.” I turned my head to kiss her.
“I love you,” she said against my lips.
“I love you too, darlin’.” I kissed her again before starting the truck. Her head rested on my shoulder and Andre was still cussing up a storm as we drove away.
♥ ♥ ♥
“John didn’t like her much,” Sookie told me. “I shouldn’t talk to you about my relationship.”
“You know what I was just thinking about?”
“I shoulda listened when you asked me to stay?”
“No, I was thinkin’ about the time you hogtied Andre.” Sheriff Dearborn ended up untying him. Andre stumbled into the bar half burnt all to hell and pissed as tomcat on bath day.
“That was a good day,” she giggled. “He should’ve kept his grubby hands to himself.”
“Yeah he should,” I agreed. “He’s married to Sophie-Anne now. They have a set of twin boys about as cute as the south end of a northbound hog.”
“He looks like a rat, so I’m not too surprised,” she said seriously. “Good for them, though. As long as they’re happy, that’s what matters.”
“Everyone keeps tellin’ Sophie-Anne not to worry, that the boys’ll grow into their looks. I’m hopin’ they grow out of ‘em,” I said with a shiver.
“I’m a little sad I don’t get to see them,” she said. I could barely hear a smile in her voice.
“You could, you know,” I replied.
“Are you going to send me a picture?”
“I could. You could come back to Texas,” I suggested.
She stayed quiet for a moment. “There’s nothing in Texas for me anymore. After Gran passed, no one really wants me around, I’m sure of it.”
“Don’t be too sure,” I said.
“Who would want to hang out with a tired old maid that can’t even keep her mouth shut?”
“I don’t know about the tired old maid part but I’ve always thought you were something pretty special,” I said seriously.
“I’m not special, Eric,” she sighed. “I can’t even protect a baby that’s in my body. I’m worthless now.”
“No offense, darlin’, but that’s a solid horse apple,” I told her. “Look, I’m sure my opinion shouldn’t count for much but you called me for a reason. We didn’t work out but it don’t make you the devil. You got a little more adventure than you bargained for, it sounds like, but I know there’s still a place for you here if you’re tired of the big city.”
I heard another sniffle.
“I should’ve never left,” she whispered.
“Then come home,” I said.
“I… I don’t know if I can.”
“Because he won’t let you or because you’re embarrassed?”
“A little bit of both,” she admitted.
“I’m not so evolved that I won’t form a posse to come collect you,” I said seriously.
“You don’t have to do that,” she chuckled humorlessly. Her voice sounded like a silent plea to do just that.
“What do you want from me, Sookie?” I asked curiously. I knew she called for something other than to hear my voice. If it was just that simple she wouldn’t have told me about the baby or the woman beater.
“I don’t know if I have the right to ask you for anything. I walked away from you,” she reminded me. “I want… I need somewhere to go if I get out of here.”
“I’m living with Sam and Alcide these days. We bought the bed and breakfast from Sam’s folks. There’s a free cabin in the back that’s yours until you get on your feet. It comes with three security guards and a pack of very friendly and protective pups,” I told her.
“I’ll– Shit, I gotta go.” The line went dead.
I wanted to call back. I wanted to call the police in New York but I had no idea where she was. I could only hope she was okay.
♥ ♥ ♥
“What do you mean it’s over?” I watched Sookie shove her clothes into a suitcase.
“I love you, Eric, but I need to get out of this town. I need to get away from that house. I see her everywhere,” she told me. Her Gran had passed away four months before. “I’d love for you to come with me, but I know you’re never going to leave here.”
“I’m growing a business, Sookie. I can’t just leave it. This is a good future. We’ll be set. I’ll buy us a new house–”
“It’s not just the house. It’s the whole damn town, Eric. I need to get out of here. Even with all of this open air I feel like I’m suffocating here,” she argued.
“You need to get away from me.” I sat on the bed. I couldn’t believe she was really leaving. Anytime she talked about going to New York I figured it was just a fantasy. I didn’t think she’d really leave.
She stopped what she was doing so she could look at me. “It’s not you I need to get away from,” she tried to assure me. “It’s everything else. Right now I’m not in a good place emotionally and I’ll just weigh you down. I’m going to go get lost for a while. I need to be that nameless face.”
I knew her well enough to know she had made up her mind. I couldn’t watch her erase herself from my life, so I left the room. In the living room I could still hear her moving around, collecting her things from this drawer or that closet. Finally I heard the snapping of the suitcase locks. She emerged from the bedroom with a beat up old suitcase that was probably her grandmother’s.
She stood there in the entrance to the hallway.
“I love you, Eric. Please don’t ever forget that,” she told me with tears streaming down her cheeks.
I tried to hide mine but I was sure she knew she had packed my heart in the suitcase. The door closed and I was thinking I should just let her go, but I couldn’t. I sprang off the couch and ran after her. I caught up to Sookie in front of her old tin can of a car and spun her around to kiss her. It was all the things I couldn’t say, but I was surprised to find I had three more words left for her when the kiss broke.
“Stay,” I said with my hands on her face. “Marry me.”
A sob left her soft lips as she shook her head no.
“I can’t,” she cried, “Not now.”
“Dammit, Sookie,” I said angrily. I wasn’t the type who raised my voice so she flinched when I said that.
“I have to go,” she said, the tears never stopping.
“No you don’t.” I stepped back anyway.
“Yes I do. I’m not good to you or anyone else here. Let me go, please,” she sniffled as she backed up as well.
“I asked you to marry me. I meant it. You said no. I have nothing else to offer you, Sookie.”
“I love you.” She wiped her cheek before she turned to open her car door.
She drove away with my heart. That was the last time I saw either of them.
♥ ♥ ♥
I pulled into the driveway behind Alcide. He parked the truck in its bay and got out to unload the trailer with the ATV in it. Sam was taking the horses back to my parents’ place. I pulled the Jeep into the middle bay and Church jumped out to follow me over to the truck. Miley, Tank and Bingo were in their cages in the bed of the truck. I let the gate down and the dogs jumped out. I went straight to the kennel to refill the food and water.
We made a pretty good amount on the job we just finished. Catching eight sows and bringing them out alive was a good day. It was a lot of bacon we caught. The pups needed a bath, but none of them were hurt. I got the dogs settled with fresh food and water before I headed inside for a shower. I’d be out fighting with hogs and riding a horse all day. A shower was more than necessary.
The cool water felt good. Filthy water swirled around my giant feet before going down the drain. I took my time soaping up and getting clean. All I needed was a cold beer, a good dinner and a long night’s sleep. Two of the trainees could actually handle their shit so Al, Sam and I were going to rotate days off so we didn’t burn out. Ultimately we wanted to get big enough that we would each be able to run our own teams but we weren’t there yet. Our next hunt was in two days and the ranch we were going to was enormous at over 400 acres.
I got out of the shower and dried off. I was due for a haircut. My nose was a little red from the sun. I pulled on my basketball shorts and went down to the kitchen to get the steaks out. I got them seasoned and resting on the counter. Al had already started the grill, judging by the smell of fire wafting through the house. I scrubbed the potatoes and popped them in the microwave to give them a head start. The doorbell rang, slowing my roll. It was probably Daphne, Sam’s girlfriend. She wasn’t comfortable letting herself into the house yet.
I walked through the house to the front door. When I opened it, I about fell over in shock.
“Hi.” Sookie was standing there with that same suitcase she had when she walked out of my life. She was a bit thinner and her long blonde locks were gone. She’d cut it up to her shoulders. She looked tired.
“Wha… What are you doing here?” It wasn’t the eloquent greeting I had imagined, but it was what came out.
“I left him,” she told me. “I hoped I could take you up on the offer to stay here.”
I had to remind myself to blink.
“Uh, yeah, come in.” I stepped back. I had told Al and Sam about the call but I never thought Sookie would show up.
Sookie took a tentative step into the house.
“I’m sorry to show up like this,” she said quietly.
“It’s fine. You’re lucky you caught us. We haven’t been here for long,” I said as I closed the door. “Are you hungry? I’m getting dinner going.”
“No,” she shook her head. She stood there holding her suitcase. Instead of looking around she looked down at our feet.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“It’s been a rough few days, that’s all,” she replied without looking up.
I slowly reached out to take her suitcase.
“Are you going to be okay by yourself in the cabin?” I asked. I wasn’t convinced she would be. The Sookie I knew was petite. The Sookie in front of me was small.
“Hopefully,” she said with a weak smile that didn’t meet her eyes.
I set her suitcase down by the stairs and said, “Come on. I have someone I want you to meet.” She loved animals. My gut told me her and Miley would be best friends in no time.
Sookie look up at me with confusion. “I’m in no shape to meet anyone, Eric.”
“I promise she won’t judge you.”
“Oh… okay…” She looked skeptical.
No doubt she was thinking it had to be a girlfriend.
I led Sookie through the house and out the back door. Al was hosing down the ATV and stopped when he saw I had company. The dogs stopped too, and came running over to inspect her. Poor scared doe she was, Sookie hid behind me.
“They won’t hurt you,” I assured her. Bingo reached us first, as expected. “Bingo, sit,” I commanded. The other dogs were smart enough to take a seat when they got close. Lacy dogs were incredibly smart. “Miley, come.”
Miley was a mama. By that I meant she was protective. Not just of her people but of the rest of her pack. She came forward and waited for further instructions.
“Good girl.” I scrubbed her neck. “Sookie, this is Miley.”
“Hello, Miley,” Sookie said softly, reaching her hand out to the dog. “She seems sweet.” Sookie eventually knelt down to give Miley full on pets.
“She’s very sweet. See Miley was a rescue dog. Her owner was a dogfighter and he kept her on a chain away from anyone or anything that might love her. The bastard beat her if she tried to get away or be the Miley she wanted to be. When I got her she was scrawny, underweight and afraid us big guys would hurt her. It took a while for her to trust us,” I explained.
“So you feel like we’re kindred spirits,” Sookie said. Miley leaned in to rub her face on Sookie’s cheek.
“Could be.” Miley wasn’t quick to warm up to anyone, but it was pretty clear she liked Sookie.
“I like her.” Sookie gave her a few more pets before she stood up again. “Thank you for offering me a place, Eric. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”
“You don’t have to worry about that now.” I rubbed her shoulder. “The other red dog is Tank. Church is the blue one with the red and orange collar. Come here, Church.” Of course he came running over but he ignored me and went straight for Sookie. Miley bared her teeth at him for going too fast.
“It’s okay, Miley,” Sookie cooed, rubbing between her ears. She held out her hand to Church to allow him to sniff her. She looked up and saw Al coming our way. “Hey, stranger,” she smiled at him.
“Welcome home,” he replied. He took us all by surprise when he scooped Sookie up in a tight hug.
“Can’t. Breathe,” she rasped after a few seconds.
“Sorry,” he chuckled, letting her down. Sookie immediately stepped back to disappear behind me again.
Miley followed, making it clear she was on guard. Lacy dogs liked to work and it seemed she had just picked up a new job.
“I’m going to show Sookie the cabin. Can you get the steaks going?” I asked Al.
“Of course,” he nodded. He glanced back at Sookie before heading toward the house.
“He doesn’t know what John did, just that you had a bad miscarriage,” I told Sookie.
I gently took her hand to lead her to the yellow cabin. It was closest to the kennel and had two small bedrooms in it. She would have her own bathroom, an eat-in kitchen and a little living room. Her porch would be covered and there was a laundry line out back for drying her clothes. I knew she preferred it to using an electric dryer. I used the spare key to unlock the door and then flipped on the light. It wasn’t very fancy, but the windows were new and there were fresh linens in the hall closet. She would be safe.
She looked around the room before she turned and wrapped her frail arms around me, holding me tight. She rested her head on my chest and I felt her shoulders shaking as she sobbed against me.
“Hey, it’s okay.” I rubbed her back carefully. Jesus, she was thin. “You’re going to be okay, Sookie. You’re a fighter. You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t.”
“I’m such an idiot,” she sobbed. “I should’ve never left. I should have stayed here with you. I haven’t felt safe or whole since I left.”
It didn’t make me happy to hear that. I had hoped that wherever she was, she was happy. I had hoped she found what she needed by leaving what I thought was a pretty good life. Yeah, sure, busybodies talked and Sookie had her bumps in the road, but we had something solid. I wasn’t enough for her to stay. It took some time to get used to that.
“You’re safe here,” I promised. “Miley will probably move in with you to make sure of it,” I chuckled.
She took a step back, wiping her tears on the back of her hand.
“I’ll work and do whatever you need me to do around here,” she sniffed. “And Miley is welcome to stay with me. She’s a pretty special dog, that much is clear.”
“It just so happens that we could use someone to answer the phones and look after the new pups we’re gettin’ next week,” I informed her.
“I can do that,” she replied with a small smile. “Will you stay with me a while?”
“Sure. You want to see the bedrooms and the living room?”
“Yeah, but I already know it’s perfect for me.”
I kept my arm around her slender shoulders and flipped on the lights in the living room. The same shade of blue was a constant thing throughout the house. Antique plates were on the wall set up in a nice display above the couch. It was a little kitschy for my taste but it was a bed and breakfast so I understood the chintzy factor.
We stopped in the hall so I could show her where the bathroom was. The smaller bedroom was being used as storage for the dog food and whatnot. We left the larger bedroom the way it was with its queen bed and romantic, honeymooner décor. Candles were still plugged into the candlesticks and twinkle lights were hung around the bedroom windows. Sheer curtains were good for privacy but not so much for keeping light out. There were roman shades for that.
“Will this work?” I asked as Sookie looked around the room. The bedding was blue and white with darker blue throw pillows. It wasn’t too girly, which I knew she hated.
“Yeah, this is perfect,” she said as she looked around the room. She left my side to go sit on the side of the bed. “Would it be weird if I asked you to lay down with me a while? I just miss that safe feeling you give me.”
“Maybe I don’t give you that feeling anymore,” I said.
“You do,” she told me.
I could tell she was scared. She had a right to be. There was probably more to her story than what she had told me but I wasn’t going to push. I could tell she needed something safe and familiar. She didn’t know that after she left, Al and I had gotten in a fist fight over her because he had tried talking shit. He was doing it because he thought it would make me feel better, but it didn’t. I hated that she left but I understood why she did.
I lay down on the bed and let her decide how close she wanted to get to me. She climbed onto the bed next to me and pushed me on my side so she could curl up against my chest. Her arm wrapped around my waist as she sagged against me.
“I’ll tell you the story of John Quinn another time,” she said quietly.
“I’m not goin’ anywhere,” I whispered. My fingers ran through her silky hair. It wasn’t as thick as it used to be. She wasn’t wearing the same perfume as she used to wear.
It was the same body with the same name, but for all intents and purposes, the Sookie I knew was gone.