I crawled into my bed after getting home, too numb to cry, and thought over everything that had been said in the car. The night had ended so far from where I had thought we would be, but I knew it was mostly my fault. I guessed I didn’t have as good of a control on my inner tween as I’d thought after spouting off only two options for Eric to choose from as to why he didn’t tell me about the party or possibly meeting the newly Jack-O-Lantern’d brunette. He’d already given me a perfectly logical excuse before I opened my mouth and let my own insecurities ruin our night.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense because there was no way he could have hidden from me the fact he’d attended the premier party. And admittedly, we’d been somewhat preoccupied with each other from the get go. As for the toothless tart? Could I really expect him warn me whenever I might run into someone like her? Did I really even want him to?
The thought of him handing me glossy eight by tens of possible encounters I might have, before every outing we made together, caused my stomach to churn. I already knew he was out of my league so I couldn’t imagine being confronted with pictures of all of the beautiful women he’d bedded before I came along.
I knew I’d lashed out first with all of my fail talk, but I still didn’t think that excused his response. I never thought hearing him say he wanted me would make me feel so bad and it was almost like he’d turned back into the Eric I’d woken up to that very first morning. Everything around and between us had moved so fast from that moment on, I’d let myself get caught up in it all just hoping for the best when what I should have done was slowed down.
The mutual attraction and chemistry between us was undeniable, but so was the fact we both had the ability to make each other batshit crazy. Our passion seemed to feed off of one another’s whether good or bad and I was just now realizing our relationship had progressed a hell of a lot faster because we were forced to live together. Had we just met and been dating, I more than likely would have given him a kiss by now, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be contemplating sleeping with him already like I had just a few hours earlier. If we really wanted something between us to actually work, which I did, we’d need to build a foundation first and it was glaringly apparent that we both still had issues.
I was insecure and he was an asshole.
I knew it was an unfair assessment of him and after spending the short amount of time I had with his father, I was surprised Eric was a functional adult on any level. Eric had shown me many more good sides of his personality that outweighed his one bad one and I kept chanting over and over to myself that he’d never been in a relationship before. Granted, I’d only been in one, and it turned out to be a pretty shitty one, but hadn’t I just resolved that I wouldn’t make him pay for Quinn’s fuck ups?
I couldn’t expect him to suddenly become my Prince Charming overnight and after our initial fiery confrontation that first day, up until our blow up tonight he’d actually been very sweet and attentive. We just needed to work on our communication skills and maybe we’d be able to get our ship back on course.
After all, I still needed to take a walk down his plank.
Sleep didn’t come easy for me that night and as I tossed and turned while the sky began to lighten outside my bedroom window the fear that Eric might not want to try and salvage our relationship crept along my spine.
What if last night was a deal breaker?
Gran’s humiliation back home suddenly took a backseat to my own grief over the thought Eric might want to break up and I had no idea how I’d be able to handle hearing the words come from his lips at all, much less deal with the aftermath while trying to work. So like a complete chicken shit, I jumped out of bed, rushed through my shower, and ran out the door like my ass was on fire. I knew Gran would be disappointed at my cowardice, but what the hell, I was already on a roll in my efforts to make Jason look like a star pupil.
The first upside to my day was the fact there weren’t any cameramen waiting for me at the gate because I was leaving so early and I was able to stop and pick up a cup of coffee since I didn’t have time to make any before taking off. Having the guy behind the counter hand it to me brought none of the warm sensations I’d felt as when Eric had given me my coffee on the previous two mornings and I guessed it showed on my face when the barista shot me a withering look. I wasn’t in the mood to be scorned by yet another man, so I just huffed my way out of the shop without so much as a thank you.
Poor Gran, she really DID try to make me a good person.
Thankfully the guard was already at his post at the gate and I was able to get into the school early. I tried to make myself busy preparing my classroom most of the morning, but it was hard to do considering I kept one eye on my cell phone both hoping for and against a call or text from Eric. I hadn’t even realized it was lunchtime until Sam appeared at my door asking, “Do you want to sit outside and eat lunch together today?”
I didn’t know much about him, but he had seemed pretty nice so far in a brotherly sort of way, although I doubted he would consent to giving an interview about his baby sister from his doorstep after her Vegas wedding to a movie star. My stomach was too full of knots to have much of an appetite and I admitted, “I’m not really hungry. Besides, I forgot to pack my lunch this morning. I was in a bit of a rush.”
“That’s okay,” he smiled, “You need to eat and I’ll share mine with you.”
What the hell, I thought. I smiled saying, “Thanks,” and followed him out the door thinking it might be my only interaction for the day that didn’t involve glares.
As soon as we were settled on a sunny spot near the playground Sam handed me half of his sandwich and asked, “So how’s married life so far?”
Of course he knew, the whole WORLD knew, who I’d married and I said a quick, “Fine,” and took a bite to keep me from having to elaborate. I looked down and saw the gold band circling his left ring finger and after swallowing I asked, “How long have you been married?”
Sam smiled, clearly a man in love, and said, “Terry and I got married on June 16th, 2008, but we’ve been together for over ten years. We met while we were both in the Army and he moved out here to be with me once his enlistment ended in 2007.” He went on to tell me about their life together rescuing collies, ‘their children’, and how Terry was still dealing with some post traumatic stress disorder from the time he’d spent in Iraq, but they were working through it together. He said their biggest fight had been over picking out the furnishings for their house and I couldn’t help but laugh wondering what they’d think of Eric’s choice of décor. Sam looked at me knowingly and asked, “You too?”
I nodded replying, “He’s got a poker table in the kitchen and a pool table in the dining room. We have to eat at the breakfast bar.”
Sam snickered shaking his head saying, “Sounds like something Terry would do. Have you been able to talk him into changing things up a bit?”
I smiled remembering the power of boobs, although that probably wouldn’t work in Sam’s and Terry’s relationship, and said, “Sort of. I was going to go looking for a set for the kitchen this afternoon, but I just realized I’d have no way to get it home in time for his poker party tonight.” There would be no way I could fit it in the car and I wasn’t that much of a hick that I’d strap it to the roof with some twine and hope for the best.
Sam smiled wide saying, “Well Terry’s got a pick up and we have some time before the staff meeting this afternoon. I know of a great little place not too far from here where they usually have some pretty good stuff if you want to go take a look now.”
“Oh Sam, I don’t want you to have to go through the trouble and besides, it’s a nightmare for me to go anywhere anymore with the paparazzi everywhere. I don’t want to subject you to that.”
Sam just chuckled and stood, pulling me to my feet, saying, “Sookie, I’ve worked at this school for five years now. I’ve learned how the celebs do ‘incognito’.”
He did too! We took his car with me ducked down in the backseat and he had a baseball cap I wore along with my sunglasses into the store. No one seemed to recognize me and once I picked out a set and paid for it, they put it aside for Sam to come by and pick up later on that afternoon. On the way back to the school I told Sam, “Thank you so much for doing this for me. Would you and Terry like to stay tonight for the party? Do you play poker?” I wasn’t sure whether or not Eric would mind, but I could use the moral support of having a friendly face there since I didn’t know who Eric usually invited.
“There’s a lot of downtime in the Army so playing cards was one way of dealing away the boredom. Terry’s actually quite good at it, but I think I should warn you before I ask him to come along.” He looked at me and smiled admitting, “Terry’s got a crush on your husband.”
While my reaction to Marjoram had been to stake my claim on Eric, I couldn’t help but laugh hearing Sam’s husband had the hots for him and said, “I think I can take it. He is pretty easy on the eyes.”
“I’ll say,” Sam muttered under his breath and chuckled again seeing my raised eyebrow.
I gave Sam directions to the house and ran home after school making sure to leave their names with the guard at the gate so they’d be able to get through. I’d never heard a word from Eric all day long and he hadn’t left me a note, so I didn’t know what his frame of mind was and decided to go ahead with what we’d already planned for the night. Sam and Terry showed up an hour later with the table and chairs loaded in the back of their truck while I was seasoning the chicken wings.
While Sam had an average build and boyishly good looks, Terry looked more like a rugged man’s man with a broad chest and thick arms, standing around six feet tall. His warm smile put me immediately at ease and I could see the easy familiarity they had between them that came with a solid relationship. I watched them longingly wondering if Eric and I would someday have the same thing.
Sam had a really good eye when it came to arranging furniture and I let him have it in the den moving what he wanted in order to fit the poker table. They brought in the new kitchen set and before long the house had started to look more like a home.
Terry was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a beer while Sam helped me prepare the potato skins, as we all got to know each other, when Eric came home a couple of hours later. My entire body stilled seeing him walk through the doorway as I waited for his reaction, either to me or the new furniture.
His body was tense and his eyes went from Terry to Sam before settling on mine as he said, “Hi.”
Eric’s tone of voice and facial expression gave nothing away and while I didn’t know where we stood at the moment, I also didn’t know what the protocol was for our interaction together when others were present who weren’t in on our fake/real marriage. I took a stab at pretending nothing was wrong and said, “Eric, this is Sam,” motioning to my left, “and that’s Terry.”
Eric’s eyes had traveled back to Sam with a look I couldn’t quite place, but it didn’t appear all too welcoming when Terry stood up and thrust his hand out towards Eric saying, “I’m a really big fan of yours.”
Knowing what I did, I couldn’t help smiling seeing the blush on Terry’s cheeks as he shook Eric’s hand while he replied, “Thanks, nice to meet you.”
He turned back to us and gave Sam a small nod when I said, “I invited them to stay for the party. I hope that’s okay?”
Please say its okay. Please say its okay.
I was worried, not knowing whether or not we were standing in front of my Eric or Asshole Eric, so I breathed a sigh of relief after he took a long pause and responded, “Of course, the more the merrier. The table seats six and I only invited three others to play tonight.”
It was then that Eric glanced over and saw our new kitchen set and his eyes shot back to me asking, “Where’s my poker table?”
I half expected him to call it his Precious and pasted on my crazy smile hoping he wouldn’t have a conniption fit saying, “It’s in the den. Remember, we talked about getting a new table?” I knew he would remember my boobs, but maybe not the conversation.
I knew it.
“On Monday night, when we were talking about the Lord of the Rings.”
I wasn’t sure at first if the tension between us was noticeable, but Terry came to the rescue saying, “It’s a great table.” He gave Sam a knowing look adding, “I’d sure like to have one.”
Before anything else could be said, the doorbell rang followed by footsteps and voices calling out, “Eric! Where’s my beer?”
I watched as Alcide came into the room with a smile and wave, with Tray behind him. I recognized him from the gym even though we’d never been officially introduced and a moment later another man with dark hair filed in next to him.
He seemed familiar, in a dream like sort of way, but I couldn’t think of where I might know him from. His eyes latched onto mine and a chill shot down my spine. Even if I didn’t know where I knew him from, I did know one thing; I wouldn’t want to be left alone with him.