After our run in with Kiki Cums-A-Lot the rest of the night went smoothly. Eric was very attentive towards me, never leaving my side, and even escorted me to the ladies room waiting patiently for me to return to him. I wondered if it was because there were other women there he was afraid I’d be confronted by, but I was ready for them and kept reassuring him I was okay whenever I could see the remorse from our earlier encounter filter across his face.
I was okay. I knew he had a past and I certainly couldn’t hold it against him. If anything I should send out thank you cards to all of them because I was going to be reaping the benefits of whatever he’d learned from them. His kisses were enough to nearly bring me over the edge, so I could only imagine what lay in store for me in the future. A future I was more and more confident we were going to have together.
We never really had a chance to talk with so many people vying for his attention so it wasn’t until we were finally home that I was able to ask, “What did you say when you walked up to me and Alcide? Mah-something?”
“Oh…uh mshangao,” he mumbled seemingly embarrassed. “It means ‘surprise’ in Swahili.”
“You speak Swahili?” I asked. Talk about being mshangao’d.
“Not much,” he answered, still looking uncomfortable, and changed the subject by asking, “Why did you kiss Alcide?”
I’d forgotten all about our conversation, but by the way Eric was looking at me I could tell it had bothered him. He appeared to have a jealous streak similar to my own, if I was honest, so I walked over and wrapped my arms around his waist saying, “He apologized for what he’d said about me outside of the casino that made you punch him.” That didn’t seem to appease Eric enough so I continued with the rest and said, “He said he’d had his doubts at first about our little charade working out, but after spending time seeing us together he’s changed his mind. He said we were good together; that you’re different now, happier. I told him we’d decided to give our relationship a shot and he said I was good for you and he was glad we were actually going to make a go of it.”
Eric looked just as surprised as I had been learning he spoke Swahili, but he eventually shook it off with nothing more than an, “Oh,” as the tension left his body. I couldn’t stop the yawn from leaving my throat and my eyes watered as our early morning conversation that had eaten into my nighttime rest caught up with me. “Tired?” he asked as his hands moved to massage my shoulders.
“Mhmm…” I replied, turning to jelly underneath his fingertips.
“Come on then,” he said, taking my hand in his and pulling me towards the stairs. “Let’s go to bed.”
Bed? Whose bed? Our own beds separately or one bed together?
Suddenly I wasn’t as tired as I was a moment ago and when my feet stopped moving, so did Eric’s by default. I wanted him in the most carnal sense of the word and while I’d enjoyed the moments of intimacy we’d shared, I still didn’t think we were ready to take that next step, but I knew Wicked and Immoral would override all higher brain functions if I didn’t say it now while we were still fully clothed. Hell, we didn’t even know each other’s work schedules until this morning. He seemed to understand my as yet unspoken thoughts because he turned to face me and trailed his fingers down the side of my face saying, “I think you already know that I want you in every way, but I know you’re still not ready. I would still prefer it if you’d consider sleeping with me though, just sleeping. I like falling asleep next to you and I like it even more waking up with you.”
Would he take it the wrong way if I asked him to tie up Wicked and Immoral? Because they seemed to have a mind of their own.
I had to admit I did seem to sleep better whenever I was next to him so while I mentally gave my wayward hands a stern lecture on appropriate behavior, I agreed, “Okay, but we’re just sleeping.”
His smile was infectious and after changing into pajamas and washing my face I met him in the middle of his mattress where his body instantly curled around my own. The kiss goodnight he gifted me with would never make its way into any Disney film, but it left me feeling like a princess who’d finally found her prince just the same. He even drove a little red Corvette.
I woke up the next morning feeling very well rested with a very excited Eric lying next to me, in more ways than one. His body was physically thrumming next to mine and when I turned around to face him his face lit up with a smile as he said, “You’re awake!” and then proceeded to steal all of the air from my lungs with a kiss.
When he finally let me breathe I said, “You weren’t kidding about liking waking up next to me, huh?”
“No, I wasn’t,” he growled as he covered my body with his own. His hard body; hard.
My mind was flashing red lights as voices rang out in my head shouting, ‘Alert! Alert! DEFCON 5 is in effect! Containment breach will occur in 5, 4, 3,…’ while Wicked and Immoral turned into traitorous double agents looking for any way to help the enemy invasion along.
“Did you have any plans for today?” he asked, his voice pausing my internal countdown.
Bringing my hands up on charges of treason?
It took a minute for my mind to clear enough to answer, “Not really. I should probably go to the store to pick up some groceries.”
His brow furrowed as he jokingly chastised me saying, “What is this ‘I’ nonsense I’m hearing? You meant we should go to the store, right? Who would get the hot sauce for you if I wasn’t there?”
Was there such a thing as too cute? If so, Eric’s picture should be next to the definition in Wikipedia, but I smiled hearing he wanted to come with me and agreed, “Yes, I meant we should go shopping. Why? Did you have something else in mind?”
I was prepared for a full on frontal assault based on his morning wakeup call, so I was surprised when he jumped out of bed saying, “Yep! And it’s a surprise, so go get dressed and we can go. Wear jeans and bring a sweater.”
I couldn’t help smiling over how excited he was and my curiosity was piqued, so I did just that and we were on our way to wherever not long after. Eric insisted we stop for a quick breakfast and coffee at his favorite place to go for those kinds of things, Joan’s On Third. While the food and coffee were good, my only thought was at least Pam couldn’t say we weren’t pictured together over the weekend. There hadn’t been nearly as many cameramen waiting outside the gate as there had been a week ago, but there were enough lingering around Joan’s snapping away as Eric and I came and went holding hands. I no longer questioned whether or not he was doing it for show; I knew he was holding my hand because he wanted to and that thought made the smile on my face genuine.
Eric wouldn’t give me any hints on our way there and when I saw we were taking the exit for Long Beach, off the highway, I was even more confused since he hadn’t told me to bring a bathing suit, but I finally figured it out when he parked at the marina.
“We’re going whale watching?” I asked with surprise.
“Yes!” he answered with a big smile. “Have you ever gone before?”
I couldn’t help smiling seeing Eric bouncing in his seat and replied, “No, I haven’t.”
My answer seemed to please him and he got out of the car coming around to my side and helping me out. “You don’t get seasick do you?” he asked as we made our way to the line of tourists waiting to board the boat.
“I guess we’ll see. I’ve never been out in the ocean before.” I hoped I wouldn’t get seasick for nothing more than the fact it would ruin Eric’s fun because I’d never seen him so excited. We boarded the ship fairly quickly and Eric stopped to take pictures with a few fans and signed autographs, but other than a couple of teenage girls mooning over him from afar we were pretty much left alone by everyone. When we were finally on our way the ship’s captain came on the loudspeaker pointing out the permanently docked Queen Mary and said he hoped we all enjoyed our three hour tour which left me in a fit of giggles.
“What’s so funny?” Eric asked.
I could barely breathe from laughing so hard before I could choke out, “If we get shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island you’ll be Ginger!”
He tried not to laugh, but lost his stern expression as he jokingly huffed, “I’m nothing like Caraway.”
“Nice,” I complimented him. “For someone who doesn’t cook you sure know a lot of spice names.”
He looked a little chagrined as he admitted, “Well, I may have watched the Food Network for a few minutes yesterday afternoon and got some new ones.”
I smiled saying, “Well I’ll make up some flash cards and we can practice before we have to see them again.”
Eric no longer looked amused when he said, “I guess I forgot to tell you. I fired my father on Tuesday so I don’t think we’ll be seeing them anymore.”
I couldn’t help feeling relieved, but at the same time I felt bad knowing it must have been difficult for Eric to alienate his own father, no matter how big of a douche bag he was and grabbed onto his hand saying, “I’m sorry. What happened?”
He squeezed my hand before looking back over the open ocean replying, “It was long overdue. Pam had been doing his job for years anyway. Now she’s just doing it in an official capacity.”
I was curious if there was more to the story, but didn’t want to pry seeing that it still bothered him so I changed the subject asking, “What gave you the idea to go whale watching today? Is it something you do often?” It wasn’t something I would’ve ever guessed about him being interested in.
His shoulders relaxed some with our new topic as he said, “I haven’t been in a while, but I’ve been interested in whales since I was a young boy. I got the idea to come today watching ‘Whale Wars’ on Animal Planet yesterday.”
I was soaking up all of this new information about Eric like a sponge and I wanted to know more so I asked, “What got you interested in them?”
He didn’t answer at first and kept his eyes on the ocean for a few minutes before taking a deep breath and saying, “I didn’t really go to school since I worked so much and had tutors on the set instead. I had just seen the movie ‘Top Gun’ and being a young boy I was all gung ho wanting to be a fighter jet pilot when I grew up. One of my tutors had overheard me telling my father about it which he promptly shot down telling me it was a stupid idea and I shouldn’t waste my time over wanting something that would never be. The next day she gave me a book called ‘The Whales’ Song’ and while I wasn’t much of a reader at the time, the illustrations kept my attention and eventually the story itself got through to me what she wanted me to know. I read it every night before going to sleep for months until I had it memorized, but it got lost when we moved a couple of years later.”
My heart ached for him as I asked, “What was the story about?”
Eric proceeded to tell me about a girl named Lilly who lived with her grandmother. The grandmother told her if she left a perfect gift like a sea shell or beautiful stone for the whales, and they liked you, they would give you a gift in return. Her uncle told the grandmother to stop filling her head with nonsense and how whales are meant to be used for practical reasons like their meat, blubber, and bones, and that she shouldn’t be dreaming her life away. Lilly chose to believe her grandmother’s tale and she dropped a yellow flower into the ocean for the whales telling them it was for them. She sat on a rock at the shoreline waiting and eventually they gave her a gift of their song. He ended by saying, “I guess the underlying message was to follow your dreams and not listen to those who want to beat you down.”
I was grateful he hadn’t been looking at me when he spoke because I didn’t want him to see the tears that had filled my eyes as he told me the story, but it was a lost cause when he whispered, “I used to pick a flower from our neighbor’s garden at night, after my father was asleep, and leave it on my bedroom windowsill hoping my mother would come back.”
“Oh Eric,” I cried wrapping my arms around his waist. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to take away every bad memory and experience he’d ever had, but as it turned out he was the one trying to console me.
He hugged me tight and kissed the top of my head saying, “It’s okay Sookie, really. They were just silly dreams. I’m over it.”
I knew we were attracting attention from my emotional outburst so we simply stayed in our silent but comforting embrace for the remainder of the trip. I was glad he’d warned me to bring a sweater because the ocean air made me shiver, but Eric never let go of me and we kept each other warm with our combined body heat. I’d calmed down considerably by the time we were headed back to the dock at Long Beach, but I was still in a melancholy mood when the captain came back on the loudspeaker saying, “Well we didn’t see any whales today, but we did see some dolphins, sea lions and great bird activity.”
In an attempt to cheer me up Eric laughed and hugged me tighter saying, “Isn’t that great Sookie?” He released my waist with one arm pointing skyward and said, “Look! More bird activity!”
My melancholy mood was sufficiently snuffed out as I giggled at his over the top enthusiasm over seeing seagulls flying overhead and was replaced with some excitement of my own as I thought of my own surprise for Eric thinking he could use some wooing himself.