Internally I was a basket case as the elevator took us towards the lobby, silently hoping against hope we would be able to get from the casino to the limo without drawing any attention to ourselves, but knowing deep down that was just a pipe dream. While I had no problems holding my own one on one, or in small groups, I’d always gotten a severe case of stage fright in large settings. It was the main reason I’d chosen to teach young children instead of teenagers whose size and mouthy retorts often surpassed my own. Being the center of attention was never a wish of mine and was instead more like my worst nightmare.
My stomach was dropping faster than the elevator as the floor numbers wound down when Pam shoved Eric and I together, putting my hand in his, and ordering us to look ‘Happy’. I was anything but…but when my fingers laced through his and he squeezed my hand ever so slightly as the elevator doors opened, revealing a zoo filled with people shouting questions at us and light bulbs flashing, I felt somewhat comforted that I didn’t have to do it alone.
Eric stepped out of the elevator first, pulling me along with him, but my eyes were already clouded by the camera flashes so I had to depend on him to lead me outside. The yelling and jostling was unreal with a part of me feeling sorry for Eric that he got this kind of attention all of the time. I couldn’t imagine being under constant scrutiny 24/7, becoming a virtual prisoner locked away inside somewhere if you wanted any peace from it all.
His stride was much longer than mine so I had to sort of jog to keep up with him, with people’s bodies pressing in on us from all sides moving right along with us like we were all stuck in the same rip current. I had no idea where Pam, Amelia and Alcide were and there was no time for me to look behind us to see. The shouted questions pretty much blended into one loud cacophony, but some words got through; ‘married’ being the main one. Eric continued to plow our way towards the door leading outside, but I just kept my head down with my eyes trained on my feet and trusting his lead when I felt a hand grip my right arm and hold on tight. I turned and looked up seeing a man I didn’t know holding a camera in my face, but before he could say or do anything else I felt Eric’s hand pull away from my own. The unknown man had released his grip on my arm seconds later, but because my forward momentum had been halted by his grip, I ended up falling to the floor on my ass.
The same man immediately started taking picture after picture while shouting questions at me about our marriage and I was immediately engulfed by the rest of the pack. It was exactly like my worst nightmare come true being trapped literally at the center of them all and I felt the fear climb up my spine with tears pricking the corners of my eyes. The flashes and large crowd made it impossible for me to see anyone clearly and I would have given anything at that moment to be able to poof away, if only I had the Headmaster’s magic wand.
I couldn’t have stood up if I wanted to with the way the cameras loomed over me and just as I felt the first tear fall from my eyes I saw the man who had grabbed me being ripped from the spot where he stood only to be replaced by a very pissed off looking Eric. From the look in his eyes, I had no doubt if he’d had fangs he would have been baring them.
But when he looked down and our eyes met, his expression softened with him leaning down and swooping me up into his arms as though I weighed next to nothing. He carried me bridal style, with my face firmly planted in his chest and my arms clinging around his neck, all the way to the limo. The strength of his arms holding me close and the smell of his skin brought me more comfort than I would have imagined possible and for the first time since we’d woken up that morning, I was grateful for being with Eric Northman.
I noticed we’d finally made it through the doors and out onto the sidewalk, but I didn’t look up until I felt Eric bend down and attempt to put me into the waiting limo. He had a difficult time doing so because my arms refused to let go of his neck, so he had to slide me across the leather seat as he crawled in alongside of me and pulled the door shut behind him.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
I tried to blink the tears away, but all I could do was nod my head in reply. I kept wondering how he was able to function with that level of crazy surrounding him and that maybe I had judged him too harshly. He had been just as blindsided as me finding out about our drunken stupidity so why wouldn’t he lash out? Lord knows I certainly did, perhaps unfairly, at him. He didn’t have to come to my rescue back there, but he did and he seemed genuinely upset about what happened too, so maybe he wasn’t a giant jerk wad. I started feeling bad for treating him so poorly, knowing Gran would tan my hide if she’d heard me speak to him the way I did. Besides, we had to stay together for an entire year so it would probably go a lot smoother if we could do it as friends instead of enemies.
Realizing my arms still had a death grip around his neck, I released him and scooted over a smidge, but before I could say anything he grinned asking, “So where are the baby squirrels and bunnies?” and making a show of looking around the limousine floor.
I giggled like a fan girl with the tension I’d felt easing significantly and knowing I acted like bitchzilla back in the room I looked back at him and said, “I’m sorry for the way I treated you earlier. I’m not usually so harsh with someone I’ve just met and drunk married.”
Eric’s smile became more genuine as he teasingly asked, “Do this often do you? Do you have a running tab at Bubba’s Chapel or do you just pay as you go?”
I smoothed out my dress smiling and replied, “Oh well, you know, Bubba and I go way back so I get a discount and your fifth wedding is free.” I found myself liking this side of Eric and hoped the fucktard side of him wouldn’t be making another appearance anytime soon. Remembering his rescue of me from the horde of paparazzi, I added, “Thanks for rescuing me back there in the casino. I don’t do well in large crowds and got a little overwhelmed.”
His eyes softened again, but before he could say anything Pam bolted through the limousine door and quickly shut it behind her, taking a seat opposite from us. The throng of people and cameras were flush against the sides of the limo and Pam lowered the partition separating us from the driver saying, “Get moving already!” before putting it back up. Her eyes traveled back to us and a big grin spread across her face as she said, “Great acting you two! That shot of you carrying the bride to the limo with her lovingly holding on will make the front page of every magazine by next week. It looked real!”
My heart dropped hearing her speak. Was that what that was…all an act? He was an actor after all, so maybe his concern wasn’t genuine, but a publicity move? My eyes narrowed in suspicion and I felt my bitch levels rise again, but decided to let it go for now. The fact remained that he did come to my rescue, genuine or not, and I was grateful for it. But now that I’d seen a softer, more playful, side of Eric I could see myself wanting to let my guard down and would have to remember that this was just an arrangement for both of us. I couldn’t afford to get attached to him knowing our relationship had an expiration date. Besides, I knew I’d end up questioning every nice thing he said or did wondering if his actions were genuine or an act. After Quinn, I had a hard time trusting anyone other than Amelia and knowing Eric acted for a living wouldn’t help one bit.
The limo started moving with Pam breaking the silence saying, “We need to come up with a plausible story as to how you both met that doesn’t involve getting drunk.” She turned to me saying, “Since I know everything there is to know about Eric, why don’t you tell me about you and I’ll pick out something you have in common that we can work with.”
As it turned out, Eric never hung out at UCLA; the library; the homeless shelter where I volunteered my time every Sunday morning; the Senior Citizens Center where I read stories every Sunday afternoon; or ate at the hole-in-the-wall diner I waitressed at until getting hired at The Brigant Academy. He’d also never been to my home state of Louisiana. Go figure.
Pam looked back at me seemingly frustrated asking, “That’s it? No clubs or bars? Do you go to Vegas a lot? Eric’s here every few weeks.”
I shook my head replying, “Nope. This was the first time I’ve ever been.”
Pam’s head dramatically fell back onto the headrest behind her saying, “Nothing. You two have nothing in common besides being married to one another.”
News flash, I thought, but kept my snarky comment to myself knowing that little tidbit wouldn’t make it onto CNN’s tickertape.
She sighed asking, “Is there anything else you’ve done or gone to in L.A. since you moved there? Anything?”
I sat there quietly thinking over where I’d been, but nothing really stood out. I doubted Eric shopped at Wal-Mart so there was no point in bringing it up. I didn’t really do much because I never had a lot of free time between school, Quinn, and working. That’s when the light bulb lit up above my head.
The gym where he worked was used by a lot of celebrities, but I’d never seen Eric there. I’d always gone in the afternoons in between classes and work and never saw anyone of notable fame, but Quinn had talked about the different stars that worked out there all the time. Of course, he only ever mentioned female stars. I hadn’t been back ever since I’d been confronted with Quinn’s cheating which was a year ago.
As soon as I told Pam where I used to work out, her eyes danced with relief as she said, “Thank God! Eric has belonged to that gym for years and goes at least three times a week.”
My stomach dropped again as I turned to Eric and asked, “Who’s your trainer?” A lot of the celebrities used trainers and if there was a God, Eric’s wouldn’t be Quinn.
His eyebrow rose up, seemingly thrown off by my question, and responded, “Tray Dawson. Why?”
“Just wondering,” I said a little too quickly. I didn’t want to have to explain the Quinn ordeal, especially with everything else we were dealing with at the moment.
Pam saved me from having to fess up to my one failed relationship by saying, “We’ll say you two met at the gym last year and maintained a casual relationship until recently when you realized you’d fallen in love. Because of Eric’s fame, you both chose to keep the relationship secret for Sookie’s sake, but decided you no longer wanted to hide and while the ceremony was spur of the moment, the relationship was not.”
I tried to find some way to pick apart her logic, but I could only think of one thing that could blow a hole in that version of events. “Well, how long have we supposedly been seeing each other?” I looked at Eric both accusingly and apologetically saying, “No offense, but you’ve been pictured with a lot of different women and I won’t claim to have been in a mutual relationship with you only for one of your other friends to come out and say you had sex with them while supposedly seeing me. Everyone who knows me knows I wouldn’t tolerate something like that.” Ever…just ask Quinn.
Eric seemed somewhat stumped by my statement and remained quietly in thought. But the longer he thought, oddly enough, the angrier I seemed to get wondering if both hands would be enough to count them up or if he’d have to pull off his fugly black untied boots and use his toes as well. It must have shown on my face because the amusement and concern from earlier was gone from his features, replaced with boredom and a cavalier arrogance as he said, “Before you…” He tapped his finger on his stupid perfectly sculpted chin in pseudo thought for a minute and said, “Best guess is about two weeks, give or take a few days.”
Two weeks? I was expected to pretend all it took was two weeks of his exclusive attention for me to fall in love and marry him? I said as much out loud, unable to keep the sharp bite out of my tone.
I watched his stupid eyebrow rise up and had a sinking feeling that I would be seeing a lot more of the fucktarded side of his personality over the next year versus the sweet side as he quipped back conceitedly, “Apparently I’m much better than that darlin’ because you married me after two hours.”
Unable to refute his claim, I flung myself to the far side of the limo and stared out the window in a huff while I stifled the urge to give him that junk punch he was due, thinking it was going to be a long ass year.