At first my lips barely brushed against hers. I couldn’t quite believe I’d actually done something so daring, despite my supposed badass life I couldn’t remember, without any indication from her that this was what she wanted.
All of me suddenly hesitated as my lips hovered against hers because – quite frankly – I expected to suddenly feel the nose of a gun shoved up under my ribs, more than any other response I hoped to get from my potentially unwelcome actions.
But Sookie merely gasped in a breath and held it, while our eyes remained locked on one another’s. I had no idea what was going on behind them and wished I could read her mind, but I couldn’t.
And I was weak.
Not from any illness or fatigue, but too weak to resist the temptation she would always be to me and it soon became too much for me to bear.
The feel of her lips on mine.
The smell of her unique scent assaulting my senses.
It could only be described as coming home, even if I couldn’t remember where my true home resided, and I no longer cared if she was going to shoot me or kick my ass. I just needed more of her smell, her taste, her touch.
Or maybe I just needed her.
It was nothing like any of the dreams I’d had of her – it was all so much better than that – and nothing else mattered to me anymore. So before she could react in those mere seconds that felt like forever, I deepened our kiss.
Everything about it felt familiar and brand new at the same time. My hands found purchase in her hair and against her back, as though they’d always been there – had always belonged there – but when she finally kissed me back, overriding my elation and what was undeniably stirring down below was something else that only stirred in my head.
Visions of Sookie and I together flooded my mind. We were out in the rain at nightfall and we were both laughing as we ran down a city sidewalk, until I grabbed her hand and pulled her into a covered alcove in front of the building we’d been passing by.
She was drenched from the rain, with her long blond hair and red dress plastered to her skin. Her teeth were chattering and the makeup around her eyes had run a bit, but when she looked up at me and smiled, I remembered thinking she’d never looked more beautiful.
I also remembered feeling like I was terrified, as if I knew it was something I shouldn’t do – something that once done couldn’t be undone – and it would either be the biggest mistake I ever made or the best thing I’d ever done. But despite my fear, I’d felt exhilarated.
Like standing on a shoreline cliff about to jump into the rough waters below, knowing I would either sink or swim.
But even so, staring down into her blue eyes and still uncertain over how she’d respond, I hadn’t been able to stop myself from taking that leap and kissing her.
It too had felt like coming home.
I didn’t even realize I’d stopped kissing her in the present until the past memory faded out of view and I looked across to see her silently staring back at me. Her lips were swollen from my own and we both pulled in ragged breaths, but still she said nothing at all.
“Where were we?” I asked with a hoarse voice.
Her only response was a questioning expression, so I elaborated with, “The first time I kissed you.”
I was taking yet another leap in assuming it had been our first kiss, but it was the only thing that made sense, considering all of the feelings that had been swirling through me then.
She still looked like she didn’t know what to say, or maybe she thought I was just grasping at straws.
But the memory was still as clear as day for me – just as vivid as every memory I had of her when she showed up at my house in Shreveport – and I knew it wasn’t from any of my other dreams of her, so I added, “It was nighttime and it was raining. You were wearing a red dress and we were running down a sidewalk, but I don’t get the feeling we were running away from anything or anyone. More like we were trying to get out of the rain. It was cold and I pulled you into an alcove and I kissed you.”
She’d kissed me back too, but I left that part out because I wanted to hear more of the story from her.
Her eyes welled up with unshed tears and she took a few moments to compose herself before she finally sat back and cleared her throat, replying, “D.C. We were in Washington D.C.”
A part of me had been afraid she’d deny it had ever happened. I’d have no way of knowing for sure and God knows there were enough things I was still uncertain of, so I was grateful she’d confirmed my memory of it.
Which was why I hated disappointing her in return when she asked, “Do you remember anything else?”
I shook my head trying to latch onto more of the memory – more of any memory of her – but nothing else came back to me. All I knew for sure was that I’d been elated when she’d returned my kiss.
It made me wonder all the more about what was going on between her and the lumberjack.
So I braced myself, like she’d done moments earlier when she’d inquired about the life I could remember, and asked, “Are you with Herveaux?”
It was probably none of my business and it definitely had nothing to do with the predicament I was in now, but I didn’t really give a fuck.
I needed to know.
She stared back at me with a blank expression, only making my insides pitch once again, and I hadn’t realized I too had been holding my own breath until I let it all out with her answer, when she finally smiled and said, “No.”
My previous elation made a rapid rebound and she let out a startled laugh when I grabbed onto her and pulled her onto my lap, until I cut off her snickering with my lips on hers.
It didn’t matter to me that I couldn’t remember anything else.
It didn’t matter we were currently the focus of a manhunt for a crime we didn’t commit.
In that moment, nothing else mattered to me except for getting as close to her as I possibly could.
Sookie even joined in at first, with her hands fisting into my hair, as she voraciously kissed me back until we were both breathless.
But when I pulled back to give us some much needed air, she kept a hold of my hair – and therefore stopped me from going back for another kiss – as she said, “We can’t.”
“We can,” I snarled in return. “We have. We should.”
My brain really couldn’t form much more of a response than that – most of my thinking power had moved south to my other head – and I was happy he was alive and well.
From her dour expression, it appeared as though she didn’t like hearing what she’d been saying any more than I did, which was why it was all the more frustrating when she pulled herself out of my grasp and stood up saying, “No Eric. This will only complicate things and we have enough to worry about right now.”
I wanted to argue with her and say if we fucked, then I might remember more, but it felt too crass. From what little I did remember, I knew whatever had happened between Sookie and I in the past had been a lot more than just fucking. The feelings evoked by that memory of us together were enough for me to know that, but I was still incensed that she was holding back.
Not holding back from fucking me now, but from telling me anything more that had to do with her and I together, as more than just partners.
So it was probably my frustration that allowed that crass ass to shine through, with me asking, “Have we fucked before?”
And I regretted it immediately, seeing her wince at my words.
But before I could backpedal and apologize, she snatched her cell phone from the desk and only said, “No,” before she walked outside with it already pressed to her ear.
When I could finally find my voice, I called out to her, “Sookie, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it like that.”
But she either didn’t hear me or she was ignoring me and I couldn’t say that I blamed her. The only thing that kept me in my seat instead of going after her was because my mind was still reeling and had gotten stuck on her one word reply.
How long had it been before I disappeared when our kiss happened? Had anything else happened between us? Was it just the one time or had we actually dated?
Had she pulled back then too and told me it would complicate things?
There was enough bullshit I didn’t know about myself that she couldn’t tell me, but this wasn’t one of those things and I found myself getting angry all over again. I couldn’t stand not knowing and decided to demand the answers I thought I was entitled to.
So I marched over to the door she’d walked out of, but halted my steps just as I heard her voice on the other side of it.
“Jase, baby I miss you and love you so so much. I’ll be back home just as soon as I can. I promise.”
She sounded like she was trying not to cry and the torment I felt merely imagining she was with Herveaux was nothing like the reality of hearing her telling another man she loved him.
Thankfully my arms shot out to brace myself against the wall because I would’ve fallen over from all of the air leaving my body at once, feeling as if I’d been sucker punched.
Was he the complication she’d been alluding to?
Was he the reason we’d never had sex?
He was definitely the reason why I couldn’t see straight and my zigzagging path back towards the chair wasn’t done purposely, like the drills I’d been running earlier, but it wouldn’t have made any difference anyhow.
It was too late.
It felt like I’d already been shot in the heart.
I’d been so sure there had been something more between Sookie and me. So sure that she’d been more than just my partner.
But hearing her declare her love for another man not only felt like it killed a part of me inside, it put her previous actions and statements into a whole new light.
She’d been angry at me.
Now I knew it was because I’d unwittingly taken her away from the man that she loved.
She’d been angry over Sophie.
Now I surmised it was because she cared about me as her partner and probably wanted me to have the same type of loving relationship she had with Jase.
She’d been disgusted over my appearance and having seen the types of guys she called her friends in both Rasul and Herveaux, I had no doubts this Jase character was a force to be reckoned with.
He’d have to be to rate someone as great as her.
She’d brushed off my embarrassing admissions over my previous scandalous dreams of her to her physical appearance.
But that too, I now knew wasn’t true at all.
Yes, she was incredibly attractive, but I now knew it had nothing to do with the way she looked.
It was the way she made me feel.
One kiss and I was done for because I’d never felt more alive. Two kisses and I felt like I was soaring through the clouds – like nothing could ever take me down. Three kisses in and finding out she was in love with another man?
I just wanted to die.
So much had happened in such a short amount of time, but even still…for me, no one else seemed to exist whenever I looked at her because she was all I wanted to see.
In my previous dreams – and in my current reality – up until five minutes earlier, I would’ve sworn she was mine just as much as I was hers.
But it turned out it was only ever true in my dreams.
It hurt to admit it even to myself and I wondered if in my missing time, my subconscious mind had latched onto whatever fantasies I must have had of her before I’d disappeared because I’d surely been pining for her from well before that first kiss.
It made sense really – even if it made me feel like shit to know they were never anything more than just fantasies – and, like the scorned little reject I felt like, I acted like I didn’t see her when she came back into the building, making a beeline for the bathroom.
Probably to clean up the tears she’d shed for the man she loved.
Realizing she’d given up a lot more than just her freedom to help me, and even though it still felt like there was a knife twisting in my gut now knowing exactly where I stood in her life, I still wanted to make things right for her. The only way for me to do that would be to man up for one, and then try and remember where that stupid fucking virus was so she could go back to her life.
The one I wasn’t a part of, but another man was.
I grabbed the files she’d shown me days earlier of ‘my’ notes from when I’d been undercover and dove into them, so I wouldn’t have to deal with any of the more tortuous thoughts rattling around in my brain. I ignored her again when she came out of the bathroom and for the next few hours the only words spoken between us were when I asked questions about the case.
But I asked none about Jase, even though their relationship was the only thing running through my mind.
I could feel her eyes on my from time to time, but I refused to look up. I couldn’t look up because I knew I would get lost in them and they weren’t mine to get lost in. I didn’t want to see whatever pity they might hold now that she knew some of what I’d been feeling for her. And I was actually thankful I couldn’t remember anything else about us just then because I didn’t want to know if I’d made a fool of myself previously, declaring my feelings to her only for her to not return them.
But it made no difference.
Nothing I was doing to avoid thinking about her made any difference because it turned out I couldn’t avoid my own Sookie-filled head. No matter how much I read, nothing was being retained. Nothing looked remotely familiar or stirred any new memories because nothing was able to break through the Sookie barrier in my mind.
She’d said she’d been on extended leave when I turned up on the bureau’s radar, but why?
Had she been on vacation?
On her honeymoon?
My heart twisted in my chest again, while my traitorous eyes furtively darted to her left hand.
I hadn’t noticed her wearing any jewelry before, but I hadn’t really been looking for any. I had no right to be looking anyway, especially now knowing for sure there was someone else in her life.
In her bed.
And even though it wasn’t concrete evidence, I still felt myself calm a little on the inside, seeing there were no rings on any of her fingers.
That is until she reached for a piece of paper on the desk with her left hand and the tan line on her ring finger mocked me like a cruel fucking bastard.
The papers in my lap scattered as I abruptly stood up.
“Where are you going?” I heard her call out from behind me.
I wasn’t sure, so I didn’t answer her. I just knew I needed to get the hell out of there.
I needed to clear my head.
I needed a fucking lobotomy, so I could fucking breathe without feeling like my chest was caving in.
I could hear her footsteps coming up behind me, but I didn’t want to look at her or her tan line, so I called back over my shoulder, “I’m going for a run to clear my head.”
If only I could run away from my thoughts too.
I didn’t look back and went through the door and out into the night. My feet carried me down the landing strip and then cut across the desert, but I made sure to keep the building in my sights since I didn’t want to get lost out there in the unfamiliar terrain. I ended up running in increasingly wider circles around the airfield made easier by the light of the full moon.
I ran until my lungs burned.
I ran until my legs felt like they’d turned into jelly.
I ran until the sun started peeking out over the horizon.
I ran until my whole body protested taking one more step.
But my mind had yet to stop running.
When I felt like I couldn’t take another step, I came to a stop and bent over at the waist, trying to catch my breath, when I jumped suddenly feeling a hand land on my back and turned around with a start to see Sookie staring back at me.
Some ninja spy I was….
“Feeling better?” she asked with a tentative smile.
“Who’s Jase?” my mouth asked without my brain’s consent.
Just saying his name out loud burned in my throat, just as much as my lungs burned for air.
She looked just as startled as I’d felt a second earlier, but she wiped the shock from her face, while her eyes darted to her feet before coming to rest on my own again.
Then she ignored my question and instead asked one of her own.
“What did you remember?”
“Nothing!” I half yelled in frustration. “I overheard you on the phone. Is he the complication?”
I knew my jealousy was irrational.
I knew I had no right to feel that way.
I knew I had no right to demand answers.
And in that moment, I didn’t fucking care.
She stared back at me with an expression I couldn’t name – something between pity and hurt – and it only made me feel worse.
But I couldn’t disguise my own shock when she finally replied, “Jason is my brother.”
I replayed the little bit I’d overheard of her conversation and now – put into an entirely new context – it seemed completely innocent.
Of course she would miss her brother.
Of course she would love him.
I almost laughed out loud in relief until I remembered the mocking tan line on her ring finger.
So I grabbed her left hand, holding it in between our faces, and asked, “So whose ring were you wearing?”
Again, I had no right to demand anything from her.
Answers or fidelity.
And again, I didn’t fucking care.
I almost expected her to look like she’d been caught red handed – or at the very least, tan-lined fingered – but she just looked pissed and she wrenched her hand free from my grasp and grabbed onto my own.
Holding it up in between us, she snarled, “Whose ring are you still wearing?”
The plain gold band encircling my ring finger glinted off of the now rising sun as I stared at it. I hadn’t given it any thought because it was always just there. I never thought about it and hadn’t for as long as I could remember.
Which probably didn’t say much, considering I couldn’t trust what I did remember of that life.
When I didn’t say anything, Sookie dropped my hand like it was burning her and marched back towards the hangar, without bothering to look back to see if I was following her.
But I was done with that bullshit.
So I ran to catch up with her and spun her around to face me, yelling, “YOU ALREADY KNOW! YOU KNOW EVERYTHING AND WON’T TELL ME A GODDAMN THING IN RETURN!”
She surprised me again because I expected her to yell back, so when I saw the tears fill her eyes I didn’t know what to do or what to say. Her kickass persona was nowhere in sight and I thought for perhaps the first time – in this world – I was truly seeing the real her.
I didn’t know why she was holding back from giving me the answers I needed – not wanted but needed to hear – until she looked down at her feet and barely whispered out, “I just can’t. It’s not your fault and I don’t blame you. Not really, but…I can’t. You obviously still have some sort of feelings for her and we have bigger problems to get through. Telling you everything else will just confuse you more.”
“Why?” I breathed out in frustration. And when she didn’t answer right away, I added, “Why will it complicate things? Why do you think I still harbor feelings for her after everything I’ve been telling you?”
I’d already been kicking myself for admitting as much as I had to her, when I thought Jase was the great love of her life. But now I was starting to wonder if maybe I hadn’t shared enough.
She made that idea all the more credible when she looked up at me and asked, with a small sad smile, “Do you know that you talk in your sleep?”
I shook my head in the negative because Sophie had never mentioned it, but it did put some of her morning wake up bitchiness into another whole new light. If she’d overheard whatever I’d been saying to Sookie in my dreams, well…
It served her right, if she was never really my wife to begin with.
Sookie’s voice brought me back to the present as she said, “The other night. You were dreaming of her. You said her name a few times along with how much you…loved her.”
It sounded as though she’d choked out the last two words, but remembering the dream I’d had, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing.
Sookie didn’t appear to appreciate my ill-timed humor, so I explained, “It was the first time I’d dreamt of her when she wasn’t a ‘bad guy’. The dream was of our wedding day and even while I was in the dream, I knew I was dreaming. But it wasn’t like any of the others I’ve had that were always so real and when I woke up, it still felt like all of it had been a dream. Not the dream itself, but like the reality of it never actually happened.”
I knew I was probably confusing her since I was starting to confuse myself, but I held her gaze with my own and reiterated, “The dreams I had of you were the ones that always felt real. What you heard was me repeating the lines, like I was reading them off of a page in a book. I didn’t have any feelings or emotions to go along with it. Not like the things I felt whenever I’ve dreamt of you.”
To further my case, I took the wedding ring off my finger and threw it out into the desert terrain, adding, “I don’t love her. Even before you came along that night I’d been feeling disconnected from her and had just been going through the motions of life. I can’t remember the last time we had sex or if it ever even happened. All of it feels more like a dream now. Every memory I have of her.”
And then taking a deep breath, I admitted, “And the medication, or whatever the fuck it was they were pumping into my system, made me impotent.”
Pardon the pun, but that was hard to say.
Despite everything, I still wanted Sookie to see me as a virile male and my admission made feel way less than that.
But it seemed to lift her spirits because she smiled back at me and softly laughed, “Well then, after earlier, I guess we can safely surmise the drugs are leaving your system.”
Thank fuck for that and while I felt somewhat better now that I’d laid it all on the table, there was still her tan line I was concerned about. She’d never actually answered my previous question, so I took her hand again and held it up, asking my question with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.
Sookie pursed her lips and stared back at me for a moment before saying, “I’ll admit that I haven’t said anything because I wasn’t sure what was going on in your head and we really do have a lot of other more important things to figure out. The last thing you need is to be distracted and this will just add to your load. Your plate’s already pretty full, so are you sure you want to know? Now? It can wait until after we figure out what you did with the virus. Or, now that the drugs are wearing off, there’s the possibility you could always remember on your own.”
Christ…was it that bad?
Was she married to Rasul?
Or that Barry kid?
Fuck it. I NEEDED to know.
“Honestly?” I started and then ran my hands through my hair, adding, “I can’t fucking think about anything else. Just tell me and maybe then I’ll be able to concentrate.”
I’d meant to sound calm and detached, but whiny and pathetic had taken their place. I hadn’t even realized I’d squeezed my eyes shut, so I wouldn’t see the big bad coming, when I felt her turn her hand so that it held mine as she led me back into the hangar.
I was worried, thinking she wanted me to sit down before telling me, and was hoping she’d just say that she was recently divorced.
Hopefully not from Herveaux.
That would explain the tan line, but still she said nothing and I was beginning to wonder if she was stalling for time, thinking of a way to break it to me that Herveaux was her ex because he clearly still had a thing for her.
I’d shoot him between his eyes.
Not that I had any right to.
But I would.
However, instead of leading me to the chair I usually sat in, she put me in front of the computer station and said, “Barry hacked us into the FBI’s database, so we can monitor their case from here, along with Shreveport PD and LVPD. If they figure out where we are, then we can get out before they arrive and we can also see whatever new information they gather in the meantime.”
That was great and all, but I really didn’t give a fuck about that right now. Those weren’t the answers I needed to know and I was about to tell her that, when she hit a few keys and a picture of Sookie herself popped onto the screen, as she added, “It’s my personnel file. Does that answer your question?”
I heard her words, but my mind didn’t really register them when my eyes locked in on her name and once again, everything was put into a whole new light. All of her actions and reactions now made more sense because she wasn’t just my partner.
Well…I guess she was.
In every sense of the word.
Because according to her FBI personnel file, she was Sookie Stackhouse-Northman.