Slowly driving down the street heading towards my house, I automatically took in the scenery around me doing a cursory check.
Which was more like a town roll call, since my eyes were peeled for signs of any cop cars, fire trucks, and/or ambulances.
Or any evidence a MedFlight helicopter had recently departed from the end of the cul-de-sac.
But not seeing any trees swaying unnaturally from the blades of a whirlybird and finding nothing else out of the ordinary, I figured Eric’s day with the boys couldn’t have been all that bad.
Mine hadn’t been all that bad either, with me treating the girls to the pedicures we all got together at the mall.
Miriam actually spoke – I hadn’t been sure she could, since it took me seeing her three times for her to utter a single word – but I soon learned she could be a riot, in an understated sort of way. Pam was still a little guarded with me, but that was okay.
She hadn’t sneered even once.
I called that making progress.
But I hadn’t been the only one who’d made progress that day because after I put my secret spoils away – I’d had to double back to buy the things I’d wanted from Victoria’s Secret, after I’d left Pam and Miriam when we were done at the nail salon – I headed into the backyard and once again stopped in my tracks at the sight before me.
Because there stood Eric, with the boys flanking him on either side, all facing away from the house and staring up at the platform they managed to build around the three trees in the center of the yard, about eight feet up off of the ground.
I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but both Jason and Trey were pointing at it and jabbering excitedly, all while Eric’s head slightly tilted to the left and then right, both looking and listening to whatever either one happened to be saying at the time.
…went my ovaries.
I was sure my insides looked like the outside of Bill’s house on Mischief Night – egg splattered – but seeing the platform now in place that would be the foundation to the boys’ dream-come-true treehouse, I felt a little weepy.
Hopefully it wasn’t because my eggs were passed their sell-by date and the smell was making them water.
But some sort of liquid was leaking down there.
So I hoped it was just catching sight of me on the deck – and not the hopeful wishes of a dog, with an enhanced sense of smell and a predilection for cleaning up splattered eggs – that had Dean letting out a happy bark and running towards me.
Every male under my roof was a mama’s boy and Dean was no different.
But hearing him bark was enough to make the other three males in the yard turn around to see me standing there, with a smile lighting up on Eric’s face.
Seeing it, I didn’t even care what happened that caused the ‘Uh-oh’ to form on the boys’ faces.
But it was there.
Dean wasn’t the only one with enhanced senses and my mommy ones were tingling.
The local authorities might not have been involved, but something happened while I’d been out and they were worried I’d find out about it.
And since their evilness was a trait they’d inherited from me, I took great pleasure in giving them the stink-eye as I slowly made my way towards them. Knowing my sons like the back of my hand – not unlike how they knew the sting on their butts from the palm of my hand – I knew they would give themselves away in under five minutes.
They couldn’t seem to help themselves – just like they couldn’t seem to remember the fact that sound traveled, which was how I usually caught them red-handed – so if they ever got into any real trouble with the law, I knew they’d be singing like canaries and carried off to Sing Sing, long before I could ever get a lawyer into the room.
Hopefully Mrs. Fortenberry would still be around and could bake them a cake with a file in it. But since she was getting up there in age, I made sure they had regular visits with the dentist, in case they needed to gnaw their way out of prison.
But my mommy senses weren’t the only ones on high alert. My fuckwit feels were stomping down my spine, like the saints were marching in.
So I lifted my left hand, without even needing to look to know Bill was watching from somewhere nearby and continued to walk towards Eric and the boys, while I flipped him the bird.
Having a brother who was so much older than they were – hell, having Hadley for an aunt and me for a mom – they’d been exposed to worse, so I wasn’t concerned they were watching me do it.
They’d been sitting in Sam’s room just the night before, after we’d gotten back from the drive-in, and listened while he’d gone off on a rant about Bill’s douchebachery to one of his friends over the phone.
Comparing his pasty ass to a dummy in Madame Douche-Oh’s wax museum had been especially inspired.
It inspired me to go down the hall and make the younger ones go to bed, while giving Sam a half-assed look of disapproval.
Treyson were two birds of a feather.
Not only did they flock together, it was a known fact they repeated everything they heard like two parrots with the gift of ill-timed gab. So I knew it was only a matter of time before Madame Douche-Oh’s would be repeated by either or in the very near future.
But at the same time I was secretly pleased at my older one’s creativity.
Even if he too still sometimes forgot the fact sound traveled.
But I forgot all about douchebags and their douchebachery by the time I was standing in front of Eric, and tried to wrestle my libido into submission before the boys were exposed to a hell of a lot worse than Madame Douche-Oh’s.
Like their mother exposing her lower half and attempting to connect it to Eric’s, like a lady bits Lego piece.
But it was thoughts like that, that had my faulty brain-to-mouth filter flying out of my cooch like an Oz bound monkey, and say, “That’s a lot of wood you got up there.”
With my wayward womb already egg splattered, all I wanted to do now was make even more mischief by wheedling my way into Eric’s pants.
So I could teepee the tree he had in there.
With my tongue.
His brow wasn’t the only thing that rose up with my words.
As the mother of Treyson, God had gifted me with all of the necessary tools to include excellent peripheral vision.
But it was those same eggs – hatched nine months apart – that had no idea their mother was looking to tramp stamp every part of Eric’s body with her inky ne’er-do-well nethers, and took it upon themselves to begin chattering non-stop about everything they’d done to help build the wooden platform I hadn’t really been referring to.
It should have been enough to rein in my shameless eye-fucking.
But it wasn’t.
After all, it was called shameless for a reason.
I really was a bad mother, but at least it was only my eyes doing the fucking and not their eyes witnessing me actually fucking Eric.
They’d go to sleep eventually though.
Having found the bright side for each of my dilemmas, I forced my eyes away from Eric and down to my little chatter-boxes – ignoring the wants of my own box – and when they each took the same second to inhale, I used their need for oxygen to ask, “What else did you do today?”
I hadn’t forgotten about their Shaggy and Scooby Ruh-Roh face.
Fuckery had been afoot at some point while I’d been gone.
When neither one of them said anything, my eyes moved to stare directly at Trey – the weaker one of the pair – and the one who usually treated my interrogations like it was his chance to be the next American Idol.
And seeing him trying to keep his mouth from spilling like the Exxon Valdez, I cooed, “Sing, monkey. Sing.”
But Jason made an “Aaah!” noise and waved his hand in the air like one of them farted – which might very well have been the case – before looking at Trey and growling, “The first rule of Fight Club is don’t talk about the Fight Club.”
“Amen to that, little man!”
I didn’t even need to turn around to know it was Hadley coming up behind me. Nor did I need to ask already knowing she’d been the one to teach them that little phrase.
Their aunt and sometimes puppet master.
And because she and I had also been called twin terrors growing up – in spite of our DNA and birthdays saying otherwise – she came up to stand beside me and proved we hadn’t necessarily grown out of that description, by looking up at Eric and grinning, “I knew you had a lot of wood to get up.”
I could feel the blush blazing across my face in an instant. A completely different reaction than when Sookie had made the same nearly identical innuendo. But since I actually wanted to show Sookie exactly what I had and what I wanted to do to her with it, it was to be expected.
I hadn’t been expecting her cousin-more-like-sister to put me on the hot seat.
Which would explain my reddened face.
After her little display in the kitchen the night before – playing a one woman round of X-rated charades when the boys weren’t looking – I should have expected it and yet I didn’t know whether I should laugh or run away shrieking like a little girl.
It was a tossup.
But Sookie didn’t seem to have an issue deciding what she wanted to do because she turned and punched her cousin in the arm, looking both amused and pissed when she half-yelled out, “It’s white and gold!”
“It is,” I nodded, verbally backing her up and relieved at the change in subject.
The only one I wanted to discuss my wood with was Sookie.
“Bitch!” Hadley winced, rubbing her arm and then turned her glaring eyes onto her cousin to add, “And to think I came over here to give you a chance to play on the Slip and Slide.”
“Slip and Slide?” the boys asked in unison, looking up at their aunt like she had the power to cancel school.
Had the idea been posed to anyone else – hell, had it been uttered by or to anyone I’d ever known in my adult life before meeting Sookie – I couldn’t imagine they would even consider playing on a Slip and Slide.
Foolish. Immature. Messy.
I could hear Aude saying those exact words in my mind and see the slight sneer she would’ve worn, while verbally ticking them off her list.
I hated to keep making the comparisons, but it seemed impossible not to. And while I knew it was just a difference in their personalities – and neither was necessarily right or wrong – I couldn’t help feeling both guilty and relieved that they were so different.
Because I could already feel the corners of my lips turning up, having no problem imagining Sookie squealing with laughter, slipping and sliding her way down a wet piece of plastic.
Their family dynamic wasn’t like anything I was used to, but I couldn’t help feeling sucked into their orbit. At every turn I seemed to be presented with yet another tidbit – another morsel – giving me a taste of what lie ahead and with every crumb I consumed, it only made me hunger for more.
It was both thrilling and disconcerting.
I worried I wouldn’t ever be sated.
I worried more, in spite of suspecting that fact to be true, I didn’t care.
I wanted it all, damn the common sense of having those kinds of feeling so early on.
To hell with the practicalities of trying to merge two families, with four kids between us, where only two of them seemed on board with our relationship.
After spending so much time with the boys, I would put my money on them in any fight against both Pam and Sam.
And if it came down to it, I would use that same money to bail them out of jail.
But not knowing I was drawing up blueprints in my mind, building a bigger family instead of a dragon-proof treehouse, Sookie’s arched brow had her cousin winking at her in return before telling the boys, “Yep. I just picked one up at Walmart. The big inflatable kind, but it’s more like a water park, with two slides, a climbing wall, tunnels, two water cannons, and a pool at the bottom of it. I was wondering if you two wanted to come over and help Hunter kill his daddy’s grass by setting it up in the backyard. It only takes three minutes to inflate.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the dual looks of indecisiveness on their faces, with each of them looking back and forth between the unfinished treehouse and their aunt.
So I guessed I wasn’t the only one who wanted it all.
Hadley had made her spiel like her name was Ron Popeil, so it was no wonder they’d been sold on the idea and seeing the same thing on their faces I was, Sookie only laughed out, “Ah…a dilemma worthy of King Solomon.”
Turning their vacillating expressions my way – as though I held the key to their future – I didn’t leave them hanging for long before saying, “We wouldn’t have been able to finish the treehouse today anyway, so we can pick it up again tomorrow or next weekend. Go have fun killing your uncle’s grass.”
They didn’t need to be told twice, with both of them shouting various forms of glee and running into the house.
And I felt the urge to mimic their reactions when Hadley turned to face us both, with a wicked expression on her own, as she said, “They’re spending the night at my house, so you two can feel free to play the adult version: Slip and Slide down Sookie’s chute, with no interruptions.”
Then turning to face only Sookie, she grinned, “I bet he inflates in under three minutes.”
There was no embarrassment to be had that time.
Probably because there was no blood north of my waist to flood my cheeks.
But before I could jump for joy, jump on Sookie, or offer to send Hadley on an all expenses paid trip to Europe in thanks, as if he’d somehow planned it, Sam came walking into the backyard at that very moment.
“What’s going on?” he asked, eying the beginnings of the treehouse in a way that made me wonder if I’d inadvertently stepped on his big brother toes.
Neither one of the boys had made any mention of Sam, much less any plans I might have infringed upon, with my offer to help them. But they were kids – getting what they wanted.
It might not have occurred to them to mention it was a project meant to be completed by the Herveaux brothers.
But before I could ask, explain, or apologize, Hadley turned to face him and said, “Just the handsome fella I was looking for. I’ve got a hundred bucks with your name on it, if you come stay the night at my house and watch Trentson. They’ll be all tuckered out from playing on the monster water slide I bought today and Remy owes me dinner and a night of dancing because I’m so awesome and he’s lucky to have me. You can have two friends over – to make it an even fight, if it comes down to it – and the pizza is on me.”
Maybe she really was Ron Popeil in disguise because she definitely had his attention.
And my eternal gratitude when he shrugged and said, “Okay. We were just gonna hang out in front of the TV tonight anyway. Might as well do it at your place if there’s pizza and I’m getting paid for it.”
As soon as he walked into the house and shut the door behind him, Sookie turned to Hadley and said, “I love you so hard right now.”
“You’ll love me even more when he’s hard and hard at work making your ‘O’ face appear,” she giggled.
“Right here,” I reminded them with a small grin, wondering if I’d ever get used to their frank way of speaking to one another.
It was yet another crumb along the trail that only urged me forward.
While I seemed to be in a constant state of arousal around Sookie – even if it was only sometimes mentally, rather than physically because we always seemed to have an audience – and I knew she felt the same way, I certainly hadn’t expected sex to be an option tonight.
But then I hadn’t expected it to be an option the night before either, until we were throwing open my front door – so I could throw her down on the nearest flat surface – only to find Pam and her girlfriend at the house.
So maybe it was a combination of our ten minutes long date and hearing Hadley’s spur of the moment plans, to keep Sam from keeping me from slipping and sliding into Sookie, that made me think she deserved better than me just throwing myself at her the moment we were alone.
Like her cousin’s teasing boast about herself, Sookie really was awesome and I really was lucky to have her.
She deserved to wined and dined and spun around a dance floor.
“Like it would be easy to miss you standing there,” Hadley laughed, reminding me of my just spoken reminder to them, then standing up on her tiptoes and straining upwards, as though that would make up for the differences in our height. So when that didn’t work, she gave up and then turned towards Bill’s yard, adding in a more sinister tone, “Or him.”
Given her evil tone, it was no surprise when she treated him to some of the X-rated sign language both she and Sookie seemed fluent in, by using only her hands to communicate with him.
Never taking her eyes off of him, she straightened the pointer and middle fingers of her right hand and held them under her eyes for a second, before pointing them his way and back again, to let him know she saw him. Then pointing at Sookie and I, she thrust her hips at the same time she thrust her pointer finger through a circle she made using her left thumb and pointer finger, before pointing back at him and flipping him off.
But that didn’t seem to say all that she felt the need to say because she used her flattened left hand to mime something akin to spinning a plate or basketball on top of that same extended middle finger.
Silently telling him to sit on it and spin, if I had to guess.
I really hoped I never got on her bad side.
But I was ninety-nine percent certain the boys’ high-spirited nature came from their mother’s side of the gene pool.
And I was one hundred percent certain it was something they’d witnessed before because all of our attention was drawn back towards the house, hearing Jason and Trey guffawing from the deck, while Sam stood beside them with his narrowed eyes trained on Bill.
When the two younger ones each cupped their butts and began spinning in circles, snickering out various forms of, “Ow, my butt, it hurts,” Sookie only shook her head and looked back at Hadley, deadpanning, “Thanks.”
“I aim to please,” she smiled in return. “Besides, I know you’ll pay me back in kind the next time Hunter’s over here.”
Hearing Sookie mutter something that sounded like, “Madame Douche-Oh’s,” under her breath, I had to wonder if maybe she really was telepathic.
Or maybe being their mother she was so good at reading them, they didn’t need to confess their sins out loud, but I tried to keep my expression neutral all the same because I’d given them my word.
That was our secret.
So once hugs – and stage whispered suggestions as to when and where the adult slip and slide should take place once they were gone – were given, it was just me and Sookie.
Sookie and me.
But he was doing a roadkill impersonation in a patch of sunlight in the yard, so he didn’t count at the moment.
Even Bill had slunk away, so there was nothing keeping me from Sookie but a single step in her direction.
A step that seemed to stretch on for miles, now that we were all alone.
I wanted her – god, did I want her – but I didn’t want it to feel forced either. I didn’t want our first time together happening just because we could and the truth of the matter was that I was nervous. I hadn’t been with anyone in that way since Aude and with her illness, we hadn’t been intimate in a little more than a year preceding her death.
It had been a long time for me.
And that fact only made me even more nervous, knowing it would more than likely mean I wouldn’t last very long the first time I was with Sookie.
She seemed to be a little nervous too and helped to ease some of my anxiety, when she giggled, “This is silly. We’re two grown adults. What we do and what we don’t do is completely up to us, no matter what we’re told by Miss Licensed Cocktologist. So I say we go inside and find something to eat because the only things I’ve had in my mouth today are my Boston crème covered fingertip and your tongue. I’m prone to hypoglycemic induced hostility and with the kids gone, I’ll have no choice but to march next door to let it all out and he’s the last thing I want to see.”
“Licensed cocktologist?” I grinned, amused as always at the things they came up with, while she took my hand in hers and led me back towards the house.
Nodding her head with a smile, Sookie glanced my way and warned, “Beware calling her office. She gives great advice, but if you get put on hold, you’ll get infected with an earworm. I’ve been singing Sweet Caroline in my head all damn day.”
Following her into the kitchen, she pushed me towards a bar stool next to the center island where I took a seat, and opened the refrigerator door, staring at the contents.
Now was the time for me to offer to take her out on that date we hadn’t finished.
To wine and dine her.
To see if she wanted to go for a spin around a dance floor.
But staring shamelessly at her from behind, appreciating each and every curve my eyes traced over her body, I suddenly found myself standing directly behind her asking instead, “And just what kind of advice were you looking to get from a licensed cocktologist?”
The cool air coming from the fridge did nothing to alleviate the heat coursing through me when I pressed my front against her back.
She stiffened for only a second before sinking back into me and just as quickly I forgot all about finishing ten minute long dates.
Wining and dining.
Spinning her around a dance floor.
All I could think about was finishing something else we kept starting and stopping due to circumstances that didn’t exist in this moment.
Something my body had already figured out because my hands were already moving over those same curves only my eyes had been lucky enough to trace over seconds earlier, before my brain caught on to what they were doing.
Sookie didn’t seem to mind.
In fact, she only pressed herself further into me, twisting and pushing her body into wherever my hands happened to be at any given time during their exploration, while her ass pushed into my hips.
Killing me one slow and tortuous gyration at a time, my arms banded around her body from behind and held her still, so I could return the favor and I felt something deep and strong and primal move through me, hearing her whimpers of approval.
It took all of my willpower to not bend her over where she stood and take her from behind.
While it might have been a long time since I’d last done anything remotely like we were doing now, I seemed to remember how just fine. We hadn’t discussed it in depth, but I suspected Sookie hadn’t been with anyone else either.
But with that realization came another one.
We both knew what it was like to have your life turned upside down. To have the rug pulled out from under you, with there being nothing you can do to stop it.
Suddenly it no longer seemed as important to try and make things storybook perfect. Life wasn’t perfect, but Sookie felt perfect for me and I hoped she could say the same. But the truth was we only had this moment. The future wasn’t guaranteed for anyone – a fact we both knew all too well – but here and now?
This moment was ours.
So I took it.