Pushing the damp hair off of my face, I tried to get comfortable, while my brain tried to work out why I was having night sweats.
It was too soon for menopause, right?
But feeling my fleece covered arm brush over my head I remembered why I was feeling more flushed than a toilet at Grand Central Station.
The My Little Lady Boner Concealer disguised as Pinkie Pie PJ’s were heating things up in a decidedly gross way.
Pulling the zipper down to get some much needed air, I soon realized I’d forgotten something else until my hand hit an obstacle along the way, giving me a different kind of menopause.
Or rather, Man! Oh. Pause…
It was an arm.
An arm that wasn’t mine, but I recognized just the same.
At least that explained why I felt like I’d been sleeping in a sauna.
Hopefully he would believe the damp spot I was surely leaving beneath us was just sweat.
Wide awake now, I slowly pulled the zipper back up until the girls were covered and then used that same hand to rub the sleep from my eyes. The last thing I could remember was the Chitauri invading New York, but seeing we were lying on the couch I figured we must have fallen asleep.
How in the hell we’d ended up spooning was a mystery for another day. But now that we’d fallen, I needed to get the hell up.
Before he woke up.
Because I could feel a part of him that was definitely up.
Up against my ass.
“Quit squirming,” he snuffled into the back of my head, halting the subconscious squirming my ass had been doing up against his flagpole of freedom.
So I could only blame my fevered brain for what came out of my mouth next.
“Ooh say can you seeee, BY the dawn’s early liiight…”
My singing was on par with Roseanne Barr more than Whitney Houston, but big spoons couldn’t be choosers.
Or something like that.
Tightening his hold on me, he mumbled out, “What are you doing?”
“It’s what so proudly we hailed,” I giggle snorted my correction and then snickered out, “But I either have to sing or salute. I’d hate to be brought up on charges of treason.”
But I wouldn’t mind being brought up and down – and up and down – his…
“What?” he asked, in a voice laced with confusion.
Hoping I hadn’t been thinking out loud again, I quickly gave him another – much more innocent – clue by calling out, “HAMMER! Haaammmeeeeerrrrr!!!”
Not that it was Hammer Time.
Pastor Stanley Kirk Burrell said so himself, in his iconic hymn circa 1990.
You Can’t Touch This.
And since it was Sunday, I had no choice but to defer to the pastor, even if that same pastor had once worn Hammer Pants.
Finally cluing in to what I was referring to, he made no effort to try and move away from me and instead only repeated my unmentionable mantra of, “We aren’t going to mention it.”
“But there’s so much to talk about,” I laughed.
And I seriously needed an ice bath and two Tylenol – stat – to bring my fever down.
It would be the only way to get my lips to zip.
I supposed we weren’t going to mention Captain and Cookie Cuddle Time either, but that was fine by me. I don’t think I’d ever cuddled with someone that hadn’t been won at a county fair or born from my baby maker.
It was nice.
The fact he had morning wood was totally normal.
It wasn’t me.
It was morning. And physiology.
Or so I kept telling myself.
Doing a little squirming himself, I felt him pushing my hair out of his face – and thereby giving the back of my neck some much needed fresh air – before flopping back down and asking, “How in the hell can you stand wearing that thing? You’ve gotta be burning up.”
Burnin’ up for your love, Madonna whispered in my brain’s ear, not to be outdone by a Hammer Pants wearing Pastor.
It was Sunday, after all.
And I was burning up.
For various reasons.
One of them surely being because I was going straight to hell.
For various reasons.
But rather than admit that, I only pointed out the obvious by saying, “You’re one to talk, Heat Miser. What’s your Energy Star rating? Supernova?”
Like. A. Furnace.
Still cuddling me from behind, he chuckled out, “You’re right. So sorry, Mother Nature. I forgot you like Snow Miser best.”
And then that bastard called an abrupt end to Cuddle Time by giving me a shove that had me rolling off of the couch and onto the floor.
Sitting up, I felt my sweaty hair flopping every which way, so he couldn’t see my glare of death and only laughed, “Nice hair, Medusa.”
“That’s amber waves of grain to you, Perseus,” I huffed, trying to tame my rat’s nest with my hands.
And trying not to bring up his purple mountain’s majesty.
“I saw there’s a farmer’s market not far from here. We should go.”
“That was out of beautiful spacious skies,” I laughed. “Are you always so ADD first thing in the morning?”
I hadn’t been to a farmer’s market in ages, so it actually sounded fun. But trying and failing to loosen a particularly stubborn knot in my hair before giving up, he sounded amused when he countered, “Are you always so patriotic first thing in the morning?”
“Murica,” I nodded, pushing myself up off of the floor and added, “But I need the magic of conditioner to get the knots out of my hair, so I’m gonna make like a bird and flock off.”
I hadn’t even lifted a foot towards the stairs when the sound of Jason babbling through the baby monitor I’d brought into the living room the night before echoed through the room, making me sigh out, “Or not.”
He would only lie there happily for a few minutes before there would be holy hell to pay.
“I’ll get him,” he offered, “Go take your shower.”
“But it’s Sunday?”
Not only was it the day of the week – month, year, ever, my mind supplied – that I couldn’t touch that, but my questioning tone had nothing to do with the actual day. It had to do with the fact he wasn’t technically on the clock, so I added, “You know you’re not working right now, right?”
Sure, we hadn’t exactly been acting like employer and employee – unless we were the employer and employee acting out a ‘What Not To Do and You’ workplace training video – but a part of me still worried he would become overwhelmed or feel taken advantage of.
The last thing I wanted was to give him a reason to leave.
“Sugar,” he breathed out in an octave lower than his normal tone of voice, while looking up at me through his unfairly long lashes. And then smirking at the look it put on my face – the cocksucker – he added a qualifier of, “Cookie. You know just because it’s your day off, it doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself, right?”
Yes, none of the other nannies had lived in the house or cuddled me all night long. But even Maxine – the best of the bunch before he’d come along – hadn’t offered much help with the baby if I was still home. Sometimes I would be running late when she would arrive in the morning and she would go make herself a cup of coffee, while I ran around trying to get myself and the baby ready for the day.
But since she’d been the best of the bunch at the time, I hadn’t complained, afraid she would up and leave too.
Like she ended up doing anyway.
Everyone always ended up leaving at some point.
But then, if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be staring back at the Captain Care Bear, Cuddle Edition now getting up off of the couch.
“Says me,” he smiled, walking past me and making his way up the stairs. And a moment later I could hear the sound of his voice coming through the baby monitor, doing a Robin Williams impersonation by saying, “Goood morning Baby America! Hey, little man! Guess what? We’re going to the farmer’s market today! Yes we are!”
My rapidly melting insides hearing his enthusiastic baby tone being met by Jason’s equally enthusiastic happy baby babble, was tempered a second later hearing him say, “But first mommy has to do some sort of sketchy voodoo magic to counteract the demon spell someone put on her hair during the night.”
“Asshole!” I laughingly called up the stairs.
“That’s what she gets for eavesdropping on us,” I heard him say, sounding thoroughly amused, followed by the baby laughing at what sounded like raspberries being blown against his belly and the added, “Yes it is!”
I really hoped I wouldn’t end up giving him a reason to leave.
What seemed like half a bottle of conditioner later, I was back downstairs to find Jason already fed and changed, happily banging a plastic cup and a teething ring onto the tray of his highchair. Captain Concierge handed me a cup of coffee with a smile and said, “Don’t eat anything. We’re stopping for breakfast on the way.”
Already on his way out of the kitchen to go up to take his own shower, I called after him, “How do you even know where’s a good place to go?”
If Pam was to be believed, he’d only gotten to town the night before we’d met.
Maybe Stan had sniffed it out like a bloodhoundasauras?
“I have a Yelp app and I’m not afraid to use it,” he called back from halfway up the stairs.
Taking a seat, I took a sip and a moment to process.
There was a lot to work through.
The least of which was his ability to navigate Yelp.
But turning at the sound of Jason’s happy baby chatter, he grinned at me, all gums and drool. I honestly couldn’t think of a stretch of time where he’d been so content.
The same could be said about me.
It wasn’t a far leap to realize why that was.
I just hoped – for both our sakes – I didn’t fuck it all up.
“So Old MacDonald, what is it you’re looking to get from the farmer’s market, E-I-E-I-O?” she sang out with a grin.
She’d been quieter than normal when I’d come back downstairs after my shower, but her mood seemed to be lifting now that she had some food in her.
I took that as a good sign that my dick hadn’t crossed an unforgivable line by lining up with her ass that morning.
But now that it looked like everything was back to being okay, I may have been looking for a sign that she would let me do it again.
That had only been the starting line. I wanted to cross the finish line, along with a whole lot of other lines with her.
I’d felt my fair share of attraction to other women in the past, but I’d never felt so…so…
But whatever it was, I wanted more of it. I just didn’t want to move too fast and ruin the whole damn thing before it could even really start.
Learning her actual name would be a good start.
But even without it, something had definitely already started.
While fantasies of playing an X-rated version of Red Light Green Light danced behind my eyes, the front of them saw she was still waiting on an answer. So I formed my reply and silently went over it three times to make sure my inner perv wouldn’t speak for me, before finally teasing, “Besides ear plugs, Old Mother Hubbard?”
Cookie excelled at many things.
Singing wasn’t one of them.
“Ha!” she laughed. “You think my voice is bad now, just wait until the moon is in Uranus and I pull some Christina Aguilera out of my ass. You will rue the day you mocked my mad nursery singsong skills, sir.”
Then reaching over to the baby in his highchair, she clapped his hands in time with her chant of, “Roo like a Pooh with a rumbly in his tumbly.”
Picking up her glass of orange juice, I sniffed the contents and asked, “Are you sure this isn’t a mimosa, Lady Marmalade?”
“Quite sure, Christopher Robin.” Then smiling back at me, she added, “If it wasn’t I’d be singing, ‘Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?’”
I take it back.
Cookie did excel at singing.
Because those lyrics were music to my ears.
While my brain shouted ‘GREEN LIGHT!’ the rest of me was turning red, when I started choking on the piece of toast I’d made the mistake of sticking into my mouth.
So I used the rest of her orange juice to swallow it down and coughed out, “Have I mentioned I speak a little French?”
Yes, I knew they were lyrics to the song.
No, that didn’t stop me from wanting to believe she’d just asked me to sleep with her tonight.
GREEN LIGHT! GREEN LIGHT! GREEN LIGHT!
And not knowing if I had a ‘go’ to go along with that green didn’t stop me from taking a quick glance at my watch to see she’d been right in a way.
I was ruing the day.
It was barely nine o’clock in the morning. Nighttime was forever away.
“No, you haven’t,” she chortled, refusing to meet my eyes and blushing up a storm. “So we probably shouldn’t mention it.”
“Mais il y a tellement de choses à parler,” I hummed back at her, repeating the words she’d said to me that morning in French.
And seeing the heated look in her eyes when they snapped my way, I knew I was right.
There was so much to talk about.
“No, really,” she whispered, while fanning her flushed face.
Then noticing what her hand was doing, she used her other one to bat it away – looking like a drunken clap – while she tried to look unaffected, when she added “Don’t mention it.”
“I just want to see what they have,” I said in a normal voice, answering her initial question before popping a piece of bacon in my mouth, like I hadn’t just been undressing her with my eyes.
Which I had been.
I almost expected to hear the sound of fabric ripping from the force of it.
“Huh?” she blinked at me in confusion.
“The farmer’s market,” I clarified, trying not to smile. “I just want to see what they have.”
They were the last words spoken by her until we left the diner and eventually reached our destination about twenty minutes later.
“There!” she shouted from the passenger’s seat, pointing at the one open parking spot nearly hidden in the sea of cars.
Shaking free of the memories it provoked, I at least hadn’t needed to cutoff any old ladies to get us into it and I turned the SUV off before turning to her and smiling, “Welcome back to the land of the living.”
“More like the land of the lost,” she chuckled, gesturing to the area surrounding us. “We might need to leave breadcrumbs to find our way back.”
“Well, I hope you brought some with you, Gretel. Because I am crumb-free.”
“Check your shirt, Hansel,” she smiled knowingly, while pointing at my chest. “Your near termination by toast left evidence behind.”
Looking down, her hand came up and would have clipped me in the face if I hadn’t caught it with mine.
Her taunting words of, “Made you look,” were nearly caught in her throat, when I didn’t let go right away.
But I did.
Because I forced myself to.
Just like I forced myself to not go searching for crumbs in her cleavage.
With my tongue.
Jesus, she made me crazy – in the best of ways – but I was quickly running out of restraint. So I used the baby to get a handle on myself, by maintaining a death grip on the handle of the stroller he was sitting in, as we slowly moved through the farmer’s market.
Stopping at one of the tables, she picked up a t-shirt that she quickly balled in on itself, while she blushed up a storm and pointed further down the row saying, “Let’s go see what they have over there.”
Grasping onto the front of the stroller, she tried to drag both of us away, but I wasn’t about to leave without seeing what caused her to react that way.
With one hand still firmly on the stroller’s handle, I used the other to shake the shirt ball free and felt my lips spread into a wide grin hearing her make some sort of squawking sound, when I turned to the seller, asking, “How much?”
Having washed all of her clothes, I knew what size she wore, so ten dollars later she was the embarrassed owner of a shirt proclaiming ‘Captain America is my boyfriend. He just doesn’t know it yet.’
Grumbling mostly to herself – probably because I couldn’t stop laughing at her – when we finally started walking again, she turned to me and snipped out, “That shirt is never going to fit you, Bucky.”
“It’s not meant to,” I goaded and before she knew what was happening, I pulled the shirt over her head from behind, so that her arms were trapped at her sides and the hair that wasn’t now sticking up haphazardly all over her head was partly trapped underneath the collar.
Turning to face me in her ridiculous straight jacket, if looks could kill, I would’ve hit the ground dead where I stood.
As it stood, I was laughing hard enough that we were drawing the attention of those around us, but hearing someone else above the sound of my own voice made my laughter cease.
And my ass, pucker.
“Eric?” a voice I hoped I was imagining from my worst nightmares called out from behind me. “Eric Northman, is that you?”
A look of victory shone in the blue eyes in front of me at the wariness she could see in mine, but she had no idea my guarded expression had nothing to do with my name being outed.
It had to do with who was doing the outing.
It had been fun while it lasted.
The name guessing game and, you know…freedom.
Quickly turning around – because the idea of having her at my back made my balls shrivel up and hide – I breathed out in a slow exhale seeing Debbie Pelt making her way towards us.
“It is you,” she smiled, with the same wide crazy eyes I remembered.
Because finding her buck ass naked on my bed, her eyes were what I’d chosen to focus on that night.
I felt more than saw Cookie move to stand beside me. But I definitely saw the way Debbie’s eyes darted to her.
And the way they narrowed.
Oh hell no.
Moving to put my body in front of hers, Cookie neatly sidestepped me, still looking pleased at the unexpected turn of events.
So I clued her in to what was really going on by acknowledging in an unpleasant tone, “Debbie.”
I heard her slight inhale now that she’d followed the breadcrumbs to Crazy Town, but I refused to take my eyes away from the potential threat in front of us.
Debbie hadn’t been violent – per se – in the past, but I wasn’t about to take any chances where they were concerned.
So we were both looking straight ahead and saw the way Debbie’s eyes got wider when she noticed the stroller I was back to holding onto before she angrily gestured at Cookie and accused, “Who’s this? Because I don’t see no ring on your finger.”
Before I could even open my mouth – or, more likely, snap her neck – Cookie took another sidestep to put her body halfway in front of mine.
My arm was already moving to push her back behind me, when she knocked into me with her hip and a glare aimed my way to stop me.
Then sounding every bit like the assistant district attorney she was – and ignoring in every way how ridiculous she looked being trapped by her t-shirt – she wore it like a power suit meant to address the Supreme Court, when she turned to Debbie calmly stating, “Ms. Pelt. I think we both know that wearing a ring has little consequence when it comes to ascertaining the truth of the matter.”
Pulling her arms through the sleeves, she swept her hair out of the collar in the next moment and then put her body directly in front of mine.
Unable to see her expression, I couldn’t tell if she was taunting me or Debbie when she added, “Eric and I are many things to one another. But our only association you need to be concerned with is that I am also his attorney. I’m also very familiar with your criminal conduct where my client is concerned, so I would tread very lightly if I were you, unless you’re eager to see how the penal system works in this city.”
“You expect me to believe you’re some hotshot lawyer?” Debbie snapped, with her eyes roving over Cookie’s clothes.
“Feel free to conduct a search online,” she said warningly and turned to give me a wink Debbie couldn’t see before looking back at her to add, “Sookie Stackhouse. Assistant District Attorney.”
Her name was fucking Sookie?
How in the fucking fuck was I ever expected to guess that?
While I pouted – WHAT? It. Was. Warranted – Debbie and Stacked the Deck in her Favor Sookie Stackhouse continued their staring contest, until Jason started getting upset from where he was being ignored in the stroller.
Coo…I mean Sookie turned around to get him – because I wanted both hands free to snap Debbie’s neck if she even looked like she was about to make a threatening move towards them – and then returned to my side, adding pleasantly, “Well, it was nice seeing you Debbie.”
Then quickly snapping a picture of her with her phone, any pretense of pleasantness disappeared from her tone, when she warned, “Because now I know what you look like and if you don’t stay away from my family, the police will know what you look like too.”
I’d seen Cookie – Sookie – laugh and tease and joke and sing.
Nearly all of it could be considered inappropriate in some way, shape, or form and I’d loved every minute of it.
I’d seen her dressed for work, forgotten to get dressed in nothing more than a t-shirt and her underwear, and overly dressed in a Pepto pink death by dehydration torture suit.
But I’d never seen her like this before.
Wearing denim cutoff shorts, a t-shirt – making claims I was more than willing to admit to, acknowledge, and/or make true in any way – and flyaway static cling hair, hearing the authority in her tone – not to mention her inclusive claim on me – that belied her physical appearance, I’d never been more attracted to her.
So, when Debbie eventually slunk away without another word and Sookie turned to me with a winning smile, I did the only thing I could do.
I kissed her.
Maybe I could claim temporary insanity.
I would need to check with my attorney to be sure though and she was busy at the moment.
But I soon no longer cared about much of anything really, when I felt her begin to kiss me back.