I wished she would leave already. Her wanker husband was a gobshite; a complete and utter tool, but, even so, I still couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of her. From the moment she stepped into my bar it was like she’d brought the sun in with her which was a rare sight these days with the days getting shorter and the nights getting longer. I hadn’t even noticed that she hadn’t come in alone, but I should’ve known better than to think someone as pretty as she would be all by her lonesome.
The wanker had been gone for a while now and I wasn’t sure what was going on between the two of them, but it didn’t look good and when all she did was pick at her salad, I felt like the tool and wished I’d left the burger on the table for her instead of getting langered and snatching it back. There was nothing to be done for it now I supposed and forced myself to concentrate on my other work instead of staring at her, so I was taken a bit off guard when she was suddenly standing in front of me with the bill in her hand.
Her eyes only met mine briefly before dropping to her feet as she softly said in that sweet little accent of hers, “Um…my boyfriend must have gone back to our room. We’re staying at the motel across the street and he has all of the money with him, so would it be okay with you if I run over there and get it from him and come back and pay?”
Boyfriend? He’d said they were married, but I was just anxious for her to be gone already knowing I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything else so long as she was in the room, so I just waved my hand at her dismissively, saying, “Don’t worry about it.”
Her head shot up as she said, “Oh no! I’ll pay for the meal. I just need to go get the money.”
I could see that she was a stubborn one and in an effort to be rid of the distraction she was, I said, “Fine.” I didn’t care one way or the other; they were just feckin’ salads, but she needed to leave because if he came back in and got mouthy, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop myself from punching him in his cake-hole.
She opened her mouth again, but nothing came out at first until she finally said so low I could barely hear her, “I…I’m sorry. About earlier,” but she turned tail and scampered out the door before I could reply. Even when she’d snapped at me earlier there was something about her that struck me as off considering she was nothing but rosy smiles until the arsehole showed his ugly mug and truthfully it wasn’t her I was mad at, but seeing as how they were staying at the motel across the way, I didn’t give it too much thought considering they’d probably be on their way come morning.
I forced myself to quit thinking about her and yelled out last call since there weren’t too many customers left with the weather calling for more snow that night, I started closing up the place when the last two regulars paid up there bar tab. I only had two part time cooks on staff and normally had a waitress that doubled up as a bar keep when it got busy, but I’d had to let Felicia go a few weeks earlier. She’d gotten it in her nutter head that we were a couple when we’d never even been out on a date. We’d fooled around once after we went on the lash a bit after hours there at the bar, but that was the extent of it and I should’ve known better than to mess around with an employee, so I swore off doing it again if I ever managed to get that position filled. There weren’t many looking for jobs in those parts and the ones that were, well…I’d need to go on the lash again to be dumb enough to hire them.
After wiping down the tables, I stacked the chairs on top, busying myself with cleaning up the rest of the bar and had forgotten all about the doll with the wanker boyfriend until I was locking up for the night. My eyes went straight to her as soon as I stepped out into the cold when I saw her standing outside the motel across the street with her whole body shivering and tears streaming down her face. I felt like a giddy schoolgirl thinking I might be getting that punch in after all and I walked across the street flexing my hands in preparation for my early Christmas present, but when I got closer I could see she was truly distraught.
“Are you okay?” I asked and felt bad when she jumped in fright, so I put my hands out signaling I wasn’t gonna to hurt her. Him? I was definitely gonna to put a hurtin’ on him.
“Yes,” she answered immediately, but was quickly overtaken by sobs as she sputtered out, “No…”
I never did like seeing a lass in distress and couldn’t stand watching her body trembling like it was. Her coat was no match for the chill in the air, so I took off my leather jacket, leaving me in the hoodie I’d just pulled on, and draped it over her shoulders, asking, “What’s got you so upset doll?”
The eejit wasn’t worth her tears as far as I was concerned, but she was shaking so violently that I wrapped my arms around her on instinct with my hands rubbing up and down her arms and back trying to warm her up. Her body had initially stiffened, but while she didn’t exactly melt into me, she didn’t push me away either and after a minute or two she seemed to relax a little bit in my arms. When she calmed down enough to speak, all she said was, “He left.”
“Who?” I asked. “Your boyfriend?” While I didn’t exactly like the idea that he was her boyfriend, it was a hell of a lot better than him being her husband.
She nodded against my chest, so I offered, “Well, why don’t you just wait for him in your room instead of out here where you’ll freeze to death?”
She shook her head with the cold air killing her shyness as she buried herself deeper into my arms trying to get warm and said, “No, he left me here. He checked out of the motel and left.”
What. In. The. Feck? I stood there dumbfounded for a minute wondering what kind of arse leaves his auld wan in the middle of the night in a strange town. From what she’d told me earlier, I already knew he’d had the money between the two of them and would’ve offered to pay for her room for the night, but the motel office had already closed. There wasn’t a lot of traffic round about now, so they didn’t keep it manned twenty-four hours a day like in larger towns and cities.
“Come on,” I urged, trying to pull her along with me back towards the bar.
Her body locked up as she pulled away and dug in her heels, asking, “Where?”
I wasn’t offended knowing it was smart of her to question where some spastic was trying to bugger her off to in the middle of the night, but I was starting to get cold too and said, “You can stay the night at my house.” When she looked a bit apprehensive at the thought, I added, “I’d get you a room here, but as you can see there’s no one left to hire a room from. You can’t just hang around here all night long waiting to see if he’ll come back. You’ll freeze to death.”
She stared up at me with a look like she was trying to read my mind and while I wouldn’t kick her outta my bed for eatin’ crackers, at the moment at least, I had nothing but honorable intentions, so if she happened to have that strange power I wasn’t worried by what she would hear. When another violent shiver worked its way down her spine it seemed her self-preservation instincts kicked in with her finally giving in as her teeth chattered out a soft, “Thank you.”
If I’d thought she’d been a distraction before, that was nothing compared to how I felt now that I knew I’d be spending the night with her under the same roof and a million questions ran through my head, but they would have to wait until we got to my place. I really wished I hadn’t taken my motorcycle in to work that day, but it hadn’t been too bad out when I’d left that morning and the sun had been out. Now we were both going to freeze on the way back, but I only lived a few miles away so it wouldn’t be for too long.
She balked again seeing our mode of transportation, but it would be quicker than walking back and I put my helmet on her head, maneuvering her arms into the sleeves of my jacket before zipping her up, and said, “I’d offer you my gloves, but I’ll need them, so when you climb on, wrap your arms around me and stick your hands into my pockets.”
Her eyes widened at my request and she spat out, “I’ll do no such thing!”
When my head caught on to what she must have been thinking, I gestured to my hoodie with the center pocket and said, “This pocket.”
I was sure she was blushing, but her skin was already red from the cold and considering the affect watching the way she bit down her lower lip was having down below, I tried to lighten the mood by waggling my eyebrows with a smile and saying, “But we can renegotiate later on after you’ve warmed up.”
And I wasn’t even joking.
It worked because she laughed a little and smacked my chest, but didn’t hesitate to climb on behind me with her arms wrapping around my body. I could still feel her trembling against me and wished there was another way for me to try and keep her warm, but the best I could do was block the majority of the wind from her as I started the bike and headed for home.
When I pulled up in front of the house five minutes later I parked in the front so I could get her inside as quickly as possible, but she didn’t seem to want to let go of me at first. I figured she was frozen and rubbed my hands along her arms trying to get her circulation going again before prying them off of me, but her legs must have been frozen too because she didn’t get off of the bike when I did and just shook on top of it, so I left her there while I opened the front door and went back, lifting her up into my arms and carrying her inside bridal style. Once I kicked the door closed behind me I set her on the couch and got a fire started in the fireplace, wrapping her in a blanket, and got a pot of coffee brewing before I went back out to put my bike away in the garage since they were predicting a couple of feet of snow to fall over the next twenty-four hours with it already starting to come down.
I found her right where I’d left her when I got back inside only now she was shivering even worse and I knew the quickest way to warm her up, but wasn’t sure how she’d feel about it as I asked, “Would you like to take a bath?”
Her eyes buggered out of her head, so I put my hands up again, saying, “It’s the quickest way to warm you up, that’s all doll.”
Not that I’d be opposed to helping her scrub her back. Or her front. She wouldn’t even have to ask nicely.
She bit her lip again and her eyes fell to her feet as she nodded, saying, “Thank you.”
She looked so lost in that moment that had that eejit been anywhere nearby I might have very likely killed him for putting her through this; forcing her to rely on a strange man to take care of her with nothing more than the hope that I wouldn’t rape or kill her. At least the return of my anger was doing a good job of warming me up and I walked down the hall motioning for her to follow me into the jax and turned on the faucet to get the water warmed up. I pulled a couple of fresh towels out of the linen closet and left them on the sink for her when it dawned on me that she had nothing to wear besides what she had on, so I said, “Wait here,” and went into my room. I knew she would be swimming in my clothes, but it was better than nothing and dug out a pair of sweatpants with a drawstring, another sweatshirt, and a thick pair of socks for her to wear as pajamas. When I handed them to her, I said, “I know they’re too big, but at least they’ll keep you warm. Feel free to use whatever you find. There’s an extra toothbrush in the cupboard.” I looked around the room trying to remember if I’d forgotten anything and asked, “Do you need anything else?”
When my eyes landed back on hers I could see she was still feeling apprehensive, but she didn’t elaborate on whatever it was she was feeling and only asked, “What’s your name?”
I remembered her name was Sookie from when the gooter boyfriend had snarled it at her earlier and rolled my eyes thinking, ‘Who’s the eejit now?’, since I hadn’t properly introduced myself yet. Smiling, I answered, “Eric. Eric Northman at your service,” and bowed dramatically hoping it would lessen the tension she felt and when I stood up again I was greeted with a tentative smile. I was further shocked when she took a step closer and leant up on her tip toes, placing a chaste kiss on my cheek, saying, “Thank you Eric.”
As soon as her lips touched me there was a definite spark between us, but I figured it was probably just static electricity and I quickly backed out of the room and shut the door after me while forcing away all thoughts of her being naked behind that door and just busied myself by changing the sheets on my bed. I had two bedrooms, but the spare room had just been used as storage and while I had another bed in there, it was currently up on its side with a bunch of boxes strewn about the floor. I wasn’t going to make her sleep on the couch and I’d fallen asleep on it on more than one occasion, so I knew I’d be fine and when I heard the water turn off I poured us each a cup of coffee and brought them out to the living room. I was stoking the fire when I heard her clear her throat behind me and couldn’t help laughing seeing her in my clothes. She wasn’t swimming in them; she was drowning, but I thought she looked quite adorable in them so I was pleased.
As soon as she settled herself on the couch I handed her a cup of coffee and sat down at the far end, asking, “Do you want to talk about it?” I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hear about it, but I figured she might want to get it off her chest and as a bartender, I’d learned how to be a great listener.
I immediately regretted my words when her lower lip started to tremble, but she bit down on it making it stop. It wasn’t nearly as sexy as it had been back at the bar and only made me want track that arse down for upsetting her so. Finally she took a deep breath and said, “I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
It turned out, that was all she needed to say in order for the last two years of her life to come tumbling out of her mouth and the more she told me, the further enraged I became. I was no saint, but I couldn’t understand how anyone could treat someone as sweet as her so poorly, nor could I understand why she would let him. I couldn’t see any bruises or anything on her, but then all I could see of her skin was her face and hands, so that didn’t tell me much. If he had been physically abusive towards her, she wasn’t saying and I didn’t feel right pushing her for answers either, so instead I fumed over the fact he’d taken off in the dead of night with every last thing she owned, including all of her money, and left her with quite literally nothing. I still thought she was better off without him though, but she took me by surprise, saying, “I really am sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for?” I asked completely flummoxed and hoping like hell she wasn’t somehow apologizing for the wanker leaving her there.
“For snapping at you earlier and for putting you out like this,” she replied softly.
It wasn’t like a made a habit of bringing home pretty girls in the dead of night, at least not recently, but I would’ve thought all of her attention would be focused on the fact she’d had a shitty run of luck as of late, so I was still surprised by her gratitude. I couldn’t rightly blame her for how she’d spoken to me earlier that night now that I knew what she’d been dealing with and said sincerely, “You have nothing to be sorry for doll.” The feckin’ fish on the other hand would definitely be sorry if I ever got my hands on him.
I could tell it was a struggle for her to keep her eyes open for much longer and stood up, taking the now empty mug from her hand, and then holding out my own saying, “C’mere. Time for bed.”
Her earlier apprehension had disappeared entirely and she took my offered hand without hesitating as I led her down the hallway where I showed her into my room and pulled the covers back, saying, “Climb in.”
I’d seen her look into the open doorway of the spare room when we’d passed it by, so it was no surprise when she asked, “But where will you sleep?”
Even though I’d already planned on sleeping on the couch, I was surprised by my own disappointment at her assumption we wouldn’t be sharing the bed, but I quickly brushed if off and took one of the pillows from the top, tucking it under my arm and answered, “On the couch.” She was already shaking her head no when I put my hand up to stop her, saying, “I fall asleep on the couch all the time. I’ll be fine.”
When she pulled her lower lip in between her teeth it was right back to being sexy again and all I could think about was sucking it back out with my own two lips, but I knew that would be wrong. She was probably in shock and definitely had a rough night, so I was thankful when she finally released it on her own and said, “Well, thank you again Eric. I’ll try and be out of your hair in the morning.”
I had a whole list of reasons why I didn’t think that would be the case, as well as a few on why I kind of hoped she might stay for a while, but I kept them all to myself and just offered, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
I turned and left the room, shutting the door behind me, and got settled on the couch. Running my own bar made me a bit of a night owl and I didn’t miss early morning meetings one bit, so I flipped on the TV and tried to not think about the blond distraction lying in my bed. If I had a hard time concentrating on other things before when she’d merely been a patron, I was done for now that I not only knew more about her, but she was a scant few feet away; in my bed. Her sorry excuse for a boyfriend leaving her was more like a blessing in disguise as far as I was concerned, but I’d kept those thoughts to myself and spent the next hour running different scenarios through my head as to how I could help her. Even if I arranged for her to get back home to Louisiana, from the sounds of it, it didn’t seem like she had anywhere to go home to. Not to mention the fact that he’d taken off with everything she owned.
I was in the middle of imagining different ways I could kill him and where I could hide his body when I heard Sookie cry out and shot down the hallway into my room expecting there to be an intruder. However unlikely it was, I hoped it’d be the gomey.
Instead I found her tossing and turning having some sort of nightmare and I gently shook her awake, saying, “Doll, wake up.”
She jerked awake and it was only then that I saw she’d been crying. Her eyes were slightly swollen and rimmed red and my chest ached seeing it, so I smoothed the hair away from her face saying softly, “You’re alright. T’was just a nightmare.”
Her breaths were still ragged and her eyes were slightly unfocused, but when I went to pull my hand back she snatched it out of midair pleading, “Would you mind…staying with me? Just until I fall back to sleep?”
Since I was willing to kill her boyfriend for her, I couldn’t justify not giving in to her simple request and sat down on the edge of the bed, prepared to stay there until she fell asleep. Instead she slid over making my eyebrow creep up into my hairline, silently asking if she was asking what I thought she was asking. She hadn’t let go of my hand though so my options were to pull it from her grasp (unacceptable), sit there with my arm stretched halfway over the mattress, or just lie down next to her. I reasoned that lying down next to her would be the simplest choice, no matter that it was the one I wanted the most, and situated myself on the bed so we were lying there facing one another in the dark room. With our hands still clasped between us, I watched as her eyes fluttered shut and barely heard her whisper, “Thank you Eric,” before she drifted back to sleep.