I doubted a sand blaster could’ve removed the smile from my face, but I still internally cursed Corbett’s presence more in that one moment than I ever had before and that was saying a lot since he liked to jump out at me at inopportune moments; like when I was standing at the urinal. Had he not been there, I doubted I would’ve been able to stop myself from sweeping Sookie up into my arms and kissing her with everything I had. As it was I could barely restrain myself and I wondered if Sookie could tell because she stood there staring at me with a challenging look in her eyes as if she was waiting on me to make a move.
And if fucking Corbett hadn’t been sitting there with the same challenging look in his eyes, I could have!
All of my muscles were locked down into place. Well…almost all of my muscles, but the one that wasn’t, was pretty rigid as well and I just thanked God I’d thought to wear a light pullover sweater that covered it. If it hadn’t been for the slight chill of the cool autumn air I’d just come in from, I was sure there would’ve been beads of sweat on my forehead, but I was saved from having to decide what I should do, one way or the other, and instead was forced to retreat as we both heard, “Supper’s ready!”
I was sure my smile probably looked more like Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker and tried to force myself to try and appear somewhat normal again, before Sookie finally caught on that I was nowhere near normal, but she took the opportunity to shock the hell out of me again. Corbett had already gotten up mumbling, “Thank God,” and walked into the next room, but when I took a step forward, assuming we’d be heading into the kitchen or dining room, Sookie took a step back towards me and placed both of her hands on my chest. I resisted the urge to shiver from her touch, but it certainly wasn’t from any chill in the air. If anything I felt even hotter and her blue eyes held mine hostage while her hand slowly blazed a trail to the back of my neck and when she began pulling my head down to meet hers, I couldn’t have resisted her if I’d wanted to.
But I didn’t want to.
When her eyes closed my own were finally released and darted down to where her naturally pink full lips were waiting, but before I could close the distance I heard the distinct sound of someone clearing their voice. Had I thought it was Corbett, I wouldn’t have stopped; he’d just have to get over it and go haunt some other room, but when Sookie’s eyes flew open and her body tensed, I knew she’d heard it too.
“Young lady, I know you think you’re grown, but when you’re in my house you will mind your manners. Now get your butt in here and introduce me properly to your beau before I make you go and pick out your own switch.”
Was I Sookie’s beau?
I heard, I assumed, Sookie’s grandmother go back into the next room and could feel my cheeks flare up again, but my eyes never left Sookie’s, which now held a healthy dose of mischief. She ran her hands appreciatively over my chest one more time before sighing and pulling away as she said, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” I asked incredulously. She had nothing to apologize for because there was nothing wrong with what she’d been aiming to do.
Her own cheeks took on a pinkish hue and her eyes sparkled as she admitted, “For acting like such a wanton hussy around you.”
So, I WASN’T misjudging things? Not that I thought she was acting like a wanton hussy, but that she actually LIKED me? Like in a potential boyfriend sort of way?
She chuckled at my shocked expression and added, “I’m not normally like this; brash; bold; shameless, but for some reason, whenever I’m around you, I can’t seem to help myself. My brain/mouth filter goes on the fritz and to be honest, I was hoping that by having dinner with Gran it would stop me from trying to rape you over appetizers.”
“Really?” I asked, still shocked by her confession. I’d thought I was the only one with a case of verbal diarrhea and she certainly didn’t have to worry about rape charges.
It would most definitely be consensual.
She shrugged her shoulders and her lips formed into a smirk as she faked a mock saddened expression while she nodded and said, “You’d have been lucky to get your order placed before I would’ve thrown myself at you like a twelve year old on Justin Bieber.” When all I could do was gape back at her she blushed, adding, “See? No filter.”
I laughed. I just couldn’t help myself or the decibel it came out at, but all of the tension I’d been feeling; the nervousness about whether or not I’d misjudged her actions leading up to tonight, left me reeling in relief. Everything about the woman in front of me made me glad, for the very first time, that I could see dead people. I would’ve met Sookie regardless, but if I hadn’t befriended Corbett, I never would’ve had the confidence to even approach her on a personal level, no matter how much slipped through her faulty filter around me. In all likelihood, I probably would’ve assumed she’d heard the rumors that I was weird and was making fun of me; chumming the waters only to reject me if I took the bait. I couldn’t recall a time where I’d ever smiled as much as I had since the first time I’d met her and she chuckled along, asking worriedly, “I haven’t scared you away yet, have I?”
“Not in the least,” I answered honestly.
I didn’t scare easily.
We both stood there, silently staring at one another, and when her eyes darted to my lips it was as if there was a physical pull for me to kiss her.
Who was I to defy the laws of gravity? I was no superhero.
Knowing now that I hadn’t been misreading her; that she really did like me in the same way that I liked her gave me a little more confidence and my hands moved to rest lightly on her hips, while my heart nearly pounded out of my chest, as my head descended towards her. The scent of her perfume surrounded me and I hesitated for the briefest moment, still not really believing what was about to happen, when my lips finally touched hers.
Our first kiss, hopefully the first of many, was a chaste one, or at least it had started out that way, but when her hands flew into my hair and her tongue licked along my bottom lip, it took every ounce of resolve I had to pull away knowing her grandmother was waiting on us. She was a lot stronger than she looked and it took a little effort on my part to pry her hands from my head, but when she looked back at me, both confused and annoyed, I explained, “Your grandmother?”
Her shoulders dropped in defeat, but she never let go of my hands and pulled me along behind her, grumbling, “Now who’s the tease?”
Her annoyance over stopping was a huge shot to my ego and I reveled in it as we stepped into the dining room just as Sookie’s grandmother appeared through another doorway with a green bean casserole in her hands, along with a look that said she knew exactly what we’d been doing. Her silver hair was pulled into a loose bun on the back of her head and while her movements were slowed by age, her blue eyes sparkled with life just as much as Sookie’s did.
Corbett was sitting in a chair that was pushed up against the wall by a china hutch and his look said he knew exactly what we’d been up to as well and it only made my already hot skin redden even more, but Sookie just smiled widely at her grandmother, saying, “Gran, I’d like to introduce Eric.” Turning to me, she added, “Eric, this is my Gran, Adele Stackhouse.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you ma’am,” I said and extended my hand.
She placed her hand in mine and clasped it firmly with her other, saying to Sookie, “So this is your Eric.”
Her eyes came back to mine as she said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
I’d be more than happy to be Sookie’s Eric, but felt a little confused wondering if maybe moving fast was a Stackhouse trait, like stubbornness, and perhaps Corbett just never mentioned it, even though I couldn’t really blame him since he was her father. I glanced over at him hoping to read something from his expression, but only saw that his eyes were bugged out as they darted back and forth between Sookie and his mother, and it only egged on my curiosity. I was missing something and wanted to ask him what, but couldn’t.
Sookie looked appalled by her grandmother’s words and her own cheeks reddened as she spoke up, changing the subject by asking, “Gran? Is there anything else you need for me to bring in from the kitchen?”
“A chastity belt?” Corbett asked, seeming to have gotten over the shock of hearing his daughter’s words from a few minutes earlier, and added, “That would come in handy right about now.”
No it wouldn’t.
My curiosity only deepened as we sat down to dinner. After I’d answered several questions about me, which only gave evidence to how lame my life had been before Sookie came along, Mrs. Stackhouse asked, “So, tell me Eric, how’s Hoyt doing these days?”
The only Hoyt I knew of was my neighbor, Hoyt Fortenberry, but I didn’t know how she would know that and clarified, “Hoyt Fortenberry?”
Sookie’s fork dropped to her plate making a loud clanging noise and Corbett shot out of his chair, making me jump when he zoomed to my side, asking, “Did I ever tell you about the time I was in the talent show for the PBA fundraiser?”
“Yes,” Mrs. Stackhouse answered, overlooking my sudden jumpiness and adding, “I worry about him and I haven’t seen much of him now that his momma has passed away, God rest her soul.”
Corbett stuck his head right in my ear and began talking over her as loud as he could, saying, “It was horrible! I got grief for it for weeks from the fellas, but what in the hell did I care? It was for charity.” When all I could do was gape in confusion, both over how she knew I knew Hoyt and Corbett’s sudden chattiness, Corbett kept going, saying, “Let me see if I can remember my routine,” and started marching around the table singing, ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy’ as loud as he could.
I couldn’t help but to cringe over his god-awful singing and had to restrain myself from covering my ears with my hands. I could only imagine what my expression was when Mrs. Stackhouse looked concerned, but I couldn’t even think, much less answer her, and felt my face heating up with my anger at Corbett for making me look like an idiot in front of them. My eyes involuntarily looked towards Sookie, certain I would see her looking back at me with nothing but disdain now that I couldn’t hide just how abnormal I was, but her eyes were closed with her chin resting against her chest.
I must have already missed the revulsion and now she was trying to come up with a way to get me to leave.
I barely heard the sound of the doorbell over Corbett’s singing, but he must have heard it too because he stopped just as Mrs. Stackhouse’s head turned towards the foyer. Pushing away from the table, she said, “Now who would drop by unannounced at suppertime?”
My eyes watched her make her way out of the room and I continued to stare at the empty doorway, afraid to look at Sookie now that we were alone and could care less, at the moment, where in the hell Corbett was. I saw her shift in her seat next to me, but still couldn’t look at her until I heard her whisper, “Eric?”
Here it comes…
I released a soft sigh and forced my eyes to my side only to see her own eyes staring back at me full of distress. All of the happiness and relief I’d felt only a few short moments earlier was replaced with hatred and dread. I’d actually begun to believe I might’ve had a chance at having something with Sookie, but I should’ve known better; I should’ve known my curse would rear its ugly head; I should’ve known no one with a heartbeat would ever understand.
She opened her mouth to break my heart, but stopped when Mrs. Stackhouse entered the room, saying, “Sookie, you have a visitor.”
“Who?” she asked completely surprised and we both turned towards doorway.
Oh, wait. I wasn’t in the running anymore.
He stood about five foot ten, or so, and had dark brown hair and eyes; eyes that were trained on me with barely concealed contempt.
Don’t worry. I’m too much of a freak to be any concern.
“Bill? What are you doing here?” Sookie asked.
Maybe he sensed my chances with you going up in smoke.
He took another step into the room, replying, “Well, I saw your car in the driveway and thought we could visit. I didn’t mean to interrupt your dinner.”
“Bill, would you care to join us?” Mrs. Stackhouse asked. “There’s plenty.”
His eyes came back to me speculatively before turning back to Mrs. Stackhouse with a smile, saying, “I’d love to. Thank you.”
I heard Sookie sigh next to me as Mrs. Stackhouse went back into the kitchen to get another place setting, but before anyone could say anything, the sound of the front door opening and closing could be heard, along with, “Am I too late for supper?”
Corbett’s voice came from behind me, where he must’ve taken refuge from me, saying, “Uh oh, here we go,” and seconds later a man, who was no doubt Corbett’s son Jason, came strolling into the room. He looked at me first with nothing more than curiosity before glancing at Sookie and then resting on Bill.
“What are you doing here?” he asked him, clearly not appreciating his presence.
Bill’s body tensed and he stood tall, answering, “I stopped by to visit with Sookie when I noticed her car out front.”
Jason threw himself down in the chair next to Mrs. Stackhouse’s as he grumbled, “You mean you were lurking around like the creepy little fuck that you are and decided to get shot down by my sister again.” He leaned back in the chair, balancing it on two legs, and smiled cockily at him, adding, “I guess it’s lucky for me that she won’t give you the time a day since she’s the only one I couldn’t lure away from you and into my bed.”
If she wasn’t about to dump me, I think I might’ve enjoyed the fact that he wasn’t my competition.
I wasn’t even my competition.
“Jason!” Sookie chided while trying not to smile.
I just sat there confused; confused about everything and remained a quiet spectator as Bill said snidely, “You’re quite uncivilized.”
Jason didn’t miss a beat, saying, “You’re quite blue-balled by my best guess, unless of course you ordered yourself one a them blowup dolls on the internet.” Bill’s face locked up and reddened, making me wonder if he was just angry or the blowup doll comment had actually been true, but Jason was unfazed and he stood up with enough force to make the chair he’d been sitting in fly backwards, adding, “Now why don’t you just go on and git.”
Mrs. Stackhouse entered the room then with two place settings in hand and she must have felt the tension between them because her eyes darted back and forth worriedly, but Bill finally took a step backwards, saying, “I’m terribly sorry Mrs. Stackhouse. I’ve just remembered that I have a prior engagement, so I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay.”
Jason sat back down like nothing had happened and Bill eyed me contemptuously before looking at Sookie and adding, “Perhaps we’ll have a chance to catch up on your next visit.”
I couldn’t see the expression on Sookie’s face as she looked back at him, but she’d remained silent and whatever it was had him nodding uncomfortably before making his apologies once more and leaving.
Mrs. Stackhouse put a plate in front of Jason, saying to him, “I hope you minded your manners to Bill.”
Jason turned to his grandmother with a big smile, replying, “‘Course I did,” and began filling his plate. When it was piled high, he swallowed his first bite before winking at Sookie and saying, “You’re a good woman Gran, I don’t care what Sookie says,” and then wincing from where she must have kicked him under the table by the sounds of it.
My appetite was long gone knowing dinner was only prolonging the inevitable, when Sookie would tell me she didn’t want to see me again, but I pushed the food around on my plate and tried not to let my sorrow show when Jason turned to me asking, “Who are you?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but Mrs. Stackhouse beat me to the punch, saying, “Oh, I’m sorry. This is Sookie’s beau, Eric Northman.”
Was. WAS Sookie’s beau.
My pity party was paused and my confusion only grew when he looked back at me, asking, “THE Eric Northman?” while Sookie’s fork dropped back to her plate with another clang.