“Eric? This is Freyda Larsen with ESPN. How are you doing?”
Stepping away from the game stand, I was almost certain I’d heard them wrong.
I could’ve sworn she said she was Freyda Larsen, calling from ESPN.
Pulling the phone away from my ear, I double checked that I was in fact in the midst of a call from a number with a Connecticut area code, so I decided I might not be imagining things and brought it back to my ear to hesitantly offer, “I’m well.”
Well and truly surprised.
I’d put some feelers out and sent a few emails to some of the network sports broadcasters I’d dealt with over the years. Some I knew better than others, but really I’d just been fishing to see if they’d be interested in having me as a broadcaster.
But the one I sent to ESPN should have had ‘pipe dream’ as the subject header. I never expected to get a call from them.
But feelers and emails alike had been sent out before I thought I would have another shot at getting my family back.
That had been my biggest pipe dream of all.
So now that Sookie and I were out on our second first official date, I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised my second on the list of pipe dreams seemed to be coming true too.
I’d never met Freyda Larsen, but I knew of her. She’d risen through the ranks fairly quickly, so she must have been a force to be reckoned with, and now she was the youngest VP in their history, second in command of the network and working directly under the almighty Victor Madden.
No relation to the other Madden, whose video game namesake I’d kicked Hunter’s ass over last weekend.
I’d met him years earlier and ran into him more than a few times over the years at one sports function or another and while I’d never met Freyda before, the fact she was the one calling me told me they’d taken my email seriously.
And maybe I had a serious shot at getting a job with their network.
But now that I was standing in the middle of a fair, watching Sookie and Hunter duking it out to see whose water pistol would pop the balloon on top of the clowns’ head first, I was only serious about seeing my first pipe dream come to fruition.
“I’m glad,” she replied. “I’m calling about the email you sent Tom. He forwarded it up the chain and we’ve only heard good things about you, so if you’re still interested in working for our network, we’d like to fly you out to our headquarters in Connecticut for an interview.”
“Connecticut?” I repeated on reflex.
Only for Hunter to poof out of thin air at my side and use his outside voice to ask, “What’s in Connecticut?”
Sookie came strolling up right behind him, holding her stuffed animal prize in hand, and seeing the smile on her face when her eyes met mine, I had the answer.
For both Freyda and Hunter.
Looking down at Hunter, I replied, “Nothing, buddy.”
And then speaking into the phone, I politely responded, “I appreciate your call Freyda, but my situation has changed.”
For the better.
“I’m no longer interested.”
But seeing the look on Sookie’s face – one that was a mixture of hurt and pissed and only made me confused, until I quickly replayed the only parts of my conversation she would have heard – I swiftly added, “But thank you for calling. ESPN would have been a great opportunity, but – like I said – my situation has changed and I have better prospects here at home.”
“ESPN?” Hunter shouted as soon as I ended the call and stuck my phone back in my pocket. “ESPN wants you to work for them?”
“Yes and no,” I replied. “Yes, it was ESPN, but they only called to see if I was interested in flying out for an interview. I don’t know if I would’ve been offered a job, but I’m not interested in working for them anymore.”
“But why?” he whined. “It’s ESPN! SportsCenter! Deh neh neh NEH neh neh.”
I only stared at him and his off-key rendition of their theme song, until Sookie grabbed all of my attention by asking, “Yeah, why?”
Raising my brow at her, my expression said more than my words did, when I repeated what I’d said to Freyda.
“I have better prospects here at home.”
“But Eric,” she began, until I closed the distance between us.
Taking her hand in mine, I said, “But nothing. If I got a job with them, I would have to travel. I would be gone for who knows how long. I’m not willing to do that again. Not now. Now my life is here, with the two of you.”
I’d learned my lesson.
There was no need to repeat past mistakes.
“So if that’s the way you feel, then why did you contact them to begin with?” she asked, sounding more curious than anything else. “I mean, I’m assuming you contacted them, unless they have a habit of calling every newly retired professional sports player and offering them an interview.”
Sighing, I ran one hand through my hair, before using the other to take Sookie’s left hand in mine and said, “Yes, I sent them an email asking if they would be interested in having me.”
Then running my finger over her newly vacant ring finger, I added, “But that was before our situation changed. I honestly never expected them to call and back when it was just me, myself, and I, I thought if I got a job with them, it would mostly be over the summer months during the baseball season. Whenever I had to travel anywhere, Hunter could’ve tagged along with me until school started back up and I’d be done and back home by October. But now that I have you back, I’m not willing to travel like that. You have a job here, so here is where I’ll stay. The furthest I’m willing to go for a job like that is Dallas.”
It was only a couple of hours by car and even less if I took a short commuter flight. But traveling clear across the country was no longer an option.
Sookie had upended her entire life to move across the country with me, once upon a time. The least I could do was stick around in one spot for her.
She stared at me, looking for who knows what in my eyes, before she eventually said, “I don’t want you to have any regrets later on.”
I knew she was talking about turning down the possibility of getting a job with the likes of ESPN, but having lived the last six years feeling nothing but regret, my response was sincere when I said, “Neither do I, which is why I’m not interested in the job.”
She didn’t look convinced until I wrapped an arm around her body and kissed the top of her head, adding in a whisper, “Besides, you know he’s going to finagle a puppy out of us sooner than later, so it would probably be best if I stick close to home to scoop the poop, don’t you think?”
Laughing softly, she leaned into my body and said, “It’ll be just like when he was a baby. I was the master of handing off Sir Poops-A-Lot to you right before he stunk up the place.”
The knot that had slowly been forming in my chest disappeared with her words because that’s what I was hoping for.
For things to go back to like they were before.
Now older and wiser, with the battle scars to prove it, I wouldn’t take having them in my life for granted ever again.
Getting the shit detail – for puppies and babies alike – was a small price to pay to have them back, so I only laughed with her and teasingly accused, “You did have an uncanny knack for knowing when he was going to take a dump.”
“I’m hungry,” Hunter whined, reminding me he was with us.
And that the world revolved around him.
In his own mind, at least.
“Don’t look now,” she whispered. “But he’s working himself up to poop again.”
“Not if you don’t feed me,” he said, staring up at us like his name was Oliver Twist.
Looking around at the decidedly unhealthy food choices being offered at the various stands, I deferred to Sookie, asking, “What do you think?”
Smiling, she looked down at our son and answered, “I think we should make him dance for his dinner.”
“Not again,” he whined before pointing up at the sky and adding, “It’s not even cloudy out.”
But more importantly…
Christ, I missed out on a lot.
Focused only on the ‘dance’ part of their conversation – and trying to figure out if she had him doing the Can-Can or a Riverdance – I grinned and looked down at her, asking, “Why did I not think of this?”
All this time I could have had him squatting and doing a Russian folk dance for his supper.
“Meh,” she shrugged, with a small smile. “The power goes out whenever there’s a storm, so I had to find some way to fill the time.”
Forgetting all about Russian folk dances, I could only remember a certain citywide blackout that I was certain was when a certain little dancing monkey had been conceived.
We’d fucked so many times that night we both blacked out.
So with my thoughts lost in fond memories, my sense of propriety went down the drain attached to the gutter my mind was currently swirling in and I wrapped my body around hers and hoarsely whispered, “I can think of other ways to keep you occupied during a storm.”
“Oh yeah?” she gasped, with her body molding into mine.
Like God had intended.
Then leaning in, she tilted her head up to whisper, “But what if the storm is only brewing in my panties?”
I’m not really sure what would have happened next – other than me getting a head start on my newfound career of being a Sookie Storm Chaser – if Hunter hadn’t reminded us that we weren’t alone.
And in public.
This was why we’d been banned from every Six Flags amusement park in the country.
And recalling her words to me in my kitchen on the night I’d confessed I was still in love with her, I finally understood what she’d meant.
Neither one of us could think straight when the other was there.
At least not when we were on the same page.
And we were definitely on to something here.
But Hunter’s shouted, “Jake!” was enough to clear the haze from our eyes and draw them to his retreating back as he ran towards his friend.
Pulling away, Sookie was clearly flustered while she straightened her clothes and snickered, “That was a close call.”
“Not close enough,” I leered in return.
Laughing at the look on my face, she fanned her own, while musing, “Maybe it’s the atmosphere. Something about the mixture of cotton candy smell, rides, and games that gets us going.”
“That’s not what gets me going,” I warned.
I only had to look at her and I was going.
And parts of me growing.
Smirking, with a challenging look in her eye, she asked, “Are you looking to get us banned from county fairs too?”
“No,” I grinned, taking her fanning hand into my own and kissing the back of it. “But if it happens, I’m okay with it.”
More than okay with it.
Especially if more than that happened.
Sprinting back to us, Oliver Twist seemed to have forgotten all about dying of starvation because he rambled out as fast as he could, “Is it okay if I go with Jake to go on some rides? His parents said it was okay if you said it was okay. Pleeeaaasssseee…”
Looking over, I recognized Jake’s dad from practice and nodded at him, while Sookie waved at them both before looking down at Hunter with a critical eye and saying, “You’ll behave for them and not act like I won’t beat you if you act a fool. Pleases and thank you’s are required.”
“Thanks mom,” he called over his shoulder, already sprinting away before she’d even ended her threat.
But turning back to face me, she giggled again and took a step backwards, laughing, “Uh oh.”
“What?” I asked, taking a step towards her and closing the distance she’d put between us.
Shaking her head, the smile was still on her face as she explained, “I know that look on your face.”
I didn’t need a mirror to know what she was seeing.
But I felt what she was seeing more in my pants than on my face.
Still, I innocently asked, “What look?”
“That look,” she gasped, when I wrapped my arms around her body and pulled it flush against mine.
Leaning down, I pressed my lips against her neck and whispered, “I can’t help the way I look.”
Leaning into my kissing lips, she whispered, “And I can’t help the way I respond to the way you look.”
Thank god for small favors.
But I wasn’t so far gone to have forgotten where we were – or the fact we weren’t alone – so after placing one last languid kiss on her skin, I pulled away and asked, “So what do you want to do now that we’re kid free for a little while?”
Trying to get back on my Better Man Plan, my thoughts had strayed to the innocent end of the spectrum.
Food. Games. Rides.
I was game for whatever Sookie wanted to do.
But I didn’t know what the Better Man Plan rulebook dictated when she looked back at me and asked, “Is running off to the parking lot and making out like teenagers in the backseat of your new truck an option?”
My feet had given her my answer well before my mind had made any decision because we were already halfway to the parking lot before I’d even realized we were moving.
So coming to a sudden stop, Sookie ran straight into me when I turned towards her and asked the question I should have asked before dragging her off like a caveman.
But while we might have evolved from living in caves, some natural instincts were still stronger than others.
Preparing myself for whatever her answer might be, I asked, “Were you joking?”
Her only response was an incredulous look that all but called me an idiot before she took the lead, dragging me along behind her.
I wasn’t putting up a fight though.
Reaching the Beast, the key fob in my pocket automatically unlocked the doors from our proximity, so she only had to pull on the door handle before I was already pushing her onto her back in the backseat.
Pulling me on top of her, I somehow managed to close the door behind me, with her growling out, “Buying this truck was a great idea.”
“Yours was pretty great too,” I smirked before attacking her.
Hands, lips, teeth, and tongues.
We’d devolved to just our body parts and what we could do with them.
But even so, a part of my mind – a very small part – tried to reason that maybe we were taking things too fast.
She’d only just broken off her engagement to dickhead.
We’d only just decided on trying to have a relationship again.
I didn’t want her to have any regrets later on, if we moved too fast now.
So instead of ripping our clothes off and riding her off into the sunset, like I wanted to, I gave her exactly what she’d asked me for.
Making out like teenagers in the backseat.
My hands, lips, teeth, and tongue remained over her clothes. And even at the Beast’s size, my size made moving around in the backseat awkward, so we had that teenage rite covered too.
But when her hand skimmed down in between our bodies to stroke me over my jeans, I had a hard time restraining myself.
Going for the button of my jeans, her actions contradicted her words when she said, “We’re probably moving too fast.”
“Uh huh,” I grunted, with my eyes rolling into the back of my head feeling her hand wrap around my shaft.
Then she began slowly stroking whatever willpower I had to resist out of me.
That and some pre-cum.
But with me now firmly in her grasp – literally, in every sense of the word – there was no way I was going to leave her hanging.
So to speak.
So I slipped my hand down the front of her shorts and my tongue into her mouth, searching for both her clit and her tonsils at the same time.
Finding it easily, it was just as easy to slide a finger inside of her thanks to how she shifted her hips up into my hand and how wet she already was.
Swallowing her moans, I wanted to swallow a lot more than that, but I didn’t try to do anything more – to take anything more than she seemed ready to give me.
She was already giving more than I ever imagined getting from her again.
Her hand had stopped moving on me the moment mine delved inside of her, but soon she was matching my strokes with her own, until we were both panting into each other’s mouths.
Pulling my finger out of her, I added another one on my upstroke and found her g-spot, making her cry out my name as she shattered around me.
Her hand had automatically loosened its hold on me the moment she came, but I didn’t care.
There was nothing better than watching her cum.
But she tried to prove me wrong, by pushing at my chest until I was underneath her and she slipped down onto the floorboard before leaning up on her knees and taking me into her mouth.
Keeping her eyes locked onto mine, only reminded me of everything I wanted to remember.
And everything I wanted to forget.
I was an idiot to have ever lost her.
I would be eternally grateful to have gotten her back.
But Sookie hadn’t lost any of her expertise in blowing both me and my mind – something I didn’t want to really think too hard on, lest I lose my hard-on – and I came harder than I ever had not long after she’d begun.
Just like a teenager.
Once she was satisfied she’d licked me clean, she sat up on her knees and smiled at me, saying, “It’s just like riding a bike. You never forget how.”
“If riding a bike was like that, I would’ve bought a Schwinn instead of a Chevy,” I chuckled, pulling her up and onto my lap.
Leaning into me, her fingers toyed over my chest, while she jokingly mused, “When Hunter’s old enough to drive, he’s not driving anything with a backseat.”
I didn’t think now was the time or place to tell her Hunter didn’t need a backseat to do what we’d just done.
Not a part of my Better Man Plan, it was just my survival instincts kicking in.
But it was those same survival instincts that made me ask, “You don’t regret what we just did, do you?”
That was my biggest worry at the moment.
No matter how great the experience was or who instigated what, I would hate myself if it ended up setting us back from where we were.
Pulling back to look me in the eye, I couldn’t even begin to guess what she might be thinking from her expression.
If there was a way, I would have FaceTimed Jason to get his read on the situation.
But my survival instincts had me nixing that idea the moment it formed.
In spite of everything we’d just done that should have had me so relaxed I could be confused with Jell-O, it was only when her lips slowly formed into a small smile that the rest of the tension in my muscles released.
Because it was one of the only times I could ever recall being so happy to be told, “No.”