All that Glitters is Not Gold

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

 

EPOV
Two weeks later, Pam had the sales executive from Tiffany’s meet me the set ofWestern Sky. Since Pam was going to be there and we were doing it in my small trailer, Sam had bowed out, making me promise to call him afterwards. The whole thing was a picture in contrasts. I was decked out in nineteenth century cowboy gear, covered in grime and smelling like a horse, sitting across the table, in a camping trailer, from a woman in a Chanel suit and Christian Louboutin shoes; which I only knew because Pam had been coveting the dress and shoes since the woman stepped into my trailer. She introduced herself as Nan, and pulled a velvet lined tray from her brief case, setting it on the table, then she removed a tiered jewelry display with about twenty of the most beautiful, sparkling, and perfectly terrifying engagement rings I had ever seen.

I looked at the rings and glanced at Pam, who was leaning back on the couch, trying to act uninterested. I asked a few questions about the settings and the sizes of stones, and Nan went over a quick recap of the four C’s; cut, color, clarity, carot-weight. I had done my research, but I was sure it was part of her job.

“Would you like to come over here, Pam? I think I know what ring Sookie would like, but as a woman who knows her I’d like to see what you think.”

It was only half true, but I knew that it would go a long way with Pam to allow her to voice her opinion. Pam and I had an odd relationship. After our initial decision to work together, it became clear that we were suited to be friends as well, and for a long time, it had been easy to know which roll we needed to play, friend or manager/client. Things changed when Sookie moved to California. I was sure I was the only one that had noticed, and Pam would never admit it, but she seemed more cautious about the way she treated me. It was almost as if she had developed a filter for her mouth, a very loose filter, but one all the same. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why she had changed towards me, but I felt the need to let her know she was still one of the guys.

She came and sat next to me at the table, and in just a few seconds, I knew she had narrowed down the field.

“These entire two rows are no. That one is hell no,” she said as she waggled her finger at a ring that was very beautiful, but not Sookie’s style at all. “After that, it gets a little harder.”

Nan seemed to know to hold her tongue as we continued to look over the selections. She looked on, occasionally smiling and nodding at the rings we examined. Pam and I each picked up several rings, looking at them from different angles and sliding them on our fingers. They looked ridiculous on my hand, barely fitting on the tip of my finger, while Pam was sliding them all of the way on, tilting her hand to watch them sparkle and shine.

“Is there one that stands out to you?” I asked Pam quietly.

“The more important question is, do you?”

“Yes. I just want to see if you’re looking at the same one.”

There was one ring that I had been drawn to since Nan had brought out the display. It was a beautiful cushion-cut rectangular stone with eight smaller diamonds running down each side of the thin band, and Nan called it the Tifanny-Novo. I had purposely tried to not pay too much attention to it, trying to hide any clues to as to which one I was leaning towards before Pam showed me the one she liked.

She looked down her nose at the remaining rings on the tray and moved a few off to the side, then picked up a couple more, turning them to look at the settings before putting them in one of her little piles. There were three rings left in the center of the tray, including the one that I liked. She lifted her head and raised an eyebrow at me.

“So, is it one of those?” she asked, already sounding proud of herself.

“It is.”

Her other eyebrow went up to join its mate. “Really? Interesting.”

I laughed. “What does that mean?”

“I only actually like one of them. I just left the other two out there for shits and giggles.”

“Well. That is interesting.”

“Are we betting?”

“On what?” I laughed, thinking that I had absolutely done the right thing by asking her to look at the rings. She was thoroughly enjoying herself.

“On whether or not I’m right!” Nan was watching us with amusement, and Pam continued, “If I’m right, which we know I am, you take me out to dinner. If I’m wrong, which is unlikely, you take me out to dinner.”

“Wait. It seems like I’m the loser no matter what here!”

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Nice. ” I laughed and shook my head. “Fine. You’re on. Show me which one you think she’ll like.”

She looked at Nan. “Do you have a favorite in mind for Miss Stackhouse?”

“Oh, yes. I did some research on her before I selected the rings to show you today. The one I would have selected is one of those three you’ve chosen.”

Pam raised her eyebrow again and slightly dipped her head at me. “This is interesting.” She was drawing it out, being dramatic, as only Pam could. She reached forward with surprising speed and pulled one ring, the ring, out of the row she had lined up. “This one.”

Nan was nodding and smiling and I bit my lip. “You too, Nan?”

She continued nodding. “Yes, that one. I’m anxious to see which one you were drawn to, though.”

I looked at them, trying to keep a straight face, but I couldn’t do it for more than a second; I was grinning from ear to ear. “Same one. It’s perfect. It’s just. Her.”

“Oh, with the bone structure of her hands it will be perfect!” Nan gushed.

Pam snorted, and I knew she was thinking that Nan would have said the exact same thing no matter what ring I had chosen.

I used my Bluetooth and called Sam on the drive to dinner. He wanted me to text him a picture of the ring, and I told him to Google it since Nan had taken it back for sizing. He congratulated me again, telling me how happy he was that I found Sookie, even without his help.

I paid my dinner debt to Pam at Bouchon Bistro. It was her choice for winning the bet, and she was thrilled. It was very Parisian and had been open almost a year, but still had a good buzz. Angelenos were thrilled to have a Thomas Kellar restaurant in town, since so many had eaten at his restaurant in Napa called French Laundry. I wasn’t sure how long we would have to wait, so I had called Sookie, warning her that I might be late. When Pam started talking to the waiter I knew I’d done that right thing.

“Did you just order a cheese course? Really?” I sighed, she had been dying to come here, I should have known she would take advantage of it.

“So now you’re a sore loser?” She rolled her eyes at me.

“Oh my god. No. Get your damn cheese,” I chuckled. There was no one like Pam, and if some goat cheese was what it took to make her feel good about our friendship again, I could handle it.

As we ate dinner, I thought about how much Sookie would like the restaurant, but I truly was enjoying my time with Pam. It was oddly, man time. She told me about her string of conquests and the new gym she wanted to try. We discussed the new Bruce Willis movie and whether or not we could find a way to get invited to the premiere. She sipped scotch while I drank a beer; we were best friends, nothing more, and it was exactly what we had both needed.

We enjoyed a nice meal, including the cheese course, and then Pam ordered the signature bouchons for dessert. They were little chocolate cakes, only a couple bites each, with vanilla ice cream and a rich chocolate sauce. They were delicious, and I was already going to need to add on to my workout to make up for the calories in everything else we’d eaten, so I enjoyed them thoroughly.

I walked her to the car, and she drove off with a parting shot about my engagement breaking the hearts of fangirls all over the world. I climbed in the Vette and called my parents, inviting them down for Halloween and telling them that I wanted to surprise Sookie by having the whole family there. Having them arrive after the party actually started did two things. It meant that my mom would not be at the house making me nuts before I proposed and it guaranteed that she would definitely not be in eavesdropping distance when I popped the question. I told them I had the rooms booked at Casa del Mar.

I called Sven next, giving him the same invitation and telling him the same story about surprising Sookie. He acted hesitant about my paying for their hotel room and flight, and I told him that Sookie was homesick and mom really wanted to see him. Besides that, Sookie and I wanted to meet Rachel. That was all it took, and he sighed, telling me that he wouldn’t be able to get out of work early so they needed a night flight on Friday. He knew I would email him all of the information once the tickets were booked. I had already updated Chris on my decision to make the family a surprise, and he thought it was a genius idea.

Now I just had to make it a few weeks without giving anything away to Sookie.

SPOV

I was stressing out. I usually enjoyed party planning, but I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to get done. Eric had been weird for the last couple of weeks, and it was starting to freak me out. He seemed anxious most of the time, like he had something to tell me, and when he wasn’t nervous he was trying to get in my pants. I figured he had agreed to do a movie out of the country or something and didn’t want to tell me, but I really had no idea. I had a bad feeling that by the time we had the party I was going to go completely postal on him and make him just tell me already.

As we got down to the wire, we were both getting tense. I was undeniably homesick, the final details of the party still needed to be taken care of, I was exhausted, and Eric was still acting like a jerk. It was two days before the party, the Dawsons weren’t arriving until later that night, and I had to admit defeat. I needed his help, even if he was being weird.

Eric’s day had started before the sun came up so that he could film some sunrise scenes for Bloodlust. He had gotten home just in time for lunch and was was working in is office when I found him to ask for help. He gave me a huge hug and kiss on the forehead, telling me that’s what he was there for. He was acting like normal Eric, and I was relieved, because I really didn’t know how much more crazy I could deal with. I explained to him what we needed to do and showed him the pumpkins that I wanted decorated. He didn’t argue, or say I was nuts, but started helping like it was something we did together every day.

About ten minutes into the project he let out a deep sigh. “I thought you said you were going for simple and rustic.”

“I am,” I laughed, blowing hair out of my eyes as I painted glue onto a pumpkin. Clearly, we didn’t have the same definition of simple.

“You are going all Martha Stewart, Sookie. That’s not simple.”

I picked up the glitter and began to pour it over my glue covered section of the pumpkin. “This idea might be from Martha’s magazine, but it’s really not all that elaborate. Its glue and glitter. You should see some of the other crazy stuff she does.” I continued working on my pumpkin, painting glue on a new section. “Do you need a new project? Something easier, or less glittery? You can spray paint those gourds over there,” I indicated, inclining my head.

“Sure. I’m much better with a spray can than I am with glitter. Now, Martini, she could help you out with that,” he laughed.

I laughed with him and watched him walk over to a corner of the patio area that I had already covered in old newspaper for spray painting. He finished before I did and came back to sit across the table from me.

“Anything else I can do?”

“Did you get the liquor I asked you to?”

“I did. Can you tell me why I bought two giant bottles of Kahlua?”

I looked at him blankly. Was he kidding? And then it struck me that he really had no idea. It was our first Halloween together, and apparently we hadn’t talked about this yet. “Does the phrase ‘slutty pumpkin’ mean anything to you?”

He threw his head back and laughed. “No. Should it? Is it your costume?”

“No,” I laughed. “I told you what we’re going as.”

“I hoped you changed your mind.”

“Funny.” We were going dressed as a group with Tray and Amelia and he knew what we were dressing as, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d had to do some serious cajoling and convincing to get him to agree to it. “No, Slutty Pumpkin was the name of the Halloween episode in the first season of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode, which we’re going to have to go inside and watch before Amelia and Tray get here and start quoting it, Ted goes to the same party every year trying to find the girl he met four years ago. She was dressed as a slutty pumpkin and all he knows about her is that she studied penguins and likes to drink Kahlua and rootbeer because it tastes like a Tootsie Roll. Anyway, there’s more to it all, but that’s what you need to know about the Kahlua. Oh, but Amelia always adds vodka to it because, well, she’s Amelia.”

He laughed. “I might have seen that episode, but clearly I’ll need a refresher.”

We sat quietly, and he picked up a paintbrush to help me with the last two pumpkins. I didn’t really want to finish; I had Eric back for the first time in what seemed like more than week, and I just wanted to enjoy it. We were both done with our pumpkins about the same time, and I set mine down and walked around the table to climb into his lap. He hugged me and nuzzled my neck. It felt great, but I was just done. I sat back and looked at him.

“What’s going on, Eric?”

His eyes were soft and full of confusion. “What?” He put his hand on the side of my head and rubbed his thumb over my cheek.

“You haven’t been yourself lately. You’re you right now, but you haven’t been, and I’ve missed you.” I paused and sighed, bringing my gaze up to look into his eyes. “Is there something you need to tell me? Do you not want to have this party? Are you going away for a shoot? What?”

“Oh, Sook. I’m sorry; I didn’t even realize I’ve been being acting any differently.” He was grinning a little and he brought his other hand up to my head, leaning in as he gently pulled me forward until our lips met.

The kiss was wonderful and romantic; it warmed my heart and made me tingle all of the way to my toes, but it didn’t remove that naigging doubt in the back of my mind.

“Please, just tell me,” I whispered. He snuggled me against his chest and sighed. It didn’t make me feel any better.

“There is something I need to tell you, but not yet. It’s not bad though. It’s a good thing, really. I promise, Sookie. I’m not leaving, and I’m not breaking up with you. Far from it.”

I exhaled and closed my eyes, letting him run his fingers through my pony tail as I sat curled into his chest.

“I don’t really like surprises, Eric. They stress me out.”

He laughed. “Those aren’t really surprises then.”

I lightly smacked his chest. “You know what I mean, and don’t pick on me.”

“This really isn’t anything to worry about, okay?” he asked, still stroking my hair.

I huffed and ran my fingers over the Nike swoosh on his shirt. “I guess so. It’s not like a have a choice.”

He laughed, and I knew he could tell that I was pouting. “Nope. You don’t have a choice.” He kissed the top of my head. “Alright, what else do we need to do, lover?”

I groaned. “I need to go make sure the guest room is all ready for Amelia and Tray, and then pick up the costumes from Lafayette. Are you coming to the airport with me?”

“Do you want me to? Or do you want me and my paparazzi friends to stay home?”

“I want you to come. Amelia will love your paparazzi friends.”

He laughed. “True. Let’s go finish up in the guest room, and then we should have some time to relax before we head over to Laf’s and the airport. We can watch your slutty pumpkin.”

A few hours later I ran down the stairs from Laf’s apartment, laying the garment bags over the back seat in the SUV. I wasn’t letting Eric see what was in the bags, he was cranky enough about our costumes, so letting him see the offending outfit before he had to actually put it on was out of the question. He rolled his eyes at me when I jumped back in the car, and we headed for the airport.

We found a spot in short term parking and headed towards the baggage area, picking up several paparazzi before we made it inside the building. Eric didn’t say a word when they asked where we were going and squeezed my hand, reminding me of Pam’s number one rule. Don’t answer any questions, because they’ll just ask another one.

We checked the board, and their flight was on time, but we still had about ten minutes before it touched down. We stood talking quietly, not wanting anyone to eavesdrop or try to video tape our conversation while we waited. He asked about the list of things we still needed to do and joked that his favorite chore would be taking Tray to the beach. Eventually, the flight information changed to say that their plane had arrived, and I couldn’t help but start bouncing on the balls of my feet.

Eric laughed, “She was just here, Sookie.”

“I know, but I can’t wait to see her! I’m so glad she decided to come out for the party.”

He moved behind me, putting his hands on my hips, and we waited to see our friends. I heard Amelia before I actually saw her. She had a squeal that reached a frequency that dogs could hear. She came running at me, then threw her arms around me, spinning us around. We were laughing, still hugging, when I saw Tray walking up to Eric. He’d taken his time, going at his own pace instead of hurrying along with his banshee of a wife. I always thought it was part of what made them work so well together; they were completely happy with who they were and didn’t try to force themselves to be anything they weren’t. Eric and Tray shook hands, and then Amelia was pushing me at her husband so she could hug my boyfriend. Eric and Tray grabbed their bags, and we headed back to the car.

I barely noticed the paparazzi taking pictures of us, but as we passed by them, Amelia said quietly, “I fixed my make up before the plane touched down. I hope they got my good side.”

I laughed and Eric groaned. She still had no idea what he went through every day. We let the guys sit in the front seat so we could keep talking on the ride home. She was excited to see our costumes when we got back to the house, but she spoke quietly about it. Tray wasn’t happy with our idea and made her promise him an expensive bottle of tequila along with a few sexual favors before he agreed to wear his.

When we got back to the house, Eric gave Tray the tour while I showed Amelia the decorations that we had worked on earlier and the list of things we needed to do the following day. We went back to our room where I’d hung our costumes so I could show Amelia the outfits.

“Oh. My. God. Sookie. These are hysterical. Eric’s cool with it?”

“Not really, but he’ll do it.”

She was laughing as she went through the garment bags, looking at the clothes, shoes and wigs. “We have got to get pictures. This is awesome.”

“Oh, we will. Just, you know, no putting them on Facebook; I think Eric might kill me if they made it out to the public.”

She smiled. “Yeah. It’s kind of weird, you know? My best friend’s boyfriend is a TV star.”

I snorted. “You think it’s weird? Jason has called me more in the past couple of months than he has the entire time I was married to Bill.”

“That’s because Bill was a fucking douche. No comparison.”

“I think it’s just so he can tell people he talked to his sister, who lives with Eric Northman. There’s usually not much for us to even say to each other.”

She laughed. “You’re probably right. But look at the bright side; you’re talking to your brother again.” We were sitting on the bed like old times, and she got serious all of the sudden. “Sookie, I have to show you something. It’s kind of weird.”

Oh shit. Did she know what was going on with Eric? Was it in the tabloids? She grabbed my laptop that happened to be on the nightstand and booted it up. Oh god. I felt nauseous. It was on the internet.

“So, you know how I read a lot on-line?”

I scrunched my brows at her. “That’s so not where I thought you were going with this. What about it?”

“Well, people write fanfiction, you know?”

I nodded, encouraging her to continue.

“I usually read stories about Buffy, but, I was checking things out on the site, and, um, there are a lot of stories out there about Bloodlust and the books it was based on.”

“Really? Is it good?”

“I’ve only read a few stories in that fandom, but yeah. Some of it is really good, like, better than the books good.”

“Wow. Cool. But why are you telling me this?”

“Um. Well. Sookie, it’s just that, well, the stories are kinda sexy most of the time, and, um, well. You know, when they talk about Leif, you know, the character, they’re mostly, you know, describing Eric.”

“What?” I said, not hiding the shock in my voice. “There are a bunch of smutty fan stories on the internet about Eric?”

“Well, they’re about Leif, but, yeah.”

“Holy shit.”

She nodded.

“Oh my god. Find one. Let me see.” I don’t know why, but suddenly, I needed to see what these people were saying about my Eric.

“Okay, okay. Let me find a good one.” She logged into the fanfiction site and clicked on one of her favorites. “This is easier that Googling it. Um, here,” she said, clicking through to a chapter in the middle of the story and pointing. “This is a good passage.”

I nodded and looked at the screen. It was a simple page, like a blog, with text all down the center. I began to read the section she pointed out and smiled. It began with Roxie, Leif’s love interest, talking about how she knew she shouldn’t, but she actually did have feelings for him, and then there was dialogue between the two of them when he called her cell phone. It seemed spot on in terms of the characters.

“This isn’t so bad, Meelz. And you’re right, it’s kind of good.”

“Yeah. Um. Let me give you an example that freaked me out last night.”

I raised my eyebrow at her. Damn those Northman’s and their eyebrows.

“I just feel like you should know this is out there. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being weird. But here.”

She had clicked into a different story and told me to start reading the first few paragraphs. Roxie walked into a bar and across the room spotted a man that, holy shit, sounded just like Eric. Well, a combination of Eric and Leif. He was tall and blond with shorter hair, Eric, brooding and mysterious, Leif, had a sort of magnetism that called to her, shit, that was both of them. I blinked a few times and read it again, then read some dialogue between the two of them. The words and nuances were very much styled after Leif, but then, during conversation, he raised an eyebrow at Roxie, and I gasped.

“Wow. That’s fucked up Amelia.”

“That’s nothing. Look here.” She clicked a few more times. “Read this.”

I felt my cheeks get red and my eyes grow wide as I read the words on the screen.

“Holy dictionary, Batman.”

“Holy erotic dictionary, you mean,” she laughed.

“This is like porn.” I giggled. “Meelz! They’re talking about Leif’s throbbing cock!”

She burst out laughing, and I couldn’t take it. It was so surreal and crazy that I started laughing too.

“I told you some of it was good,” she laughed. “Some of it is down right dirty.”

“Ah, yeah.”

“I just thought you should know. Are you okay?”

“I think so. I mean, I don’t know what to think. It’s a little freaky that there are thousands of people across the globe reading detailed descriptions of sex with imaginary Eric.”

“Sookie, they’d do that without the stories.”

I laughed again, she had a point.

“Wanna see a really funny one?”

“A funny what?”

She hesitated, and then told me that there were good stories, there were great stories, and then there were stories that made you ask, what. the. fuck? She tried to be diplomatic, saying that someone must like them, or authors wouldn’t post them. I had a bad feeling it was XXX porn or something, but instead what she showed me made me laugh so hard I had tears in my eyes. I pointed to the section that was making me laugh and Amelia doubled over in laughter as well. We were both startled to hear someone clear their throat, and looked up to see Eric and Tray in the doorway.

“What is so hysterical, ladies?” Eric asked with a grin.

“Oh! Um. Ah.” I had no idea if we should tell him or not. Eric didn’t like to be the center of attention and this, well, erotica, might freak him out. Before I could figure out what to say, Amelia was telling him everything. Then she started reading out loud the section that had cracked us up before they came into the room.

“The only thing Leif loved more than looking at Roxie’s rack was touching it. He slid his hands up her taught rib cage to let her huge breasts fill his hands, and then his thumbs found her nipples, bringing them to tight nubs like pencil erasers.”

She burst into laughter and she was hitting me on the arm, trying to talk, even though she was laughing so hard she could hardly catch her breath.

“Erasers. Oh my fucking god. Who says that? And rack? That’s not romantic at all. I think that one was written by a dude.”

Eric chuckled from the doorway, but I could see in his eyes that he was conflicted. He knew that it was funny, but he had just been slapped in the face with the idea that there was basically internet porn written about him. I wondered if he had already known about it? That stories like this existed? Because I hadno idea.

“Amelia.” Tray’s deep voice caught her attention.

“What, baby?” She looked at Eric and realized something wasn’t right. “Oh god. I’m sorry Eric. I figured you knew this was out there.” She closed the link and the internet browser all together and set my laptop back on the bedside table.

“It’s alright, Amelia.” He sighed. “I did know. I just never wanted to read any of it.”

“Most of them aren’t like that.” she said quickly. “There are stories that these fans write that are better than the books. I think some of them should even try to write for your show.”

He laughed, a true chuckle, because the book fans hated some of the writing on the television series.

Amelia got off the bed, and I knew she felt bad. I would have to explain to Eric her good intentions of showing the stories to me, that she didn’t want me to find out from anyone else.

She looked at me apologetically. “Um. We’ll just give you two a minute.” She took Tray’s hand, and they disappeared down the hallway.

“Come here.” I patted the bed next to me and Eric came over to sit down. “You okay?”

He nodded. “Yeah. I was just uncomfortable. I didn’t know she read that stuff.”

“I don’t think she does really. She reads Buffy stories usually.”

“Great. So she’s thinking about Angel when she reads.”

I giggled. “He looks more like Tray.”

Eric snorted then he looked over at me and met my eyes. “Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“Please don’t ever read that shit again. It’s too weird to think of you reading that.”

I smiled and leaned forward to kiss his forehead. “I don’t need to read that, baby. I’ve got you for real.”

00oo00oo00oo00oo00

A/N:
Okay. Please don’t think that’s some kind of political commentary on me not liking smutty fanfic, because you all know how untrue that is. I was just trying to think about it from Eric’s perspective. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for reading it. In fact, I absolve you from any guilt and encourage you to go read more; my friends are the authors. *wink*

Thanks to everyone for reading. You know what will be coming up in the next chapter, so leave me some review lovin’ and I’ll see you next Tuesday. I’m off to take some more cold medicine and try not to fall asleep at my desk. (Links below for the ring, restaurants, and the glitter pumpkins – they are fantastic! Made them for centerpieces for a friends wedding!)

Links from this chapter:

Tiffany Novo Ring

Bouchon
LA Times Article on Bouchon

Glittered pumpkins

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