Awww… You guys love these brothers as much as I do! That makes me happy.Zigster set the bar pretty high with her Northman brothers in The Bitch and the Hellcat, but I’m really happy with the way these three came together. Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!
Thanks to A Redhead Thing and Sapfirerose for their support and WonderTriplet beta-powers.
By the time we were all showered and ready in the morning, Sookie said we needed to hit the road for the drive to Chicago if we wanted to grab lunch and still see the first pitch. I asked her to go upstairs to get her overnight bag and a change of clothes for a surprise later. She kept asking questions that I wouldn’t answer, and Sven sang the Jeopardy theme song to hurry her up. Coming back downstairs with her things, she gave me a questioning look.
“Sookie,” I pulled her into my arms. “It’s a good surprise. You’ll like it. I promise.”
She sighed, and stood on her tip toes, narrowing her eyes at me. “You promise?”
I smirked and kissed her slowly, until I felt her hands move to my ass, pulling me towards her. Initially, I had every intention of giving her a quick kiss and releasing her, but it never seemed to work out that way with her.
Sven cleared his throat, “Get a fucking room already.”
Sookie and I separated, taking a step back, but we kept our arms loosely around each other. “I promise you’ll like it.”
“I need to get a couple of things from my place when we meet Amelia and Tray.”
I raised an eyebrow. She mirrored the look back to me, and I had to smile.
“You’ve got your surprise.” She shrugged, “I’ve got mine. Ready to go?”
We loaded into the Jeep and drove to her place, switching over to her Camry for better gas mileage. Sookie ran inside to get whatever it was she needed, while I introduced my brothers to Amelia and Tray. I had already called Amelia to fill her in on my plans, so she knew that my brothers would be riding back with her and Tray.
Amelia reminded Sookie where she liked to park and we headed out. It took about three hours to get to Chicago. Sookie gave us an occasional commentary as we drove, pointing out the casinos in New Buffalo and Michigan City, laughing when we wrinkled our noses at the smell as we drove through Gary, and joking about the traffic jam she called ‘ever-present’ at the Indiana and Illinois state line. My brothers told a few family stories about us growing up, or crazy things we did in college.
Our family was pretty spread out. We’d lived in Minnesota near my dad’s family until I was ten, then my dad got transferred for work, and we moved to San Jose, California. My parents were strong believers in education, and all three of us had gone to college. Chris and I went to the University of California, Berkeley together, which was only about forty minutes from our parents. I was in a few commercials, and had bit parts in Independent movies, but my focus was on finishing school. I wasn’t fool enough to assume I could make it as an actor without a back up plan.
After getting my degree in Psychology, I moved to Los Angeles to act full time and had been amazed at the roles that came my way. Chris got his degree in Mechanical Engineering, and moved to Seattle for work. Sven had always been independent. When he graduated from high school, he packed up his car and moved to Colorado with his best friend J.B. DuRhone. They went to the University of Colorado, Boulder; and neither one of them had ever considered moving back to California.
Sven told Sookie about coming to Berkeley for sibling weekend with me and Chris when he was in high school. Our cousin Jonas had given Sven a fake I.D. so he could get in to the bar with us, which in hindsight, was a really bad idea. We were having a great time until Sven threw up on a hot girl that Chris was hitting on and then later fell down the stairs at our apartment complex. We had to send him home in an ankle brace; mom was pissed.
Sookie fell asleep for a bit, and I was glad we were still a ways out of the city so I didn’t need to wake her for directions. In the backseat, I heard Chris asking Sven about his girlfriend, Rachel, who taught ninth grade Earth Science. Sven told him how sweet she was and that she wasn’t even a vegetarian. If his buying real shoes didn’t give it away, that did. Sven was in love.
They continued chatting and I just listened, not wanting to wake Sookie. Eventually, Sven asked about his love life, and Chris said he had just broken up with a girl that wanted to get serious, saying he still wasn’t ready to settle down. Sven gave him shit, telling him he had to grow up sometime; I was still laughing when Sookie woke up.
When we got closer to Wrigleyville, Sookie started giving me directions. I was familiar with Chicago, but she seemed to know of a secret lot that we would be able to park in. Sure enough, we pulled into a private lot, and Sookie and Amelia jumped out to hug the guy at the gate. My brothers and I shook our heads; Sookie was a force to be reckoned with, that was for sure.
We walked a few blocks to Murphy’s Bleachers, a sports bar across the street from the entrance to the bleacher section of Wrigley Field. Tray ordered us pitchers of Leinenkugel’s, it was the Friday special, and Amelia picked out a few appetizers. Sookie reminded us to save room for Chicago dog’s at the game, and I smiled at her. She really sounded like she knew what she was talking about, not like she had read about them on her own blog, but I could tell from from the look in her eyes, she didn’t truly remember.
After a while, Sookie and Amelia stood together talking, while my brothers and I talked cars and sports with Tray. Apparently, he and Amelia went to at least one Cubs game with Sookie every summer.
Sven looked confused for a second, “Just the three of you? Sookie’s husband didn’t come?”
Tray glanced at me quickly, and then looked down. “Um, no.” He took a long drink and poured some more beer.
Chris smacked Sven on the arm. “Shut the fuck up, Sven.”
“What? Sorry, I was confused.”
“I’ll tell you later dumb ass.”
“Don’t call me dumb ass, you heartless prick.”
“What the fuck?”
Sven used a whiny voice. “I’m not ready to settle down.”
Chris’s eyes got wide, and I told them both to shut up before they did anything stupid.
Sven gave me an apologetic look, and Chris looked pissed, but he would forget about it in no time; he always did. I changed the subject, asking Tray about the minor league team in Grand Rapids and whether or not he went to their games as well. It worked, and after a few minutes we were all comfortable again, talking and laughing.
Sookie came over and put an arm around me, and I kissed the top of her head. We’d gotten a few looks, well, I particularly, had gotten looks, and I had my picture taken with a couple of the staff, but for the most part everyone in the bar kept a good distance and was polite. Chris laughed at me and got out his Blackberry, pulling up the list of celebrities that had been to the bar, joking that I was just another star to them. There were a lot of big names on there; I actually caught myself looking around for some professional athletes. Sven swore he saw Chris Chelios from the Chicago Blackhawks when he was in the bathroom, but we didn’t believe him.
Amelia even razzed him, saying, “If there’s no picture, it didn’t happen, hippy.”
I squeezed Sookie tight against me to get her attention, and smiled down at her. “You want to walk over and get our tickets and come back?”
She nodded and we excused ourselves, telling everyone we’d be back in a bit. Sookie thought she remembered where the will call window was to pick up our tickets, and had double checked online over breakfast to be sure. She led me around the outside of the stadium. I felt bad that she still questioned her memories and stumbled over things she couldn’t recall. It was happening less and less, but she had confessed that there was still a lot from her distant past that she didn’t remember.
By the time we got back to the bar, we needed to head into the stadium. Our tickets weren’t in the bleacher section, so we needed to walk to a different entrance. Amelia and Sookie were walking together, Chris and Tray were talking about engines and Sven and I brought up the rear.
After a five minute walk, we went through the turnstiles and regrouped inside the stadium. Sookie’s eyes lit up and she was grinning from ear to ear.
I smiled. “Chicago dogs?”
“Mmm. Yeah. Come on.”
She led us to a hot dog vendor, who smiled and greeted her with a hug. I recognized his picture from her blog; it was her favorite hot dog stand inside the stadium. Everyone but Sven ordered a dog. Chris and I both ordered Chicago dogs with the works. We’d been to Chicago a million times growing up to visit our cousins, but we had never had a true Chicago dog. While we waited for the vendor to get everyone’s hot dog ready, I gave Sookie a quick kiss.
She raised an eyebrow. “What was that for?”
“I’m happy for you.”
“What?” She chuckled.
“You remembered. When you mentioned getting hot dogs at Murphy’s, you were just talking about what you read on your blog, but when we got in the stadium, you remembered.”
“I know, and I’m glad you’re remembering more things, but this was particularly cool.”
“It was, wasn’t it?” We smiled at each other, like we shared a secret, and then our hot dogs were ready.
We all waited in another line for beer that cost an outrageous amount of money. Sven got peanuts, and we headed to our seats.
We were seated in two rows, three people in each, one in front of the other. Sookie and I sat with Sven behind Amelia, Tray and Chris. We were in the VIP Club section over the Cub’s dugout, along the third base line. Sookie and Amelia were joking with my brothers like they’d known them for years. Tray was quiet, but seemed comfortable with all of us. I smiled, truly enjoying myself. I definitely wanted to have more times like this with Sookie. I couldn’t believe Bill hadn’t shared this with her.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and we all soaked up the sun and had a great time at the game. The Cubs were even putting up a respectable fight against the Pittsburgh Pirates. An ESPN camera man got in our faces during a commercial break, but everyone took it in stride, smiling and waving, and the people who were sitting around us seemed excited.
The game wound down, and the Cubs only lost by two runs. We walked back towards our cars, tired from the beer and the fresh air. Sookie and I held hands, listening to Tray and Amelia tell my brothers about Quaker Steak and Lube, the restaurant they were going to stop at for dinner in Indiana on the way home.
Sookie smiled up at me. “You’re still not telling me where we’re going?’
“It’s a surprise, so, by definition, no.”
She shook her head as she laughed, and we walked the rest of the way to where we were parked. We said our goodbyes, thanking everyone for coming to the game. We told my brothers we’d see them the following day, and told Tray and Amelia we would see them soon.
I drove us over to The Drake Hotel, and pulled into the valet line. The hotel had been built in thee 1920’s, and it wasn’t unusual for celebrities to stay there when filming in Chicago. It was beautiful architecturally, and the interior was pretty spectacular as well. I’d stayed here a few times, but usually it after a late night flight from California, and I was out the door first thing in the morning.
“This is awesome. I’ve never stayed here. Thank you. This is a great surprise.”
I kissed her quickly and smirked. “This isn’t the surprise.”
She was shaking her head as I climbed out of the car. I took her hand and we headed into the lobby to check in. We headed up to our room to get ready for dinner. Sookie took two outfits out of her bag and looked at me with an eyebrow raised.
“Either one, Sook. You always look great.”
She huffed and went into the bathroom to change. I knew she was frustrated that I wouldn’t give her any clues as to where we were going. After a few minutes, she came out dressed in a knee length khaki skirt and a bright blue sleeveless blouse with a scooped neckline that would tease me all night long.
Eric drove us through Chicago, and I wondered where he was taking us. I listened to the voice coming out of his phone, “Turn left, in one hundred feet.” I was trying to remember what hotels and restaurants were in the area as we drove, but we were driving faster than my ridiculous brain could retrieve things.
We parked in a city lot and Eric came around to get my door. He took my hand, helping me out of the car, and gave me a sweet kiss.
He smiled, then led me down the block and around the corner. I caught him glancing to gauge my reaction, but I didn’t recognize the block in front of me. We came to a red doorway, and I stopped, feeling like I should know the place. I looked up, and saw the name on the awning.
“Oh my god! Eric.”
He smiled. “Hungry?”
“Yes. I, oh my god. I’m so excited.”
“I’m going to insist that you eat dinner before you order dessert.”
I pouted. “Only if you insist.”
He opened the door and we stepped into Rose Angelis, home of the tiramisu that seduced him through my blog.
I took in a deep breath, and my lungs were filled with the delicious scents of garlic, tomato and herbs. I felt a little dizzy and laughed at myself, thinking I’d held my breath too long savoring the aroma. Eric looked at me strangely and I smiled in reassurance. I was looking around, taking in the Venetian plaster and the frescoes on the walls, feeling overwhelmed. The manager greeted us at the door, looking between us as if he was surprised to see us together. Apparently, he didn’t follow the tabloids.
“Eric, Sookie! So great to see the two of you! And together! What a treat! Give us a few minutes to get you a table, okay?”
“We’ll grab some wine at the bar while we wait our turn.”
I loved that Eric didn’t expect special treatment. He put his hand on my back, and I sighed at the warmth of his touch. We walked towards the bar and I stumbled a little. I shook my head; something wasn’t right.
He looked down, raising an eyebrow. “I’m alright.”
He kissed the top of my head and we continued to the bar where we each ordered a glass of wine. We stood close to each other, he kept his hand on my hip, and everything felt like it was falling in to place. I was supposed to be here, with Eric, it just felt right.
We looked at the menu, and I was wondering if he already knew what he wanted to order. For dinner here, I loved the rustic pasta dishes, and I usually ordered spinach mezzaluna pasta. It was stuffed with ricotta and pesto with a brown butter sauce with sun dried tomatoes. Sometimes I shared an appetizer with someone, but I always saved room for dessert.
Eric smiled over the menu. “Do you know what you want?”
“I do. You?”
“Yeah. Seafood linguine. Would you like an appetizer? Bruschetta or something?”
“How do you feel about calamari?”
We grinned at each other. I couldn’t think of a better place for us to end the night. We’d had a great day. I really enjoyed spending time with Eric’s brothers. They were fun and really seemed to like me. I was looking forward to the next few days with them.
The waitress took our order, and we were enjoying ourselves so much that it seemed like just seconds had passed before our food arrived. We had been busy talking, telling each other about the times we’d been to the restaurant before, without each other. I told him how Bill never ordered off the menu, but started with a standard dish and asked for three or four substitutions. Eric hesitated, but told me how his mom had asked their waitress to be his ‘plus one’ at his cousin’s wedding the first time he brought her there.
Our food was delicious, as always, and the restaurant was bustling. The server cleared our dinner plates and the waitress came back over to us, automatically bringing two cups of coffee.
“How often do you come here?” I teased him.
He laughed. “I’ve only been here a couple of times. I guess I left a good impression.”
The waitress blushed, and asked if we wanted one or two orders of tiramisu for dessert. We answered in stereo, “Two,” and laughed. Eric reached out, putting his hand over mine and my breath caught. I had a strange feeling, it was almost déjà vu, and tried to clear my head, but I just felt off.
“Are you alright?” He looked concerned and rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb.
I looked at our hands, and my mind felt cloudy, but I nodded at him and stood to excuse myself. “I’ll be right back.” I needed a minute.
I walked quickly to the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I put the lid down on the toilet and slowly took a seat. Taking deep breaths, I tried to relax. What the hell was wrong with me? We’d had a great day, and it wasn’t my blood sugar because we’d just eaten. Maybe I was coming down with something. I looked up, thinking that I could count the ceiling tiles or something to clear my head, and I realized that the bathroom had been painted a soft brown, like the color of a latte. It was strange, I’d just been here two weeks ago; nothing else in the restaurant had changed, well, except me. Now I was divorced, had a boyfriend, if that’s what you called Eric, and had amnesia. Wait, how did I know I was here two weeks ago? What else did I remember?
“Oh my god,” I whispered.
When I returned to the table, there were two plates of tiramisu waiting. I smiled, it was fitting really, and yet actually kind of bizarre. Eric was looking at his phone, reading something. Exiting the screen, he put the phone in his pocket and smiled at me.
“Pam texted me. Our picture made it on live TV at the game and now it’s popping up everywhere. She is beyond pleased.”
“Oh, that’s good,” I said distractedly.
“Hey.” He took my hand; his eyes were focused on me, full of concern.
I twined our fingers together, looking at his large hand next to my much smaller one. Raising my eyes back to his, I smiled, and then leaned forward. I brought my other hand up to his cheek, and kissed him.
When our lips separated, I kept my face close to his and whispered, “I remember everything.”
OMG! Don’t kill me! It was the perfect place to break. How do you think this is going to go? What does she mean she remembers everything? And does she remember him? Dum dum dum… Stay tuned!
Links for stuff in this chapter:
Quaker Steak and Lube
Quaker Steak is more of a Pennsylvania/Ohio thing, but we’re lucky enough to have one on the way to Chicago now. YUM I love the Thai R Cracker and the Cajun wings, and we always get an O Ring Antenna.