The ride to the Paramount lot seemed to fly by. I kept Sookie distracted, talking about the first time I walked the red carpet. It had been for a movie that I’d had a small role in; I played a Swedish model who died in a gasoline fight. Sookie laughed hysterically at my story of tripping and almost knocking over Nancy O’Dell from Access Hollywood. I was mortified, and Pam never let me forget it.
When we arrived at the theater on the lot, I got out of the car and reached back to take her hand. Our eyes met, and I winked at her, trying to help her relax. She stepped out slowly, being careful in her tall heels. We posed for a couple of pictures, and I moved my hand to her lower back, the connection a comfort to both of us.
Then Alcide appeared, speaking into the bluetooth earpiece that seemed to be permanently attached to his head. He nodded at us and disconnected his call. “Ready?”
“I believe we were waiting for you,” I said smartly.
“Whatever,” he huffed with a laugh.
I shook my head; Alcide was something else. He led Sookie towards the the building where she would have to wait for me. I had explained it all to her in the car, that the red carpet at this event was really only for the stars of the show, not spouses and significant others, and she understood. She was relieved actually, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t explained it to her sooner.
As Sookie and Alcide stepped away, I heard the paparazzi start vying for my attention.
“Eric, look this way.”
“Eric! Over here!”
“Eric, who are you wearing?”
I kept smiling, letting them get a few good shots, and made my way down the carpet. The network had sent a handler named Debbie Pelt to accompany me as I made my entrance. She was basically there to carry a bottle of water for me and make sure that no one asked me anything too outrageous. Honestly, I was pretty sure she would report back to Bobby if I gave away any plot information about Bloodlust.
The first reporter I encountered was from TV Guide, and I had done an interview with her recently, so it was pretty routine. She smiled reassuringly, and then held the microphone out.
“Good to see you. You look great. Who are you wearing?”
“Thanks. You look great too. I’m in Tom Ford.”
“Are you here with Sookie Stackhouse tonight?”
“Yes,” I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face. “She’s waiting for me in the air conditioning.”
“Did you and Sookie sit down and plan what you would wear tonight?”
I chuckled, it always amazed me how much people cared about what celebrities wore. “Ah, no. She told me two days ago to wear a red tie.”
“She didn’t let you see her dress? That’s sweet!” Then she began asking questions about the upcoming season. Bobby wouldn’t let us say much, so I couldn’t actually tell her anything, and we did a little verbal dance around the plot.
I moved through the gauntlet of reporters and television cameras and repeated that first conversation several times over. There were fans mixed among the crowd, and they were shooting pictures with small cameras and cell phones, too. Debbie kept me moving, not letting any one interview take too long. Eventually, I got to Nancy O’Dell, whom I was surprised to see because this was ‘just a premiere’ and not an awards show.
“Eric! Lovely to see you!” She gave me a hug, as if we had bonded when I almost knocked her over.
We went through the standard interview. Who are you wearing? What will happen on the upcoming season? What are you doing when the season wraps? Then she asked the question I’d been waiting for. I knew someone was going to ask it, and I was pretty surprised that it had taken this long for someone to put it out there.
“Eric, how do you feel about Sophie Anne not being here tonight?”
“Well, I’m sure she would have liked to be a part of it, but she’s getting help, and that’s the most important thing.”
I was still smiling, trying to figure out my get-away, when Pam magically appeared by my side, reminding me of Alcide’s jokes about her being a witch. If looks could kill, Nancy would have been six feet under. Pam looked her up and down; her narrowed eyes did not show approval.
Icily she said, “Sorry, Nancy. There are some important people Eric needs to speak with inside.”
We walked away from her, and I kept my head high, smiling and nodding at everyone.
Although I never saw her mouth move, I heard Pam say, “Good job. That was a great answer. You handled it perfectly.”
Alcide deposited me just inside the lobby, saying, “Stay.”
I smacked him on the arm and laughed.
“Call me if you need me, there are some scantily clad women I’m going to go talk with.”
I rolled my eyes, and he walked away, leaving me on my own. I stood with a group of other people who were waiting for someone on the red carpet. Liam’s girlfriend, Holly, introduced herself to me right away and sort of took me under her wing. She was friendly and seemed fun as she took pictures of our little group with her cell phone, waving at Liam a few times as he made his way through the press. He was still breaking into the Hollywood scene, having small parts here and there, and they both hoped that Bloodlust was his big break.
Eventually, Eric joined me in the lobby. He was with Pam, who raised her eyebrow at my dress.
“Roses. How cute.”
“Thank you, Pam. It’s vintage.”
She snorted. “Thank god. I would hope no designer today uses that Gone With the Wind floral pattern.”
“Pam.” Eric growled.
She rolled her eyes. “It looks lovely on you, Sookie. I wouldn’t be caught dead in it.”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t be; it has color on it,” I snarked about her predominantly black wardrobe.
“Touché.” She inclined her head towards me, and then turned to Eric. “I’ll see you at the table.”
He and I stayed there for a few minutes, waiting as other cast members made their way through the press. Eric told me that Nancy O’Dell had asked him about Sophie Anne. At first I was irritated, but it was to be expected that someone would bring it up. He told me how he answered, and I tried to stop myself, but a bubble of laughter slipped out. His politically correct non-answer reminded me of the movie Bull Durham, when Crash Davis tells Ebby Calvin Nuke LaLoosh that he needs to learn his clichés for interviews.
“What?” he asked looking confused.
“”I’m just happy to be here, and I hope I can help the ballclub,” I quoted Crash with another giggle.
He cocked his head at me and then threw his head back and laughed out loud. Then he repeated the cliché that Ebby told a reporter in the movie. “I just want to give it my best shot and, good lord willing, things’ll work out.”
“Exactly,” I laughed, loving that he knew what I’d been getting at.
He leaned close and hugged me with his arm around my waist. “I love you.”
We mingled on our way into the theater, stopping to talk to a few of Eric’s co-stars, and waving at Bobby from across the room. We found our seats for the screening and settled in, his hand on my knee.
The president of the network gave some opening remarks, and then Bobby said a few words. He thanked the cast and crew, joking that it was a dramatic season both on and off screen, and all eyes turned to Eric, who grinned and shrugged. Then Bobby took his seat, and the lights went down for the screening to begin.
It was the first time that Eric would see the first two episodes in their entirety, so he was almost as excited as I was. I tried not to talk as we watched, but I had to lean over to him several times, telling him how well I thought he’d played a scene or what I imagined a plot twist meant for the series.
When the screening was done and everyone clapped as the lights came back up, I turned to Eric, wide eyed. From living with Eric and working on his lines together, I knew how the season played out, but these first episodes set it all up, and his performance had been flawless in my eyes.
“Thanks,” he said quietly, looking back at me.
“No really, you have a gift. You command the screen.”
“Are you being a smart ass now?”
I laughed as I put my hands on each side of his face. “”No, I’m being serious. I’m proud of you. You gave that performance in the midst of Sophie Anne’s bullshit, and it was wonderful.”
He gave me a crooked smile. “I don’t deserve you.”
“Eh. Today, you do.”
People had begun filing out of the auditorium and back into the lobby, and we moved with them. Alcide appeared at my side again, angled his head towards the reporters waiting for the cast to emerge.
“Part two, boss man?”
Eric sighed, “Yes.”
In the car on the way over he’d given me a run down of the night, so I knew there was another round of interviews.
“What’s with the sigh?” Alcide rolled his eyes. “Put on your big girl panties and do your thing. I’ll take Sook over to the party.”
“Thanks, Cide.” He turned to me, “See you in a bit?”
I nodded, and he was gone. “Lead on, Alcide.”
We walked out of the theater and through the lot, to a large tented area. When we entered, I was a little blown away, I wouldn’t have believed we were in a tent if I hadn’t just come in through the doorway. Everything was decorated vampire-chic, with black and white coffins and a dripping blood motif. It could have been campy, but it worked. The center pieces were large vases of mixed flowers that included bleeding hearts with black and red roses, while soft red lighting cast a spooky glow.
Alcide led me to the bar for Bloodytinis, which I’m sure were vodka and grenadine, then we went over to Eric’s table. Each cast member had their own, and our table included Pam, Alcide, and a couple of other people on Eric’s ‘team’ that I was just meeting.
Alcide and I waited with the same group that had been in the lobby with me earlier, grabbing hors d’oeuvres as waiters passed and chatting. I was thrilled to hear that the dinner was catered by Wolfgang Puck, and I considered having words with Eric for not telling me beforehand. I smiled to myself though, realizing that he probably had no idea who the caterer was.
Pam arrived, scotch in hand, and I knew Eric wouldn’t be too far behind. When he arrived, he stole a sip of my drink, and sighed, as my hand found its way into his. He was pulled away again after only a few minutes, and I found myself chatting with some cast members and their dates. Eric got his picture taken and mingled with some industry insiders with Pam at his side.
I was talking with one of Bobby’s assistants when Eric joined me again. He handed me another drink that I certainly didn’t need, and kissed my neck, sighing as he took a break from what could only be classified as selling himself. I didn’t envy him at all. It was hard enough feeling like I was on display as his girlfriend, but to have to be on and talk to everyone else on top of it? I didn’t know how he did it.
We finally sat down to eat, and the meal was delicious, but Eric was interrupted quite often as people continued to mill throughout the room. I enjoyed the meal and chatted with Pam and Alcide. I took some pictures of the food and table decorations to put up on the blog. The scotch had loosened Pam up a bit, and we talked about my blog and the reviews I was working on for the Times. She recommended some restaurants and suggested a farmers market that I should visit. When we finished eating, Eric excused us from the table and led me towards the bar to escape the crowd for a few minutes.
I put my hand on his waist inside of his suit jacket while his hand rubbed my back. We talked uninterrupted for only a few minutes, but it was the thought that counted. I took a few pictures for fans and got another drink after Eric was drawn away by some director or producer that I didn’t recognize. I realized I was going to have to talk to Pam or Alcide, and get a crash course in Hollywood who’s who. I knew the celebrities, but the behind the scenes people were strangers to me.
At one point, Eric waved me over to join him, and we talked with Bobby Burnham. He told us how pleased he was working with Eric this season, and that he had big plans for his character. Eric commented on looking forward to the next season as I smiled and nodded, complimenting Bobby on the first two episodes. Someone called Eric’s name and when he turned to talk to them, I took advantage of my moment alone with Bobby.
“I wanted to say thanks. I know you really didn’t do it for me, or for Eric, but thank you for not having him film a lot more with Sophie Anne this season.”
The corner of his mouth raised. “You’re right, I didn’t do it for either of you. It was the best thing for the show. But, you’re welcome. Eric has the potential for a very long career in Hollywood if he continues to make smart choices about roles.”
I smiled, and clinked our drink glasses, “Here’s to that.”
He winked and walked away.
I turned around, unconsciously sliding my hand into Eric’s pocket. I tried not to completely freak out when I realized that he was talking to Michael Emerson from the hit show Lost. Eric’s arm came around me, giving me a squeeze. When there was a break in the conversation, he introduced me to Michael, who was married to one of the actresses on Bloodlust. I tried not to be too fangirl when I told him that I loved his show. He told Eric that he should take me to Hawaii so I could blog about the food and restaurants there, and I tried not to squeal about the fact that Michael freaking Emerson knew that I wrote a food blog. Bobby called out to Eric again and motioned him over to talk to someone else, and Michael excused himself, leaving me on my own for a bit.
I headed to the restroom and then back to the bar to talk with Holly. Liam joined us, and someone ordered tequila shots. Eventually, Liam got called away to have some pictures taken with other cast members. Holly and I stayed by the bar, sipping drinks. She commented on a couple of outrageous outfits and we bonded over people watching. I had tried to alternate my drinks with glasses of water, but as the night went on the glasses of water were getting smaller.
We got along well, and I was glad to find someone to visit with while Eric was on display. Holly gave me the dirt on some of the other party goers, and we exchanged numbers, planning to get together for lunch soon. When we were both slightly drunk, she turned to me, biting her lip, looking like she had something to say.
“Sookie, all that business with Sophie Anne. I just wanted to say I’m sorry that you and Eric had to go through that. You seem really great, and you can just see how much Eric is in love with you. He can’t take his eyes off of you.”
“Thanks, I guess.” I looked over at Eric to see him watching me while someone talked at him. “I come with my own baggage.”
“Oh, your ex. I can’t believe he threw you to the wolves! You really should find some way to get back at him.”
“Well, I think being with Eric is revenge enough. I’m pretty sure he expected me to wallow in my misery for another decade or so.”
“Men can be such assholes.”
“Yeah, that’s for sure.” I laughed, and then felt Eric’s hands on my waist just before his chest met my back.
“What are you girls talking about?”
“How men can be assholes,” I laughed.
“Ah, I see. Have I been neglecting you?”
“No! Not you. We were talking about Bill actually, but I’d much rather talk about something else.” I crossed my arms in front of me, putting my hands over his to give them a squeeze.
“How about we get out of here, lover? Bobby just left, so we can go anytime.”
“Bobby’s gone?” Holly excused herself to find Liam so they could head out.
I turned around in Eric’s arms, resting my head on his chest. “I’m ready when you are.” His hands rubbed my arms, and his voice dropped even lower. “Let’s get the hell out of here so we can get naked. The only thing better than holding you like this is being buried inside you.”
“Mmmm. You have a one-track mind, Northman.”
“You know you want me.”
“Always.” I giggled.
He shook his head and led me out of the party, walking at a good clip past the remaining paparazzi and camera crews.
Sookie handled the evening amazingly well. I knew that she was nervous because this was her first big event, but she looked beautiful and impressed the hell out of me as she just rolled with whatever the night threw at us. Even Nancy O’Dell trying to shock me with a question about Sophie Anne’s absence didn’t rile her.
She looked pissed for a minute, and then even though I could see she was trying to stifle it, she giggled. “I’m just happy to be here, and I hope I can help the ballclub.”
I cocked my head for a second, because it took me a heartbeat to realize what she was talking about. My girlfriend had just quoted a baseball movie to me. I laughed out loud before reciting another cliché from Bull Durham. “I just want to give it my best shot and, good lord willing, things’ll work out.”
I loved that she saw the humor in some of the bullshit that I had to say in interviews. I put an arm around her and pulled her close, telling her that I loved her. She grinned back at me, her eyes dancing with love and humor, and I wanted to turn around and take her home. For an instant, I didn’t want to share her with these people, and I certainly didn’t want Hollywood to jade her or destroy her light.
The screening of the first two episodes went well. I was pleased with how everything had been put together. I didn’t like the cut they’d chosen for one of my scenes, but I’m sure that I was the only one that was noticed it. I hadn’t quite portrayed the emotion as fully as I wanted to, the way I knew I had in the final take.
After the second round of interviews, I finally went into the party and joined Sookie. Then I spent most of the night making small talk and getting my picture taken. It was bearable only because whenever I started to think I wanted to strangle myself, I would see Sookie and remember that I wasn’t in this alone anymore. She looked beautiful, and no matter who she was talking to, her face beamed. I’m sure that at some point she was bored, but it never showed.
We ate dinner, and it was nice to have a few minutes to sit with Sookie and relax, but it didn’t last. I was only able to get a few bites of chicken in before I was interrupted. Sookie squeezed my hand, and I responded in kind, thankful to have her at my side. I didn’t need to remind myself how good this was for my career; I knew that this was all part of the game. I took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, even though I was exhausted.
When we finished dinner I led Sookie to the bar where we could have a few minutes of quiet. It was out of the way, and a little darker than the rest of the party, so we took advantage of the cover it provided. Sookie slid her hand inside my jacket and onto my waist. It was sweet and sexy, and I rubbed my hand over her back, needing to feel connected to her. We sipped drinks and talked quietly before I was called away.
At one point, Bobby Burnham stopped me near the middle of the room and asked where Sookie was. I motioned her over, and he told us how pleased he was with my work and the season as a whole. Of course in the middle of the conversation I had to turn around to talk to someone else, leaving Sookie talking to Bobby. I had no idea what they discussed, but I saw them toast, clinking their glasses before he walked away.
Sookie turned to join the conversation, and I knew she was screaming on the inside when she realized who I was talking to. It was Michael Emerson from Lost, the husband of one of my co-stars. He was telling me a story about his time in Hawaii when he was filming there, and I introduced Sookie to him when there was a break in the conversation. She covered her fangirl excitement well, but what was really cool, was that Michael clearly knew who she was too. When he told me to take her to Hawaii to check out the food and restaurants for her blog she damn near squeezed my hand off. Eventually, I was pulled away from Sookie as he moved on to talk to someone else.
Through the course of the night, I talked with some producers and directors, and even some photographers. I knew it was important to make connections. Sookie spent some time with Liam’s girlfriend Holly, who I thought was a buyer for Nordstrom, and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. I saw the tell-tale lick-slam-suck motions and knew they were doing shots of tequila at one point. I tried to remember if Amelia gave me any specific warnings about Sookie and tequila and realized I might want to warn Sookie about my own love/hate relationship with José Cuervo. I could drink tequila, but I did it with respect, because José had seriously kicked my ass once.
I finally saw Bobby leave and knew that Sookie and I were free to go. I found her with Holly, over near the bar where we had found a quiet moment earlier in the night. I put my hands on her hips as I came up behind her, lightly pressing my body against her back.
I asked what they were talking about and felt bad when Sookie said they were discussing what assholes men could be. I was afraid that I’d misread her, and that I’d left her on her own for too long. She laughed and explained that they were talking about Bill, and I wondered how the hell that topic had come up, but I certainly wasn’t asking. I felt her hands on mine, giving them a squeeze, and relaxed a little, then told her since Bobby had left we were free to go.
I didn’t have to tell Holly twice, she said her goodbyes and hightailed it off to find Liam. Sookie turned around in my arms, her breasts rubbing against me. She rested her head on my chest and told me she was ready to go. I held her, and if I let it, the rest of the world would have drifted away. Instead, I growled and whispered dirty thoughts in her ear before quickly leading her to the car.
We walked through the small group of photographers that remained; they were always looking for shots of drunk celebrities leaving these things. I followed Sookie into the car, sliding in next to her on the seat all of the way in the back. I reached over and opened the champagne that I’d arranged for the driver to chill for us. She took her shoes off while I poured two flutes. I handed Sookie her champagne, and sat back, putting one arm around her.
“This is a surprise.” She smiled sweetly, putting a hand on my chest as she took a sip. “Mmm. Moët and Chandon. How did you know it was my favorite?”
“I did some research,” I teased.
“Did you ask Laf, or did you call Amelia?”
“I called Amelia last week.”
“I do what I can.”
She turned, putting her legs across my lap and sighed. “That was nice, but I’m glad it’s over.”
“You and me both.”
I ran my hand up her thigh, under her dress, and raised my eyebrow with a smirk. “I get you drunk and take advantage of you.”
“That’s funny.” She giggled. “First off, you don’t need to get me drunk; I’m a sure thing where you’re concerned. And second, I’m already kind of drunk, so you won’t have to wait too long for that either.”
“My plan is working then, lover. More champagne?” I teased, waggling my eyebrows.
We sat quietly, just content to snuggle, and sip our drinks. We felt the car stop, and I heard the driver get out.
Before he opened the door, I leaned over and kissed her. With a hand on her cheek, I looked into her eyes. “Have I told you tonight that I love you?”
Her eyes sparkled back. “Not in the last hour or so.”
“Well, I do.” I kissed her again.
“Good,” she whispered. “Because I am head over heels in love with you, too.”
“Head over heels?” I teased as the door opened. “Isn’t that how we finally met?”
She lightly punched my arm. “Funny.”
“Ow!” I joked, as I stepped out of the car. I reached back for her hand and couldn’t help teasing her even more, “Watch your step.”
“Smart ass,” she laughed, taking my hand as we walked towards the house.