Umm…Bites lip. I really, honestly, don’t have a problem with Nancy O’Dell, you guys. She is an innocent victim of my snark. Sorry for the confusion.
The Emmys were over and life was becoming routine for Eric and me. I had come to think of a few California places as mine; my day spa, my yoga studio, my bank, and my Starbucks. There were even places that I considered ours; our grocery store, our pharmacy, our car dealership. Well it was Eric’s car dealership, but since I was driving the SUV, I was calling it ours. I was enjoying exploring Los Angeles for my blog and for the paper, and I was getting used to being Eric’s live-in girlfriend. He spent time with me and really listened to me when I talked. He remembered what I said and knew what I liked, and to top it off, he actually cared what I thought. It was sad to think that I had been practically anonymous to Bill for years, and that I had either not really noticed or had ceased to care; I wasn’t sure any more.
Since I was embracing California as my home, I decided to treat the fall like I would if I was living back in Michigan. That meant inviting Sam, Daph, Holly and Liam over to watch college football on Saturdays and taking a long nap during the NFL game on Sundays. It also meant planning some sort of end of summer party. I was still trying to figure out if there actually were seasons in Los Angeles, but I wasn’t going to embarrass myself by asking anyone, I would just have to live through a year to learn the way the climate changed, or didn’t.
I loved fall, and I was going to miss Halloween in Saugatuck, so I decided to focus my energy on enjoying the holiday where I was. I knew I wanted to have a party, and Halloween was the perfect excuse. Eric hadn’t done much entertaining at the house, so it was a tradition that we could start together, and that made me even more excited about it.
I had a lot to do to get the party together. I was a firm believer that if you did something, you did it all the way. Eric had shown me his shoe box of fall decorations, and I did my best not to groan out loud. I had called Amelia ten minutes later, describing where I knew the fall and Halloween decoration boxes were stored in the crawlspace at the cottage. I called her back when I decided to throw the party, asking her to send even more.
“Okay, what about the serving dishes? Are those in the buffet?”
“I think most of them are in the boxes, Meelz. But you can check. Just bubble-wrap everything to high heaven and ship it out. I’ll go through it when it gets here.”
“Alright, well if there’s anything that I’m really worried about, I’ll just bring it with me.”
“I’ll bring it with me. Turn on your hearing aid.”
“Amelia,” I said with a pause. I was hesitant to believe my ears and hope she meant it. “I would love for you to come, but I can’t ask you to do that. I mean, the whole reason I’m doing this is to keep busy so I don’t miss being home and going to the parade. I don’t want you to miss it too!”
“Sookie, it’s a parade, that’s nothing compared to your housewarming. It’s not a big deal. Who’s catering your party?”
Housewarming? Was that what this was? I supposed it was, hidden behind my neurotic attempt to ward off homesickness.
“Catering? Why would you ask that? I’m making the food myself.”
“Exactly. I’m coming to help.”
“Listen, as long as Eric promises to show Tray the half naked girls at Venice beach, we’ll be all good.”
I laughed. “You’d bring Tray? That would be so fun! I’m sure Eric will show him around. I love you, Meelz.”
“I know, Sook. I love you, too. Now, what’s the menu?”
We talked for another half hour, discussing decorations and costumes, as well as food. She was going to start checking airfare and let me know when they would arrive.
I couldn’t wait to tell Eric they would be coming to the party. I knew it was supposed to be about making new traditions in California with our friends, but I was thrilled that Amelia and Tray were coming to share it with us; to sort of blend our friends from here and there. However, I would have to talk to Eric about storing some of our things that cluttered the guest room.
A couple hours later, he came home from the gym looking a little worse for wear.
“What’s up, cowboy?” I was really enjoying getting to call him that while he filmed Western Sky.
“I did something to my back.”
“Oh, no. Well, come on then,” I said, lacing my fingers and then turning my hands inside out to stretch them. “Come on over. Let me give you a rub.”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “Sookie, my back really hurts.”
I raised my brow back. “When I say the word sunscreen, what do you think of?”
“Oh fuck,” he groaned. “I’m lying down.” Slowly, he made his way towards the couch.
“Floor,” I said, pointing. “Trust me. And take your shirt off.”
He grumbled something under his breath but pulled his shirt over his head with another groan before lowering his body to the floor in increments. First he went to his knees, then to push up position, and finally all the way down.
I handed him a pillow and straddled his back, asking him where it hurt before settling myself onto his waist. He tried to point to his left shoulder, telling me that his back and neck hurt when he turned his head. I certainly wasn’t a professional, but I’d given my share of massages. I started with his lower back, hoping to relax him before touching the sensitive area higher up.
When I made it to the knot in his shoulder, he groaned and mumbled, “Oh, god, right there. Harder. Fuck, you’ve got good hands.”
I giggled. “That sounds like a porno.”
“I wouldn’t know,” he joked.
“Ha!” I slapped his shoulder. “Is it helping?”
“Yes, don’t stop.”
We both laughed, and I used more pressure trying to work out the tension in his muscles. I moved my attention to one of his arms, starting at his bicep and working down to his fingers and then switched to his other arm. He was still making little moans of pleasure as I worked, but his commentary had all but stopped. After another pass at the muscles in his shoulders, I leaned forward, letting my breasts rub against his back.
“Are you awake?”
“I’m dead,” he mumbled. “You killed me.”
“You’re not dead if you’re talking. Roll over,” I laughed. I sat up on my knees to give him room to move while I pulled my shirt over my head and removed my bra.
“Oh, shit. Now I’m dead,” he said when he rolled over and caught sight of my naked breasts.
“But what a way to die,” I teased.
He laughed and sat up, cupping my breasts and burying his face in my neck, kissing a path to my mouth. Then we were kissing in earnest, and I was running my hands over the smooth skin of his back while his hands tugged at my hair. Soon we were panting and grinning at each other, eye to eye. His hands made their way to my shorts, and he was trying to push them down my hips.
I shook my head and stood, reaching for his hand. “We just fixed your back. Let’s go to the bedroom.”
He laughed. “Good plan, Stackhouse.”
We stopped twice in the hallway for him to kiss me and press me against the wall, grinding against me, but we finally made it to the bedroom. We stretched out on the bed, and I noticed pain flash across Eric’s face as he leaned over to kiss me. I pushed him back, taking control and attempting to prevent him from further injuring himself. I slid my hands down his chest with a wicked grin, and then slipped his shorts off. Taking his length in my hands, I stroked him, knowing exactly what he liked.
I teased him with my mouth, kissing his thigh and leaning close so he felt my breath on his erection as I moved my hand. He bit his lip and arched his back, his eyes boring into mine. I gave him a long lick and listened to him growl before taking him into my mouth. I loved the way he reacted when I went down on him; the sounds he made and his hands in my hair were sexy as hell and made me ache for him. After a few minutes I decided that I was too turned on to wait for his recovery time and with a final lick, abandoned the efforts with my mouth.
He looked confused; clearly disappointed I had stopped what I was doing. I smiled, but continued to move up his body, kissing his chest before finding his lips. I rocked my hips, rubbing myself along his erection, and making us both moan.
“Stop teasing me,” Eric whispered into my neck.
“Mmm. Like this?” I shifted us and began to slide myself down on him.
“Fuck. Yeah. Like that,” he rasped.
I laughed, arching my back and putting my hands on his thighs behind me. We began a practiced dance, rocking and shifting, bouncing and thrusting. There was something to be said for knowing your partner that was for sure. In our relatively short time together, Eric and I had become like a well oiled machine, a well oiled orgasmic engine. The best part was that it never got boring; we were spontaneous and adventurous, and it was nothing like I’d ever had with anyone before.
“Eric,” I gasped as he pinched my nipples, bringing me to the edge of my orgasm. “I’m so close.”
He moved one hand between us, touching just the right spot to trigger my release. He continued to rub me as he thrust his hips up, pulling me down hard against him with his other hand, and then his fingers dug into my hip as he came with a groan.
We were sweaty and spent, breathing like we’d run a marathon as we lay tangled together. After a few minutes, Eric sat up on his elbow to look down at me, but winced as he put weight on his arm.
“Yeah. I may need a real massage tomorrow. No offense.”
“None taken.” I smiled, reaching up to brush some hair off his forehead. “I talked to Amelia today.”
“And she’s coming out to help me get ready for the Halloween party.”
I laughed. “We’re having a Halloween party, and she and Tray are coming out for it. You’re supposed to take Tray to Venice Beach, or a strip club, so he can see bikini clad women.”
“I vote for Venice Beach.”
“Me, too,” I interrupted with a laugh.
“But let’s back up. I didn’t know about this Halloween party, so how are wehosting it?” He raised an eyebrow, but he was smiling.
“Well, remember I wanted us to have a barbecue? This is it. I need you to help me make a guest list, and you and Tray will be in charge of grilling the main course. What else do you need to know?”
He laughed. “Sook, I realize that you’re used to Bill not lifting a damn finger, but what else can I do to help?”
I shrugged. “We’ll have to clean the house and decorate. Meelz and I are going to do the food. I guess you could help with some of that.”
“I will. Are you sending paper invitations, or is this an email thing?”
“How many parties have you thrown in the past, Mr. Northman?”
“Ha ha. Have you met my mother? She’s the hostess with the mostest, aside from you I’m guessing.”
I laughed. “I can totally see that. I might do it on Facebook, but we’ll probably send paper invitations, too. If you tell me who to invite and give me your address book, I can do that.”
He cleared his throat and raised his eyes to mine. Quietly, he asked, “Do you need money? We haven’t really talked about our finances.”
I hadn’t really thought about it, but some of the party things would end up on my credit card. I wasn’t working full time, and living rent-free with him had helped me not to dip into any of my savings. I bit my lip. “I guess so. I can give you a list of things to buy or something.”
“I can add you to one of my cards or just pay your credit card bill.”
I wrinkled my nose. “That’s weird.”
“No, that’s living with someone who can afford to take care of you. Wait, let me rephrase, someone who wants to take care of you. Team effort, remember?”
“Yeah,” I laughed. “I’ll just give you my bill. You might have to ask me for it.”
He laughed. “I’m sure I will. I love you, Sookie.”
“I love you, too.”
He sighed and climbed out of bed. “And now, I’m going to take a shower and let the hot water pound on my shoulder.”
I smiled after him, having one of those moments where I was amazed at how different my life was now than it had been a year ago, well, two years ago. When I was married to Bill, planning a party consisted of me doing all of the work, and him giving me a list of all the who’s who of Chicago that he wanted to be seen with. There was no talk of helping with the food or invitations, and certainly no discussion about him helping with finances. He put money into our shared account and I budgeted accordingly. It would have been frowned upon for me to even consider asking for more money for what Bill called one of my ‘silly little get togethers.’
I stretched, blissed out from the sex and from the man that Eric was in general, and closed my eyes for an afternoon nap.
Sookie would be busy planning a party while I was planning my own surprise. Well, I hoped it wasn’t too much of a surprise for her. I had called Chris to invite him down and let him in on everything. My parents would come for the Halloween party just because we asked them to, and Sven and Rachel would come because I was paying for their flight, but Chris? He would question everything. He would want to know why we were inviting everyone out for a Halloween party. He would tell me he had plans and ask why he couldn’t he come out some other weekend. It was just easier to let him in on everything from the get go, and he was thrilled.
“Where are you going ring shopping?”
“I’ll go to Tiffany’s. Sookie has a thing about Audrey Hepburn. I’ll be lucky if she doesn’t pass out when she sees the blue box.”
“What do you need me to do?”
“I need you to keep everyone busy until the party actually starts. I’m booking you all at Casa del Mar in Santa Monica , so go to the pool. Or maybe the beach or lunch or something. I’m not telling Sven, and I don’t want mom and dad here when I actually pop the question.”
“Ah, okay. One question, can I bring Zaneta?”
“Shit. Yeah. Of course. That will keep mom busy.”
“That’s not why I’m bringing her.”
“Oh, yeah. I know that. I just meant. Shit. Sorry. This is freaking me out.”
“I’ll say.” He laughed. “Don’t propose if you’re not ready, Eric.”
“I am!” I exhaled. “It’s the rest of it that’s going to stress me out.”
“Then don’t do it at the party.”
“No. It’s perfect. She’s pretending like she’s not homesick over this crazy Halloween parade back in Saugatuck so she’s throwing a party to make herself feel better. She says she’s starting new traditions. I want this Halloween to be special for her.”
“Well, a ring from Tiffany’s will make it special,” he laughed.
“Yeah, it will. Alright. As long as you’re cool with the plan.”
“As far as I know, the plan is keep Sven in the dark so he doesn’t give away any secrets, and keep mom out of your hair.”
“Sounds good. I’ll see you in next month. Call me when you’re hyperventilating in Tiffany’s.”
“I’m taking Sam.”
“Oh good, he’ll bring a paper bag for you to breathe in.”
“You’re not helping.”
“Love you, bro.”
I visited Sam at home one afternoon when we finished shooting early forWestern Sky and told him that I wanted him to come with me to look at engagement rings. He was excited for me, well, us, but promised not to tell Daphne when I asked him to keep quiet. I didn’t think she would say anything, but I didn’t want a lot of people to know before Sookie did.
As we shared a beer, Sam and I talked about the best way to get in to Tiffany’s without a paparazzi fiasco. He eventually he told me to enlist Pam’s help and have Tiffany’s bring the rings to me. On top of that, he suggested having Pam get a list from Sookie of her sizes, including her ring size, for the swag that people liked to give to me.
“You’re a genius, Merlotte.”
“Nope, I’m married man. I’ve learned to be sneaky.”
I laughed. “What does that mean?”
“It means women have really good memories, and they pay attention to details. If you ask her about her ring size, she’ll be on the look out for a ring for the next six months. So you have to find ways around asking what you really want to know, or get someone else to ask when you’re gift planning. Take it from me, lesson learned. Every gift I got Daph for the first few years, she was totally expecting. Now it’s like a game.”
“That’s really kind of crazy, Sam.”
“You live with a woman now, haven’t you noticed that there are a lot of things that are crazy about that?” He shook his head and smiled. “They’re nothing like us, man. Just go with it.”
I called Pam from Sam’s trailer, and she took the news better than I expected.
“I’d say congratulations, but she hasn’t accepted yet, so I’ll hold off.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Pam.”
“You know I’m just fucking with you. She’d be crazy to say no. Oh wait, she did get jacked in the head by that video camera a few months ago.” She laughed. “No really. I’m sure she’ll accept and start shooting babies out of her vagina in no time.”
“Pam, you are disgusting. Anyway, I need your help.”
“Eric, I can’t help you make babies.”
“Shut up!” I laughed, and Sam wondered what the hell we were talking about. “Listen, I don’t want to just walk into Tiffany’s to look at rings. It would be a circus.”
There was quiet on the other end of the phone as she seemed to get serious. “You’re right and I’m impressed as hell that you realized that. Your engagement will be newsworthy and they would chase your ass down for going into Tiffany’s. What do you want? I can call over there and have them bring some things to your place to look at.”
“Could you get him to come to the set? Sookie doesn’t really have a fixed schedule, so it would be hard to do it at the house.”
“Sure. Let me set something up and get back to you.” She paused for a second. “Eric, you know I’m going to have to release it to the press, right?”
“I do. You’ve got time. I’m not going to do it until our Halloween party.”
“Oh, yes. Sookie asked me to save the date.”
I could almost see her making air-quotes, and I couldn’t hold back my laughter. “Well, then you’ll be there for the announcement, and you can release the hounds, I mean, send the press release.”
“Funny. I’ll let you know when I hear back from Tiffany’s.”
“Alright, thanks, Pam.”
“Eric?” I heard her say just before I hit the end button.
“I’m happy for you.”
I hung up and glanced at Sam, who was looking at me expectantly. “We have a plan.”
He raised his beer at me in salute, and I returned the gesture. I smiled, feeling like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. My plan was in motion.
OH! They’re making big plans! Most girls would die for a little blue box, add in the Northman factor? WOW. Maybe Sookie will be the one needing the paper bag! (*Tries to remember that for an upcoming chapter.*)
Thanks again for reading. Reviews are like cookies, or potato chips, or cats for that matter. You can never have enough!
Hotel Casa del Mar exists, here’s the link. I’m sure I may talk more about it when Chris is keeping everyone distracted.