WOO HOO! Sookie’s in Cali! Yay! Thanks to everyone reading and reviewing. I still can’t get over how much ya’ll love it! It’s been a blast to write, thanks again.
BIG Viking longship sized thanks to my betababes A Redhead Thing andSapfirerose. And a holla to my Canadian brainstorming girl Seastarr08 for helping me work out the kinks with my drag queen.
There are a bunch of links at the end of this chapter, so if you like that kinda thing – take a look.
My heart was pounding as I came down that corridor looking for him. I could see his head over the crowd and the cameras behind him, but as I got closer, I saw that goofy handwritten sign.
The sign was just so, Eric. On the one hand, he had paparazzi watching his every move, but more than anything, he was just a guy, who didn’t think ahead to print something out on the computer, but instead used the back side of some random piece of paper and a Sharpie to make a sign to meet me at the airport.
After laughing at the sign, the rest was a blur. I jumped up and kissed him. I was so happy to see him and feel his hands on me that I didn’t care who saw or took pictures of us. We held hands as we walked towards baggage claim, and I was still a little surprised that it was all real, that I was shipping boxes of my belongings to join me in California to live with my boyfriend, who starred in a hit show on cable and exuded sex appeal. I needed to mentally adjust to my new reality. I had a feeling it might be a bumpy transition, but then Eric raised our joined hands to kiss the back of mine and welcomed me to California, and I knew that we’d be fine.
We picked up my luggage; I had checked three bags and was shipping everything else that I wanted out to California. I knew that I’d go back to Michigan at some point in the next few months, if anything because I would need to close up the cottage for winter, but mostly because I would miss it and everyone there.
Eric led me to his car while he pushed the cart with my luggage. At some point we lost the paparazzi, and I guessed that another celebrity must have landed at the airport. I was a little surprised to see him stopping behind and opening the back of a black Lexus sport utility vehicle. He loaded one of my bags in and saw me looking at him.
“I didn’t know you had this. I remember that you have three Corvettes. I guess it makes sense that you drive something else too, I just didn’t think about it.”
He smiled. “Yeah. I didn’t know for sure how big your bags were, and there’s not much storage in a Vette. I drive the red Vette most of the time, sometimes the black one too, but the blue one is just to look at.”
I snorted. “Really? Just to look at?”
“Well, it’s for special occasions.”
“What is it?”
“A ’67 Sting Ray convertible.” He put my other bags in the car and closed the gate before coming around to open my door.
“Wow.” I didn’t really know much about cars, but I knew that was a nice one.
“I know it’s kind of dumb to have a car you don’t drive. But it’s just been me, so I have a few expensive toys.”
I smiled at him, and he put his arms around me as we stood inside the open door. “You don’t have to defend yourself to me, Eric. I completely understand that you had a life before we met.”
“Where have you been my whole life?” He teased.
I laughed. “I could ask the same question.”
His face turned serious. “I’m so glad you’re here. I can’t wait for you to meet everyone.”
“I can’t wait to meet them.” I stood on my tip toes and gently kissed him, then stepped back. “Take me home?”
“Yeah. Home.” He smiled, and then moved out of the doorway so I could get in before closing the door behind me.
Eric drove us into the hills near Malibu. I tried to take everything in, but I was tired and it was easier to just sit and listen to Eric’s voice as he described things to me. I smiled, thinking how much it reminded me of our road trip in Michigan.
“Here we are,” he said as we pulled into his drive-way, parking in a long garage built into a hill.
The house looked sleek, if that was a word to describe a building. It had long lines, with a white stucco and river rock accented exterior. Even from the back side I could tell that it had a breathtaking view. The garage ran the underneath length of the house and had four stalls.
“Did you buy this house because it had a big enough garage for your toys?”
He looked at me strangely for a second and then laughed, “No. Believe it or not, in this price range, most houses have big garages.”
“Oh. Um, I guess they would.” I hadn’t really thought about that.
“I picked this house because everything had been updated and because of the view. Just wait, you’ll understand.”
He got my bags out of the back of the car and led me up a short stairway to an interior door. We stepped into an open kitchen and family room, and I immediately understood what his brothers meant about it being modern. It wasn’t cold or industrial though. What I could see was full of light colors and clean lines; it felt inviting and comfortable.
The next thing that struck me, were the windows on the far wall. Eric was exactly right, just seeing the view from this one room; I understood why he bought this house. From this vantage point I could see his pool, the hills and the ocean. The blue sky and water met, stretching out as far as I could see.
He chuckled beside me. “There’s more. Come on, I’ll show you the house.”
There was a bedroom suite near the entry door we came through and an open area off the kitchen that held the dining room and a more formal living room. Then he led me down a long hallway that held the bathrooms, bedrooms and an office. Each bedroom had a sliding door that opened onto the pool.
At the end of the hall, he opened a door and said, “And here’s the master bedroom.”
He seemed a little nervous, and it was too sweet for words. I stepped in the door and grinned. The bed was nicely made, which I knew he didn’t usually do, and there was a vase of fresh flowers on the dresser.
He set my bags down and opened the closet. “There’s plenty of room in here for you. And I moved a dresser in here for you from the guest room.”
“Eric,” I sighed. “Thank you so much. This is a fabulous welcome.”
“I know it’s weird, moving across the country to live with me, but I really want you to feel like this is your place to. Whatever you want to change or decorate, just do it.”
“Let me get my clothes put away before I start remodeling, okay?”
He laughed. “Sorry.”
I inclined my head towards the bed and smiled, “Which side do you sleep on?”
He shook his head as he laughed, putting his arms around me. “You know what side I like.” He leaned forward, and his lips brushed my ear. “But I’d rather be inside you.”
“Mmm. Don’t tease,” I whispered.
He carried me to the bed, and it was a long time before either of us slept at all.
I woke in the morning a little disoriented. I wasn’t in my bed. It was early, still dark outside, and I was exhausted. I stretched and took a deep breath. Eric. California. Wow. Eric was wrapped around me from behind like usual, and I gently extracted myself from his arms to go to the bathroom.
Grabbing Eric’s discarded shirt from the floor, I pulled it on and went to the kitchen for a drink before realizing I had no idea where he, or we, I snickered, kept the glasses. I cupped my hand and drank from the faucet, then stood near the windows, enjoying the view over the hills and the water for a second before shivering. I went back down the hall and climbed into bed with Eric again. He immediately pulled me into his arms, mumbling something unintelligible. His breathing relaxed me, and I was back asleep in minutes.
When I woke again, it was to the sound of a doorbell. Again, it took me a minute to remember where I was. Eric was already pulling on pajama pants to see who was at the door.
I glanced at my watch, then pulled the covers back up and wondered who would be at Eric’s door at eight o’clock in the morning. I heard Eric’s feet padding down the hall, and then he climbed back into bed.
“Who was it?”
“Your friend with the magic hands,” he mumbled, already trying to find sleep again.
He sighed. “It’s Lafayette, lover, or Martini, whatever, she’s in a sundress. How does she know where I live anyway?”
I sat up, realizing I was still in nothing but one of Eric’s t-shirts. “What? Oh. I sent her a text last night. Wait. Did you just leave her out there?”
“Yes,” he huffed. “She was carrying a bunch of stuff in and told me to get out of the way so she could fix your booty, or make you a booty. Shit, I have no idea. She was looking at my chest, and it’s just too fucking early for me to dish out snappy comebacks.”
“Bootiful,” I snickered. “She’s here to make me bootiful.”
“You are bootiful. I set the coffee stuff on the counter. I’ll be up in a little bit.”
I kissed his forehead over his already closed eyes and got up to throw on some clothes. I knew better than to take too long, or Martini would end up in bed with us. Although somehow, I also knew that Eric would have been able to laugh about it, whereas Bill would have threatened to wash the sheets.
“Hey you!” I called coming down the hall. There was a makeshift salon set up in the kitchen, and Martini had moved on to making coffee for us.
“Hey, yoself! Mmmm,” she shook her head and gave me a hug. “Did you see what met me at the door? That chest should be bronzed. No, bronze ain’t good enough; he need be dipped in gold. Do you even know how lucky you is, bitch?”
“Are we talking about Eric, or how lucky I am that you’re here to fix my hair?”
“Damn, girl. Both. This is straight up W.T. Yo hair should come with the keys to a damn trailer.”
“Oh my god! It’s not that bad!” I laughed and climbed into the chair that was set up for me.
“Well, it damn close. Who you been lettin’ touch yo hair?”
“I only let Jenna do it, like you said.”
“Well, it look like Jenna been tippin’ somethin back before she do yo hair.”
“I guess it’s a good thing I just moved to California so you can take care of me again.”
A brush ran through my hair and then dropped on the floor.
“Back the motherfucking truck up. Did you jus say what I thought you did?”
“Sweet baby Jay-sus! Do I get to do loverboy’s hair too?”
I laughed, but before I could say anything, Eric answered as he entered the kitchen, “I’ll consider it.”
Martini’s eyes glittered. “I would be honored.”
I almost choked on my coffee as she looked at my boyfriend in reverence. “Hey, I’m your muse today. Make me beautiful.”
“A girl can dream. Now, where was I?”
Eric refilled my coffee cup and poured his own. He had showered and shaved and was wearing khaki shorts and a polo. He sat quietly at the bar for a few minutes watching us.
“I’ll be in the office if you two need me,” Eric said as he started down the hall, and I knew he walked right into that one.
“Oh, don’t go too far. I can tell you right now that I need you,” Martini joked.
Eric chuckled. “On that note, I’ll be locking the door.”
My hair was highlighted, lowlighted, conditioned and cut before we were finished. Then, we went down to the bedroom and while I unpacked, Martini tried to help me decide what to wear to Ben and Jen’s cookout. I was thankful that there was a large arm chair in the room. I don’t think Eric was ready for the squeals of a drag queen when she rolled around on his bed.
We decided on black shorts and a gray tank top with a draped neck made from an almost see through material. I laughed when Martini pointed it out, because I bought it after seeing pictures of Eric at a club in a gray t-shirt made from the same material. We dug through the shoes that I had packed, finding a great pair of little black sandals that were perfect.
We went in the bathroom, and I sat on the toilet seat while she did my make up. It was like old times, in her apartment back in Chicago before we went out with friends. I hadn’t thought about it, but having Lafayette here, or Martini, or whoever she wanted to be on any given day, was already making me feel at home.
When we finished and she pronounced me “bootiful,” she packed up the kitchen and got ready to leave, air kissing each of my cheeks. She made me promise to call with all the details later.
“Eric, Martini’s leaving,” I called out. “Come say goodbye.”
He stepped out of the office and began to say goodbye, but his eyes caught on me, in my cute outfit and professionally styled hair and make up, and I watched his eyes take me in, slowly.
Martini gasped, and her heavily mascara’d eyes pinned me with a jealous look. “You’s so fucking lucky. Damn. Details. Later.”
The door shut behind her, and Eric was closing in on me. “Sookie, you look amazing.”
“Thank you.” I felt my cheeks getting pink.
“I mean, you always look good,” he started to back peddle.
I put my hand on his chest. “I know what you mean. I told you, she’s magic.”
“Seriously. I wouldn’t have thought you could look any better, but, it’s like. I don’t know. You look really great. I’ll shut up.”
We stood, smiling at each other in the hallway.
“I really want to kiss you,” he chuckled. “But I don’t want to mess anything up.”
I snorted. “You can touch everything but my hair.”
“Really?” His eyebrow raised, and I knew I was in trouble. He stepped forward, putting his hands on my waist before sliding them up under my shirt.
“Eric,” I breathed, as his hands cupped my breasts, and his nose slid along my neck.
“I’m not touching your hair,” he whispered before his lips covered mine.
We kissed lazily. My hands went to his waist, sliding around to his amazing ass. I heard myself moan, and then Eric chuckled and ended the kiss, lightly pressing his lips to my forehead.
“Let’s go, lover, before I decide I don’t want to share you with the rest of Los Angeles.”
We took the black Vette to the cook out. Eric had hesitated in the garage, looking wistfully at the red convertible and then at my hair, but it had only been a millisecond, then he waggled his eyebrows at me and opened the passenger door to the black sports car.
We drove to Pacific Palisades, and Eric warned me that they had a $20 million home. He laughed at the look on my face; I couldn’t even imagine what I must have looked like. There were some nice homes in Chicago, like the Obama’s, but even the mansions on the Gold Coast or the North Shore weren’t that expensive.
“But really, they’re pretty normal people.”
“No really. They pick the kids up from school themselves, and Sam said this party last year was totally laid back. It’s probably like a cook-out you’d go to at Amelia and Tray’s.”
That made me laugh out loud. I appreciated his trying to prepare me for the ‘Hollyweirdness.’ I looked over at him, “I won’t embarrass you.”
“Oh my god. Shit. I didn’t mean that.”
I laughed. “Oh, no. I didn’t think you did. I mean, I’m okay. I can’t wait to meet Sam and Daphne, and Ben and Jennifer too. But I don’t think this will be anything like a cook-out at Amelia and Tray’s house. I highly doubt that Ben’s brother is going to get drunk and pee in the bushes.”
It was Eric’s turn to laugh. “I haven’t met Ben’s brother, but I’d have to guess he’ll be there. I’ll let you know if I see him stagger towards the bushes.”
“Thanks. Oh, and just so you know, I googled it. Jen changed her last name to Affleck.”
“Ooh. You’re good. Pam will like that you remembered to find out. She’s the one that usually gives me little tidbits like that. What else should I know?”
“If you see a golden retriever, her name’s Martha Stewart.”
“Violet and Seraphina. Please tell me you knew that much.”
“I did,” he laughed. “I was making sure you knew!”
We turned into a winding driveway and Eric raised a hand in hello to a security guard who waved us on when he recognized saw who was in the car. When we pulled up to the front of the house, a valet had opened the door for me, before Eric could come to around to my side. I climbed out and Eric came around the back of the car to take my hand. He raised an eyebrow at me, silently asking if I was ready, and we walked up the steps into the house.
There were a few people inside, they nodded hello to us, but it was clear that the party was in the back yard area. We walked through the open doors onto the patio, and there were more people milling around than I expected, and several groups of kids playing in the yard.
Someone called Eric’s name, and I have to admit, my heart beat a little faster when I realized that it was Sam, who was standing with Ben and several other men that I didn’t recognize.
Eric raised his chin, acknowledging them and began leading me through the groups of people on the patio. As we got closer to them, he squeezed my hand, and I grinned as I squeezed him right back.
“Sam, Ben. Good to see you!”
“Eric, glad you could make it,” Ben answered and shook Eric’s hand, then he smiled at me and I melted a little. “You must be Sookie. Jen was excited that you were coming, she has restaurants she wants to take you to for your blog.”
“Oh, well. That would be fun,” I managed to stammer and I felt Eric’s hand rubbing the small of my back.
I smiled sweetly as a million thoughts ran through my head, and the scene continued to unfold around me. Ben knew my name. Jen wanted to meet me. Sam Merlotte was saying hello to us.
Eric kissed the top of my head and chuckled, knowing I was overwhelmed. “Thanks for inviting us, Ben.”
Us. I wanted to giggle, he hadn’t invited us, he’d invited Eric, but now we were a package deal. I took a deep breath and prayed that I could relax.
Eric continued, “Hey, Sam. Where’s Daph?”
Ben had turned to the other men he was standing with, and their group slowly drifted away. It was probably better that way; I needed a little time to get my bearings.
Sam pointed to a petite woman who was walking towards us with light brown hair. She was carrying two bottles of beer, one of which she raised in a little salute towards us.
“Sookie!” Her voice was sweet and had a southern accent. “I’m so glad you’re here!”
“I’m glad I’m here, too!” I joked before really thinking about it and everyone laughed. “It’s nice to meet you and Sam. Eric has told me a lot about you.”
“Oh, honey, you have no idea how happy I was when Eric told Sammy that you two were really dating. Eric has been clueless when it comes to finding a girlfriend.”
“Hey! That’s not true.” He laughed.
“Really?” she continued, teasing him. “Your mother set you up on your last date.”
“Awww,” I chuckled. “It’s hard to meet people, and being a celebrity, it must be worse.”
“Exactly.” He was still trying to defend himself. Then quietly, he said, “But, I managed to find you.”
I kissed his cheek. “We found each other.”
Sam made a gagging noise while Daphne grinned. I realized we were being sickly sweet, and Eric must have as well because we both laughed at the same time.
“So, who’s here that Sookie needs to meet? She’s looking for Matt Damon.”
I slapped his arm, but saw Daphne’s face light up.
“Yeah. They’re not here yet. They were here last year. I’ll let you know when I see them.”
Eric and Sam groaned, and I knew that Daphne and I would be good friends. She was still absently holding the two beers, and handed me one with a smile. The guys wandered off in search of their own drinks, while Daphne and I leaned on the patio wall getting to know each other.
She and Sam were from a small town in Louisiana and after a little bit, she said, “Honey, don’t let this celebrity stuff get to you. I did at first, but at the end of the day, they’re all just people. Well, people with a shit load of money,” she laughed. “But they’re like Sam and Eric. Mostly they just want to be treated like anybody else. Some of them are complete assholes because of the way the adoring public fawns over them, and you just have to let it go. It’s like in anything else in life, there are always a couple of bad apples, if you know what I mean.”
“Thanks. I’m still a little amazed by the attention that Eric gets, but it comes with him, and so I’ll figure it out. Today though, more than anything, I didn’t want to embarrass him.”
“Sugar, you’re not three sheets to the wind with your boobies hanging out. I wouldn’t worry about embarrassing him.”
We talked for a long time, and I was thankful to have met her and found someone I felt comfortable with in California right away, well, besides Lafayette. I could see Eric and Sam in the distance talking with Jimmy Kimmel and Jon Favreau on the other side of the patio. I would have loved to know what they were talking about. I thought they were hysterical on their own.
Daphne appreciated my commentary as I took in the celebrities and their families on the lawn. She gave me little tidbits of information about them when she could, and even introduced me to Reese Witherspoon.
I looked around the yard and it was like, an interesting mix of thirty-something Hollywood, and I was still a little awed to be in the middle of it. Molly Simm’s and Jessica Alba were sitting together talking quietly. Chris O’Donnell and his family were playing Bocce with Jason Bateman’s family, and Ben’s brother Casey was sitting with his wife and kids eating lunch. I snickered and told Daphne about the conversation Eric and I had earlier. She laughed, saying she wouldn’t put it past Casey to pee in the bushes, but not until much later in the evening when it got down to close friends and family.
After a bit, Jennifer Affleck came over and introduced herself, thanking Daphne and me for coming. I kept my fangirl nerves in check and only told her how much I loved her show Alias once. She chuckled, and thanked me, then told me that she was a big fan of my blog.
I had a million questions. When did she start reading it? How did she find out about it? Had she gone to any restaurants I’d reviewed? What kind of food did she like? Did she like to cook? Or did she simply appreciate good food?
I knew better than to ask everything I was thinking. I thanked her profusely and asked how she had found out about the blog. She laughed, saying that her assistant had googled me after Eric had RSVP’d, and she’d ended up spending hours reading through my blog. Another guest called her name, but before she walked away, she told me that she had some restaurants that she would love to take me to. I nodded vigorously, telling her I’d love to go and over her shoulder she said she would call me.
I turned to Daphne, wide eyed and giddy with excitement, and she smiled back. “See, Sookie. They’re just people.”
Eric and Sam eventually came over to join us, and they each introduced me to some friends that worked on their respective shows. We moved over to the food tent that was set up on the lawn and had something to eat. When we finished eating, Daphne challenged the guys to a game of Bocce.
I had only played a couple of times before, and it was always after Amelia had fed me several drinks, so it took me a few throws to get warmed up. We were enjoying ourselves, laughing and talking when Daphne elbowed me to point out Matt Damon. We giggled, and Eric shook his head when he realized who we were looking at.
The afternoon slipped away as we mingled with the other guests and continued visiting with Sam and Daphne. Ben and Jen chatted with us a couple more times, and Don Cheadle came over and introduced himself to the four of us, telling the guys that he watched their shows. Eric and Sam got all excited when he walked away, talking about his best performances, and I couldn’t let it go without teasing Eric a little.
“Who’s the fangirl now?”
Eric laughed, with a smile stretched across his face. “Sookie, it was Don Cheadle. He so deserves fangirling over.”
“God, yes,” Sam joined in. “I mean, Hotel Rwanda, Crash, Reign Over Me. Amazing.”
“Talk to Me, Boogie Nights,” Eric interrupted.
“Not to mention Basher Tarr from the Ocean’s Eleven movies. He’s awesome.”
“Boys, relax!” Daphne said while we grinned at their excitement. She leaned her head towards mine. “Whatever you do, don’t bad mouth John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.”
Sam barked a laugh, then reached over and pulled her into a headlock before rubbing her scalp with his knuckles.
Eric chuckled and took the opportunity to pull me into his arms for a gentle kiss.
The sun was setting when we finally made our way back through the house to the car. Daphne and I exchanged phone numbers, and she promised to show me around town soon. We said goodbye to the Merlotte’s and climbed into Eric’s car.
As we pulled down the driveway, Eric joined our hands and gave mine a little squeeze. “You made it through your first Hollywood party.”
“I did,” I chuckled, oddly proud of myself.
“Well, Miss Stackhouse, I believe I promised you a hot dog. I thought I would take you to Pinks.”
I laughed, remembering the night he asked me to come to L.A. for Fourth of July. I still had amnesia then, and he had been telling me that I liked Chicago dogs.
“Eric, you don’t ever need to ask if I want you to give me hot beef.”
I seriously thought he was going to drive off the road because he was laughing so hard. When he recovered, he shook his head at me, grinning.