Sookie was still laughing, tears running down her face. I sat down on the bar stool next to her, waiting for her to stop. I didn’t know what was all that funny about Sam trying to get me to call her.
She tried to quit laughing, “Wait. Just a second.” Catching her breath, she wiped her eyes. “Ohmygod. That is so funny. Can you imagine?” She laughed again. “If you had called me out of the blue? I would have thought it was a joke and hung up on you! Why would you ever call me?”
“You would have hung up on me?” I smirked. She had such a good sense of humor.
“God yes. It would be just like one of my friends to try to pull something like that over on me; to have someone pretend to be you. They all know I watch your show.”
“Well then, oddly, I’m a little bit glad that that damn camera man knocked you out.”
“I think oddly, I am too. I just wish he hadn’t taken my memories with him.”
I sighed and was about to speak, but she continued before I could say anything.
“No, don’t apologize again. You’re right. It’s going to be okay. It’s just going to take some time, I’m just glad I’m not alone.”
We grinned at each other foolishly. I had been looking forward to our three weeks. But the thought that we such limited time bothered me. Walking away from her wasn’t appealing at all. Fuck. I was going to have to think about that.
I tucked some hair behind her ear. “Do you want to go back outside for a while?”
“Would you mind? I mean, you’re from California, you have this weather most of the year, but here, tanning weather doesn’t last that long.”
“It’s fine. Should we call Amelia to find out what the plan is tonight?”
“We’ll have to find out what time they want to meet. But it’s Saturday, so I’m sure we’re going to dinner at Phil’s and then to Coral Gables for drinks and dancing or whatever. Do you dance? We could skip that.”
She had done it again, remembered something and had no idea about it. I didn’t want to point it out.
“Sure, I like to dance, but you realize it will be a little crazy if we go to a club.”
She cocked her head at me as if she didn’t understand. I would love to go back the days when I could go to a dance club, or anywhere else, without attracting the press.
“The media will find out where we are and be there. They’ll probably wait for us outside the restaurant and follow us to the bar.”
“Oh. Yeah, that might be crazy. Well, we’ll just tell Tray to call his brother this afternoon and figure out some way to keep them out of the club.”
It was my turn to look at her strange. How was Tray’s brother going to keep people out of the club?
“Is he the bouncer?”
“No, silly. The owner.”
“Well, that would help.”
It was pretty standard not to have the paparazzi follow you into a club, but she seemed pleased that she could help, so I wasn’t going to mention it. The problem with clubs, restaurants, movie theaters, public streets, airports, and, well everywhere, was that most people carried a camera phone these days. Every single thing I did could be captured on film, well, digital. I didn’t like living in the fishbowl, but I’d grown accustomed to it, as much as I could, but she was probably going to have a rude awakening tonight. The group at the end of her driveway this morning had been tame.
“Do we need to go back to your place before we go out?”
“Nope. I brought a change of clothes. Let me call Amelia now and we can head back out to the beach.”
I looked through the books on the side table, hoping to find one I might want to read, while she spoke to her friend. Sookie was laughing at something Amelia said and I glanced over, just to get a glimpse of her face. She had this amazing smile and when she laughed her whole face lit up. When our eyes met, she winked at me. I smiled and shook my head, she really was adorable.
“Alright Amelia, we’ll see you at seven. Tell Tray thanks for calling Remy. Okay. Bye.” She ended the call and grinned at me. “You were checking me out.”
I threw my head back and laughed. “Indeed I was. You’re easy to look at.”
“You’re not so bad yourself. Let’s head outside so you can take your shirt off and I can look at your chest again.”
What had gotten into her? She was flirting and teasing, and it was, well, hot. There really wasn’t another word for it. I was in serious trouble. And now we were going outside to put more sunscreen on each other. Fuck me.
Apparently Sookie had thought about sunscreengate as well. This time, she stood behind me to apply the lotion. Her hands felt great as they moved across my shoulders and back, but it was nothing like the erotic rub down she’d given me in the morning. We switched places and I squirted cold lotion on her skin, making her jump.
“Hey! I warmed it up in my hands for you!”
“Oh, was that cold?” I teased, massaging the sunscreen into her skin.
“Paybacks are a bitch Northman. Just remember that.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I whispered in her ear as my hands slid up her ribcage to brush the sides of her breasts.
She whipped her head around to look at me with wide eyes. Hey, she started it when we were inside. I patted her on the shoulder with a wink and headed to my chair.
We soaked in the sun, reading our books, and the afternoon drifted slowly by. Sookie let out a loud sigh and I saw her shift in her chair out of the corner of my eye. She set her book down and caught me watching her, again.
“Are you ready to go in? I could stay out here all day, but I don’t want to burn.”
“Sure.” I started to gather my things. I could have stayed outside forever if I got to keep looking at her in that bikini. She stood and tied the sarong around her waist; it left a thin line of skin visible down her hip and thigh, and I wanted to run my finger down it. What the hell? Did I have heat stroke or something? I needed to get my shit together before I scared the crap out of her.
“Why don’t you grab a shower Sookie? Then we’ll have some time to relax before we need to leave.”
I needed a few minutes alone to clear my head of the dirty thoughts I’d been having about her all day. I had a bad feeling it was only going to get worse as the night wore on, especially since it would include alcohol and dancing. Yup. It was going to get worse.
I helped her get the rest of her things and followed her inside carrying our towels. She took over the guest bathroom and I wandered onto the deck so there was yet another door between me and her naked body in the shower.
What scared me the most, was that I wasn’t afraid of getting involved with her; I was afraid of scaring her off. I was only here for a short time. Getting attached to her was the dumbest thing I could do. And unfortunately, it was too late. She was everything that had been missing in my life and I knew it. I also knew that I had to be back to work in three weeks, staying here wasn’t an option.
Drying off from the shower, I found some lotion on the counter and smoothed it over my arms and legs. Wrapped in a towel, I checked the drawers and cabinets for a hair dryer, but couldn’t find one. I remembered seeing one in Eric’s bathroom the previous morning, so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I borrowed it.
As soon as I stepped into the hallway, I heard the shower running in the master bath. I hesitated, but then felt my feet moving me towards the door. I knocked and waited, but didn’t hear a response, so I tried again. Still nothing. I could go in and not look, right?
Biting my lip, I turned the door knob. The door made that popping noise from the pressure or whatever as it opened. “Eric? Um. I’m going to just grab the hair dryer, okay?”
His hair was covered in shampoo suds as he poked it out of the shower curtain. “Sookie?”
“Hey, I need the hairdryer. I’ll only be a sec.”
I tried to smile sweetly, but I had suddenly realized he was naked behind the curtain and I was mortified. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could and I wanted to rip open the shower curtain to ogle him, at the very least. My pulse spiked and felt hot and clammy as I hustled into the room, I’m sure it was all because of the steam from the shower. He was back behind the curtain, and I was hurrying to leave the room before I did something I’d regret.
Oh shit. I should have waited til he was done to get the hairdryer. “What?”
“Since you’re in here -”
OH MY GOD! My feet froze.
“Grab me a washcloth?”
“Um. Ah. Sure.” I looked around, but didn’t see a washcloth anywhere.
“Sookie, I’m kidding.”
“Oh. OH! That wasn’t very nice. I’m going now.” His laughter followed me out the door.
I grabbed the hairdryer and got the hell out of there. He was still flirting with me. I mean, he kissed me, and then there was the sunscreen, oh, the sunscreen, but I really was thinking it was a fluke. I mean, what could he see in me? He was, well, he was Eric Northman. He was gorgeous, kind, gracious, caring, and famous – and those were just the first five words I thought of to describe him. I, on the other hand, was a nobody; an average middle American with a couple extra pounds, an ex husband and, shit, amnesia, so I don’t even know what else. With a sigh, I walked quickly back to the guest bathroom to dry my hair, hoping the noise of the dryer would drown out the voice in my head trying to convince me that Eric Northman actually liked me.
When I came downstairs, Eric was standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of water. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed and I was mesmerized. He was wearing a Polo shirt with khaki shorts and Teva sandals. I couldn’t drag my eyes from him.
He set his glass down and looked over at me, waggling his eyebrows. “Were you checking me out?”
I smirked. He really was irresistible. “I was. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. You owed me anyway.” He walked over, running his hands down my arms, and I shivered. I had to tilt my head back to meet his eyes, he was looking down at me, but now he had a serious look on his face.
“You do realize that this could get messy?”
Putting my arms around his neck, I tried to play dumb. “What’s that?”
His arms went around my waist. “This. Us. It’s not going to end well.”
I frowned. “What makes you think there’s an us?”
He bent his head, his lips caressing mine, and I heard a soft moan come from my chest as his tongue gently slid into my mouth. The kiss was soft and warm, our mouths slow dancing, as his hands sifted through my hair. He lightly scraped my bottom lip between his teeth, and then leaned his head back.
“That’s what makes me think there’s an us.”
“Since you put it that way, you’re probably right.”
He chuckled, shaking his head at me. “What are we going to do?”
“Eric, my divorce was final two days ago, the same day I got hit in the head and lost my memory. Can you just let me enjoy this?”
“You’re enjoying it?”
“I’m not sure. Kiss me again and then I’ll tell you.”
I heard him mutter, “Vixen,” as his lips found mine again.
The sweetness in the kiss was fast becoming something else entirely, and I pulled away, not quite ready for everything I was feeling. Leaning my head against Eric’s chest I hugged him and tried to lighten the mood. “Yup. Enjoyed it.”
“Thanks for the clarification.”
Without looking up at him, I tried to explain what was going on in my head.
“Eric, I know you’re worried about me, but I don’t want to try to figure this out. Can we just enjoy tonight and talk about it later? I’m not going to lie and say I’m not attracted to you or scared of all of this, but I just don’t want to worry about it tonight.”
“Hey.” His hand was under my chin, tilting my head so I had to look at him. “I can agree with all of it except the scared part. Don’t be scared.”
It came out as a whisper, and I hoped that he understood everything that I meant. I was trying to hold my fear at bay, to remember myself, and to not think about all of the questions I had about us. His arms tightened around me and I sighed. “We should probably head to town before I turn into a blubbering idiot.”
“I’m joking. I do that, I think. Damn it.”
He sat on the edge of the bar stool so we were eye level. “I don’t want you to be upset.” His hands smoothed up and down my arms.
I smoothed some hair off his forehead.
“I’ll be okay. I just don’t want to think about it tonight.”
He nodded and put a hand to my cheek. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was silent. He stood, taking the car keys from the counter and reached a hand out to me.
I picked up my purse and glanced at my beach bag, then back at him.
“Should I bring that?”
Raising an eyebrow, he looked me, but still didn’t say anything. I looked at the bag again, like it was going to give me an answer. It didn’t, but Eric finally did.
“Sookie, you can take it if you want, but if you’re sleeping here, you don’t need to bring it.”
“Am I? Sleeping here?”
“I’d like you to.”
“You’d like me to sleep here?”
“Sookie. I thought we weren’t talking about this.” He reached out and took my hand. “I want you to stay here. I don’t care if you sleep with me or in the guest room. I don’t really care if we sleep at all. I’m a patient man. This is up to you. Okay?”
I was trying to take things slow and not get overwhelmed by all of this. I didn’t know what to make of my emotions. I was attracted to him, I liked him as a person, but did I feel such a strong connection to him because he took care of me when I didn’t remember anything? It was a nagging question in the back of my mind, a sliver of doubt that added to the pile of doubt saying that he couldn’t possibly like me. In no time he would be leaving me here when he returned to Los Angeles. When he said things like that, ‘I want you to stay here,’ and ‘this is up to you,’ the doubt started to slide off the pile. Hell, if he kept looking at me like that I was going to kick the pile of doubt over and forget about it.
“Let’s go meet your friends. You’re right. We don’t have to figure this out right now.”
He tugged at my hand and I stepped towards him, away from the bag. I think we both knew that a decision had been made.
Downtown Saugatuck was busy since the film festival was still wrapping up. We found a parking spot closer to the bar than the restaurant, but since that was our final destination, it would be fine. He opened the door to let me out of the car, and I saw heads turn as people tried to decide if it was really Eric Northman or not. Eric acted like he didn’t see them, although I noticed a stiffness in his smile that hadn’t been there back at the house.
We headed around the block to the restaurant, and Eric walked close to me, with his hand on my lower back. The streets were crowded, so several times he ended up walking behind me, moving his hand to my shoulder. We stepped into the restaurant, and it took a second for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. It was always kind of dark in Phil’s, and as usual it was pretty busy, but if I knew Amelia, she’d already staked out a table and was holding court with other locals.
A waitress smiled and said, “Sook, she’s in the back.”
I nodded, a little surprised, she knew me, and I had no idea who she was. As I led him through the restaurant people were blatantly staring again, and I felt awful for Eric. A couple of women were actually pointing, and I wanted to yell at them that he was a person just like them. Luckily the restaurant wasn’t very big and we found Amelia tucked in the back corner talking to a waitress. Bless her for getting us privacy. Then I realized Eric probably wasn’t used to being hidden.
“Is this okay? We can get another table if you want.”
“Are you kidding? This is great. I’m sitting in the corner so I know there’s no one sneaking up behind me with a camera phone.” He was grinning like a kid on Christmas.
I shook my head and stepped aside to let him slip behind me. His chest rubbed across my back, and I had to bite my lip to hold in a sigh. Then he sat down and slid along the bench to the corner seat. Amelia gave me a knowing look, and I tried to glare back, but it didn’t work with the shit-eating grin that was plastered on my face.
I sat down next to Eric, and he put a hand on my thigh under the table. I was screwed. We were going to drink tonight, and I had no idea what my tolerance was or how I tended to act when I was drunk. I had a bad feeling Amelia wasn’t going to do me any favors and tell me; if anything she wanted me wasted and in bed with Eric sooner than later.
Tray arrived, but it took him a while to make it to the back where we were seated. The man had to stop and talk to half of the restaurant. I explained to Eric that it was totally normal, Tray did it all the time. Amelia giggled, and I realized I’d remembered something else. Why couldn’t I remember something useful? Like how many gin and tonics were just enough for me? Stupid amnesia.
Tray greeted Eric with a nod and gave me a kiss on the cheek before sitting next to Amelia. A waitress brought us menus and three of us looked them over, Amelia never opened hers. I looked over the top of the pages at her. “What are you getting?”
“Same thing I always get.”
“That would be?”
“Scallop pad thai.”
“Ooh! That sounds good!” I read over the menu, but I kept coming back to the pad thai. I glanced up and realized both of the Dawsons were watching me. “What?”
“You always order the same thing here, so we’re wondering if you remember,” Amelia said for both of them.
I read over the menu again and looked at them with uncertainty. “I really want the pad thai. Do we order the same thing?”
I looked at Eric.
“Is that weird?”
He shrugged. Why was I asking him? He didn’t know what I ordered here.
Tray laughed and put up a hand to give me high-five. “That’s it Sook! You two always get the pad thai, and then you both take home leftovers. I’ve been trying to tell you to split an order of it for years, but you actually want the leftovers.”
We ordered dinner, two orders of pad thai and two burgers, along with a round of drinks. While we waited for our food, we talked about where I should take Eric during our road trips and what we needed to do around Saugatuck before he left. Then we drifted to small talk, Amelia and Tray reminisced about things we’d done in the past which usually led to peels of laughter. Eric told a couple of stories about him and his brothers and even confirmed some Hollywood gossip for us.
Eric had taken his hand off my leg to read the menu but, it was again resting on my thigh and his thumb was making slow circles. I took his hand in mine and leaned over towards him.
“What are you doing?” I asked quietly, trying to avoid Amelia’s ears.
He smirked. “Nothing.”
I gave him a look that said I knew he was full of shit, keeping his hand in mine as I turned back to the conversation. We had a great meal, and were just finishing up when the first person came to ask for Eric’s autograph. She was polite, even apologizing for interrupting, and he pulled his hand from mine to graciously sign a napkin for her. After the fourth person came over, he exhaled loudly, but still was cordial and signed whatever it was they handed him. Catching Tray’s eye, I inclined my head toward the door, letting him know I wanted to leave, and he went to find the manager so we could pay our tab.
We had settled the bill and I started to slide out from behind the table when Eric grabbed my hips, stopping me. His mouth was right next to my ear.
“Thank you for trying to help. You do realize it’s going to get worse tonight though, don’t you?”
I squeezed one of his hands. “I know.”
“If you get uncomfortable we’ll go home. Just tell me.”
Smirking to myself that he had said we’d go ‘home,’ I nodded and his grip on me loosened. I stood up and waited for him. He got out up and gave me a smile that women would kill for and took my hand, leading me through the restaurant. I guessed that he didn’t mind if anyone saw us or took pictures, I certainly didn’t care at that point. The man was treated like a zoo animal every time he went out in public and he was worried about me being uncomfortable. Unbelievable. And absolutely sexy.
We stepped out of the restaurant and it was deja vu. There were video cameras and flash bulbs popping and questions being hurled from all directions. I was so shocked that I tripped on my own feet and Eric’s body came flush against my back. He moved quickly, his arm went around my waist and his head bent, hiding his face, as he led me through the throng repeating, “No comment. Excuse us.”
When he had extricated us from the spiderweb of media we found Tray and Amelia at the street corner. I felt his body relax, but only slightly. We both knew they were behind us and that unless we left now, the same thing would happen when we left the bar later. It was amazing to me that people even cared to see pictures of him leaving a restaurant, but I knew that I had looked at similar pictures of him in the past, so I couldn’t really be that surprised or pissed.
“That is unreal.”
“I tried to tell you, Sookie, and that was still pretty tame. We can go whenever you want to. If you don’t want to deal with that again we can just go back to the house.”
“Oh hell, no Eric.” I grinned at him. “They are not ruining this night for me.”