Leap of Faith
Chapter 15: Daddy Mac’s
I woke early in the morning, tangled around Sookie, our hair and limbs entwined. She was wearing silky lingerie, it was an icy blue color that looked amazing against her skin, and I could have killed myself for falling asleep last night. I thought about waking her just to get her naked for a little early morning delight, but I didn’t have the heart to wake Sleeping Beauty. I carefully pulled out of her grasp and went to the kitchen to make coffee.
Listening to the coffee percolate, I made a mental list of the things I needed to do: meet with Thalia, stop at the bank to get into my safe deposit box, meet my lawyer to sign the documents I had asked him to amend, and spend time with Sookie. I waited until there was just enough, and poured myself a hot steaming mug full of caffeine. Enjoying my coffee, I checked the morning news on my laptop.
I took a quick shower and got dressed. Sookie was still sleeping, hugging my pillow, looking adorable and utterly fuckable in that silk. I had to tear my eyes away from her. I left her a note on the breakfast bar, knowing that the sooner I started my day, the sooner I could get back to her.
Thalia wouldn’t be at the bar yet, so I started at the bank. I hadn’t accessed my safe deposit box since I opened the account. I had actually forgotten about a couple of the things I was keeping in there. I picked up the small black box that my father had given me when I turned eighteen. It was the one thing from my father that I was thankful for.
The ring had originally belonged to my great-grandmother, who passed it on to her son, my grandfather Northman. He gave it to my grandmother and she passed it on to her own son, my father. My mother, however, had made it quite clear that she didn’t want a ring that had belonged to anyone else. When he presented it to me, my father explained that no one had worn this ring since my Grandmother Northman had passed away. I felt like a jerk, but I was actually glad that my mother had never worn it. Not that she would have tainted it or anything, but knowing her, she would have had it reconstructed into something else and it wouldn’t have been passed on to me.
It was a beautiful as I remembered; the diamonds sparkling as they caught the light. I hoped that it would fit Sookie’s finger. I had it sized before September Eleventh, but everything had changed for me that day. Closing the box with a snap, I put it in my pocket. I was really going to do it this time, and I felt great about it.
I drove over to meet my lawyer, Bobby Burnham. I knew the documents I needed would be ready after my phone call the previous week. However, I knew better than to assume Sookie and I would be married before I left; there was always something that could go wrong. I asked Bobby to change my will so that everything I had went to Sookie Stackhouse, regardless of our marital status at the time of my death. There would be no question as to who inherited everything: the Vette, the bar, my savings. Pam wouldn’t care, she didn’t want my shit anyway. The only people who were going to be upset about the changes were my parents, and I didn’t want their hands on any of it.
Bobby’s secretary told me that he was just finishing a meeting with a client, and if I could wait five minutes we could get everything taken care of. I called Thalia while I waited, letting her know I was back in town and wanted to sit down with her to check in on the business and decide what needed to be done while I was gone. Bobby opened the door of his office, ushering his client out, and gave me a nod.
“Northman. Good to see you. I’ve got your papers already for you to sign. Come on in and we’ll look them over.” He held the door for me, asking if I was well.
“I’m good. Thanks for making the changes for me. I know it was rather last minute.”
“Not a problem. Not a problem. I do just need to voice my concerns here. Do you know this woman well? I mean, she stands to inherit quite a bit. I don’t want you making these arrangements when you’re not sure of them.”
I laughed. “If all goes as planned, we’ll be married before I ship out. She’s from my past. I think I’ve been in love with her the whole time.” Bobby always had a fatherly way about him, and he was much better at it than my own father.
He smiled. “Then I’m happy for you. I’m sorry if that was intrusive. You’ve just always been such a loner, I worry about you.”
“I know. And thanks. Let’s get these signed. I’ve got a lot to do in the next couple of days.”
He pulled the documents out of a file, with tabbed pages for me to sign. I filled in my name as needed and shook his hand. The secretary copied them for me, and I headed back to the bar to meet Thalia. I glanced at my watch and figured Sookie would be awake, so I called her to let her know I had one more stop to make. She wanted to meet Thalia, so I told her to come downstairs in five minutes and I’d meet her out back.
I parked the car as Sookie opened the door, stepping into the sunlight carrying two coffee mugs: she was a goddess. I took a mug and kissed her long and hard.
“I was sad to wake up and find you gone.”
“I didn’t want to leave. But now I’ve got everything done, so after I talk with Thalia, I’m yours for the rest of the day.” I ran my free hand over her hip and gave her a squeeze.
“Then I guess you’re forgiven.” She patted my ass with her hand and stepped back. “Let’s go meet Thalia.”
We went into the office. Thalia was typing away at the computer with soft music playing. She stood and greeted us, giving me a hug and shaking hands with Sookie. We gave Sookie a quick tour of the bar and then settled into chairs in the office to discuss accounting, staffing and updates. Sookie used the computer at my desk to check her email while Thalia and I mapped out a plan.
Eventually Thalia and I talked about marketing and updating the t-shirts that we were selling in the bar. The shirts we had now were pretty basic, with the name of the bar on the front left breast and the name and logo on the back. They made money, that was the only thing I liked about them. Thalia wanted some kind of catch phrase, that some how related the bar to the Marines with subtlety to increase sales with the Marine crowd. Most of the things Marine’s say are pretty vulgar, so we struggled to come up with anything we could use.
Sookie piped in, “What about something about ‘the tip of the spear’? I mean, isn’t that what they called the Marines in Iraq? And it goes along with the name of the bar.”
It was a great idea. Thalia clapped her hands in excitement and then suddenly, the two women were talking about all of the things that they could sell like guitar picks, can coozeys, key chains and bottle openers. They were making my head spin, I didn’t really care if we had t-shirts let alone the other crap. I read over some invoices and wandered back to the stock room while they plotted and planned. When I came back in the office they were laughing and exchanging phone numbers. I leaned on the door frame, watching them.
Thalia and I talked easily about different items they could sell, and when I looked at Eric for his response, he was gone.
Thalia laughed. “He doesn’t care about the “swag” as he calls it. People around here want to support other Marines and when they found out he was active duty, not retired like most of the Marine businesses, people wanted to buy souvenirs. I came up with the shirt idea, chain places like Hooters do it.”
I snorted at the Hooters comment, wondering if she knew he’d considered the franchise. We talked a while longer, and Thalia had roughed out a plan for designing and ordering the new merchandise. We exchanged phone numbers and talked about getting together in a few months. I was thinking I might come stay at Eric’s place a few times, to feel closer to him, while he was gone. I looked up and there Eric stood, with his hip propped against the door frame watching us.
“Hey,” I said, going over to him and wrapping my arms around his torso. “Did you look at everything you needed to?”
“I think I’m good for today.” He kissed the top of my head and looked up at Thalia. “We’ll talk more later?”
“Of course Eric. Go show Sookie around town.”
He smiled as Thalia, and I said our goodbyes. Eric took my hand and led me outside and around to his apartment. He reached for the door. “I thought you were showing me around town?”
“Tonight. Now I want to grab some lunch and curl up on the couch with you, and I don’t know, watch a movie or something. I just don’t feel like sharing you right now.”
“That sounds really nice.” I stood on my tip toes and kissed him on the cheek.
We headed upstairs and had leftover lasagna for lunch. Afterwords we sat on the couch, and Eric fired up his laptop to show me pictures of his Recon team and some of the places they had been. He’d seen some pretty crazy things, the palace in Baghdad, burning oil fields, and abandoned villages. Most of the pictures though were of his team and other guys goofing around, sitting together under camouflage nets, playing cards, eating food out of MRE packets or cleaning weapons. I was surprised at how happy they looked in most of the photos and I told him.
“Well, we’re pretty serious a lot when we’re on missions, so when we have down time we relax. It’s really strange. I wouldn’t be friends with most of the guys in my unit if we weren’t thrown in together, but now,” he shrugged, “I don’t know what I would do without them.”
“I’m glad you have them.” I truly was. I would hate to think of him over there lonely or depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but seeing that he would have some opportunity to relax, or at least unwind, made me feel much better.
He shut down his computer and put Office Space in the DVD player. I almost told him we could watch something newer, that we didn’t have to watch something we used to watch together, but I did love the movie, so I kept my mouth shut. We stretched out, laughing almost as soon as the movie came on. There were so many funny people in that movie, but Ron Livingston as Peter Gibbons and Stephen Root as Milton Waddams were hysterical. Eventually, Eric stopped beating the actors to their lines, and I heard his breathing even out. Grabbing the remote without waking him, I turned the movie off and closed my eyes as well.
I was hearing music in my dream. It would come and go, like it was playing on the breeze. Then I heard Eric’s scratchy, sleepy voice, “Northman,” and I realized it was the phone.
“Um. Thanks but we have plans tonight. Yeah. Sorry. I’ll call you tomorrow. Sounds good.”
I rolled over, snuggling into his chest. “We have plans?”
“What are we doing?” I was still nuzzled against his chest, so I was really mumbling more than actually talking.
“Fresh seafood, a walk on the beach, and dessert. Sound good?”
“Mmmhm. When are we leaving?”
I felt him move his arm to check his watch. “We’ve got about an hour.”
“Okay. I should go get ready so I’m awake when you want to leave.”
“You want me to make coffee?”
“Mmhm. You know me so well.”
He gave my sides a squeeze and scooted down to kiss me sweetly. It was soft and warm, intimate and slow. Pulling back he slapped my behind and sat up, pulling me into his lap.
“Am I carrying you?”
Taking his face in my hands, I kissed him hard on the lips, “No.” I stood up and made my way into the bathroom to fix my hair.
When my hair was finished, I wandered into the kitchen and grabbed some coffee. Eric was on his laptop doing something and he grinned at me.
“Sundress?” I asked, not sure what kind of restaurant we were going to.
He looked me up and down in my shorts and t-shirt, smirking. “A short one.”
I raised an eyebrow at him and went back in the bathroom. Sexy pervert. I put a little make up on, I still wanted to look natural, and wandered back into the bedroom to find the right dress. I grabbed a sweater and some casual sandals.
Stepping into the living room, Eric grinned at me. “I was thinking shorter.”
I mimicked him. “Smart ass.” He came over and gave me a hug, kissing the top of my head. He had packed a bag and was putting it over his shoulder. “Are we spending the night?” I teased.
“No. Smart ass. We’re going to the beach. I’ve got a beach blanket, a sweatshirt and a couple bottles of water in here.”
I grinned. “I’m just teasing. Don’t get all defensive.” He gave me a strange look and laughed, then he led me out to the car.
We drove about 30 minutes to Surf City on Topsail Island. Eric was telling me about the restaurant we were going to. It was called Daddy Mac’s Beach Grille and he said they had some of the best fresh seafood around. I watched the scenery as we drove and listened to him give me some touristy information about the things we passed.
The restaurant was right on the ocean, the salt air was crisp flowing through the dining room. Eric had asked for a table overlooking the water. Since it was a Monday evening and the restaurant wasn’t too crowded, we were told there was only a twenty minute wait, so we had a drink in the bar. Sipping our cocktails, we listened to the waves, talking about Twinings’ party the next day. Eric told a couple of stories about Jessica and the crazy things she sent to Charles while they were overseas. The worst example was that apparently one time she had sent him dirty underwear and a DVD of herself masturbating. Eric cracked up at the horrified look on my face.
“Seriously, you had to tell me that before we ate?”
He continued to laugh. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think about it. I was just on a roll telling you how crazy she was.”
“And how am I going to keep a straight face when I meet her tomorrow? Wait – he didn’t let you guys watch the dvd did he? Oh my God! That is even worse!”
Thankfully we were distracted by the hostess calling his name so we could be seated. Our table was at the edge of the deck. We could hear the waves crashing even louder now. It was relaxing and beautiful. We looked over the menu, focusing on the seafood. I chose the grilled Mahi Mahi with jerk pineapple salsa, while Eric ordered the Mac Daddy platter of fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, and flounder. I was a little grossed out, it sounded like a heart attack on a plate. He laughed, knowing what I was thinking.
“I only order it once a year Sookie, if that. I don’t think I even made it down here the last time I was home.”
Our food was delicious but Eric surprised me when he didn’t order coffee and dessert.
“We’re having dessert on the beach Bird, come on.”
He ran back to the car to grab his bag, then we walked down the beach. It was romantic walking hand in hand, along the waters edge, with the man I loved. After a while things began to look more private, and he stopped to lay out the blanket. We sat down and looked out at the ocean. The sky was beginning to turn an amazing orange color as the sun started sinking over the horizon.
After a few minutes, Eric pulled two small pouches out of his bag and handed one to me. It took a second, but I figured out he’d given me an MRE, like the ones he would be eating when he left.
“What is it?”
“It’s dessert, Sook. See, fudge brownies.” He took mine back from me and tore it open, pulling out my brownie and holding it up so I could take a bite.
“Mmm. It’s not bad.”
“Nope, but it’s one of the better things we get. Some guys will save them to trade with.”
I laughed. It sounded a little like the middle school lunch room, when someone’s mom had packed them Oreo cookies.
I finished my brownie and waited for him to open his own pouch but instead he moved around to sit in front of me on his knees. He scooted up and took my hands in his. My heart started pounding. I hadn’t seen it coming. He smiled sweetly and began to speak.
“Sookie, I am in love with you. I know that I hurt you in the past, but I think that we have both grown and changed to a point where we’ll be even better together. I want to share my life with you. All of it. I want take care of you, to spend time together and grow old with you. I will be faithful and I’ll protect you with my life. When I sit in the desert sand I will remember us, on this beach, and it will get me through until I can come home.” He pulled a small box from his pocket and opened it, and I could see a ring inside. “Sookie, will you marry me?”
“Yes!” Tears were streaming down my face. “You had me at ‘I’m in love with you.'” Throwing my arms around him, I pulled him into a kiss and then pulled back to let him slide a beautiful antique ring onto my finger. It fit perfectly.
He told me that it had been his great grandmothers ring and his father had given it to him when he turned eighteen. He also told me that he had it sized to fit me when I started school at Tulane with him. The platinum ring was Art Deco style. It looked like there was a miniature Frank Lloyd Wright building holding the princess cut diamond in place. There were three small diamonds flanking each corner of the castle style setting and four more of the gems cascading down each side of the engraved band. I cried some more, whining about the years together we had lost. He kissed me, telling me that today was about our future, not our past. He was right. Pulling me into his arms, he kissed me and then wiped the tears from my face. We sat down, snuggling together with his arms around me, as the sun disappeared from the sky.
An MRE is a Meal Ready to Eat. Food vacuum sealed in a bag.