We work together almost daily for the next three months. Once the first frost hits at the beginning of November, we have to cut back a little. We bale the hay, preparing for the winter ahead and Sookie looks into breeding Candy again after the New Year. We take the horses out to get a closer look at the property and take an inventory of things that we can work on despite the cold, like fences.
With a little more time on my own, I take the time to go into town and explore a little. Sookie calls in an order for lumber and I take my truck to pick it up. I meet my new old friend Mike in the lot at Lowe’s and load the order into the bed. I decide to stop and fill up the tank before heading home. As I head down the twisty back roads I see a blue Mini Cooper on the side of the road with a black convertible top. Standing in front of it is an incredibly hot blond looking like she’s… yelling at the car? I pull over to the side and roll down my window. “You need some help?”
“This Goddamn car ran over some fucking thing and now I have a fucking flat,” she yells, still in the general direction of the car, and kicks the tire. She starts hopping, swearing even more. I see she’s wearing terribly impractical heels and her front passenger side tire is indeed flat. I can tell with one look she doesn’t have the slightest idea how to fix it.
“Do you have a spare? I can change it for you,” I offer. She shrugs and pops the trunk, continuing to curse under her breath. It’s really kind of cute.
I figure out the complicated system of releasing the spare from the underside of the car and jack it up. The whole time I’m on the ground, I can’t help but think that American cars are so much easier. I get everything put back together and dust my hands off on my jeans. I tell the driver that she should head into town to get a new tire ASAP since the spare is only a short term fix and that she really shouldn’t go faster than thirty-five until it’s replaced.
She calms down by the time I’m done and introduces herself, apologizing for her initial rudeness. “Pamela Ravenscroft. Everyone calls me Pam, though.” She runs a hand through her platinum hair and smiles. It doesn’t quite reach her eyes, but she’s trying.
After almost four months of hanging out with my aunt and uncle, or Sookie, I’m kind of craving some younger company ─ not that Sookie is stuffy and old or anything. She’s just older, and besides the farm and the horses, it just doesn’t seen like we have all that much in common. I suck it up and try to chisel my way out of my own shell ─ just a little. I swallow a couple of times nervously and ask, “So can I take you out for dinner this weekend?”
This time, the smile reaches her blue eyes. They’re the color of blueberries, almost purple. “I’d like that. Maybe I can get your name so I know who I’m giving my number to?”
Shit. I have no idea how to talk to girls ─ especially ones that look like Pam. “Sorry. I’m Eric Northman.” I pull out my cell to get her number. She takes it from my hand and sends a text to her phone so we have each other’s numbers. Once she gets back in her car and drives off ─ slowly, like I told her ─ I get back in my truck and head home, thinking about where around here I can take her.
I pull up to the barn and start unloading the lumber from the bed of my truck before heading to the house to clean up. Even though the work load is lighter, Sookie still cooks like a demon ─ not that I’m complaining. The smells of whatever she’s cooked for dinner hit me right as I walk through the door.
“Honey, I’m home,” I call out when I walk in after getting cleaned up upstairs. It’s one of the little things we started doing once we started splitting up the work load and doing jobs separately during the day. Just a cute way to keep from catching each other in… less than opportune moments.
“Can you come in here? I want you to taste something,” Sookie calls from the kitchen. Since I started working here, along with my farm duties, I am also apparently chief taste-tester. I head into the kitchen and see a huge freaking pot sitting on the stove. “I took some of the cans of tomatoes and green beans and some leftover veggies and chicken from the fridge. I didn’t want to waste the food, so I chopped it all up and threw them in together. I want to see how my first attempt at homemade soup is working.”
She hasn’t made a single thing that I haven’t liked yet, so I grab a spoon and taste it. With the exception of needing a little salt, it’s perfect and I tell her so. She beams, fills two bowls, and takes them to the table. She already had it set with a little basket of homemade bread and crackers. She tells me about some of the sires she’s looked into for Candy and I tell her about my impromptu job as a mechanic on the side of the road.
With my mind on that, I ask Sookie about places I could take Pam out to eat. She’s known this area forever and knows it better than I ever will; her smile falters for a split second before brightening again. She tells me about a few places in town that have good food and good prices, although, now that I have room and board covered, money is pretty far down on my list of worries. I tell her I’ll think over her suggestions and head back up to my floor to rest and call Pam.
What the hell? Come on, Sook. You have absolutely no right feeling jealous that Eric wants to hang out with someone besides you. He wasn’t even in high school when you were graduating college. Get a grip and get over it.
I couldn’t help but feel a little lonely when Eric told me about wanting to take this girl – Pam – out to dinner. I’m slightly ashamed that the thought that he might want company besides me hadn’t even occurred to me. I’ve been spoiled having him around every day for company. Sure we had our differences: he preferred rock to country, I would choose comedy over action every time, but they were just little things. I even opened up to him, just a little, about Remy. It’s completely wrong of me to begrudge him this date. But damn it, I don’t want him leaving me here all alone.
I grab some zipper bags and put the remainder of the soup in them to freeze for later on. I take my time cleaning up the kitchen since I really don’t have anything else to do. I grab a beer from the fridge and lay out on my couch. I have the TV on, but I’m not paying attention. I feel like I did all those months I was living here alone, and I really, really don’t like it.
Giving up on the idea that the television will occupy me, I grab the folders I have on sires I’m considering for Candy and head to bed. Some of the mating fees are ridiculous, but someone must be willing to pay them. Palomino quarter horses in this area are rare, so if we get a male foal off her with her coloring, we’ll be able to recoup any money we spend on our own stud fees.
Wait. We? Our? It’s been three damn months and I already consider this farm a joint venture. Eric’s put just as much work into this as I have, only he’s being paid to care. I don’t think that matters all that much though. I can tell by the enthusiasm he puts into his work that he’s not here just for the paycheck. I’m pretty sure he can see the potential here for great things… just like I can.
I’m too damn distracted to concentrate on anything. I don’t know why this upsets me so much! I toss the folder to the side and turn out the lamp next to the bed. I know sleep will be slow coming, but at least I’ll be ready for it when it arrives.
I head to the college campus to pick up Pam on Saturday night. I’ve heard about Ippy’s, one of the restaurants Sookie mentioned, even though I’ve never been there. Pam and I talked a few times during the week and I told her it was casual. I’m not really a dress-up, suit wearing kind of guy. I can count the number of times I’ve worn a tie on the fingers of one hand. She still walks out of her dorm hall in an amazing dress that shows off all her features to her advantage and the heels I’m now realizing are a permanent part of her wardrobe, no matter what she’s wearing. I help her up into the cab of my truck and we head into town.
We make small talk during the drive, but as soon as we’re seated, I can tell this is going to go downhill, and fast. Before our drink orders are taken, she already has her phone out and is responding to the multiple texts that her sorority sisters are sending her. She laughs out loud numerous times. She rudely dismisses the server when she tries to simply do her job and tell us about the specials. I try to make conversation after she finally puts the damn phone down, but she continues to show me how much of a mistake this date is. Her glass has one little water spot, she sends it back. Her salad has too many croutons; she sends it back. Her prime rib is too rare – at medium, as she requested – she sends it back. When it comes back at medium well, it’s overcooked and… well, it’s the theme of the evening. By the time the check comes, the only thing I want to do is go back into the kitchen and apologize, followed by a trip to our server with an apology for her too. Since I can’t make personal amends to everyone that Pam had offended this evening, I try to make up for it by leaving a huge tip.
As I drive her back to her dorm, she seems to have no idea that this date just – for lack of a better term – sucked. She chatters on and on about things that I couldn’t care less about, like the state of Kim Kardashian’s divorce (who is that?), however that’s only when she’s not texting and laughing. She barely says goodbye as she steps down from the truck and walks in, still playing on her phone. I shake my head and head home. Are all people my age this damn dull and shallow?
I pull up behind the house, hoping I can head up to my room without notice – of course that’s not the case. As soon as I change into my usual relaxation gear of sweats and a tank, my phone buzzes. I expect to roll my eyes at an inane text from Pam, but it’s from Sookie. “If you want to talk about it, I’m still up”. I shrug to myself and head down the stairs. Why not?
She’s stretched out of the couch in her pajamas – thermal leggings and an oversized tank top. Wow. She pulls her legs under her to make room for me at the end and takes in my expression. “That bad, huh?”
That’s all it takes to get me to spill everything. Pam’s inability to be polite or courteous to anyone, including me. I’d seen that kind of behavior from the horse owners who thought the people they employed to look after their obnoxiously overpriced investments were beneath them. It didn’t intimidate me or make me feel less than I was. It just made me like the horses more.
Sookie smiles. “I’ve never really had an experience that bad, but there were always the guys and girls at school that thought because they had more money than others that they were actually better people. It’s a misconception that they’re fed from birth. I grew up far from poor, but my parents, then my gran, made damn sure that I worked for every dime that went in my pocket. That’s part of the reason I want to restore this place.”
We’ve never really talked about her motivation and why she is so intent on fixing up the farm. I pull my legs up onto the couch and face her. “When I was little, Gran had all kinds of horses. She had some little Shetland ponies, several Quarters, and a big Clydesdale that I just adored. Now, Gran was… surprised by my dad when she got pregnant at 46, so she was pretty up in years by the time I came along. Momma and Daddy took over the running of this place right before I was born. They died in a car accident when I was just six. Gran refused to let me be put into the system and took custody of me. She was too old to manage the farm and ended up selling off the horses, except Candy, because I begged her. She also had no means of running the farm without assistance, so it just went to seed. She passed right before I left for college. I was over eighteen, so I was able to live on my own, plus my parents’ life insurance, along with scholarships, paid my way through college. I paid for Candy to be boarded while I was in college. I got married right after I graduated. With Remy in the Corps, there was no way to tell how long he was going to be home or if we were going to be stationed somewhere else between tours. I pretty much accepted that, with this place abandoned, I was never coming back.
“When Remy died, I was lost. I knew I couldn’t live on or around the base with all those other wives welcoming their husbands home and knowing mine was gone. I packed up and moved back here, glad that I had held onto it. I worked on getting the house fixed up and livable first. Once that was done, I wanted to put my focus on getting this back up to a working farm and bring my babies back, since she had Blaze by that point. And I knew it was something I wouldn’t be able to do all by myself. Once I checked over everything financially, what I would be getting as Remy’s widow from the military, what was left of my parent’s life insurance, plus what Gran had saved from her Social Security and selling off the horses, I determined I was stable enough to get this place back to what it used to be.”
I nod along as she talks, not wanting to interrupt one of the few times she’s willing to tell me more about herself. I can hear the passion in her voice when she talks about the farm’s glory days. It makes me want to help her even more. It impressed me immediately after I started, and continues to impress me, that she wasn’t just making up arbitrary jobs for me to do while she sat back and drank lemonade, watching. Any job she gave me, she was willing to do as well. I know that with the work she’s willing to do, this old farm could become great.
I was vindictively glad that Eric’s date had been a bust. I knew it had to be since he had only been gone for about an hour and a half. No good date ended that soon. He had gotten a cell phone shortly after starting here, at my insistence, so we could communicate when we were working in different parts of the farm, or if we needed something from the other. He didn’t really like it, but he learned about it and how to use it. When he went right upstairs after getting home, I sent him a text saying I was still up if he wanted to talk.
Seeing him in his casual sweats was nice, but seeing those arms in that tank… well, that was a gift that just kept on giving. I don’t think that boy has the slightest idea how holy fucking hot he is. Not that that’s a bad thing. Is it saying something that I wanted to make sure I looked good when he joined me downstairs? I made sure I was in cute pajamas before I texted Eric to come down.
He tells me about the superficial princess Barbie and how she ruined the date. I want to tell him a little more about why I’m so invested in getting the farm back up and running. In the process, I tell him more about my marriage and Remy. It stuns me to realize that he’s been gone for almost a year and a half. I almost offer to show Eric my photo album, but I realize pretty quickly I’m not ready to share quite that much. I finish my nightly beer and tell Eric good night before heading to bed. It doesn’t escape my notice that his eyes never leave me until I’m behind the closed door of my lonely bedroom.
Since we don’t have as much work to do, I changed our daily schedule a little once daylight savings time ended. I still get up at quarter after five, like always, but I didn’t have breakfast on the table until seven. Every morning, I hear Eric’s alarm clock go off fifteen minutes before he comes down the stairs, still looking sleepy and rumpled until he gets the first cup of coffee.
With the fresh load of lumber that he picked up a few days ago, I figure this would be the perfect time to start construction on the riding ring. The area where I want it is completely clear and the ground hasn’t frozen yet, so the holes for the posts can be dug. I grab my tape measure and my can of spray paint after breakfast is done to go out and mark where I want the posts. Eric knows my process by now and follows me out when he’s done eating with the post diggers.
The whole project of digging the holes and mounting the posts takes most of the day. Eric knows how to swing a sledgehammer like no one’s business and it’s a nice sight to watch. The next day we’ll be putting up the rails and the gate. We’ve earned a good dinner, so I fire up the grill and pull out some steaks after I wrap some potatoes in foil and pop them in the oven. Eric raises an eyebrow at my intention to run the grill.
“Woman, you know that’s the man’s job,” he growls playfully. He continues in a more serious tone, “I figure you’ve made me somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred meals; let me cover this one.”
I nod my approval and hand him the utensils and head back inside to make a couple of salads. He pops his head in the door and asks how I want mine cooked. I tell him medium and he nods before returning to the grill. A little while later, he brings in the steaks and we eat dinner; the silence while we eat is still comfortable, however there’s something else. I can’t really put my finger on it, but something has changed between Eric and me, I’m not sure what it is but I think I like it.