I left that evening with a lot of things I needed to think about. Once I pulled out onto the highway to head back to Shreveport, my mind flickered over all the new information. Sookie had been abused in so many ways. She had been isolated, beaten and raped. In trying to escape her situation, she almost died. And she had no idea where the man who had done that to her was, or if he would return to succeed where he had failed before. I also knew she saw herself as damaged.
In a way, she was. But she had done a remarkable job of healing and was continuing to do so. I thought about how she gave me ‘an out.’ I had, for a split second, considered taking it. But seeing glimpses of who she was behind the shyness, the soft voice, and the obedient temperament intrigued me. If she was able to fully trust me, I had no doubt that she could be the woman I would spend my life with. I wasn’t ready to admit to either her or myself that I had already fallen in love with her.
I let her dictate the pace of how our relationship would proceed. While I had no problem letting her know how I felt about the decisions she made, I thought that giving her a level of control would help her overcome any remaining doubts that she had. While she still continued to occasionally tense up when we became physical, the times were becoming fewer and fewer the longer we were together.
We celebrated a year together by taking a long weekend to New Orleans. We still had not had sex and I wouldn’t push the issue, especially knowing her past. While planning the trip, I offered to get a double room. She simply blushed lightly and shook her head, saying it wasn’t necessary.
She spent the Friday before our trip making plans. She decided that she needed to do something she really didn’t want and hire another baker since she had to close if she was unable to come in. Amelia couldn’t cook and they prided themselves on having everything prepared fresh as ordered. Once the lunch rush for the day was finished, she went home to pack and waited for the school day to end so I could pick her up. I pulled into her driveway, loaded the bags that were already waiting on her porch, gave her a quick kiss, and got on the road for the five hour drive.
We talked about our weeks, how her search for an assistant baker was going and how this year’s class was handling the rush of catch-up work that always came at the end of the year before finals and graduation. I had been approached for the position of an assistant coach for the baseball team for next year and was considering it. The talking filled most of the trip, and we didn’t stop, so by the time we got to the hotel, we were famished.
After checking in, we dropped off our bags and went to get a late dinner. After eating some genuine Cajun food in the Quarter, we strolled around the city before heading back to the hotel. Sookie and I had shared a bed before, but simply for sleep. While I longed to be more intimate with her, I wouldn’t make a move until I knew she was ready for it. Amelia had commented, more than once, that I must have the patience of a saint. She had no idea how hard that patience was. But Sookie was worth it.
I prepared to dress for bed while Sookie was in the bathroom. I could hear the shower running as I pulled out some lounge pants to sleep in. Before I could put them on, her head stuck out the door. “Umm… can you come in here, please?” she asked in a shaky voice. I could see her cheeks flushed and her bright eyes sparkling.
Wearing only my boxer briefs, I popped my head in the bathroom. The mirror was coated in fog from the steam and I could see Sookie’s silhouette behind the curtain. “Did you need something, Sook?”
Her voice was slightly muffled by the water. “Do you… umm… God… Do you want to share the shower with me?”
I don’t think she had finished speaking before I was stripping off my underwear and sliding behind the curtain with her. I stepped in behind her and rested my hands on her shoulders to let her know I was there. I took a moment to appreciate the view in front of me.
Her long hair hung in wet waves to the middle of her back. Her waist flared out to curvaceous hips and an ass that I had literally dreamed about. When she turned to face me, I sucked in a breath at the beauty before me. Her face was deep red and she bit her bottom lip nervously. I let my gaze linger on her skin: lightly golden from tanning when she could in the spring warmth, with creamy triangles over her private areas. Her breasts were large, but still perky. Her abdomen was not flat, but toned and womanly. She fidgeted while I took the time to look over her nude body for the first time, very obviously nervous at this step.
I slicked her hair back from her face and looked down at her, wanting to ease her discomfort. “Sookie, if you aren’t ready for this, there’s no rush.”
She met my gaze and steadied her voice. “I am ready. I want to be with you, Eric. It’s just been… I haven’t been with anyone since Bill.” She took a few deep breaths before continuing. “I can’t remember the last time I was able to make the choice.”
My heart broke for her just a little, while at the same time, being amazed that she trusted me with this huge step. Trying to soothe her doubts, I slid my hands over the smooth skin of her shoulders and upper arms. Her small hands raised and mirrored my actions. I almost purred feeling her slender fingers stroking my skin softly, grazing over the muscles of my biceps and pecs. She stepped closer to me and rested her head against my chest and let me stroke her back. “Thank you for being patient with me, Eric. You can’t imagine how much that means to me.”
I tilted her head up to mine and claimed her mouth gently. With no hesitation, she returned the kiss and deepened it, tracing the seam between my lips with the tip of her tongue. I tangled my fingers in her wet curls and pulled her closer. Her skin was slick and hot under my hands from the water. She pulled on my shoulders, trying to get closer.
I broke the kiss to breathe and looked down at her again then slowly turned her around. I poured some of her apple scented shampoo into my hands and washed her hair, massaging her scalp and felt some of the tension flow out of her. I combed similar scented conditioner through her strands with my fingers. While she rinsed it out, I grabbed her milk and honey body wash, lathering it between my palms. I slid my hands down her body, wanting her to get accustomed to a touch that was reverent of her. Nothing about the way I was touching her was meant to be sexual. If we were taking this step, I didn’t want her to fear me the way she had her ex. Everything about this would be for her.
Since height difference was an issue, I washed my own hair and let her explore my body as she washed me. Her touches were tentative, but became bolder. I rinsed the soap from my hair and body when she stepped back. Other than quick rubs over my ass, she hadn’t touched me intimately, but I wasn’t complaining. Once we were both clean, I turned off the water and grabbed a couple of the large, fluffy towels from the rack by the shower. I wrapped one around my waist after drying my hair of the excess water and handed one to Sookie. She squeezed the water from her hair and wrapped the towel around her body.
We exited the bathroom silently, anxiously. When we got to the bed, all we could do was look at each other heatedly for a few moments. Slowly, I unwrapped the towel from her body and ran it over her, drying her off. I ran to grab a comb from the bathroom and sat on the bed, inviting her to sit between my legs. I ran the comb through her hair, loving how silky it felt under my fingers. Once she was tangle-free, I began placing small kisses over her neck and shoulders. It felt so good to realize she hadn’t tensed up at all and was sinking back into my embrace.
I was actually going to do this. Eric had shown me over the past year how much I could trust him. Giving myself to him was the ultimate show of that trust. I had to keep a mental chant going in my head to get me there. “He’s not Bill. He’s not going to hurt you.” I was mainly worried that he wouldn’t enjoy it. My introduction to sex hadn’t been gentle and I’d never really enjoyed it, even when it was voluntary.
But as I sat there and let him comb out my hair, I knew that he would be gentle with me. I had feared that once a guy knew my history, I’d be seen as ‘damaged goods.’ Eric was worshiping my body, from the way he washed my hair and gently cleaned my skin to how he dried me off and let me adjust at my pace to wearing nothing in front of him. He made sure that I was comfortable with each and every step he took before proceeding; that only made me trust him more, and made me more confident that I had held out for the right man.
I turned around in his arms and met his kisses with my lips and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. Kisses had never affected me this way before, not that I had an extensive kissing history. Something about Eric made me feel all kinds of things that I hadn’t felt good enough to experience before. I could tell he was enjoying our kisses (and perhaps my nudity) by some significant tenting of his towel. His size was intimidating, but I knew he would be careful.
He laid me back on the bed with my head on the pillows, never breaking his kiss with me until he had me situated the way he wanted me. He withdrew his mouth from mine only to press his lips over my neck and collarbone; making me shiver. He hovered over me and slid down my body, stopping at my breasts. Looking up me at, meeting my blue eyes with his own, he slowly ran his tongue down the valley between them. He kissed his way up one side until he reached my nipple. So gently, he closed his lips around my bud and I felt it tighten and harden in his mouth as he sucked. I couldn’t help moaning, it felt so good. When he repeated the process on the other side, my back arched and I moaned again. I felt a tightness in my groin that I had never felt before and I squirmed, trying to get some kind of relief.
His lips danced over my belly, tickling and making me giggle and squirm even more. The giggling stopped when he reached my hips He ran his tongue lightly over the juncture where hip met thigh and I shuddered. Avoiding my most sensitive areas, he kissed down my left leg and up my right. My entire body was tingling after the lavish attention. Kneeling between my legs, he paused and looked back up at me.
“Can I touch you, Sookie?” he asked me softly. His voice, and the way his fingertips her skimming along my bare thighs, made me all shivery and breathless. I was so nervous, I couldn’t speak, but I nodded.
No one before had ever touched me like Eric did. He slid his finger through my folds felt like nothing I had ever experienced. He kept his eyes locked on my face to gauge my reactions, but I was too lost in the sensations to notice or even really care. His thumb glided over my clit and I shivered, moaning. He grinned and dipped his head, suckling my nipple again.
Jesus. What the hell was going on? It felt like I didn’t have control over my body. I could hear my pulse in my ears and couldn’t catch my breath. Eric began kissing his way down my body again and paused right above where his thumb was still stroking me steadily. “Will you let me taste you, Sookie?” he whispered against my stomach.
I arched toward him in agreement. Nothing he had done so far had felt anything less than amazing; I would trust him. He held my lower lips open with his thumbs and ran his tongue over me. FUCK! Something so simple should not feel that damn good! He groaned against me and the vibration tickled before making the coil in my belly tighter. God, I wanted to explode, but I didn’t want it to end either. I grabbed handfuls of his hair so he wouldn’t move away and he made this sound that was something between a chuckle and a growl. He became bolder in his actions. He flicked his tongue over my nub, alternating with long swipes and nips with his lips.
So slowly, he slid one long finger inside me. Oh good God, that felt fucking incredible. I could feel the wetness he was creating dripping down my thighs. He never stopped though. His mouth and hand worked in tandem until I lost all rational thought. Waves and tingles of the most exquisite pleasure crashed through my limbs. It felt like it would never end; at the same time it ended too soon. Eric held me until I came down, but I was still shaking. His brow crinkled in a frown and wiped my cheeks. Huh. I didn’t even realize I had tears rolling down my face.
“Did I hurt you, Sookie? I…”
I cut him off by placing my fingers over his lips. “Not at all… I just never felt anything like that before. I just… I don’t know. I guess that’s what all the fuss is about, huh?”
His jaw dropped. “Sookie… was that…” he seemed to have trouble finding the words, “was that your first orgasm?”
I felt my face heat up with that damn blush and nodded, suddenly feeling too exposed. I just wanted to pull the sheets over me to cover my nudity; silly, considering everything that just happened.
His eyes were still wide with shock. “So you never… took care of things yourself?”
I shook my head and wrapped my arms around myself since he didn’t seem to want to let me go to get under the blankets. No, I hadn’t ever done that. Hell, my own husband hadn’t known (or cared) how to get me off; how was I supposed to know? “I just thought it was something that wasn’t meant to happen for me. I know there are women out there that don’t. I just thought I was one of them.”
It was his turn to shake his head, but in disbelief. “Sookie, your body is beautiful. You know how to feel pleasure. You just never had the chance to be with someone who cared enough to give instead of just taking. You should have your body savored,” he whispered against my neck. “You should have had a lover who knew how to touch you,” he continued, running his fingers down my side and over the swell of my hip, “so that you craved his touch rather than feared it.”
Surprisingly, it was reassuring that he was willing to discuss my past, even in the abstract. It meant he wasn’t ignoring it or glossing over it in his mind. In a comparison of my life before and my life after meeting Eric… well, there really was no comparison. After was infinitely better than before. I knew, through and through, that I was lucky to meet him and perhaps fate was rewarding me for all the shit she put me through before by directing his field trip to my bakery.
He started following his fingers with his lips and my eyes were rolling back in my head again. He rolled us so that he was underneath me and I was straddling his lap. I felt his excitement against my thigh and was nervous all over again. Bill had used me as a warm, wet hole. I didn’t know how to participate. I wanted to. GOD, did I want to. But I didn’t want to do anything wrong.
Eric sat up underneath me and claimed my mouth in another blistering, passionate kiss. “Let me make love to you, Sookie. Please, let me,” he whispered against my neck.
My response was to kiss him again. He broke away from me for just a moment to get a box of condoms from the suitcase. Thank God one of us was thinking clearly. I wasn’t on any kind of birth control and I wasn’t interested in testing my fertility. As soon as he sat back up, I distracted him by nipping at his neck. He growled a little after opening the box and tearing one off the ribbon of foil squares and rolled again so he would be back on top.
“I know it’s been awhile for you. I want to make sure I don’t hurt you.” He ran his hand down my body again and slid that long finger inside me again. God, it felt just as good as it did before. He teased my nipples with his skillful lips and tongue to the point where I barely felt him add a second finger. FUCK! I couldn’t help rocking my hips trying to get more contact where I wanted it. My sneaky man used my arching back to his advantage. I hadn’t realized that he had moved until his mouth was on my pussy. While licking and sucking on my clit, I felt him add a third finger and rub them over the same spot. In. Out. Rubrubrub. Over and over. I felt my thighs start shaking and I was lost again in the most exquisite pleasure I had ever felt. I called out Eric’s name in a hoarse voice, my throat dry from panting so hard.
I heard the foil rip and the latex snap as he rolled the condom on. I opened hazy eyes and looked up at him. He ducked his head to my neck and kissed me softly. “I love you, Sookie,” he groaned into my shoulder before easing himself into me.
I didn’t know which was more of a shock to my system: the feeling of stretching my body was having to do to accommodate his size or the whispered declaration immediately before. I decided that the words could take a backseat to the physical feelings for the time being. He slid into me very slowly so I could adjust, and I was grateful. I could feel his restraint. He hovered above me, holding his weight on his forearms, and watched me closely. I knew that if I were to whimper or wince, even once, he would stop.
I didn’t want him to stop. After not having been touched lovingly, ever, I wanted to savor this. When finally his hips were flush with mine, he stilled. “Are you okay? Do you want me to keep going?”
I nodded and grabbed his head, pulling him down for a hard kiss. He pulled his hips back and slid back in again, just a little faster than before. One of his hands eased up my side to cup my breast and tease my nipple, giving me goosebumps and making me moan.
My hips started countering his, wanting to feel him deeper. He sped up his thrusts and that coil in my belly returned. Seriously? I’d been having sex with Bill for well over a year and never had a single orgasm and Eric was going on a third in a single night? I was definitely getting fate’s apology for not letting me meet Eric first.
He took hold of my waist and rolled so I was on top again. My legs straddled his and he ran his hands over my ass. I wasn’t entirely comfortable at how ‘on display’ I was in that position, but I forced myself to get over it. “I don’t know what to do. Help me, Eric.” I gasped, feeling him grinding up into me from below.
He lifted his head and kissed my breast. “Your body knows what to do, Sookie; it’s natural. Just let yourself go.” I took his advice and started moving with him. He grasped my hips like handles God made especially for him and helped me get more into the rhythm he was setting.
Oh God, this was even better than before. Every time he thrust up, his pubic bone grazed my clit and he brushed that amazing spot inside me that I hadn’t known existed before. I braced myself with my hands on his chest and kept moving, enjoying the sensations he was helping me create.
“Oh, God, Sookie… I’m close. Come for me, baby,” he moaned below me and used his wonderfully thick fingers to rub quick circles over my nub. Oh. My. God! My back arched out and I chanted his name as my orgasm rolled through me. He thrust through it, lost in his own pursuit of release and followed me, calling my name with a roar.
I collapsed on top of him, just trying to catch my breath. My heart felt like it was trying to beat its way through my ribs, and it wasn’t from just the physical exertion. I rolled off Eric and let him go to the restroom to dispose of the condom. I curled back up with him when he laid down again, fortunately under the blankets.
“Umm… what did you say earlier?” I didn’t know if it was a verbal slip, a spoken thought, or what. I knew what I heard and wondered if he meant for me to.
His face actually flushed with a blush this time and it was freaking adorable. “I didn’t want to say it that way. I’m sorry.”
The heart that was crashing to get out stopped cold and I gasped. “What?”
He took in my expression and became darker red. “No, just that it’s really… damn… I didn’t want to tell you right before we made love for the first time. I’ve wanted to tell you for months.” He smoothed my hair back from my forehead and cupped my cheek. “I absolutely mean it. You are one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met and I’m honored that you trust me the way you do. Every single day, I discover something else about you that I love.” He looked deep into my eyes making me melt just a little bit more. “I do love you, Sookie. I’ve been in love with you for a while. I just didn’t have to courage to say anything until tonight.”
I took a few moments to evaluate that. He understood my skittishness. He knew that I would run if I wasn’t ready for a declaration of that magnitude. He waited until I was able to prove my trust in him. I understood all of that and was impressed that he knew me well enough to understand all of that.
Did I feel the same? He let me get to know him at my pace, from the very beginning. He treated me like a lady. He was able to joke with me, getting my quirky sense of humor better than Amelia sometimes. He took the news about my past with (relative) ease and didn’t pity me for what I’d been through, but was proud of me for what I’d done to get out and how I’d handled my life afterward. But, more than anything else, he made me feel so alive that I didn’t feel like a formerly abused woman getting her life back; I felt like I was just a woman who was loved and in love. I felt happy and normal and mostly whole for the first time in too long.
He understood my need to process and leaned back on the pillows, sipping a glass of water. I reached for the glass and took my own drink. Mimicking his earlier gesture, I cupped his cheek and gave him a kiss. “I love you, too.”
Fifteen Years Later
It wasn’t long after our weekend in New Orleans that I proposed. She locked down on me again, but it wasn’t too bad. She had nothing but bad memories from her first marriage and it took Amelia and me a little time to talk her down. I waited another year and tried again. That time I got the “yes” that I had hoped for.
We didn’t have a huge, storybook wedding. We had a small ceremony on the property that Godric left me in Shreveport. The gardens there were beautiful in the summer we had the people we cared about most in attendance. When the Justice pronounced us husband and wife, I could barely contain my joy.
Sookie outgrew her bakery and opened a second shop across town, taking on several assistant bakers, teaching them her Gran’s recipes and emphasizing the importance on customer service and courtesy that had made her so popular in her original location. About seven years later, she opened a shop in Shreveport to be closer to home. She spent most of her time in that shop with Amelia rotating, making sure all the business aspects are running smoothly.
I took the assistant baseball coach position and had an eventful spring. We made it to our conference playoff my first year, but no further. After a few years, the head coach was eligible for retirement and jumped at it. I was offered the head coach position. It took a few seasons of rebuilding, but since my third year as head coach, we have not missed the State championship playoffs.
Three years after we were married, Sookie came to me with a box. Smiling, I opened it and saw a cupcake iced with a small footprint. I looked at her with a curious expression. “Yeah,” was her response, smiling from ear to ear.
We had been trying for over a year. She finally told me about her abortion after Bill succeed in his goal to get her pregnant. I understood her reluctance to tell me about it, but I wished I had known sooner. She was checked by her doctor when we hadn’t had any success after the first six months. She had no damage from the procedure, or from the assault immediately following. For weeks after, she had nightmares reliving the last time she saw Bill. Every time she would wake up in tears and screaming, I would hold her close and try to soothe her back to sleep.
She admitted that she was scared that because of her choices earlier in her life, we wouldn’t be able to have kids, despite what the doctors said. It was the only other time, after I proposed the first time, that she pulled away from me, only this time she was blaming herself. I refused to let her go too far, but I knew when the dark memories haunted her, she needed her own time to process. She never failed to come back on her own, and I was always there for her.
Cora Adele was born right before school was out for the summer, at the beginning of June, so I had the full break to get to know my infant daughter. She had Sookie’s nose and chin, my shape and color eyes, and pale blonde peach fuzz covering her head. She took after me in the womb, which Sookie gave me mock-dirty looks for in the last months of her pregnancy. She was born by c-section at an impressive 9 pounds, 7 ounces and 22 ¾ inches long. I was already thinking about where I would be keeping the stick near the door to beat the boys away from her.
She took a leave from the bakeries for the summer to care for our daughter. She fell into her role of “Mom” with ease. I was surprised when, right as school was starting at the beginning of September, I got another cupcake. I guess all those “can’t get pregnant while nursing” rumors aren’t all that reliable.
Gavin Hale came right before his sister turned one, and he could have been her twin at birth. Less than two ounces and half an inch separated them in size and he had the same features Cora did when she was born. I looked at my wife and I could see her plotting a place for her own stick.
She was a perfect mom, especially for keeping up with those two. I would relieve her every afternoon when I would get home from school, but it’s no easy feat keeping track of two infants in such different stages of development. Once they were out of diapers and in daycare, then preschool, life got back into a comfortable routine.
I can’t say that Sookie never had another nightmare or a scare on a bad day; she did. But we were prepared for them. If she was at the bakery and got spooked, Amelia was usually on hand to talk her down. If something at home triggered it, she knew she could come to me. And they were rare. Thank God.
Every night she would say her prayers and thank Him for me and our kids. And I loved her all the more for it. She hadn’t let herself be a victim for life. She let herself love and be loved. And she shared that spectacular love with me.