I know my way to the supermarket well enough by now that I don’t have to use the GPS and can let my thoughts drift a little while I drive. I make the turns with practice and ease.
I take Pam’s advice to heart and back off on Sookie. We still hang out occasionally, but I have made some solo outings to get the feel for the area without a crutch. One random weeknight, I made the longish drive to the far side of the county to visit Merlotte’s and check out the competition. The dark blonde bartender with blue and black streaks in her hair stared at me with a gaping jaw until I broke the silence by asking for a beer. She nodded silently and slid it across to the bar. She didn’t speak until I asked her how much I owed. I didn’t plan on spending any more time in there than necessary and had no intention of running a tab.
I gave her what I owed and a generous tip before I asked for “Sam”. I had to laugh when she turned her head, eyes swiveling to stay on me, and bellowed, “SAM! Someone out here to see ya!”
A strawberry blond not much taller than Sookie came out of the kitchen wiping his hands on an apron. “Yeah Ken? Who’s he…” He trailed off when he saw me. “Oh.”
I forced a smile on my face and held out my hand. “Eric Northman. I think we have a mutual friend and I thought I’d come and introduce myself.”
“If you mean my girlfriend and your rental agent, then yeah. Don’t know why you came so far out of your way to meet me though,” he replied sullenly.
“Sookie’s had nothing but good things to say about you. I’ve met most of her other friends.”
The punky-looking bartender puts her two cents in. “Then I’m Kennedy, part of Sookie’s Friday night Girl Time.”
Girl Time. It amused me the first time Sookie had to postpone plans with me because she had a standing date every Friday night with her friends. When I asked her if Sam ever minded, she giggled. “Girl Time started before he and I began dating. It was something he had to accept. Family emergencies, sickness, and death are the only acceptable reasons for missing our circle.”
I finished my beer and shook hands again with both Sam and Kennedy. For the life of me, I couldn’t see what someone as luscious as Sookie could see in a little lumberjack wannabe like Sam. She can do so much better than him.
I find a spot to park and pull out my list. With Memorial Day close, I want to make sure I get everything before the store gets sold out of the essentials. Amelia told me to expect twenty or so people and I mentally pat myself on the back for going through her. I stroll the aisles loading up on chips, fruit, sodas, side salads, steaks, chicken, hot dogs, burgers and condiments, rolls, plates and plastic-ware. I take those purchases out to the car and Tetris them into the trunk before going back in. This time I fill the cart with different cases of beer and various mixers. After those are loaded into the passenger seat, I walk a few doors down to the liquor store and stock up on vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey. This is not my first holiday cook-out.
After stashing everything at the house, I pull out the binder and call the marina. I ask them to drop off a motor boat for the weekend and sit back to relax when that’s finalized. I’m looking forward to hosting my first party here and meeting some new people. Especially since I’ll be spending the next couple of weeks doing press for the HBO season premiere in flying all over the damn place.
Saturday and Sunday of the holiday weekend are surprisingly relaxing. Sookie had told me that the week and weekend before holidays are insane at her office and she won’t have the energy to go out too much. I’m fine with it. I still flirt with her when I can, but I’m a man of my word. No matter how tempting she is, no matter how badly I want to rip her cute little skirt suits off her tight body, I won’t make a physical move or say anything that she doesn’t initiate. And she doesn’t initiate a single thing other than some clever innuendo in response to my seemingly innocent comments.
I lie back on the dock and enjoy the warm, humid midday heat. The distant hum of boats and other watercraft is the only thing that disturbs the silence of my retreat, but it’s not distracting. I’ve already made sure everything is prepped for Monday. The way my schedule looks for the rest of the summer, this may be the last chance I have to have a party while I’m here. To relax, I take the boat out at night to get used to how it handles and to appreciate the lack of light pollution, enjoying how the stars are reflected in the water.
On Monday morning, people start showing up. Amelia arrives first, offering to help me get set up. With her taking over, I use the time to change into black and red board shorts and a black button-down shirt that I leave undone. As the unofficial hostess (since she issues my invitation), Amelia makes it a point to introduce me to every person that arrives when I return.
Sookie arrives with Kennedy and gives me a small hug in greeting. “Sam said he wanted to come, but one of the coolers broke at his bar and he’s waiting on a repair man.” Kennedy rolls her eyes, but says nothing. She shakes my hand and asks where they can stash their purses. I direct them to the unused second master bedroom and they walk off in their sinfully short sundresses and flip-flops. I go back outside in time to referee an argument between Jason, Tray, and a guy named Bob that I haven’t met before about the proper way to grill the chicken.
The day and evening are pleasant. We all eat more than we should, most drink more than is responsible, and go out to enjoy the power and speed of the boat I rented. Designated drivers are assigned and silly drinking games begin.
Holly smirks at Sookie, who immediately starts blushing. This is interesting. “I propose, since we’re all getting to know each other, how about a nice, informative game of ‘I Never’?”
There are a lot of laughs, but a loud groan. “Man, I don’ want my sister knowing that kinda shit ‘bout me!”
Amelia slugs Jason in the arm and he winces. “Nobody said you had to play, jackass.”
“Fine,” he says, rubbing his bicep. “I don’ wanna know that kinda shit ‘bout her neither.”
“Then go play in the hot tub with Bob, Ken, and Danielle. They’re DD’ing tonight. That way you ‘don’ gotta know shit’ that you don’t want to know,” she responds sarcastically with a dramatic eye roll.
I’m biting my lip to keep from laughing at their exchange and it appears Sookie is doing the same. After lunch and riding in the boat, she stayed in her dark blue bikini with just a towel wrapped around her waist. I certainly have no complaints about the view.
“For those of you that have never lived, ‘I never’ is fairly easy. Taking turns, each person says something they’ve never done and if you have, you take a shot. It’s a fun way to learn about your new acquaintances. Everyone pour yourselves a shot and let’s get started,” Holly says enthusiastically. Sookie grins and pours herself a shot of vodka and collects some lemon slices from the makeshift bar.
This is going to be fun.