Chapter 6

EPOV

I take the time to walk around the house and get acclimated to the new layout.  I have no doubt at all that I will be extremely comfortable for the few months I’ll be living here.

Since the sun has gone down, the air has a chill.  I’m pleased to see a large stack of well-seasoned firewood next to one of the three fireplaces.  Although I’ve lived in Southern California for several years, I haven’t lost touch with my Scandinavian roots.  The smell of a wood fire makes me nostalgic and a touch homesick – it has since I moved to the States full time.

I sit back on the ridiculously comfortable sofa and look through the binder that Sookie pointed out to me.  As I flip through the pages, I realize she wasn’t exaggerating about the amount of information it holds.  When I get to the “G” section, I grab a memo pad from the kitchen and start a grocery list.  While I think about what I need to stock up on, I realize that I’m looking forward to exploring this picturesque area.

After flying and driving most of the day, going to sleep and recharging sounds like a fantastic idea.  I retreat to the bedroom and open my bags to unpack, pulling out some sleep pants in the process.  Ten minutes and a quick shower later, I lie in bed and wait for the fatigue to hit me so I can sleep.  While I relax I think about the rental agent, Sookie.

Other than her dazed expression when she saw me in the parking lot, there was nothing that seemed like she was treating me any different from her other clients.  She was surprisingly considerate and professional.  I couldn’t help noticing how attractive she was, and I was blatant in my attempt to see if she’s single.  A boyfriend has never discouraged me when pursuing someone I want, but once a ring is on the finger, I back off.  I refuse to be a homewrecker and I don’t need that kind of bad press.  Her bare left hand was like a beacon.

I settle further into the silky soft sheets and try to devise a way to see her again.  As ideas come to me, I feel myself grin as sleep takes me.

XXX

I rise feeling refreshed and energetic.  After brewing a cup of coffee from the provided “Welcome” basket of goodies on the dining room table, I step out onto one of the decks and take in the view.  It had been too dark last night to truly appreciate it.  The water is calm and smooth as glass, reflecting the mountain across the cove from me.  Fog gives the landscape a dream-like quality and the morning air is crisp and cool.  I think I’m really going to like my time here.

With caffeine taken care of, I dress and grab my keys and shopping list.  I enter the address of the grocery store into the GPS and drive slower than normal, wanting to memorize the turns and curves.  I see quaint country stores and several antebellum relics when I turn onto the main road and understand the charm that attracted the production company to film in such an unknown place.

The British GPS lady tells me to turn left at the light and I’m surprised by the sprawling, ultra-modern shopping center before me, especially considering the rural countryside I just drove through.  There is a movie theater, a high-end salon, an art gallery, several boutiques, a coffee shop, a few banks, and on the end, the grocery store that’s my ultimate destination.  Donning a baseball cap, I hope to grab what I need without drawing attention.

It’s nice to stroll the aisles browsing without being harassed by photographers or overzealous fans.  Once my cart is filled with all I need to get through the coming week, I check out without difficulty.  I manage to cram everything into the admittedly small trunk of the Corvette.  On a lark, I decide to drive by the realty office to see my lovely leasing agent again.

I find her and two other women sorting through files in the lobby.  Her pale green blouse and khaki skirt look far more professional than her jeans and tank top.  She sits, oblivious to my presence, flipping through a binder of property listings and swinging her light green high-heeled sandal from her toes.  The two brunettes across for her notice me first, nudging each other before standing.

“Welcome to Norris Realty.  How can we help you today?” they ask in unison, drawing Sookie’s attention.  When she looks up, her face lights up and her cheeks flush the same pink they did yesterday.

“Good morning, Mr. Northman.  I hope you enjoyed your first night here.”

“I did,” I respond with a smile.  “It’s been a long time since I’ve been surrounded by such profound… silence.  It’s very peaceful there.”

Her grin widens.  “It sure is.  So how can I help you today?” Two throats clear loudly and she rolls her eyes.  “Sorry.  This is Holly,” the shorter brunette smiles, “and Danielle,“ the taller gives a small wave before leaving the room, “my coworkers.”

“Nice to meet you, ladies,” I say with a polite nod before returning my attention to the gorgeous blond.  “I was wondering if I could get your assistance in exploring the ‘Nightlife’ section of that very informative binder you showed me.”  Her smile starts to dim.  “And it’s Eric.  None of that ‘Mister’ stuff.”

“Eric, then.  I’m sorry, but I really shouldn’t.  I have plans that I’ve already postponed…”

Holly grabs her hand and pulls her off the couch.  “Excuse us for just a minute please.”  She pushes Sookie into an office and closes the thin door.  I can still hear them.

“Are you turning down Eric Northman for drinks and bar food with Amelia?”

“No, I’m turning down a date because I have a boyfriend.  Sam’s already pissed at me.

“He’s being a baby.  All because of that li…”

“Not because of that.  Look, it would feel like cheating and I do not cheat.  You know this.”

“Ugh, fine.  I just hope you know how many other women would happily kill to be in your shoes.”

“I’m fully aware.  Shut it,” she says in a disappointed voice I don’t like hearing from her.

The door opens and I school my features into a neutral expression.  “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, sure,” she says sullenly.  I want her happy voice back.

“Do you think maybe I could change your mind?  I know absolutely no one here besides you.  Maybe invite a group of people out.  It’s just a thought…”  Yeah, that a group outing usually isn’t considered a date that would make her feel guilty.  Anything to spend time with her… to get to know her better.

She’s indecisive.  “Weeeeell… I guess that would be okay.”  I beam.  “Why don’t we meet at…” she taps a fingernail on her lip as she thinks, “Anchor House at six-thirty?  That’s a nice low-key place for a weeknight, even during Spring Break.”

I smile reassuringly.  “You’re the expert.  Thanks, Sookie.”

Her real grin is back when she says, “You’re welcome, but I do need to get back to work.  I’m not paid to socialize, or so my boss tells me.”

I take my leave to go back to the house.  I need to plan how to get around an apparent roadblock of a boyfriend.

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