Complete and utter mortification. The sad part is that Jason doesn’t even understand why I’m horrified until I yank him away to explain. He still doesn’t get it until I threaten to paraphrase his comment to Danielle… about him. I can see the hamsters spinning on their squeaky wheel as he thinks about how that would sound. When his face turns red and he mumbles “Sorry”, I know he gets it.
Without any discussion that I was party to, Amelia leaves the table to dance with Tray, followed by everyone else, leaving me alone. With Eric Northman. Who is now aware of my obsession. Fuck. I’m in hell.
When Eric asks me to dance, my stomach is suddenly filled with ostrich-sized butterflies. Not many guys make my 5’9” frame feel dainty, especially when I’m wearing heels, but he does it. It’s one of the things that Sam’s never been able to do.
Then he starts murmuring in my ear. That accent should come with a damn ice bucket. I can’t ever remember sweating and shivering at the same time. Despite the six friends and various employees occupying the lounge with us, he’s so intently focused on me that we might as well be alone. It disturbs me how hazy Sam grows in my mind. The closer Eric holds me, his voice husky and full of lascivious promises that aren’t spoken aloud… my sweet, loyal, loving boyfriend gets more distant in my thoughts.
I close my eyes for a moment and summon my will-power. It’s hard… much harder than I ever thought it would be. Not that I’ve ever let myself be put in a position like this. I watched Daddy sit by silently for years while Momma carried on with her various… friends. No one, least of all him, was blind to what she was doing. The end came when she was caught with his brother-in-law. Daddy was willing to be cuckolded because he loved her and no one but him was being hurt, but his sister’s husband was the straw that broke that camel’s back. Seeing my strong, loving, amazing father go through the humiliation of having his wife be the town tramp made me determined to never share. As soon as I was old enough to understand what was going on, even before the divorce, I swore that I would not be put into either his or her position. Even Jason, with his hound-dog ways, doesn’t make a commitment unless he’s willing to stick around.
But here I am, with one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen, live and in person with his arms wrapped around me. Amelia catches my eye as we sway and wiggles her eyebrows suggestively. I get out of my own head and try to listen to his amazing voice as he answers my questions. “Hmm… I love Mexican food and who doesn’t like Italian? My favorite color is red and that shirt you’re wearing is making me think all kinds of inappropriate thoughts.” I blush and look down. I’m not used to comments like that. “I like sci-fi and fiction in general, but don’t have a lot of time for recreational reading since I’m working so much and spend most of my down time reading scripts. Movies… I like comedies and mysteries. I get enough blood and violence on my own show that the horror and drama genres just annoy me now. I can listen to just about anything music-wise, but can only tolerate so much rap and heavy metal. I like rock in general, but have been known to sing along with Lady Gaga a time or two,” he says with a crooked little grin that makes my breath stutter. “So quid pro quo, Clarice. Same questions.”
LOVE that he references one of my favorite books without knowing it. “Well, I love to read when I can. My book shelves are filled with psychological thrillers and historical fiction. Nice quote from Silence of the Lambs, by the way,” I say with my own smirk. “I have little patience for movies based on books since all I can focus on are inaccuracies. I like period dramas and who doesn’t appreciate a good comedy? My brother introduced me to the genius of Kevin Smith and now I watch everything he comes out with. Dogma has to be one of my favorites. I’m a country girl at heart, but I can get into a little rock or R&B if necessary. My favorite color is blue… dark, almost-black blue to be precise, like the sky at night. And I’ll have to admit to being the one person who isn’t a fan of Italian food. I like Mexican too, but down-home, Southern food will always be my favorite. It’s terrible for you, but tastes so good.”
The music fades away and the waitress is bringing plates to the table. We all stop dancing and take our seats to eat, Amelia and Eric silently swapping chairs so Eric is to my left. Our plates mark the difference in tastes: he has some sort of shrimp-pasta dish while I have fried catfish and cheddar mashed potatoes with green beans. He looks over at my plate and chuckles. “That looks like a heart attack on a plate. I don’t even want to think of the cardio I’d have to do after eating that.”
I cut into my fish and moan at the perfect spicy crispiness. “But the time on the treadmill is worth it. God, this is amazing.”
He watches me and rolls his eyes. “You have me curious. I have to taste some of this Southern cooking that’s making you moan like that.”
For a minute I actually debate whether or not I want to give up a bite of my delicious dinner, but decide that if I can make another fan, it’s worth it. I cut off a small bite and feed him with my fork, not realizing it’s making my friends and acquaintances stare at us, gaping jaws and all. When he bites into the fried perfection, he closes his own eyes and groans. “God, that is amazing. If all Southern food is this good, you’re right. It’s worth the extra workout time.”
I smirk, loving being proven right. “Fried chicken, steak and gravy, barbeque, fried potatoes… all of it is disastrous to the waistline, but moderation is the key. My gran is a firm believer in ‘If it feels good, do it’. She and Daddy are the ones that taught me how to cook.”
He reluctantly takes a bite of his pasta, looking like he wishes he could change his order. “Are you telling me that you can make food like that?”
I shrug and swallow a bite of potatoes. “I can and do. So can Jason, actually. My mom wasn’t at home most nights and Gran made sure that he and I could fend for ourselves if we needed. It was a nice way to spend down time with Daddy.”
“Can I say that it’s adorable that you still call your father ‘Daddy’?”
I nudge his arm with my elbow. “It’s a Southern thing; one of the few things Jason and I have in common. We’re both really close to him and ‘Daddy’ is more affectionate than ‘Dad’ or something formal like ‘Father’. Plus, I’m a daddy’s girl and it just feels right.” Something about the direction of the conversation is making me more comfortable in his presence – something I never could have imagined. If I can summon the self-control to withstand his salacious looks and comments, we have a good chance of being friends – and just friends – while he’s here.