The drive back to Merlotte’s so Sookie could get her car was silent and awkward. I wasn’t used to being on the other side of this situation and I found that I didn’t like it one fucking bit. I wanted Sookie, and I wanted all of her. After finally getting her the way I had dreamed about for months, I couldn’t believe that the reality was even better than the fantasy. But she just wanted a fucking fling.
We had sat at the lake, and before we left, she tried to explain herself. Everything her mother had taught was her that she had to have a steady guy in her life. It was encouraged. But she didn’t want someone putting demands on her time and wanted to be able to do what she wanted while she had the choice. She didn’t want a relationship. She wanted to be able to come and go, do what she wanted, with who she wanted, when the whim struck her.
I could sure as hell understand that. That was how I lived. But I wanted to be with her. I wanted to have that claim on her time. I wanted her to want to be with me. She wasn’t just “some girl” to me.
I made her tell me more about Bill’s assault on her. Because that’s what it was. I couldn’t believe the fucker had the nerve to attack her at her grandmother’s house in front of his dad and her family. He was lucky that Jason and Andre hadn’t fucked him up, but the same couldn’t be said for me. He was going to regret putting his hands on what was mine.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. I don’t fall. I don’t commit. I was already falling, I wanted to commit and I wanted it all with Sookie.
I dropped her off at her car, but grabbed her hand before she could get out. “I’m not going to pressure you. But I don’t want you to cut me off either. Give me a chance.”
“Everyone has a chance. Until they screw it up. I won’t cut you off, Eric. But don’t push me to give more than I’m willing to.”
She turned her head and kissed me softly before sliding out to get in her own car. I closed my eyes dropped my head back against the headrest. I was so fucked. And I hadn’t even seen it coming. I watched her Cabrio pull away and looked around the parking lot.
What a fucking surprise. The big blue pickup that I had been hoping to see was sitting right fucking there. I cut my engine and stormed the pool room.
“Compton, get your ass over here now!” I roared when I flung the door open. Every head in the room turned, but I was only looking for one person.
His head turned as he was lining up his shot. He smirked when he saw me and set his cue stick down. “Northman. I thought you had plans for tonight. You done already? Is your stamina not what is used to be?”
I grabbed him by his designer polo and dragged him outside. “What the fuck were you thinking, putting your hands on Sookie?”
He flung my hand off him and got in my face. “She insulted me. I had to show her a little of what she was missing. Don’t tell me she went crying to you.”
“She didn’t want to tell me. I made her describe what a fucking asshole you are. What makes you think taking what you want from a girl is okay? Is that what gets you off? Force?”
“No, but she’s been an uppity little bitch ever since… fuck, why the hell am I even having to justify myself to you? You started noticing her the same time I did. What is she to you than just another piece of ass? She’s not so special.”
No. I wasn’t going to let him talk about her like that, at least not to me. Before I even realized I had done it, my hand was stinging and he was cupping his hands to his nose. I could see the blood pouring through his fingers.
“Dude, what the fuck? You just broke my fucking nose! Over Sookie Stackhouse?”
For good measure, I also sank my fist into his stomach. He doubled over gasping. I tilted his head up and met his watery eyes. “You’re going to stay the fuck away from her. If you so much as sneeze in her general direction, I will fuck you up so hard you won’t know which way is up. Do we have an understanding?” I asked as he started coughing on the blood going down his throat.
He nodded before I let go of him and he sank to his ass in the parking lot. I stalked back to my car, not feeling all that much better. It didn’t change the fact that he had hurt her. And it wouldn’t change the fact that, as badly as I wanted her, she didn’t want me the same way.
I drove away from Merlotte’s confused as hell. I drove past Tara’s house on my way home and saw the bonfire and Jeep in her field. Perfect. I got home, changed into something more comfortable in a matter of minutes, left a note saying that I was spending the night with Tara, and left again.
I pulled up next to Tray’s Jeep and met Tara on the blanket by the fire. JB and the twins were scouting the woods for more firewood and Amelia and Holly were smoking in one of the tents. I put my head on Tara’s shoulder. “I was right last night. This summer sucks.”
“What’s the matter, sugar?”
“Why the hell can’t a fling ever just be a fling? Why do fucking feelings have to get involved?”
Tara’s eyes widened. “I thought you didn’t want anything more from him than a good time.”
“I don’t.” I shook my head and looked up at her. “But he’s not going along with the program on that.”
She chuckled. “So he wants you for more than a hook-up? We’re still talking about Eric, right? Mr. Hit it and Quit it?”
“The one and fucking same. This was supposed to be the easy part.”
“Honey, nothing is easy when sex gets involved. Was it at least good?”
I closed my eyes and nodded. “Oh yeah. Very. Very very. I’m not saying the boy doesn’t know what to do. But damn. I don’t want another boyfriend. I don’t even want a friends with benefits thing. I wanted something that could be a once in a blue moon kinda thing, and he wants more.”
“Sookie, look at me.” I turned my head and looked up at her. “I’ve known you for almost ten years now. You used to be this little wallflower, hiding in Jason’s clothes and never really getting close to anyone. You’ve gained confidence and pride in yourself in a few short months. You don’t really know how to handle the fact that you are completely hot shit right now.”
“If being hot shit means getting molested by a fucked up neighbor, then I’ll go back into hiding.”
“What are you talking about now?”
I proceeded to tell her about getting kissed and groped by Bill at Gran’s house that morning. I told her about the bruises he left behind and Eric’s reaction to seeing them, up close and personal. I think the part she was most surprised about was the fact that Jason and Andre had let him walk away.
“Well, they didn’t really have a choice. His dad was right there and I can guarantee that if they had done more than pull him off me, we would be looking for bail money. Phil loves Gran, but he’s not overly fond of the rest of us and he wouldn’t have hesitated to press charges against them.”
“What about you? You could have him charged with assault.”
“Tara, I’m over it. It was just a skeevy boy trying to get his kicks on making someone feel weaker than he is.”
By the time we finished our conversation, the boys had returned with armloads of wood and stoked the fire back up. JB claimed Tara from me and Tray and Alcide sat behind me on the blanket.
“When did you get here, sweet thing,” Alcide whispered once he sat down.
“Speaking of skeevy boys,” I mumbled under my breath and turned. “Alcide, stop it. I mean it. I don’t like your hugs that last a little too long or your sleazy terms of endearment. I already told you it makes me uncomfortable.” I turned to Tray. “How do you feel about helping a girl mellow out a little?”
He gave me a grin and pulled a joint out of his pocket. I shot Alcide a “fuck off” look and took off walking through the field. I sat on my ass in the damp grass and looked up at the stars as I toked. I did like Eric. Away from his cliquey little friends, he was easy-going, funny, smart. And if I let myself, I could easily fall for him. If.
I felt my pocket buzz and pulled the phone out and saw that I had a new text message from an unknown number. Curiosity got the better of me and I hit the button to open it.
So is my brother going to be a whiny bitch tomorrow?
Gotta love that Pam.
I woke up the next morning feeling like shit. My hand hurt and I was dealing with the sting of rejection. I had never experienced it and it fucking sucked. I dragged my ass to the kitchen to make a late breakfast and Pam was sitting at the table smirking.
“So how was the date, brother dearest?”
“It’s too early for this shit, Pam.”
“That good, huh? She still not putting out for you?”
“For God’s sake, Pamela! Get your own life so you can get the hell out of mine,” I grumbled while searching for juice in the fridge. Finding it, I drained it from the carton and tossed it in the trash. “Why are you so interested in my sex life? Most sisters don’t even want to think of their brothers having sex. You seem to encourage it.”
“Because it’s interesting. How you can be such a callous shit to girls for years and all of a sudden, a gash in a sundress walks by and you’re putty.”
“Jesus Christ, what is it with you and that mouth? I definitely didn’t teach you that.”
“Late night cable. When you’re too young to drive, it’s a teenager’s best friend.”
“Well, cool it. It creeps me out to hear my little sister talking that way.
“What is it about Sookie? I get that she’s pretty. Blond hair, blue eyes, and big tits will always get noticed. But that’s no reason for you to turn into a total pus… wimp,” she said, at least attempting to watch her language.
I grabbed a pack of cinnamon pop-tarts and headed back to my room with the rest of another carton of juice. I didn’t want to be in the same room as Pam when she was in one of her many devilish moods. I plopped back down on my bed and hit the remote for my stereo. My phone went off and I hoped it would be Sookie. My hopes were dashed by the fucking caller ID.
“What’s up, Clance?” I asked, not disguising my disappointment.
“What the fuck is wrong with you? Bill had to go to the hospital last night to get his broken nose set. He told his dad he fell in the parking lot, but I saw your tall ass drag him out of Merlotte’s. He’s your best friend. What the fuck, Northman?”
I sighed. It was inevitable that I would hear about this. “He had it coming. He’s lucky he wasn’t arrested. Just drop it, Clancy. That was between him and me.”
“That’s fucked up, dude. Don’t forget who your friends are.”
Yeah, shallow, narcissistic friends that don’t give a shit about you unless you fit into their little mold. “Mmhmm,” I muttered, just trying to get him off the phone.
It didn’t end either. It wasn’t my place to give the specific reason, and in the end, I just put the damn thing on silent and let the calls go to voice mail.
I wasn’t really a mopey, emo guys, so to get rid of the lingering pissy feelings, I pulled on my running shoes and shorts and hit the pavement. I ran the neighborhood twice and came home two hours later soaked and exhausted. It felt fucking fantastic. I showered, ate, and went back to my room. Football practice started the next day and we had to be on the field no later than seven thirty. I checked my phone, purely out of habit. After deleting the thirteen voice mails that I had no desire to hear and scrolling through the pissed off texts, I was finally able to smile.
Come talk to me tonight.
I woke up in the tent with Amelia and Tray. That was fucking weird. I didn’t remember a whole lot after walking away from the campfire, but I must have gotten back somehow. I got in my car and drove home after tapping Tara to let her know I was leaving. I got home and managed to catch the tail end of breakfast. I made myself a cup of coffee and grabbed some bacon and toast from the leftovers sitting on the stove. I went out to the porch and stretched out on the swing while I ate.
Jason came out and sat with me when he realized I was home. “Did you have a good time last night?”
I shrugged. “Yes and no.”
He grinned. “Would you care to expand on those details, Miss Articulate?”
“Jase, what would you say to the girls that wanted more from you, but you didn’t want to cut them off completely?”
His eyes narrowed. “Now I need to know what’s going on.”
“Look, don’t go all hyper-protective on me here. I need some honest-to-God advice and I’m asking you. Do you really need all the details when you’re going to be too pissed off if I give them to you to give me the help I’m humbly asking for?”
He considered for a moment, then nodded. “You’re right. I don’t want to know. And can I just say it creeps me out a bit that you’re asking for this kind of advice from me.”
“Duly noted. Now help me!”
“Well, I would tell them how much fun hanging out with them was, and how I really hoped we could do it again. But added that life is going to be busy and there’s no way that I could set up anything on a permanent basis. If they wanted more than that, I would avoid them until they moved on.”
“So either lie or hide? Great options you’re giving me there, brother.”
“Aren’t you starting a new job tomorrow? How would it be a lie?”
“Cuz I’m only going to be working days, while he’s occupied with football..,” I trailed off and wanted to smack myself in the head.
“So he’s on the team?” He thought about that for a moment, then started shaking his head. “No. No fucking way. Uh-uh, Sook. You are not fucking involved with Northman.”
“Damn it, Jason. You don’t even know the guy.”
“And if I’m figuring out what I think you’re telling me, you know him better than you should.” He was getting close to yelling and I could tell he was on the furious end of pissed off.
“That is none of your business, Jason Stackhouse. This, right here, is why I didn’t want to tell you anything.”
“Sookie, you know what he’s like…”
Now I was getting mad. “Yeah, I do. Because I’ve actually spent time with him. All you know are rumors and gossip. What do you think is more reliable?”
“I don’t want you getting used. And I just know that’s what’s gonna end up happening.”
“Jase, do you think I’m stupid? Really, do you think I can be suckered by some pretty blue eyes and a hot set of abs?” He frowned deeper and I shook my head. “We were at the lake. I saw him shirtless. Deal with it. I’m a lot smarter than you give me credit for. I know what I’m doing and I know what I want. Just trust me and don’t hassle me about this, okay?”
He kissed the top of my head. “I can trust you, Sook. But not him.”
He left to go help Hoyt finish moving and I laid out in my yard, not wanting to make the drive to the lake. I made myself some lunch and tried to take a nap. I started a new job tomorrow. That was something to be excited about. I already had the black shorts that Senior said I would need and he would provide the t-shirt that the servers wore. But my mind wouldn’t slow down and stop thinking for a damn minute. And I didn’t like at all that all I could think about was that amazing night under the stars at Daddy’s cabin. I wanted to see Eric again. I sent a text and put the ball in his court.