Part of me felt bad for leaving Sookie in the parking lot, but the other part of me felt fan-fucking-tastic. It was petty of me, I know, but it felt right to give her a taste of what I had had to deal with over the summer.
But, God, what an incredible end to an already awesome night. There were still some experience issues we had to resolve on the offensive line, but it was pretty good for the first game of the season. Besides the score, the best part of the game had been seeing Sookie dance. From the shell-shocked expressions of my teammates at the end of halftime, I could tell they had been as impressed with the dance team (and their new uniforms) as I had been.
The pinnacle of the evening was the parking lot. It took all my self control not to go caveman on that Alcide asshole. I didn’t like his arm wrapped around her shoulder. I hated her wearing his shirt. I loathed that he was the one getting hugs from her. I made it my mission to replace any scent of him that may have lingered on her. I was pretty damn sure that I succeeded too.
To be completely honest, I was surprised that she let me go as far as she did. I expected some furious making out, especially when she threw Yvetta in my face. Hot, angry, crazy sex against her car was, I thought, in the league of a little girl asking Santa for a pony. You can ask, you can hope, but it most likely not going to happen. I felt lucky that my late-summer wish had been granted.
I pulled into the parking lot for Merlotte’s after I left the high school. I smirked and nodded at the cheers and applause when I walked in. I looked around for my friends, rolling my eyes at Bill and Thalia making out in a corner. I spotted Max, Heidi, and, to my surprise, Preston sitting at a table by the window. I put in an order for a steak quesadilla (Sookie had gotten me hooked on the damn things), grabbed a chair from an empty table, and joined them.
Preston joining our crowd was unusual. He was only a sophomore, but his talent had gotten him bumped up to the varsity team. He was tall and wiry, the perfect frame for a running back. He was not quite as tall as me, but close. It was endearingly amusing how awed he was at hanging out with us.
Heidi looked over at me with a smirk. “So, Eric, what have you been getting yourself into? Or should I say who?”
I rolled my eyes at her catty question. “I had some things I needed to clear up before I left. Sorry I’m late.”
She laughed. “Hon, you sparkle like an angsty teenage vampire,” she pointed out and raised an eyebrow at me.
I looked down. It hadn’t been noticeable in the dark parking lot, but a lot of the glitter that had made Sookie and the rest of the dance team sparkle under the floodlights had transferred onto me. My clothes, my skin, my hair. Fuck.
She continued looking over me. “I know it wasn’t me, unfortunately. That would have been fun to try again. I know it wasn’t Felicia because she’s been humping Clancy’s leg all night. Hmm… there are nine other girls that it could have been, but for the life of me, I can’t picture you with any of them, even for a post-game quickie.”
Heidi was entirely too fucking perceptive for my liking right now. I was saved by the waitress with the unnaturally red hair bringing me my food. I grabbed the biggest piece of quesadilla and shoving it in my mouth. It may have been rude, but I wasn’t really in the mood to answer any questions. Max, who had seen enough of me that summer to know something was up and who it would possibly be with, wisely kept his trap shut, but gave me curious looks the entire time I ate.
Seriously, what the fucking hell was that? You don’t fuck someone up against their car and then just leave them in the parking lot. At least, a decent person doesn’t do that.
“This is a fling,” were Eric’s parting words to me. The hell it is. That was not what I wanted. I had been expecting to get in my car and go home to my warm, comfy bed after a shower to get all the fucking glitter off me. I still had to work the lunch shift the next day and needed some rest. Not to say that it wasn’t hot. He still knew how to touch me and how to get me to respond. And damn him for that.
I slumped in my driver’s seat, still sitting in the parking lot. I was exhausted, but too wired to go home yet. I knew Tara was getting sick of me laying my messed up little head trips at her feet for her to figure out for me. But I needed to talk to someone to figure this shit out. I pulled out my phone and started scrolling through the contacts. Alcide was one of the first names I came to. I though about how he’d been since Holly had broken up with him. He’d been sweet, quiet, and nothing at all like the creep he had been over the past few months. I had actually gotten more comfortable with him and figured it might be a good starting point to get a guys point of view on this whole situation, and Jason wasn’t someone I could go to with the whole story.
I hit the button to call him and waited while it rang. When he answered, he sounded surprised.
“Sook?” he asked
“Hey Alc. Whatcha doing now?”
“Tray just dropped Amelia off. We’re heading home.” He still sounded confused.
“You think you could drop him off and meet me somewhere? I need to talk to someone and Tara is sick of me and my problems right now.”
“Yeah. Where’d you want to meet?”
“Umm…” I really had no idea. “Can you just meet me here? At the parking lot of the high school?”
“You’re still there? I thought you left, like, an hour ago.”
“I would have. That’s what I need to talk about.”
I could hear him talking to Tray in the background. I heard the deep rumble of one of them laughing and Alcide got back on the phone. “I can be there in about ten minutes. Same spot and everything?”
“Yep. I’ll see you soon.” I ended the call and played around with the games on my phone waiting until I saw the Jeep pull up next to me. I hopped out of my car and into the passenger seat.
Alcide leaned over to give me a quick hug. “I have to admit, Sook. I never thought you’d be calling on me as someone to confide in.”
“Honestly, I never thought I would either. I need someone impartial to give me a guy’s view on things.”
“I’ll help if I can, but you’re gonna have to give me some back story here. This have anything to do with the times you’d show up at Tara’s all agitated over the summer?”
I gave him a fair amount of background and what I had wanted from Eric. His eyes narrowed at the name, but didn’t interrupt. I didn’t go into explicit details, but told him what had basically happened after he left me in the parking lot that night. I finished my monologue, feeling my face burning and knowing I was blushing beet red.
Alcide leaned back and was quiet for a few long minutes. “So let me get this straight. You almost lose your virginity to the guy in the woods at a field party. He just leaves you there when he finds out you were a virgin. You show up to school the next week looking all hot and shit and he starts basically stalking you. After the Spanish guy left, you decided to give the asshole another chance. And not only that, but you gave him a free pass. You told him that you didn’t want anything serious, just something casual. And he got pissed over that?”
“Well, I think that’s what it was. He told me that he wanted ‘boyfriend’ privileges.”
His voice got louder and tinged with anger. “So when I left tonight, he met you here, you had it out, and he fucked you up against your car, right? And then said ‘See ya,’ and drove away?”
“Umm, yeah. He said that that was a fling and what I had said I wanted to begin with. Is that what guys consider a fling?”
“My question is what the hell made you even get started with an asshole like that to begin with? Why didn’t you ever give me a chance?”
“Alc, you were with Holly. I won’t ever be ‘the other girl’ in a relationship. I was with Rasul for two months, until he left. The thing with Eric just happened. It wasn’t expected or planned,” I concluded lamely, shrugging my shoulders. “I just don’t know what to do now.”
“Now? After he actually got to finish the fuck and run job he wanted to do back in the spring? You go on like every other fucking girl he’s done this to. You feel a little used and keep looking in his direction, hoping to see some sort of affection or, hell, even recognition, on his face when he looks at you.”
“Dude, what is with the hate?” I was surprised at the bitterness he was showing.
“I’ve been watching him do this to girls for almost three years now. I thought you were better than that. I’ve wanted you since we met. You were gorgeous, but didn’t realize it. You’re smart, funny, and if I hadn’t been with Holly, I would have been pursuing you hard. Before you started attracting the leeches of the school by dressing up. You told me I creeped you out with the looks and comments, but I wanted to give you some idea of how I felt, but give myself an out if you rejected it. I could play it off as kidding around. But this whole time you’ve been fucking Northman, of all people? What the fuck, Sookie?”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t remember needing your approval. I asked you here for some advice, but it’s pretty damn obvious that all I’m going to get from you is judgment. This was a bad idea,” I muttered, more to myself, but he heard it.
“Damn straight it was. What made you think I would want to hear this, much less give you advice about it? I gave you more credit than to fall for Northman’s bullshit lines. But you’re just like all the little fangirls that run around here, ready to spread their legs for him for a wink and a smile. Go home, Sookie. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look at you the same way.”
Shooting him an angry look, I slammed the passenger door of the Jeep and got back in my car. Seeing the Wrangler peel out of the parking lot made me kind of laugh, but bitterly. I now had two guys leave me in the same parking lot on the same night. I started my car and drove home, no clearer about how I felt about this whole fucked up situation.
I stayed out late that night. It was my usual procedure. We migrated our gathering spots as places closed. I made it home somewhere close to three am. I changed clothes when I got to my room and promptly crashed. I woke up late the next day. Saturdays were our only full day off. We had a meeting Sunday evenings to watch game film to get our plays in line for the following week. I knew that Chester was having another party by the river that night. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go or not.
Pam was at one of her friend’s houses, enjoying another weekend-long sleepover. Mom would pick her up on her way home the following day. No one was home now, but I was used to the emptiness by now. I made myself some lunch (can you really call it breakfast if it’s after noon?) and considered my options for what to do with my day.
Heidi had amused herself for a long time the night before imagining different scenarios that would have gotten me all glittery. The only person who could have given her any correct insight would have been Bill or Thalia, but they was too busy massaging each others tonsils with their tongues to pay attention to our little conversation.
I decided that I would go to the party. I was pretty sure that Sookie wouldn’t be going. I had gotten the impression that she didn’t hang out with her cousins all that much and that first party was a fluke. I didn’t know if I wanted to see her or if I didn’t. The part of me that had felt guilty the night before had grown while I was sleeping. I really had been an ass to her. I think my conscience has a time delay.
I went for a two-hour run to burn off some excess energy, feeling grateful that the humidity was letting up. I showered when I got home and called Max on my way to the party. He agreed to meet me in his pickup so I could get there without ruining my undercarriage.
I was all kinds of cranky the next morning. Hadley was a demon in a perky sixteen-year old body. I was convinced. She woke me up again, telling me that Chester was having another party that night and she wanted me to come out. Naturally my mom was all for me going out. Surely Eric wouldn’t be there since he knew Chester was my cousin’s boyfriend. I told her I’d go, but I wanted more sleep before I had to shower and get ready for work.
I checked my reflection and was less than thrilled to see all that glitter shit still clinging to my neck, face, and hair. Ugh. That stuff never came off. I hoped Senior wouldn’t mind a sparkly waitress. There wasn’t much I could do about it if he didn’t. I pulled on my uniform and a little makeup (by which I mean some powder and lip gloss) and headed off to the diner.
Senior let me into the kitchen when I pulled up at ten and I got started on my side work for opening. The front door got unlocked at eleven and all I really had to do was wait for people to show up. It was slow-going until about twelve when people started coming in in droves. I was running my ass off non-stop for orders, refills, and checks on auto-pilot. When it started to slow down around two thirty, I was able to catch my breath and take a break. I gave my lunch order to Arlene, grabbed a cup of lemonade, and went to the parking lot with my phone. I sat under one of the patio umbrellas so I wouldn’t have to deal with glare. A tall figure stood over me for a second and I looked up.
I thought for a moment that it was Eric, but the silhouette was off. I stood for a better look. The guy standing in front of me wasn’t quite as tall as Eric, and he was thinner. He had dark chocolate colored hair that almost came down to his shoulders and these light caramel colored eyes. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t place him.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” he asked, motioning to the seat across from me.
I waved my hand and sat back down. “Help yourself. But if you want to order, you should probably head inside. I’m on my break for another twenty minutes.”
“That’s okay. I’m still waiting on some people. You look familiar.”
“So do you. Were you at the game last night?”
He chuckled. “You could say that. Were you?”
“Yeah. I was on the field for about five minutes wearing the equivalent of a fringed bathing suit.”
He smiled and nodded. “I was one of the guys in the tight white pants, blue jersey, and helmet. We caught that performance last night.. I think we’re going to have to make a point to get back on the sidelines before halftime ends from now on.”
Arlene brought out my salad and refilled my lemonade. “Hope you don’t mind me eating, but I haven’t had anything today. And I’m going to feel really stupid, but what’s your name, person I’ve been talking to for several minutes now?”
“Preston. And you?”
“Sookie. So who are you waiting on, Preston?”
“My brothers are meeting me here. They play rec league soccer and I take them to lunch after their games. Their coach drops them off. They should be here soon.”
“How old are they?”
“Ten. Cole and Dylan are twins. They are a handful.”
I ate my salad while we continued talking. At a break in the flow of topics, I thought for a moment. It had been awhile since I had a nice conversation with a guy where there was no tension whatsoever. “Preston, what are you doing tonight?”
“I don’t really have any plans. Why?”
“My cousin’s boyfriend is having a field party tonight and I would love to have at least one person there that I can have a conversation with. You want to go?”
His face flushed. “Umm, I would love to, but I don’t have a license yet.”
“It’s cool. I can pick you up.” His head turned and I followed his gaze to a red Suburban. “Only if you want to.”
He stood and two identical miniature versions of him ran into the restaurant, waving as they passed. “Yeah. I’d like that. I’ll give you my number before we leave.”
I finished my lunch and started on my end-of-shift side work so I could leave right at four. Before I left, Preston gave me a slip of paper with his number. I immediately texted him so he’d have mine. I smiled and told him I’d get directions and pick him up around seven. I had to talk Jason into letting me use his truck for the night.
It was mind numbing how repetitive these parties were. Country music playing from a boombox on the river bank or from various truck stereos. A cooler of disgustingly cheap beer and a few random wine coolers for the girls. A bonfire in the middle of the field. An overabundance of pointy boots and oversize belt buckles, and not just on the guys either. Pickup trucks ranging from shiny and tricked out to rusty and covered in mud. But the fact was, in the middle of nowhere, with no major cities around, this was the best nightlife there was to offer around here.
Max grabbed a couple of beers and we leaned against his truck, looking around, trying to decide where to go. Heidi and Isabelle showed up riding in Isabelle’s mom’s Cherokee. It was kind of funny how out of place a SUV looked around all the pickups. They grabbed wine coolers for themselves and joined us by the truck.
Max, Heidi, and Isabelle talked about the game last night. My contributions to the conversation had been monosyllabic grunts of agreement to what ever they were talking about. I saw the bright blue pickup I had been waiting for bounce into the field, but it only held Hadley and Sophie. I felt myself relax and became the congenial, flirtatious asshole I was best known for being.
I was in the process of making a couple of random girls giggle when bouncing headlights caught my attention. It was a black truck with very custom aqua and pink detailing. Jason. Fuck. What the hell was he doing at a high school field party?
But it wasn’t a tall blond male that jumped down from the driver’s seat. She was wearing jeans that made her already amazing ass look mouthwatering and yet another tank top, this one day-glo blue. And she wasn’t alone. A tall, dark brunette exited the passenger side and came around to join the driver. What the fucking hell was Preston doing here with Sookie?
I didn’t have much time to think about it before Heidi squealed and ran off to greet them. Hadley was doing the same from the other end of the field. Really? Was fate so determined to fuck with me like this? Max said nothing, but smirked at the expression on my face, which I guess was a mix of dumbfounded and jealous. I really didn’t like the fact that this kid I had been planning on taking under my wing was escorting my Sookie to parties.
After being hugged by Hadley, Sookie allowed herself and Preston to be dragged over to Max’s truck by Heidi. “Sookie, this is Max Lee and Eric Northman. Preston, you already know them. Sookie is on the dance team with me this year. Have you guys met?”
Max shook his head and offered his hand to Sookie. She shook it and turned to me with a grin, biting her lip, like she was trying to keep from laughing. “I think we danced together at Prom. How are you, Eric?”
So that was how she was going to play it? I could do that. I smiled at her. “I think so. Preston, how’s it going tonight?”
“Good, Eric. Sookie invited me. I wasn’t expecting a field party to be this crowded,” he said quietly. He looked around, surprised at the surprisingly large number of people congregating around the bonfire.
“You guys need a beer? I want some water,” Sookie asked. Max and I nodded, and Preston shook his head. She left for the cooler.
“So how do you know Sookie?” I asked Preston once she was out of earshot.
“I met her at Merlotte’s today when I took my little brothers out for lunch. She was on her break and I got there before their coach dropped them off. We got to talking. She’s a cool girl. Umm… how do you know her?”
Oops. Time to think fast. “She did drama with my sister back in the spring. I got to know her through Pam.” Yeah, blatant lie, but ask if I gave a damn.
“She seems really sweet. And oh my god, is she hot! That uniform those girls were wearing last night..,” he shook his head as he trailed off. “It was a little hard to get blood flow back to the brain, right?”
I fought to keep my expression neutral “They were good, but don’t let anything distract you during a game.” So, I was being a total hypocrite. I had been just as distracted as he had apparently been, I was just better and not showing it.
Sookie returned and handed cans of beer to Max and me, and handed a bottle of water off to Preston before opening her own. “So what were you guys talking about while I was gone?” I know I wasn’t imagining the wary glance she gave me out of the corner of her eye.
I opened my mouth to answer, but Preston beat me to it. “I was telling him how amazing I thought you guys were last night. He was telling me that I can’t afford to be distracted during the game.”
She bit down on her lip as she tried not to laugh again. She had gotten to know me entirely too well. “I see. Well, I’m going to talk to Heidi about how we can make our performances less ‘distracting’.” She walked away and joined up with Heidi and Isabelle.
It was too fucking funny. Acting like Eric and I had only a passing knowledge of each other. I had convinced Jason that I would take good care of his baby. I didn’t drink for the most part, and after I picked up Preston, I would only be about a mile away from the house. He tossed me his keys and told me to have fun.
I joined Heidi and the redhead she had been talking to when the entered Merlotte’s so many weeks ago. Isabelle had been the one to think the dance routines were getting too strenuous and was quitting to join cheerleading. Heidi was talking about making fun of Eric for sparkling when he showed up at Merlotte’s. Shit. I forgot that glitter shit rubbed off on everything. I struggled not to laugh more than expected, but it was a really funny mental image.
As the night wore on, I was reminded why I hated these things. People started pairing off and/or getting drunk and belligerent. I like Preston just fine, but not in a hooking-up kind of way. We sat in the bed of Jason’s truck, just talking and getting to know each other better. I wasn’t stupid. I’m not telepathic, but it didn’t take a mind reader to know what he wanted. I excused myself to try to find another bottle of water somewhere, knowing it would be quite a search. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but I didn’t want to lead him on either.
Eric was still lounging again his friend’s truck, looking in my direction with a sour look on his face. I knew right away what it looked like as I hopped down from the truck bed. He grabbed my arm and pulled me over by the bonfire, where it would be too loud to be overheard.
“What were you thinking, coming here with him?” he asked me angrily.
“I was thinking that Hadley was forcing me to come to this thing and it would be nice to have someone I could talk to. I didn’t think you’d come here. I was under the impression that you had gotten what you wanted.” I know my voice was tight, but he had hurt my feelings the night before.
“I was under the impression that I was giving you what you wanted. You could have told me if you wanted to fuck the whole team.” I could smell the beer on his breath and knew that, partially at least, it was the alcohol talking.
“You know damn well that’s not what I want. I wanted you. But you had to push me for more than I was ready to give. I’m new to this whole world of relationships or whatever the fuck you want to call what we had, and you knew that too. I told you up front what I wanted, and a quick fuck up against my car in the parking lot of the high school was not it.”
“Would it have killed you to clue me in on that? I don’t know which way is up with you, Sookie. I’m pissed as hell at you and still want nothing more than to drag you off into the woods and make you scream my name so loud that everyone here can hear you.” He was very expressive, using his hands a lot while arguing with me. It would be clear to anyone passing by that we weren’t talking about the weather.
“Eric, I like you. A lot. I can admit that, which is a hell of a lot more than I was able to a few weeks ago. But I stand by my decision. I don’t want a boyfriend. Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck I want anymore, and I can’t expect you to know what to do with that. And I don’t expect you to wait around while I try to figure it out.” I couldn’t help but sound as defeated as I felt. I liked him a lot more than I was willing to let on, but damn if I was going to make myself vulnerable.
“Well, well, well,” a new voice broke in from behind me. “Eric, I think you may have forgotten to mention how well you knew little Sookie here. Is she the one that shared her glitter with you last night?” Heidi. Shit.