Shit. Shitshitshit. I wasn’t in the mood for Heidi’s teasing when I was sober. After several beers, it was even more irritating. And the fucking horrified look on Sookie’s face pissed me off even more.
“Sookie, honey, Preston is looking a little lonely over there. Why don’t you go keep your date company? I’ll make sure our star QB here is properly…mmm… entertained.” Heidi flicked her eyes towards Jason’s truck, where Preston sat on the tailgate looking like a lost fucking puppy. Sookie shot me a look that said she wasn’t anywhere done with this… whatever the hell we were doing, before pasting a convincing smile on her face and all but skipped back to Preston.
“So, Northman, what’s the deal with you and Sookie?” Heidi asked, looking at me with avid curiosity. Her tone was soothing, inviting confidence, but her eyes were sparkling at the thought of some juicy gossip.
“It’s nothing you need to worry about. We had a disagreement; now it’s been resolved,” I shrugged. It was nowhere near resolved. I may have been buzzed, but I wasn’t stupid enough to confide in Heidi. Hell,. I barely counted her as a friend.
She scooted closer to me. “Baby, you’re the most easy-going guy I know. For you to disagree with someone, much less have a full on argument like the one I witnessed, something else has to be going on. Like, why did you and Sookie act like you barely knew each other earlier when it’s very obvious that you know each other… quite well.” She smirked and flicked her eyes over me, lightly licking her lips as she did so. Ugh. She was a walking fucking cliché. Been there, done her, had no desire to repeat the experience. Especially since I had experienced so much better since then.
“Why the fuck do you care, Heidi?” I asked, speaking slowly to avoid slurring. I looked around for Max, hoping he’d stopped drinking before I did. He was my ride and I wanted to get the fuck out of here.
“You’re my friend, Eric. Is it so wrong for me to care about what’s going on in your life?” Heidi batted her big brown eyes at me innocently and put her hand on my shoulder. I had to fight not to laugh.
“Heidi, we’re not friends. We fucked. Once. And we hang out with the same people. But that doesn’t make us friends.” I shrugged her hand off me and went back to lean against Max’s truck.
“Oh, and Sookie is so close to you? What is it about her that gets all you guys so worked up? I’ve known her since we were eleven and she’s not that fucking special. If she hadn’t started showing off the goods last year, you still wouldn’t know who the fuck she was.” Oh yeah, she was pissed now.
“I don’t have to explain or defend anything to you. You aren’t my keeper, my girlfriend, or anyone else who would have any kind of say about what I do with my life or who I include in it. Run off an play with Isabelle. I’m bored with this conversation.” My manners tend to take a vacation when alcohol comes into the picture.
She huffed and gave me the dirtiest look she could muster and stomped off to find her friend. I went back to looking at the black truck across the field, wondering what the hell Sookie had done to me.
I hopped up on the tailgate next to Preston, keeping the smile on my face, although I didn’t feel like it at all. “Sorry about the interruption. I got waylaid on my quest to find water.” So, I use big words when I’m nervous or flustered. It could be worse.
“Sookie, what’s going on with you and Northman?” he asked me, turning to look me in the eye. Wow, he had really pretty eyes. Nope, Sookie, not what you’re here for. Just chill the fuck out.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied. I was pretty sure everyone at the party had seen our little… misunderstanding, even if they hadn’t been able to hear what it was about. But I felt guilty that I had invited Preston to this party and had essentially abandoned him to have it out with Eric.
“I’m not blind, Sook. You guys weren’t just having a talk about homework.” He raised an eyebrow at me, letting me know he was onto my bullshit and didn’t appreciate it. “Did you bring me here to make him jealous or something?”
“No! I would never do that. I wanted to hang out with someone here that didn’t annoy the crap out of me.” His face fell. “No, wait, I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that I had a really nice time talking to you this afternoon and wanted to get to know you better. I honestly had no idea that Eric would be here. But he was not a factor in me wanting to spend some time with you.” I wanted to be as honest as possible, without giving him too much hope or giving too much away.
“Something is there between you two. I didn’t know which was more flammable, the bonfire or you two yelling at each other. It seemed like something was going to explode and I would have put even odds on which one. What’s going on, Sook?”
“Preston, I’m not big on laying out the details of my personal life to people I’ve just met. But I’ll say that Eric and I do know each other better than we let on when we were introduced earlier tonight. I just didn’t want to deal with his bullshit.” I felt that was an adequate explanation for someone I’d known all of eight hours, give or take. He nodded. “And not trying to be a total bitch, but any kind of hook-up or something like that isn’t going to happen. I like you a lot, Pres, but not like that. Not right now.” His puppy eyes were killing me.
We talked a little more before hopping off the tailgate and jumping into the truck to head home. Well, at least to take him home. I wasn’t anywhere near ready to go to bed, much less deal with Jason’s inquisition. I drove into town and dropped Preston off at his mom’s house with a light hug. After seeing that he got in okay, I started driving.
I have no idea what took me there, but I headed for the field by the lake at Daddy’s cabin. I pulled the blanket Jason kept behind his seats out of the cab and spread it out on the ground. The night was just cool enough to raise goosebumps when the breeze blew off the water. I pulled off my shoes and enjoyed the feel of the dew on the grass on my toes. With my eyes closed, the sounds of the water lapping at the shore was clearer than usual and relaxed me.
“I thought I might find you here.” I opened my eyes and saw Eric kneeling next to me. The sliver of moon made his pale blond hair shimmer and the stars were reflected in his bright blue eyes. I felt my pulse increase, just by his nearness.
“What are you doing out here, Eric?” I asked quietly. This place was magic. Speaking too loudly would spoil it.
He smiled. Not the sarcastic smirk that infuriated me as much as it turned me on, but a true, genuine smile. “This is where you are. So this is where I want to be. We have some unfinished business, Sookie.”
I propped myself up on my elbows, still leaning back. “What unfinished business? Why aren’t you off letting Heidi ‘entertain’ you?” I was pissed that she had shooed me off like a child while she was looking at Eric like a piece of steak. And it pissed me off that I had no right to feel that way at all.
“I didn’t want Heidi’s kind of entertainment, if you must know. You’ve fucking ruined me. Damn it, Sookie.” He flopped down on the blanket next to me and looked straight up at the sky. “I don’t want anyone else. I still can’t get you out of my head. And I want you out. You’re a distraction that I can’t afford right now. I need to focus on getting out of here and getting to college. But, with the exception of the forty-eight minutes of game time, you consume my thoughts. And I’m sick of it.”
Wow. I think that was straight-from-the-soul honesty and I couldn’t ask for much more than that. And I can’t say that it didn’t give me hope and break my heart a little at the same time. I tried to lay my attitude to the side and respond with the same honesty he’d just shown to me. “You scared me. I knew you had all these feelings for me that I didn’t know how to return. And then I started falling for you. I mean, like walking off a cliff falling. That scared the shit out of me. This was supposed to be fun, no strings. I started wanting the Goddamn strings and that wasn’t part of the plan.” I laid back down on my back and stared at the sky like he had been.
“Why not talk to me about it? We were getting to where we wanted the same thing and you chose to fucking blow me off rather than see where this could go. And now, instead of both of us being happy, we’re both fucking miserable. Was that part of the plan also?” He could get really sarcastic when he wanted to.
“The plan was no feeling at all! The plan was hot sex with no fucking strings! The plan was playtime with no commitments! And somewhere down the line, the plan got shot all to shit.” Yeah, I was fucking bitter. I was pissed too. I didn’t like the fact that I had to drag all of this out.
“I got a shotgun rifle and a four-wheel drive, and a country boy can survive. Country folks can survive!” What the fuck? I blinked and felt my hip vibrating and singing Hank Williams, Jr. Jason’s personally requested ringtone. Taking a deep breath, I answered. “What’s up, Jase?”
“Where the hell are you, sis? You were supposed to be home half an hour ago!”
I checked the clock on the phone, and sure enough, it was half past midnight. Shit. I looked to my side. No one was there. A fucking Goddamn dream. I guess my subconscious knew what I wanted better than I did. I told Jason I was on my way and that I needed to talk to him when I got home.
I finally dragged Max away from the random semi-hot redneck girl that he was making out with, saying I needed to get back to my car. He got the girl’s number and we hopped up into his truck. We were halfway down the rutted road before he threw the number down on his floorboard.
“So what the fuck was going on with you and Stackhouse tonight?” he asked with a smirk and only because he was my friend I kept myself from decking him.
“Nothing. We just had a little argument.”
“So she’s the one who made you all sparkly last night? It was a good look for you,” he said with a little chuckle.
“Not the time, man. Not the fucking time.”
“You know, you never said what was going on with you two over the summer. Was it just a fling or something?” When the hell did he get so inquisitive? It was annoying.
“I’m not sober enough to have this conversation, dude.”
“Well, you better sober the fuck up soon, cuz we’re almost at your car.”
“Max, just drive me home. I’ll get someone to bring me out to my car tomorrow. I’m in no shape to drive right now.”
He obliged and headed toward my house, dropping me off in front of the garage. I punched in the code and walked in. I stripped down and changed into a pair of basketball shorts before I laid down on my bed. I hoped the passing out part came before the room spinning part because that really sucked.
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been drunk,” a sweet voice said from the foot of my bed.
“What are you doin’ here, Sook? Wait, how are you here?” I blinked at her, confused.
“I think you know the answer to both of those questions.” She smiled and stretched her legs out nest to mine, crossing them at the ankle. “I’m here because you want me to be. As to how… well, you let me in.”
Her sweet demeanor was getting to me. It was too much like she used to be around me and it pissed me off that she didn’t act that way anymore. “The hell I did. I came straight back here to pass out. You just showed up.”
Her smile widened. I missed that expression. “Well, doesn’t that tell you something? I could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone, yet I’m right here with you. And you? You could be dreaming about football or flying or going at it with Blake Lively. But you’re dreaming of me, fully clothed by the way, just sitting on your bed and talking. I think that kinda says something, don’t you?”
That was some stuff that my inebriated brain wasn’t able to wrap around. My life would be so much easier if I could go back to where I didn’t notice her anymore. But she was everywhere. Not a day went by that I didn’t see her blond hair, blue eyes, or tanned limbs. Her voice was music that seemed to sooth my soul. Everything about her fascinated me to no end.
“I felt like shit after leaving you in the parking lot the way I did. Although I got a little bit of vindictive pleasure from it too.” Since I was aware that this was a dream (her just having told me so), I knew that nothing I said would have consequences, so I just went with it. “You don’t know what it felt like for me. I know that you want me just as much as I want you, but for some reason you won’t let yourself be with me,” I could hear the poutiness in my voice and I cleared my throat, resolving not to let myself sound like a sulky seven-year old again.
She straightened her back and folded her legs underneath her. “I told you why. And I didn’t understand why you just couldn’t go with it. We would have had all this extra time together, having fun, doing our thing. But the possessive bullshit had to come up. I had to be ‘your’ something. I don’t want to belong to anyone except myself.”
“Every guy around would have been going after you and hitting on you otherwise.” She opened her mouth to interrupt, but I stopped her with fingers over her lips. “I’m not done. I’m not saying that that would have meant anything or that I didn’t trust you. It’s everyone else in that damn school that I don’t trust. And I can admit that the possessiveness would have come out at some point. No other girl has affected me the way that you have.”
She stretched her legs back out again, but wasn’t smiling anymore. “That’s what I didn’t want. It’s sweet that you don’t want other guys hitting on me, but that’s just not realistic. One of my best friends has made it no secret that he wants me, and made a point of flirting even when he had a girlfriend. Thinking that me having a labeled ‘boyfriend’ would make any difference is just plain naïve. How many girls have you gone after that already had a boyfriend? How big of a difference did that one word ever make to you?”
Damn. She had a point.
She continued. “Just because something is undefined, it doesn’t mean it’s worth any less than something conventional. What we had worked for us. Fuck anyone who didn’t like it.”
Dream-Sookie made a lot of sense. And she was a lot more rational and kept her temper a lot better than the real one did. I nodded and laid back down, the dream fading away into a deeper sleep cycle. Before it misted away completely (as Blake Lively walked through the door in red lingerie), her laughing voice rang through my head.
“You still owe me an apology for being a shit about the parking lot, you ass.”