Hi guys! New chapter in record time huh? Big, big thank you to everyone who commented on the blog, and twitter, and of course on FF.Net too. So glad so many of you are still with the story! It means a lot so thaaaaaaank you! 😀 Enjoy, you know the drill! 😀
Buzzing. Buzzing. And yet more buzzing. I half opened my eyes to the semi dark room, some light was peeking through the small cracks in the space between the large navy curtains and the window, I knew I wasn’t in my own bed, and I knew where the buzzing was coming from. My purse! But where was my purse? The stupid thing had woken me up fully, and I looked around a little more. Eric was to my left, on his stomach, his arms hidden under his pillows, a soft snore coming from his throat. The clock told me it was just after eight am, and for a minute I panicked, but then remembered this was Jason’s day to take over the office and my workload, and then physically relaxed again. I knew I still had a lot to do; I was scheduled to attend a party hosted by the magazine for Givenchy’s new creative director the next night, which meant smoozing, and lots of it. I knew I had to stop at their studio the next morning to be fitted into my dress, and I needed shoes. I was sure to be well taken care of, for any event where I was sure to be photographed, the designers tended to flock to me instead of the other way around – and thus resulted in a happy me willing to provide lots of glorified press quotes for their brand. It was a nice domino effect in a way, everyone went home happy.
“I can almost feel you tensing up over there.” Came the gruff voice from beside me, I turned and he was lying in the same position, but with a sleepy smile on his face, that and several pillow marks and fluffed up hair – it was adorable.
“Good morning to you too.”
“Why are we tensing?”
“Evil word, it’s your…our day off.” He nodded, turning fully to face me, wrapping his arms around me and bringing me closer.
“It’s always on my mind, which sucks to be honest. Where is my purse?”
“On the couch, I think. But it doesn’t need your attention right now… ” he gripped me tighter, and I desperately didn’t want to move, but I knew I’d be nothing but distracted wondering who was calling and why if I didn’t check it.
I leaned over and gave him a peck on the lips before I got up, pulled on his discarded t-shirt and made a break for the living room, and a pit stop in the bathroom that was desperately needed.
Four missed calls from Pam, one from Jason and two from front desk.
What the actual fuck?
I got back and crawled under the covers with him, phone in hand.
“Office, Pam, and the front desk in my building. Not really in that order, but all within ten minutes of each other, I should call Pam back, see what’s up.” I kissed him again, but this time he grabbed the phone from my hand and put it on his nightstand, out of my reach.
“But!” I reached but I was too short to get where he was going.
“But… day off. Let them handle it. Remember, they forced this on you, so… enjoy it.”
I was still half pouting, and a little annoyed when I realized he was right, it was my day off, screw them.
“Enjoy them, or enjoy you?”
“You enjoyed me a lot last night, if memory serves.”
I agreed, allowing myself to be enveloped into an Eric cuddle, it was my new happy place, I decided.
“I did, and you enjoyed yourself a lot too, I know that much.”
“I’d never deny that, in fact I’d like to write songs about how much I enjoyed myself last night… if I could write a song that is.” He pondered jovially.
With that my phone started ringing again.
He handed it to me, and I saw it was Pam.
“Thank fuck. Where are you? I’m outside your apartment and you aren’t answering, I thought you were dead.”
“I… um…” I looked to Eric and felt myself blush, “I’m not home.”
“No shit Sherlock, look you need to come into the office, soon, like now soon.”
“Why? It’s Jason’s day –“
“That’s just it, there’s no sign of Jason, and the people from Givenchy are coming at nine, and then the advertising guys are due at ten, and then it’s breaking the next issue of the magazine at two. Sookie, he’s not answering his fucking phone and neither were you, I’m panicking right now, I don’t like panicking it makes me sweat and we both know how I feel about sweat.”
She hated to sweat, it was very weird, but it was one of her ‘things’.
“Okay, calm down, just calm down, go get a coffee –“
“Get a coffee? Are you high! I need you at the office now, please? I can’t do this on my own!”
She could do this on her own, much better than Jason could that’s for sure, she just needed the push.
I checked the clock; it was just gone eight forty-five. Shit.
Eric knew by the look on my face that I was already halfway out the door; he shrugged, kissed my shoulder and got up. I fought the urge to slam the phone on my friend and pull him back into bed, but I knew I couldn’t.
“Where are you anyway?”
“Um… Brooklyn.” I admitted sheepishly, knowing exactly what I was telling her.
“Ughhhh.” She groaned and there was a sound what I assumed was a cab door closing before she yelled directions at the driver, “Sookie, I’m… sure I’ll hear all about this later, but could it be sooner, as in… could you –“
“Keep them charmed for me, I need to haul ass. I need a change of clothes –“
“I can pick something up from Bergdorf’s on my way back for you, it’ll be hanging in your office closet when you get here, or I can meet you, whatever, just …get here.”
I nodded, she was right to panic really, the advertising meetings were our thing, and it took a lot to get the numbers right. The design meeting with Givenchy on the other hand, she was a newbie to that.
I jumped out of bed, and tiptoed to find Eric, not wanting to wake up Emily yet in the process.
“I have to go, like now, I mean I really need to shower so I can do that, but like a split second shower…” I said, as he stood at the coffee machine, I grabbed his hand and led him into the bathroom where I switched on the shower, stripped the t-shirt off and knotted my hair on top of my head before I got under the stream of hot water, all within ten seconds, all the while explaining to Eric what was going down, and how I was going down with it if I didn’t show up, it was really unprofessional of Jason to pull a stunt like this, and on a day like this, but I shouldn’t have been surprised. I wasn’t surprised, I was fucking pissed off. I found the soap and lathered up and rinsed off, hopping back out of the shower again, still talking to a confused looking Eric as he sat on the toilet seat, staring, the cute and bewildering, and half awake look earned him another kiss.
“Do you want me to come with you?”
“Nah it’s still your day off, and really I’m only doing this for Pam and her mental health, she’d be fine handling this on her own if she had known, but since he left her in the lurch she’s freaking out. Fuck Jason.”
We both sped back to his bedroom where I searched for my clothes, as Eric texted for Hoyt to pick me up.
When I was fully dressed, I glanced in the mirror… Eek. Well at least I could do my makeup in the car, which was one small saving grace.
“You look beautiful.” He said, and it made me pause, because without sounding conceited, I heard that a lot, usually with the words ‘Sweetie’ or ‘Darling’ before or after it, and it was usually never really meant, not in the authentic sense at least. But his voice, the way he was looking at me, all dishevelled in my old jeans, a simple t-shirt, my hair in a messy bun, sans all makeup and embellishments. I paused because I realized he meant it, and it wasn’t because of my clothes or shoes, it was me.
I smiled, walking into his space, allowing him to wrap his arms around me and pull me closer until we both fell back onto the bed with a giggle.
“You’re not so bad yourself, you know.” I said, kissing his chin sweetly, he just shook his head.
“It’s true. A lot of the photography guys, for like a month, when you started all assumed you modelled and got lost in the wrong department.” That made him laugh.
“It’s true!” I argued.
“Thank you…” he said in a way of accepting the compliment, even if there was a pink shade to his cheeks. We laid there just enjoying the alone time, and just as I was getting too comfortable, the real world smacked me in the face again.
My phone beeped again as we were mid kiss. He groaned and I concurred.
“Okay, I have to run, literally.” I said bouncing back up and we both made our way to his door, things felt a little awkward now that I was leaving, but I guessed it was meant to be that way, at first, after what we just did.
“I’ll see you later?” he asked rather than stated, and I knew we were both probably feeling a little unsure, so I wanted to – at least on my end – put it out there, that yes, I wanted to see him later.
“Yeah, you and Em’ want to…go out for dinner? Or come over and we can do something?”
He smiled. I really loved that smile.
“Sure, sounds good. Good luck with the …madness.” He said nodding to the door. Right the door, leaving, rushing, and things I had to be doing.
“Right…Okay…Bye.” I said, awkwardly, and heading for the door without so much as a second look.
He wasn’t having it, and when I got into the hallway, he grabbed my hand and pulled me back, planting the mother of all kisses on me before letting me go.
“Call when you get a chance okay?” he asked rubbing his hand down my bare arm making me tingle. Oh I’d be calling, one way or another, that’s for sure.
I nodded and smiled, and then channelled my inner model faced with a plate full of fries. I ran like hell.
I watched her sprint down the hall, round the corner and disappear from view; I was struck with two thoughts as I closed the door that morning.
One, I had just had sex with Sookie Stackhouse, and the second, more worrying of the two, I didn’t want there to be anyone else after her, it was a split second though, a throw away notion at best, but it terrified me. What if there were no more women after her, what if what I was feeling – that goodness, the happiness, the excitement, what if it was real and we let it be real?
It felt real whatever it was. But was it really?
And in that the internal battle was born, a battle inside my head that lasted through my shower, through making Emily breakfast, and through two of the books Sam had left behind for me to look at for him. Were we real? Or was this still part of the game, part of the con we were trying to pull on her Grandmother? Or was it all bets off now? Did the sex change things?
I shook my head, trying to stop the mess, but it was impossible. It was a problem that I didn’t know the answer to, and I hated any kind of problem that lacked a solution. It was why I was good at Math; almost every problem conceivable had a logical solution. This it seemed did not.
By the time Emily and I were heading over to Sam’s bar with the books, I was pretty sure my distraction was evident.
“Eric, why is Emily wearing cat ears?”
They’d been part of Taylor’s little costume the night before, I remembered.
“She’s a cat today.” I said absentmindedly as she ran around the empty bar, talking to herself, I sat at the bar with Sam on the other side, shining up some glasses.
“The books look good man, I won’t lie, you’d need a lot of work to expand, and that means a lot of money, but with the right loan repayments, maybe some investors, it could be done, easy. This is a great spot, there are a lot of young families moving here now, there are some hipster stores around the corner, and I mean opening a bistro during the day, opening up the bar a little … it could be doing with some light.” I said and Sam looked confused.
“You’ve been working with women too much, dude.”
I looked up from the books.
“Hey you asked.”
He shrugged, laughing.
“I just wasn’t so sure I’d get such a detailed response.”
“Your accountant sucks at detail though, I mean I know this stuff because I know the business and you, but really, he needs to take better care.” I added, sipping my free coffee, as I looked over the first draft of Sam’s business plan.
“Speaking of, I was wondering if you’d like another job, like a side job.”
I looked at him, “As your…accountant?”
“Yeah, I mean the guy I’m paying at the minute; he doesn’t give a shit –“
“Uncle SAM!” came the voice behind the bar suddenly.
“Emily get out from behind there, you aren’t allowed.”
“I’m a barmaid! See!” she said, making me roll my eyes but Sam seemed fine with her in there, he even let her help mix her own smoothie.
I said I’d look over his books twice a month to begin with, fixing the other guys mistakes more like it, but at the time it was the best I could offer, working for Sookie really was a full time job, in every sense of the title.
“Awesome man, I can’t wait to get the business plan together, start the ball rolling!”
I knew expanding was something he and Holly had always talked about, and they were a really solid couple too having been together for six years. She was his business partner before she was his fiancé, so the business is their baby – for now. I knew Sam wanted kids, I wasn’t so sure how Holly felt about it all though, she liked Emily, but I got the feeling she was freaked out about it. Not that I’d blame the woman, before Emily landed in my care, kids weren’t on the list for me at all, but sometimes life chooses for you and you just have to make the best of it. I looked at my almost six year old sister painstakingly making the perfect smoothie with three cocktail umbrellas and so much ice there was almost no room for fruit, and I smiled, maybe, just maybe I wasn’t screwing her up so bad after all.
I wondered though, how would things affect her – with Sookie and I, either way that hammer swung would affect her in some way. I just hoped against hope that whatever happened between us, we could minimise the damage to the little messer behind the bar, she didn’t deserve any more pain.
“Where were you?”
“Oh, sorry man I was just thinking…”I said snapping myself out of it.
“So did…Wonder woman uh… sleepover?” He asked, and I noted that little ears was very much listening, even if she wasn’t watching.
“Uh, yeah she slept over, we had a sleepover.” I said wide eyed to give him the hint to code talk.
“Oh…” he clued in, giving Emily a job, putting the paper coasters on the tables she nodded enthusiastically before she trotted off saying how good a barmaid she was, to herself. It made me chuckle.
“So?” Sam said, annoying smile on his face.
“Did you two fuc –“
“Sam,” I warned.
“Excuse me, did you two ‘make love’.” he finger quoted, rolling his eyes like an asshole, telling me that I was working in fashion too long and had lost my man card.
“We did, if you must know, and it was like several kinds of awesome.” I said, as smug as you like, Sam looked jealous and it made me happy. I smiled and he rolled his eyes.
“Where you still on the clock when you did it.”
“Well? I’m asking because we should know if she’s being genuine, or, you know, getting her money’s worth.”
Was he trying to ruin my post-sex high? I think he was. I glared.
“No, don’t look at me like that, Eric, I’m being concerned here.”
“There is no clock, I mean, I don’t think, the deal has been kind of messed up from the start and for weeks things haven’t been ‘on contract’… I like her, and hey, I thought you liked her too, you were all over her last night!”
He held his hands up in defence, “Hey man, she’s a cool chick okay? I just think the shit you agreed to was shady of her, and you, and you tend to jump into things heart first, and I don’t want to see you get your tiny little geek heartbroken, that’s all.”
“Your concern, it’s so touching.” I sarked.
“Fine, assuming everything is above board, we can talk.”
It was my turn to roll my eyes.
“You know I want details dude, you haven’t gotten laid in YEARS. Like, actual years, did you get even get inside before you…” he glanced back making sure Em’ wasn’t anywhere within in earshot, she wasn’t.
I shook my head, I wasn’t answering that.
“Well? Oh, wait, did you start doing complicated algebra equations in you head again to stop you from coming?” He laughed, “I loved that story.”
“I hate you.”
“You love me.”
“Shut the fuck up! I’ll have you know it was pretty great actually, things weren’t half as awkward as I thought they would be, I was better at it than I remembered, I didn’t forget anything, she seemed very, very pleased… all in all, good times were had.”
“Are there more good times ahead then?”
I shrugged, that was the question wasn’t it?
“We didn’t really get a chance to talk –“
“No… I mean… no, not really. Work an all.”
“Why aren’t you at work then?”
“She told me it was fine to take my day off before she left.”
He pursed his lips, I didn’t’ like that.
“No, nothing… I mean it just… sounds to me like she made her excuses to leave –“
“It wasn’t like that.” It really wasn’t because had it been, my panic would have been ten times worse than what it was. No there was hardly any awkwardness, and I didn’t get the ‘oh shit what have I done,’ vibe from her at all. At least I didn’t think so, of course now I was second guessing myself.
“Have you guys talked since?”
It was well after lunch time there now, she’d be in a meeting most likely, I knew how busy that place got – better than most I knew – so I wasn’t sweating it so much. At least I wasn’t until Sam kept on talking me into paranoid-ville.
“Not yet, but we will, later.”
He just raised his brows, finishing off shining his last glass.
“I need to go get her fed, want to go get a bite?”
“I would man, but I’m opening at five and a delivery came through, another time though?”
“Sure,” I said, sliding off the bar stool, “Em, let’s go, food time.”
A faint ‘yay’ came from around the corner, she came running with just two coasters in hand.
“All done!” she said to Sam and he thanked her, and gave her five dollars as a ‘tip’, she was thrilled. I just shook my head.
“Okay, we’re out. Let me know about the plans okay?”
“Sure thing man thanks again.”
With that we took off in search of some decent food, and by the time we got to Thistle Hill, and got seated, my phone was ringing.
I took a second to breathe a stupid sigh of relief, but then I remembered that good or bad, she was still my boss, and that was maybe why she was calling.
“Hey…” she said, she sounded tired, and very un-boss like. I smiled.
“Ugh, the longest, especially when it shouldn’t have been happening in the first place. What’s up?”
“Nothing, just having some food with Emily, forgetting to feed the five year old has horrible results.”
She laughed on the other end.
“Tell her I say hi.”
“Sookie says hi, Em’.”
Emily looked up from her burger, face covered in ketchup, “HI SOOKIE.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I heard.” Sookie said and I could almost see the smile with the words, her genuine smile was my favourite.
Givenchy party tomorrow night, I’m scheduled to –“
“Go over to the PR offices at eleven, I know.”
“Right, of course you’d know that…”
“You need to get fitted too, for your suit. It’s semi formal but because it’s me throwing the damn thing I’ll be needing all my people in tip top shape, okay?”
“So I guess having this burger was a bad idea?” I laughed.
“They make spanx for men now, if all else fails and you gain twenty pounds in the next twenty four hours, we’ll have a back up plan.” She giggled and I heard her typing up a storm on the other end, she was always a multi-tasker, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I laughed, yeah there was no chance of that happening, I had to work hard to build myself up, and even harder to stay there.
There was some clicking and some shuffling on the other end of the line, then she sighed.
“Gimme a second… a second Pam. Jesus.” She sighed again, coming back on the line. “She’s been fluttering about all day, dying for gossip. I really wanted to meet up later –“
My stomach dipped.
“But you can’t?”
“No, I can’t. There is so much stuff happening right now, I really don’t know how we’re going to get it all done on time, my office … is so cramped right now with samples and layouts, and the advertising guys tried to take us for fools for the next quarter, I swear I almost had a stroke…” she did sound really tired. “I think the best thing is just, can tonight, sleep and I’ll see you first thing?”
It did make most sense, even if I was beyond looking forward to seeing her again, outside of Boss mode.
“Uh, sure, yeah I mean it makes sense, you’ve had a long day, the last thing you need is me all up in your –“
“It’s not like that, you know, I’m just… not the best company when I’m zonked.”
Logically I got it, I was just being needy. I hated needy, it had to be reined in.
“Okay, no it’s cool.”
“Good, I’m glad you get it, it’s not that I don’t want to see you guys though, I was actually looking forward to it, but, as always –“
“Work comes first.”
She groaned, “Yeah it does, and you know what I really am sick of it making me its bitch.”
That sounded… ominous.
“As someone firmly in the bitch camp of that job,” I laughed, “I fully understand.”
“I’m glad, so… “
“See you tomorrow morning, bright and early.”
She chortled, “So bright, so early. Bye Eric.”
“Bye…” I sounded off before I hit the button.
“Well kiddo, looks like it’s just you and me for movie night tonight.”
“Sookie can’t come?”
“No, she can’t, she has to work.”
“Oh…” she said, frowning before she sipped her juice. “That’s okay, you have me and I have you, just like always.”
Profound for a five … almost six year old, I realized. For that she’d get to pick tonight, not that she didn’t’ always, but tonight I wouldn’t moan if it was Disney.
I ran down the hall, into the elevator, all the while checking my hair, by the time I got outside Hoyt was standing with my door open.
“Morning Miss Stackhouse.”
“Morning Hoyt –“ I said hauling ass into the car and closing the door, I was pleased to find a grande coffee sitting in the cup holder, awesome driver was awesome.
“Okay I’m going to need you to use whatever driver tricks you have to get us to the office in less than twenty minutes –“
“In this traffic!”
“I know, step on it, and if we run someone over, we’ll just pray for them!” I was texting Pam like a madwoman, she was keeping me abreast of the clients arrival, and how Sophie had fucked up the coffee order, and how she thought she was going to have a heart attack if she flirted with the guy named Geo one more time, I told her to dismiss Sophie from the boardroom, that we could do it ourselves, once I got there. Almost a half hour later, we pulled up outside the building and I was met in the lobby by a very flustered looking Pam, who held a garment bag and a pair of black Loubies.
“Oh my GOD.”
“I know, I know.”
“You need to kick your brothers ass for this, Sook. I’m serious, this isn’t right, what we’ve had to do because his unprofessional ass decided to reschedule meetings with the advertisers and then not fucking show up.”
“I know, I know,” I said stripping off my jacket and approaching security.
“Miss Stackhouse, Miss …Pam.”
Pam just rolled her eyes.
“Listen Andy, I’m going to need a favour, I’m going to need you to dismantle the camera in lift one for about five minutes.”
“Emergency, I need to change my clothes before we hit the floor, and I need your help to be not caught on CCTV doing so. Okay?”
“Oh, I’m not sure I can….”
I slipped him a hundred dollar bill, ever so discreetly.
“I’m really in a bind, Andy; you’d be doing me a huge favour.”
“Sure thing Miss Stackhouse, five minutes.”
I nodded and ran, with Pam on my tail into the elevator and began stripping off as the doors closed.
“You think he’s watching?” Pam asked looking for the cameras.
“He better fucking not be or his ass WILL be fired.” I hope he heard that if he was listening too. I yanked off my t-shirt, slipped out of my jeans, and into the cap sleeve red Mouret dress, and slipped on the black heels. I looked in the mirrors on both sides, fixed my hair up into an ‘intentionally’ messy bun, and applied the lipstick and eyeliner I had in my purse, Pam had mascara, and I had some highlighter. Boom, two trips up and down twenty floors later, and I was ready to face the day. I was also sweating, and possibly having a heart attack, but I looked good doing it, and to my worker bees, that’s what mattered most.
“I’m not going to comment on the fact that you stink like sex –“
I didn’t I knew that, If I stinked of anything it was Dove soap and rapid sprays of deodorant.
“Nor the fact that you clearly got some last night –“
“How do you … why would you think that?”
“Well, for one, we’re at crisis central right now, and you? Are SMILING. And you don’t even know it. Smiling, Sookie.”
“Oh shush,” I said as we passed Sophie, who looked less vapid and more curious than usual.
“They were offered drinks, right?”
“Drinks, food, hookers if we had to, to keep them there.” She handed me the brief, fixed a stray hair, nodded and we were in business.
Six hours later, I finally got a break, enough time to inhale a sandwich, and call Eric.
The day hadn’t exactly turned out how I had expected, that’s for sure. I had plans of leisure, and maybe some more Northman Nookie, none of which happened, and it didn’t seem like my night was going to go to plan either, after I straightened things out with Eric, it was literally one things after another, the cover story was a bust, the new line fabrics were missing from the warehouse in Italy, Jason was still MIA, and I had Pam on my case all day long wanting details on ‘assistant sex’. I wasn’t even sure what to tell her, other than the only truth I knew and that was that I really, really liked him for real, and all deals and contracts aside, that I could see myself maybe going there. She thought I was crazy, of course, but then again there were a lot of things I wasn’t telling Pam too, which I suppose was unfair of me. I wasn’t telling her, for example how since I had to go out of my way, to make the damn deal in the first place that it had made me step back and really take a look at my life. My job was my life, and for the longest time I figured I was happy with that, that is what I wanted, I knew what I was doing and I did it well. But then Gran issued her little ‘request’, and that changed everything, not just between Eric and I, but in myself first and foremost. The more I fought to keep my position at the company, the more, secretly, I thought that maybe the fight wasn’t worth it.
Why should I fight tooth and nail for something I had earned outright, why wasn’t that good enough, why wasn’t that on its own good enough? And, mores to the point, did I think it was good enough for me now?
The scary thing was, I thought I didn’t know the answer, but truthfully, if I were being honest with myself, I knew the answer and the answer was, no, it wasn’t good enough for me, not anymore.
Changes, they had to happen, and they had to happen soon.
And they would, I vowed to myself as I looked out over the busy Manhattan rain soaked streets, changes were coming.