How in the hell am I 22 chapters into this? Times flies, I tell you! Anyway, this one gets a little intense guys, a fair warning to some… But to others, you know me by now and probably know what to expect when things get twisty! Anyway, enjoy it and as always hit the little button of luuuuurve, if you feel so inclined.
When Amelia and I finally got back to the Estate, of course things were busy. We had an unannounced guest in the form of a Mrs Nixon. Which meant we had to run around cooking extra, setting an extra place at the dining table, and of course making up an extra room without even knowing if she was staying.
“And she is?” I asked helping Liam shuck the corn, it was one of my favorite things to do, since I was a girl. Thankfully he didn’t seem to mind me invading his kitchen space.
“An old friend of Niall’s from away back, they used to be sweethearts before both married other people.”
“Oh, well, that’s nice.” I nodded, only half paying attention. When all I really wanted to do was drop to my knees and sob a little, anything to push out the feeling of overwhelming tension rising in my body.
“You know what, Mrs Fortenberry, I left the napkins in the upstairs closet, let me run and get them?”
“Dawn can do it.” She dismissed.
“I moved them, she won’t know where. I’ll be quick.”
She pursed her lips, “Fine, be quick about it mind you, while you’re at it, take the pillowcases up too.”
I nodded taking them from her. I don’t think I ever ran up those stairs as fast as I did then.
I got what I needed, or made myself need, and I side stepped to Eric’s bedroom where I knew he’d be. I had forgotten he’d be there with his valet though.
“Oh. I’m sorry, Sir.” I said upon finding Bobby doing up Eric’s shirt, even if Eric hated the whole stupid process, he allowed it, the man had a job after all.
“No… What is it Miss Stackhouse?”
“I uh…” I looked from Eric to Bobby, and had to come up with something fast otherwise the whole of downstairs would know something was amiss.
If they did not already, that is.
“I just thought…someone said you required new shirts to be laundered, I thought I’d fetch them now that I’m up here. Are there any?”
He looked at me strangely, maybe sensing my fear, my anxiety, or maybe it was the blanched look on my face. I wasn’t sure.
“No, not right now. But, may I speak with you.” He asked, looking from Bobby to me, and then back to Bobby. “It’s about Pamela, she wishes to relay a message to you, I had forgotten until now.”
That seemed to satisfy Bobby who handed Eric his jacket and turn to leave, acknowledging me in passing with a smile.
“Sookie, let me take those down for you.”
Bobby was polite usually, but not so helpful. It was odd.
“Thank you…” I looked to Eric as Bobby left the room, when the door was closed behind me I closed my eyes.
“Sookie, what’s wrong? You’re as white as a sheet.” Eric asked crossing the room to rub my shoulders. “I knew something was wrong when you came in. I haven’t heard from Pam… I lied.”
“It’s… He’s here.”
“No, Eric. The reason your men can’t find Bill is because he’s here, in town.”
It was his turn then to exhale loudly.
“You saw him?”
“And spoke to him, and been threatened by him.”
That made him bristle, he didn’t like it at all.
“He knows I’m here under a pretense, he’s threatening to spill my beans if I don’t go with him, to ‘give it another go’, honestly.” I shook my head, taking a seat on his bed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“But the threat is weak, I know.”
“Yes, you know, but Niall doesn’t, the rest of downstairs don’t. Amelia doesn’t. God, they’re really going to hate me that much more when they find out, aren’t they?”
Eric joined me, taking a seat next to me, wrapping his comforting arms around my arms, allowing me to lay my head on his shoulders.
“I’ll go see him in the morning.” Eric announced.
“No… you won’t. I don’t want anything to do with him, we can just… live in sin.”
At my words he laughed, shaking his head.
“No, we won’t, because that’s not who you are my Love.”
I grumbled, but I knew he was right.
“I will pay him a visit, demand his co-operation, and if not… well that’s not something for you to worry about.”
“But you know I will. Eric he’s shifty, he’s a shifty man, among other things. If you insist, take someone, take Bobby, or anyone, for backup.”
“I can care for my-”
“I know, but please?”
With that his bedroom door all but burst open, Niall.
I jumped up, having gotten far too comfortable sitting with Eric, and he did he same. I was sure we wore matching guilty looks on our faces.
“Niall, is … something wrong?” Eric asked when he still hadn’t spoken after a few seconds. I on the other hand just wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole.
“No. Nothing is wrong. I just needed a word before we headed to the dining room full of strangers, that’s all.”
“Excuse me, I must be getting back downstairs. Thank Miss Pam for the news, Mr Northman.” I said, hoping to keep our cover, though from the look on Niall’s face those days were long gone.
Niall grimaced at me as Sookie passed him to make her way downstairs.
“Eric, you are a grown man, so far be it for me to tell you what you need to do with your life -”
“But you’re going to do it again, aren’t you?”
He sighed before coming inside and closing the door, he was now carrying around a small pouch that contained a small oxygen container that he inhaled every now and then.
“I just don’t want you getting caught in something, by someone that is just out for themselves.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You know nothing.”
“I know enough. You think I don’t see how you look at the girl? Everyone sees it, and to be frank, its out of line.”
With that I got up, dwarfing him with my height, he didn’t back down though – that wasn’t his style.
“I’m not talking about this now. There’s dinner waiting, I don’t want to keep the servants waiting for us, again.”
“No. Niall. No. You tell me you don’t want to tell me how to live my life, and yet you aim to dictate just that. The hypocrisy has to stop.”
It had to stop on all fronts. I didn’t wish to hide myself any further, and that meant not hiding my feelings for Sookie either. I got to dinner, the doctors there waiting, Sookie, Amelia and Dawn waiting behind with the serving plates.
Sookie didn’t make eye contact with me when Niall came into the room, she simply let Amelia take our side of the table and busied herself with the guests, and then she left. I wouldn’t see her for almost a whole day after that.
I set off the next morning with Bobby in tow, though really I only brought him along to sit in the car anyway, but I knew Sookie saw me leave, so I wanted to put her mind at ease if anything. There were only two places in town that offered rooms for rent for the night, and I found Mr Compton on my second try. He was staying at the Half Penny Arms, and didn’t even bother with a false name. Sadly for him.
I walked into his room to find him in his trousers and a vest, shaving.
“Who the fuck -”
“Eric Northman, but I think you know who I am already, just like I know who you are, Bill.”
He wore a petulant look on his face as he wiped it clean of shaving cream.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to grant Soo…Susannah a divorce, and then I want you to leave her alone, that’s what I want.”
“And just why would I do that?”
I sat on the chair by the small wooden table that sat across from the window. The room was sparse, just a messy bed and the desk and chair filled the room.
“Because you know that she doesn’t love you, nor does she want to be your wife any longer. I don’t think you’re an idiot, Bill, so we both know you’ll do it.”
“And if I don’t?” He asked, calming putting on his shirt.
“If you don’t I have ways, and means, and men that deal with people unwilling to… see the big picture.”
He shook his head.
“The joys of being rich, right?”
“The joys of not being a fool.” I replied just as calmly, which seemed to annoy him.
“She’s playing you for a fool, so I wouldn’t be so quick to think that.”
“Is that right?”
“She’s a devious little liar, is what she is. And she only left me because I ran out of money to keep her in the life she wanted.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes at this idiot, as if I would believe him over her.
“Which is why she escaped to become a high flying, lap of luxury living … maid. Of course.” I smirked, standing up, fixing my jacket.
“She’s trapped you, hasn’t she? Don’t you see, this is all part of her game, to get her hands on your money.”
“Stop talking Bill.”
“But I -”
I walked up to him, getting right in his face. His calm facade faded a touch at that, I saw a flash of fear in his eyes.
“Divorce her, I’ll even have my lawyer send you the papers to file if needs be.”
“You’re really taken with her, aren’t you?” He smiled, smug. “I knew it wouldn’t take much for her to fall into another man’s bed, such an eager little slut that she is.”
I tried to be calm, I really did, but his words – his face – it all angered me too much. The next thing I knew I was dragging Bill from where he stood at his sink and shoving his face into the wall. He attempted to fight back of course, but my height gave me the advantage over him – literally. I may have ended up with a bruised eye, but he looked much worse by the time I stopped.
He laid there, holding his jaw.
“I thought you the kind of man that didn’t like to get his hands dirty.” He spat blood on the floor.
“I don’t, that doesn’t mean I won’t.” I fixed my jacket again, checking my face for any signs of struggle, there were little. “Divorce her Bill, or we’ll end up doing this again, and next time I won’t be alone or as lenient.”
With that I walked out of his room, slamming the door behind me for affect. I had hoped I had intimidated him enough to give up his fruitless cause of trying to win Sookie back. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, and I knew even if she and I weren’t in the picture, that she was a different woman now, not just in name only, and that he wasn’t part of who she was now. He needed to realise that, once and for all.
“Everything…alright Sir?” Bobby asked when I returned to the motorcar, I looked awful. I was rumbled and messy, and I have a split lip and some seriously bleeding knuckles. I needed ice.
“I’ll be fine, shall we go?”
He looked at me strangely, like he wanted to ask more but his job prevented him from doing so.
“It was just something I had to handle, that’s all Bobby. Don’t worry.”
“Sir, you know if there is anything you need doing… that involves… risk. I can do that for you.”
“Thank you, Bobby, I appreciate it.”
I had something else I wanted to take care of, and it just wouldn’t wait. When I got back to the house, I paced my library to try and figure out the best way to approach things with Niall. I wasn’t going to let things lie any longer, the truth was going to come out sooner or later, and I wanted it to come from me. If that meant that he decided to go elsewhere with his last will, leaving his titles and his money and all that came with it, to someone else, then so be it. I wasn’t all that fussed anyway, and he knew that. I had had enough of simply letting things happen around me, it was time to take a stand.
That evening, before dinner I walked into his quarters to find him deep in discussion with Dawn, she looked shocked when she saw me, Niall just looked furious.
“Dawn, you may leave.” He said, as her eyes darted from me, back to him.
“Thank you ma’Lord.” And with that she scurried out of the room, leaving a red faced Niall glaring at me.
“You’re in love with her.”
“Dawn? Jesus no.”
“The American girl, you’re in bloody love with the American maid!” He roared.
“Yes. Yes I am.”
“Eric it is one thing to have a … a … fling! But the things I heard…”
“From Dawn, no doubt, with the Dawn spin on things too I’ll bet. What did she tell you then?”
“She told me you two have been carrying on for weeks, months possibly, behind my back, behind my back in my own house! As I tried to find you a suitable respectful young woman you’ve been letting your dick do the thinking and diddling the MAID!”
“How dare you.”
“How dare I what? Tell the truth? Eric, you’ve worked hard, you’ve made a name for yourself, you’re respected and -”
“And what? I can’t fall in love with a woman that works harder than both you and I and every other damn ‘gentleman’ in this county combined? Why is it so wrong?!”
“It’s…not.” He sighed. “It’s not wrong, it’s just… can’t you see how difficult it will be? How difficult it will be for HER? If you continue this way, if you marry her, society will never accept her as a Lady, not once they know her life now, and they will trust me on that.”
“What the hell would you know about it.” I spat, angry now, and pacing. I had to remind myself that I could not knock out an old, possibly dying man.
“My mother, for all intents and purposes Eric, was a whore. A Irish rebel who … sought comfort in the arms of many men, let’s say.” He grimaced. “And my father fell for her, broke every rule in the book to be with her, and they had me, they had me and five after me, and all five children died. My mother was never accepted. People didn’t dine with her and my father, they dined with my father, they invited him to events and parties and wedding, never her.”
With that, I sat down.
“Can you see my anger now?”
“Am I supposed to believe that you are aiming me away from her, for her own good, is that it?”
“In a way, yes.”
I wanted to believe him, but I just couldn’t.
I hadn’t seen Eric all day, I had been kept below stairs as Mrs Fortenberry decided that all the silver in the Western world must be polished, and polished by me. My fingers hurt by the time the dinner dressing bell went, and I just wanted to sleep. I also just wanted to see how things had gone in town with Eric and Bill. I was apprehensive as anything, and jittery as a mouse, and everyone noticed.
“Child, you aren’t yourself this day.” Maxine announced as we put away the last of the silver in its place.
“I just have a lot on my mind is all.”
“Ah, life. Life with all it’s complications no doubt.”
“Something like that.”
She looked at me, curiously before she began again.
“Sookie, you’re a good worker, and I’ve had little bother with you since you arrived, but whatever it is you’ve gotten yourself into… whomever you’ve gotten involved with…”
Did everyone really know?
“No, let me say this. While there are rules here, Sookie, I’m not God… no matter what Mr Dearborn may say I think I am behind my back.” She smirked. “But just… be careful that’s all. Mistakes are made but hearts are harder to mend than mistakes are to forget, alright?”
“Charming, handsome men, they sing appealing songs when it suits them, but they soon change their chune.”
I smiled, her way with words was funny with her accent, tune came out rather phonetically.
She sighed, and I wondered if there had been a handsome man in her past that had as she said, changed his ‘chune’. I suspected there was.
“Thank you.” I nodded.
“Yes, yes, well…” she cleared her throat before she went on, “I need you to fetch Lord Niall for us, dinner is almost ready and I need him to be prompt tonight, of his own doing of course. He nagged that the food was cold last night, and I won’t have us giving him more reason to do that, now will we?”
“No…I’ll go right up.”
I went, even if it was the last thing I wanted to do.
I knocked politely on the door and was greeted with a gruff acceptance of entry, only when I entered I walked in on him, standing in his robe – with Eric. Both of them looking angry and interrupted.
“Oh, there she is.” Niall spat bitterly before he took a seat at his dresser.
“I’m sorry to -”
“Yes, sorry for a great number of things, I imagine.” He continued. I looked to Eric and he was red faced with anger, and he was cut too, at the eyebrow. I gathered his meeting with Bill ended in fisticuffs.
“That’s enough.” Eric ordered Niall, and I realised that whatever I had walked in on, was about me, and was not good at all.
“I can leave. I should leave.”
“No, you stay right where you are. You are the cause of this spat you should be present to hear it.” Niall ordered standing and walking slowly to the door where I stood, shutting it behind me.
“I want to talk to you, alone.” He asked causing me to look to Eric, confused.
“No.” He stated.
“No? You giving the orders now too? I’m not dead yet, boy.”
“I won’t let you berate her, not like I know you will. Your anger is with me, not with Sookie.”
“Oh is it? I thought it was with both of you.”
“Then you thought wrong, this… us… it is of my doing. My insistance, not hers. She is not what you think of her, Niall.”
“Really? She isn’t some grasping little money grabber looking for the easiest way to make a… what do the yanks call it? A buck?!”
I saw Eric ball his hand into a fist, I had to step in.
He looked to me, confused as I felt.
“If his Lordship wants to speak with me, he may do so alone if that is what he wishes.”
“But nothing. I’m a big girl, and I’m sure his Lordship and I are capable of conversing like adults, if not like equals.”
Niall spinned from the wall he was facing then and looked at me with surprise. I could be as sharp as I liked if I was in for a verbal lashing as I suspected that I was. Eric shook his head.
“I don’t agree with -”
“Please?” I asked him, taking his hand in mine, not caring what Niall thought or knew now since it was obvious the jig was up. I noticed his swollen and bleeding knuckles. Oh boy.
“I’ll be right outside the door then, if you insist on this.”
I nodded, but he turned to Niall, and leaned in in a whisper.
“You know nothing of what she is. You see her only as her job title and what others will think, I thought more of you, I thought you smarter than that. You don’t see her kindness, her heart… and for that, I pity you.”
I fought back the tears at his sweet words as he left the room, leaving me with the irrate Lord.
“Sit down.” He gestured to the seat beside his. I did so, nervously.
“Eric tells me he is in love with you, wants to marry you, and has told me in no uncertain terms to ‘stuff my money’ if I don’t like that fact. Is that true?”
“I… Yes. Not that I knew of his decision towards your offer to him, but… yes.”
He pursed his lips.
“He also tells me you are of worthy birth, is that also true.”
“Every person born is worthy of that birth, Sir.”
His eyes went wide before he sighed.
“Are you or are you not of a suitable name, Sookie.”
“I may be. Why do you ask?”
“I ask because… Because…” he sighed again, this time before he reached for his tumbler of whiskey. “I am not only this bitter old dying man you see before you.”
“And I am not merely your maid.” I snapped. “Sir.”
“I can see why he is drawn to you… prettiness aside. You bite. Not many women do, even less in your position.”
I stayed silent.
“My estate needs an heir, Sookie. The heir by law must marry into a solid society name for the sake of titles, entitlements, money. It has to be done. The money aimed for my son, my daughter… I will to Eric. Then Eric tells me he plans to fuck my life’s work… my fortune away on some fling. Some servant girl. Well, can you see my anger? Can you see why I feel it?”
Again I stayed silent. His insults towards me heightening my anger more than anything.
“Then he tells me you’re here under false pretenses, if that is correct…”
“Would it matter? You wouldn’t approve of me either way. You’ve written me off as nothing more than your skivvy, how dare I fall in love with someone above my station, isn’t that right, my Lord.” I said bitterly as I stood.
“You think it will be easy? To be accepted by society with your current…circumstance?”
“No, but then again when is anything ever easy for a woman.” With that my anger got the better of me and I walked out of the room. My heart was racing, my blood felt as if it was boiling, the tears that threatened to spill from my eyes burned. I needed air. I needed Eric. He was no longer outside the door as he had said, and I felt my lungs burn, I couldn’t search for him and breathe at the same time. I rushed down the stairs and out the side door, and I ran and ran until I found myself all the way back at the stables. I sobbed. I couldn’t do much else, it hurt to breathe but I sobbed harder. I sat myself on one the hay bales and continued my pity party of one, my only comfort came in the form of a curious Thor.
“Hey boy, what are you doing out here… feeling sorry for yourself too?”
He came over to be petted, revelling in my willing to show him some affection. I found the act comforting, he was such a big old softie once I relaxed around him.
A little while later I decided I had to pick myself up, dust myself off, and disregard what people thought of me. I would take Eric up on his offer, an offer he kept making me. He wanted me to be his Lady, until I could be his wife in name as well in every way there was. Why was I still refusing him? For these people? These people that hated me? Looked down on me anyway no matter what I did or said? I thought to myself, that that would be no longer. Niall already looked upon me as a whore, what would it matter if he were right. I wanted out of that house and away from them all. I would tell Eric as soon as I saw him, I had decided.
It wasn’t until I rounded the corner of the house to enter through the side exit that I had ran out of, that I saw his car, what the hell was he doing here?
“What the -”
“I come in peace. I promise.”
He looked awful. He had a blackening eye, and a split lip.
“You and peace don’t really mix. If you think you’re here to blackmail me into -”
“I just want to talk, if we may. Please?”
“What were you planning on doing? Just waltzing up to the front door and asking for me? Really?”
“I was hoping you’d see me. We got off on the wrong foot when we ran into each other last week, I know that now. I just… want to resolve things between us.” He said as earnest as you’d like. I wasn’t buying it.
“Fine, then come back in the morning when there are people around, better yet, meet me in town.”
“Sus…Please? I’m heading back to London tonight, I… have the papers, in the car with me.”
“Divorce papers? You… I don’t understand you told me you wouldn’t divorce me. You made it extremely clear -”
“I saw him… you and him, together. I saw how happy you were. I can’t compete with that, not when we have such a messy history together. I see that now.”
I was hesitant, and he saw it. I doubted very much that the mere sight of us that day changed his mind, if anything it was Eric’s fists.
“Do you wish that I wave a white flag? All you need do is sit and sign them with me, file them… and you’re free. Free to … I assume marry the gentleman I saw you with.”
As if he didn’t know his name, I thought.
I looked back and saw Thor standing by one of the library windows, his tail straight. He was watching out of me. I didn’t know why, but for some reason that put me at ease.
“Alright. You get five minutes and then I take the papers, I’ll be sure to have Eric’s solicitor file them.”
“You don’t trust me to do it?” He asked as we took the short walk to his motorcar.
“No Bill, that died a long time ago.”
I sat in the car, closing the door behind me to keep out the Autumn chill.
“Okay where are these papers?” I asked as he got in, but before I knew what had hit me – he did. Right in the mouth, slamming my face against the glass window.
“Susannah, I am sorry that you have driven me to this. But you are my wife, and I simply cannot have you do this to me.” He justified as I tried to stop seeing stars, before I could reach for the handle of the car door, I heard Thor barking outside I wanted to follow his bark so badly, but I turned to Bill and saw a needle. That was the last thing I remembered until days later, days later when I awoke chained to a bed… In London.