War At Heart

Title: War At Heart
Category: Books » Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries
Author: ChanelAddict
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Genre: Drama/Romance
Published: 02-24-12, Updated: 06-30-13
Chapters: 41, Words: 177,597

Chapter 1: Chapter 1


War at heart.

Sookie

The world was at war, or so they said. The panic that rose, the men that were lost, the women whose hearts would never be the same. The world was at war, they said, but all I kept remembering was the war, the war at home, the war in my heart.

Travelling from New Orleans all the way to London, England seemed impossible to me, and yet as I stood in the middle of a bustling Trafalgar Square I wondered how I had somehow made it in one piece.

I came to England in the brisk Fall of 1917, or as they put it, the Autumn. I was twenty-three years old, and I held forty pounds to my name, a name that wasn’t truly mine either. Susannah Compton was my name. I say was, because I no longer wished to be my husband’s wife. No longer, because he had driven his fist through my face for the last time, he’d slapped me for the last time; he’d taken out his own inadequacy on me, for the last time. But under law it was impossible to make my freedom a reality. So, I ran.

I came to England under my maternal Grandmother’s married name – Stackhouse. I came as Sookie, her old nickname for me, and I came as a widow. Nothing about it was easy of course, but I knew it had to be done, or I would not have survived another night if he were to lose control once more. I used my married documentation until I finally arrived in England, and dumped them as soon as I set foot on land. I came from a successful enough family. My father was a merchant by trade, who married my mother, a baker by trade. Once merged, they created a successful store and small bakery together, running it together before their untimely death when I was just a child. My Grandmother on my mother’s side was a resilient woman who had worked with them since the businesses began, and she wished to keep the trade alive for my brother to one day inherit, and of course to create a decent enough dowry for me to marry well. I thought I had found my perfect match in William Compton. At eighteen I was sheltered and as green as the grass on the hills, but I had hoped he was the gentleman he was perceived to be.

He was not.

His money, his wealth, was nothing but a barefaced lie and his gentle manner as false as his delusions of grandeur. It was not until we were married a little over a year that it all fell apart, and my stake in the business that he now owned was all we had to live on. He pushed the business, always wanting more money and for a while it worked. We lived a relatively comfortable life in New Orleans society, but from the inside looking out it was still a lie. His violent manner scared me, and as we tried for children and were not successful his rage only worsened. It was always ‘my’ fault, I was the one ‘doing something’ to make these babies die. I was the one that was going against God and forbidding us from having the family that he so deserved. Looking back on it now, losing those babies was God’s way of giving me an out. I could have never left him with my babies, and I would have never left them with him either. The last night he hit me so hard I lost time, waking up in the dawn alone and in pain, and that was it. The strength I needed I found; the strength to empty the family safe, and leave with just the clothes on my back. Was I scared? I was petrified. But, I knew if I didn’t leave using the front door, I’d be leaving in a box the next time it happened. And there would always be a next time.

Life for a woman with no real standing, no documents, and no husband wasn’t a pleasant one, not in America, and certainly not in Britain. My money only went so far, and I knew I needed a job. At first I worked odd jobs whilst renting a room above a bar, but those jobs didn’t fit. There was always a boss that thought he could touch me, or scare me, and the pay was never what it was for the others either. I had no papers at first, so I didn’t exist. Why you would need to fairly pay someone who didn’t exist, they’d say. That’s when I heard from one of the girls about this man who could get you papers and make you into a whole new person. I was thrilled, of course, but I knew it wouldn’t come cheap, and I was right. It swallowed up a great deal of my savings, but a little more than six months after I arrived in England I finally had a name again. This time I was Sookie Stackhouse, orphan, widow, and still alone in the world. But at least I was still in the world, I would muse, as I heard news of more casualties of the War, more deaths, more loss. I was still alive, and I was for the first time, standing on my own two feet – even if I wobbled a bit every now and then – I was still doing it. And it was that very attitude that led me to him, and into a life I would have never expected.

I held up two jobs a week for the first six months or so, first an assistant at a bakery in the city, before the bakery was raided and destroyed, forcing the owner to close his business, which he’d had since his father was a boy, to then a Lady’s maid, three days a week. It didn’t work out though, since I was only covering for her regular maid who’d been sick. Once she’d recovered I was of no use, and thus without either of my jobs and a rapidly dwindling purse. That’s when I heard through one of the women in the kitchen of the Lady Rothford, an agency for young women to be hired out to large estates across the country, all kinds of jobs too! I wrote and arranged an appointment with one of the women there, to discuss what she called my ‘criteria’ and how I’d be put to work if I was deemed ‘desirable.’ Her name was Arlene Atherton and she wasn’t in the slighted bit pleasant.

“Name?”

“Um, Sookie Stackhouse…”

She looked up from her piece of paper behind her dark mahogany desk; her glasses perched on her nose, her flaming red hair piled on top of her head.

“Um? Are you unsure of your name, girl? What sort of name is … Sookie?”

“Just my name,” I defended with a shrug.

“Right, you’re an American, of course you have an odd name,” she said, shaking her head and writing.

I was insulted, but I kept my mouth shut, remembering that my lease on the room was coming to an end in a few days, and I needed a life line.

“Can you read?”

“Yes, Ma’am. And write, proficiently. I’ve also served as a ladies maid for a time here, and back home I helped run a small, but prosperous family business.”

“Family business? What made you leave it then?”

I didn’t see how that had any effect on my ability to work, so I simply kept silent, and she sighed, clearly done with me already.

“References?”

I handed those over, just a letter or two from my former employers saying that I did what I was hired to do, and that I did it well.

“New Orleans, you say you’re from?”

“Yes Ma’am… it is a lot warmer there right now than it is here, that’s for sure,” I laughed, trying in vain to make a joke, to lighten the mood. But if I’d learned anything in my time here it was that most English people just didn’t get my sense of humour. I began to question if they removed that from English babies when they were born, and from the look on Arlene’s face, I might have been right.

“Yes, I knew an American woman once, she did a lot of complaining about the cold, it was ever so tiring.”

“Oh…”

“She herself was tiring, and I once told her that if she didn’t like the climate of my country, that she was free to hop, skip, and jump back to her precious New York.”

“And did she?” I asked with a smile, but she remained sour.

“Yes. She did. With my husband.”

Oh … Dear.

“Since you don’t like the cold Miss Stackhouse, please let me try and find you a placement that would be more…agreeable to you.”

I smiled, so happy that I had maybe made a friend or at least an acquaintance in Arlene, she was doing a nice thing for me, or so I thought. So, I smiled big and wide, and I thanked her.

Two days later I was assigned my position, and I realized that Arlene was as phony as the tint in her hair; she’d assigned me to Scotland, and not just anywhere in Scotland, somewhere called ‘The Highlands,’ and that did not sound agreeable, at all.

Days of travelling, by train, and by carriage and by train again and again left me feeling out of sorts. While the gentle moments of the train should have made me feel at ease, as it has always done, this time instead it simply filled me with a dreading feeling. One I wasn’t used to, uncertainty and nervousness did not mixed well within me.

It was mid-April and it was bitterly cold still, and the further north I went, the colder it became. I was exhausted and weary. I was silently cursing Arlene and her wicked ways, for condemning me to this God forsaken place, and all because some woman stole her husband! It was a horrific thing to do to someone and for no reason at all.

I went from London by train, then by carriage until I reached Glasgow and was hustled by another train and carriage until I got to where I was told I was meant to be.

Personally, I wasn’t so sure.

I was dropped off at the edge of the sprawling property, left with just my two small bags that held all I now owned in the world as I made my way to the main house, and what a house it was. The word ‘estate’ was not misused in this instance, grandeur and opulence was evident from as far away as the gates. I looked around and realized I was in the middle of mountains. I’d passed a large body of water and heard mutterings of a ‘monster.’ Where the hell had I landed myself now? I asked as I made my way to the side entrance. There was no way I would be permitted to enter through the front door, which I learned the hard way at my last job. I rang the large obnoxious bell and a few seconds later I was face to face with the most annoyed looking man I think I’d ever laid eyes on.

“Who are you and what do you want?”

“I… I’m Sookie Stackhouse. I’m here about the job? The um, maid’s position, I was told this was the address?”

He rolled his eyes, “oh, good, another one. Well, come in then, you’re letting all the heat out.”

I walked into the hallway and looked down it. It was long and dank, with dark green tile and grey walls. I followed the unpleasant man into the larger section of the kitchen and it all looked a lot less intimidating than it had before. Well, it was before everyone standing in the kitchen stopped and looked in my direction.

“You’re new,” a large woman by the stove said, and I nodded before extending my hand.

“I’m Sookie Stackhouse. It’s nice to meet y’all.”

They all exchanged looks and the unpleasant man spoke up. “This one be a Yank.”

Ohh…” they all said and went back to what they were doing, and thus ignoring me.

“Actually Sir, I’m from New Orleans … So I’m not really-”

“You’ll report to Mrs. Fortenberry, she’s the head of the household staff, I am head of the kitchen staff. I’m Mr. Dearborn. I also provide butler service when we’re particularly busy. You’ll be sleeping in here…” he said as we made our way down yet another hallway. There were, as I was to learn, a lot of hallways. He opened a cream coloured door to a small room with one bed, a tiny window on the slanted roof, and a sink.

“Your uniform will be provided for you, and, of course, paid for out of your week’s wage. All of which you can discuss with Mrs. Fortenberry.” Before I had the chance to speak he was off again, and I was simply left alone. I looked around my new room, and it was bare to say the least, but it was dry and had the potential for warmth, I hoped. I waited and I waited, I waited so long that I must have given in to my tiredness because the next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and staring down at me was a cross looking woman with grey hair and a scowl.

“Stackhouse they tell me?”

I sat up quickly, “Yes, Ma’am. Sookie.”

“You ever work in service before?”

“Yes, Ma’am for some months in London as a Lady’s maid, before that-”

“Well, there are no ladies in this house, not anymore. You’ll be taking the place of Sissy. She was the former maid, worked ‘ere for years she did, and I never had a problem, not one! I don’t expect the same from you, but I live on hope…” she ‘tutted’ to herself before carrying on, “You arrive from London then?”

“Yes just-”

“Well, your uniform will be provided for you, garnished from your wage of course, as will any others should you destroy the two original ones provided. Now, come with me and we’ll go over the schedule.”

As I tried to get a handle on everything she was sprouting at me, I had a feeling I failed, but I kept my head up as she led me from downstairs to the top of the house.

“We’ll start here and work our way down. West wing of the house is cleaned daily, that’s where the Lord usually spends most of his time, when he’s here. He’s not here at the moment.”

“Oh, and his wife?”

“Passed away, as have his daughter and son. We do have one house guest at the moment, he’s been here a while and will probably be here for a considerable amount of time. He is in the East wing, though when the Lord returns, they do tend to spend great deals of their time together…” she said showing me room after room after room.

“You don’t go bother him now, you hear? His wishes are to be left alone as much as possible and I pride myself on minding my own, as should you!” She handed me a bunch of keys as we stepped into the drawing room. “These are yours, don’t lose them, or there will be hell to pay.”

I nodded. “Silver, brass, and gold cleaned daily, the carpets all must be brushed by hand every day too, and the fires all must be lit and maintained and when we have a large amounts of guests they must be done so silently, you understand?”

I nodded again, not that she gave me much room to speak.

“Good, now to the animals.”

Animals? I froze.

“What kind of animals?”

“Well, the men see to the horses, and the outdoor dogs. We’re left to care for Miss Sophie’s animals. Just the dog and the cat, but they have a strict feeding schedule. The dog normally stays with Mr. Northman, however.”

“Mr. North-”

“Mr. Northman is the guest in the East wing. Do keep up, girl,” she said, tutting to herself again as we made our way around another large staircase that led to a third floor. I was starting to get dizzy. “There are a few rules, of course,” she said after we’d discussed my wages, which were just alright, but more than I had before, so I couldn’t really complain. “You, under no circumstance are to enter into this room.. Do you understand? It’s out of bounds at all times, to everyone.”

“Do I have a key for it?”

“Yes, but you mustn’t use it, or there will be hell to pay.”

Seemed like Maxine thought there was hell to pay for just about everything.

“I understand.”

I didn’t, and I found it extremely odd, but I’d adhere to their rules. After all I was just a maid now.

“The reason you are here, is to serve, Sookie. And under my supervision I will ensure that you do so perfectly. Laziness is not tolerated in this household, not by me and certainly not by Lord Brigant, he expects things done to his liking and done at in a timely manner.”

“I understand, but, where is the Lord now?”

“Currently he’s visiting friends in London, he’s been gone a few weeks, we expect him to return within the week.”

I suddenly got anxious.

“Come now and meet the rest of the family.”

“There are others?”

“No, the staff, Lord Niall refers to everyone as family, it’s just his way,” she said as we finally made our way to the large kitchen, travelling though the dank hallways to get to it. I wondered if I would need a map, just to find my way.

“Everyone this is Susi, she’s from America.”

“Sookie…” I corrected as politely as I could as she and I stood in from of a room full of people.

She rolled her eyes, “Yes, and she’s taking Cissies’ place, she’ll be starting in the morning so I hope Dawn and you Amelia will help her with how we do things around here? If not-”

“There will be hell to pay,” both girls said simultaneously, and I couldn’t help but crack a smile. Dawn was tall and slim in her black and white uniform, the one I assumed I’d be wearing soon. She had shiny chestnut hair and bright blue eyes, and she was pretty to say the least. Amelia was a little plumper, though just as tall. I instantly felt like the shortest girl at church all over again. I was introduced to the Mr. Northman’s valet – Bobby Burnham, and the rest of Niall’s staff including the two Footmen – Trey Dawson and Remy Savoy, both broad men. Trey sported a well-clipped beard, and Remy was clean shaven with kind eyes, I noted. The three cooks were less than friendly though, there was a Liam, a Diane and a Malcolm, and I couldn’t quite catch their last names all of their accents – ones I assumed to be native of where we were – were exceptionally thick, and they mumbled. I made a note to listen better when around them; I had a feeling I would have to. I was given dinner, of which I was extremely thankful to have been given,. as I was more hungry that I could remember. Travelling always made me so. Then I was told that I’d be serving Mr. Northman breakfast in the morning with Dawn, and to be up and dressed by six. I understood, and after attempting in vain to make my room feel a little bit more like my own, I fell asleep soundly; worries of the next day could wait until then.

I woke with the dawn as always, washed and dressed quickly in my new crisp uniform, how she knew my size just by looking at me was a skill of Mrs. Fortenberry’s, that’s for sure. I walked to the kitchen by five thirty expecting breakfast; I was greeted by empty stares from the cooks.

“Breakfast is at five, you’re too late,” Diane said with a thick unique accent that I knew to be English, I just wasn’t sure from where, exactly.

“Oh, right, sorry, I didn’t know-”

“Now ye’ do so don’ be late any more or ye’ wonny get fed,” Malcolm said in an accent I had never heard before, I wasn’t even sure he was speaking English, so I just nodded. I eyed the teapot and helped myself to a cup, while they glared. Food or no food I couldn’t go until lunch without something to tide me over, I was sure to faint. I smoothed down my white apron as the breakfast for Mr. Northman was placed in front of me on a large silver tray. Two boiled eggs, toasted bread and butter with tea and orange juice. I envied him in that moment, because I was starving.

Dawn came hustling around the door a second later. “You take the tray, I’ll lead the way, don’t speak unless spoken to, all right?”

“Sure, of course.”

“He doesn’t say a whole lot, and he doesn’t much care for the outdoors either from what I’ve seen. He keeps to himself and that’s how I think he likes it, so no talking!”

I was instantly scared, why was everyone so tense when it came to this Mr. Northman, I wondered. How bad could he be?

We walked what seemed like a mile to the East wing of the house and up a flight of stairs into a bedroom, the shutters were already pulled back and the fire was lit. Things obviously started early for Mr. Northman. I set the tray down on the table by the window as Dawn instructed as she added more coal to the fire, I noticed the large bed ruffled and slept in, I saw a shirt hanging by the wardrobes, with pants – or trousers – laying neatly on the bed, then the door to the other room opened and out stepped the mysterious Mr Northman – in nothing but a large white towel.

I averted my eyes quickly, focusing on taking the items from my tray and playing them on the table, quickly. He came to sit down, and even though my eyes were focused it was as if I could feel his gaze on me, it made me extremely nervous, so nervous in fact that I tipped the small jug of milk over, having it land on his towel covered lap. He stood up immediately and Dawn came rushing over, fussing, I was too stunned to even say anything, my mouth just hung agape.

“Sookie! Eric, I’m sorry, she’s new … and incompetent, I’ll take care of this…” she said, taking the napkin and wiping and wiping at him. He just stood there looking something between stunned and … amused?

He said nothing as I closed my eyes. I just wanted the ground to swallow me up, right then and there.

“Sookie, leave I’ll fix this…” Dawn said in a fluster.

“I…”

Leave,” she said again, widening her eyes and grabbing my arm to lead me to the door which was promptly slammed in my face.

Oh, Jesus take me, I thought, as embarrassment ran through me.

What was wrong with me? I’d seen a man in a towel before. Of course he was my husband and it was appropriate, but I’d never been so nervous before that … oh, I dread to think what Mrs. Fortenberry was going to say next. There would surely be hell to pay, and I’d be the one paying it.

Mr. Northman was going to have me sacked, for sure.


Chapter 2: Chapter 2


Chapter two! Thanks so much to everyone that reviewed on FF and on my blog (link is in the profile!). If you have questions I will try and get to them tonight! It’s been a great ‘wee’ start and I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

I’m also up for a Fangreaders Award tonight for Requiem, at 9GMT! Should be fun either way! Thanks for all the nom’s and such! xox

Sookie:

I walked slowly down the hall, trying my best to keep my breathing under control. I wanted to vomit, I wanted to faint, and I wanted nothing more than the ground to simply open up and swallow me whole. If I lost this job I really didn’t know where I’d go or what I’d do. A few minutes later, Dawn walked out of Eric’s room and immediately scowled in my direction.

“Is he going to have me sacked? Am I fired?” I panicked.

She rolled her eyes, “I should tell Mrs. Fortenberry about this, you know,” she said in her proper, somewhat clipped accent. If I had to guess I’d say she was once a native of London herself.

“Are you going to?”

She stood, arms crossed, and pondered.

“I should, but … I won’t. Eric is somewhat intimidating at first, so I can understand your nerves. But don’t do it again, lest we all get blamed! But you’re lighting the fires

for the next month, not me, you understand?”

I nodded enthusiastically, I’d have done anything she asked in that moment if it meant staying out of trouble. And staying out of trouble is exactly what I did, I

bothered no one, and I did everything I was asked – this time without spilling any drinks on any gentlemen. Of course, it helped that beyond the staff the entire estate

was empty; it was rather eerie in a way, to have such opulent rooms and have no life to any of it. It seemed sad, if there was any way a house could actually be sad,

that is.

I was, however, ‘late’ for lunch, and ‘late’ for dinner the first day, the staff looking on, smug and mocking as I arrived long after the food was gone and they made their

way out of the main kitchen both times. The cooks looked downright giddy about it too. I was just starving and angry about it. I didn’t quite understand why they were doing this to me, yes, I was new, but I was working hard and bar my one misstep with Mr. Northman, I’d been perfect. I’d been in my room a few minutes, willing myself

not to cry because the other workers didn’t like me, when there was a knock on my door. Cautiously, I opened it to find Amelia standing there with a tray.
“May I come in?”

I nodded opening the door wider for her to come in and she laid the tray down on the bed for me.

“They do this to all the new staff, it’s their version of a welcoming I suppose. I think it’s cruel myself, you’ve worked hard all day, you have, and you need nourishment.

So here’s some dinner I put by for you, and some milk. Just don’t let on, okay?”

I wiped the silent tears that had fallen without my permission,

“Thank you…” And I meant it!

She shook her head and sat down as I sat down too and began to eat unashamedly fast.

“So you’re from America then?” she asked, looking interested. I nodded with a mouthful of food.

“Yes, from Louisiana.”

“Why did you come to England then? Mrs. Fortenberry said they found you from that agency in London?”

“I needed a change of scenery, isn’t that what they say? I just needed something a little different, though this, here, is a lot more different than I was expecting, I must

admit.”

“Do you like it?”

“I do most of the time, the climate leaves a lot to be desired however,” I grinned thinking of the hot summers back home by the lake, and how we’d get new bathing

suits every year because we had to remain ‘respectful’ lest my Grandmother have a stroke.

She nodded, “I’m from Yorkshire meself, never went anywhere further than Cardiff with my family, all in service all our lives. Do you come from a family of servers?”

What did I say here? Did I make up a completely new life to go with my new name? I hadn’t made close friends in London, not ones that cared to ask for my history

anyway, so my lie was always protected. Here is where it got messy. I didn’t want to deny my family, I loved them, I was proud of them, and it was just my marriage I

needed to erase.

“No, my family were merchants by trade, and a baker, we used to own a little bakery in town where I lived. But, they died when I was young and then things… well

they change, don’t they? But, I still love to bake; I suppose I got that from my mother.”

Her eyes lit up. “I’d love if you’d bake us all something sometime, it might be a way of endearing yourself to the others too, just something to think about. Enjoy your

dinner, I’ll talk to you in the morning. Dawn says you’re taking over fire duties? Do you know what to do?” She talked fast did Amelia, and with her slight Yorkshire

twang I found myself listening hard for her too.

“I have lit a fire before, don’t worry I’ll do it as silent as the grave too.”

She smiled, “Mr. Northman’s is first, then the one in his living room and study. He usually wakes up at six, so if you’re done by five thirty…”

“Thank you,” I said, meaning it.

“You’re welcome. And you are, you know.”

“I am what?”

“Welcome.” She smiled again, big and wide before she walked out closing my door silently behind her. I smiled as I ate my heaping plate of food, thankful for her and

her generosity, and kindness. I had hope that I was as welcome as she implied, only time would tell.

I was up the next morning before the dawn, as I dragged myself out of bed to wash by my sink with the cold water waking me up harsher than I would have liked. I

brushed and pinned my long hair neatly under my white cap, smoothed down my apron, slipped on my shoes, and began my long day. That morning I made it for

breakfast. Even if they all looked upon me with disdain, I wouldn’t care, I was there to do my job, not please the unappeasable. The morning air ran through me as I

fetched the buckets of coal to begin my fire lighting duties, I noticed a cautious looking cat huddled by the coal sheds, one of the mysterious Miss Sophie’s animals, I

assumed.

“Now Susi, don’t forget you be as quiet as a mouse up there and be sure not to disturb Mr. Northman, you hear?”
“Yes, Ma’am. No need to worry, I’ll be quick too,” I nodded, ignoring that she still hadn’t got my name right as I braced my back to carry the bucket with the chopped

sticks on top of it to head to the East wing. I thought I’d never get there. I really had to gain strength from somewhere if I were to do this every day, I thought when I

finally reached Mr. Northman’s bedroom. I opened the door silently and walked in. The room was still dark, the shutters still firmly shut, and I noted a large form under

the covers of the bed. I simply ignored it all and went about my duties, clearing out the ashes from the night before, and setting the fire before setting it ablaze and

sweeping around. I heard feet hit the floor behind me, but ignored it and continued to finish up as he walked to his adjoining room that I now knew to be his private

bathroom. I picked up my things and made a swift exit, closing the bedroom door just as I heard the other door open.

I sighed a breath of relief as I actually managed something right, a much better start to the day than the day before. I thanked the Lord.

Silver was done, carpets in the dining room and drawing room were finished between Amelia and me, and by lunch we’d both worked up quite an appetite after taking

the rugs out back for a beating.

“So what’s your story then, Yank?” Trey asked, taking a large bite of his pork chop. The others around the table were all eyeing me carefully, almost as if they were so

distrusting of me that they expected me to pinch the silverware.

“What would you like to know, then?” I asked politely, digging into my meal.

“Where you from, how you ended up here for example,” Dawn added, looking bored.

“Well I’m from a part of Louisiana called New Orleans, it’s in the South. I was raised Baptist, I…” was preparing to lie, “married once, and now he’s gone…”

Mrs. Fortenberry’s face softened a little at that nugget of information, she continued eating. “I needed a change after things in my marriage went the way they did.” I

admitted a half truth. “London seemed like a good place for a …what do they call it… a fresh start?” I nodded to the table, “and so I came, looking for a job to support

myself – I’m a decent enough baker, If I do say so myself, but it was hard to find a good fit. That’s when I stumbled into this profession. I suppose it’s not really a life

anyone chooses with other choices out there,” I shrugged, “but, so far it has not been unkind to me. I have a roof over my head, and I can take pride that I work hard

for a living. What else is there?”

I focused on no one in particular, unsure I wanted to see their reaction to my story. But I noticed that even Mr. Dearborn nodded.

“Aye girl, no one ever went to their grave with regret that they worked hard for what they had, that be true.”

“Aye?” I asked.

“Aye,” he nodded.

“I?”

“Aye…?” he said again, and we looked at each other, both confused.

“You what?”

“Aye I do, I think that. What I just said. Are ye’ deaf?”

“I?” I was confused, that’s all I knew.

The rest of the table laughed, and Remy finally spoke up.

“Aye, it means ‘yes,’ Yank.”

Oh

“Oh! I’m sorry…” I blushed as most the table went about their business or carried on conversation again, leaving me embarrassed.

“Don’t take it too hard, Americans don’t speak our English anyhow, it might take some getting used to,” Remy leaned in to whisper with a teasing smile on his face.

“Is that so?”

“Aye,” he said, pointedly.

“Aye it is then,” I said, and it even sounded strange coming from my mouth.

“Enough fannying about Susi, you’re to deliver Mr. Northman his lunch, the others and I are to prepare the West wing for Lord Niall’s return. Hurry up now!” I heard Mrs.

Fortenberry tut from across the kitchen. I left the rest of my meal, drank my milk quickly and sprinted to fetch the tray.

“He doesn’t say much does he, Mr. Northman?” I asked her as she inspected the tray.

“No Susi, he likes to keep himself to himself, ever since…” she stopped herself and closed her eyes, then looked at me. “Well, he just likes the peace, and that’s what

we like to give him, understood?”

I wasn’t an idiot, I knew there was something I wasn’t being told, but I let it go. It wasn’t my business after all.

“He’ll be in the library at this time of day, go there, quietly.”

I nodded, and made my way again on the seemingly long journey to the other end of this palatial house.

I knocked on the door, carefully balancing the tray on my knee as I did so. I received no answer, so I entered anyway, safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be

standing there in just a towel this time.

I was right. I found him standing by the window, seemingly lost in a gaze at whatever or whoever he was watching, I also noticed a large dog sleeping by the corner of

the room. I was afraid of dogs so I silently prayed it wouldn’t want to sniff me out.

I left the tray on the table, arranged the contents on the desk and lifted the tray. I stood for a second, awaiting any further orders, but when he didn’t turn, I wondered

if I should just have left? Just as I was turning to leave, he spoke, causing me to jump a little in fright.

“You’re new. I don’t know you.”

His voice was deep but smooth, and something told me there was power behind it when raised. I turned to him, straightening out my apron to ease my nerves.

“Yes, Sir.”

“What’s your name? Dawn was huffing a name out before, when you spilled-”

“I am sorry about that, Sir, I do not know what-” my eyes widened as I realized I interrupted him. Well done, Sookie.

“I’m sorry, Sir…” I said, again, and there was that amused look on his face, again.

“Name?” he asked, taking a seat and poking at his food with his fork, then looking up at me again.

“Sookie Stackhouse, Mr. Northman.”

He nodded, “Sookie, that’s what it was. Such an…unusual name.” I saw a half smile but it disappeared as soon as it appeared. “An unusual name for an unusual girl, it

seems,” he said, quietly looking me over. I stood and said nothing, as I should have done in the first place.

“With an accent like that, you’re not from anywhere around here, I assume.”

“No, Sir.” I said, thinking that his own accent was not one native of here either.

“American?”

“Yes, Sir.”

He nodded, “I’d like to hear your story sometime, Miss… Mrs.?”

“Miss,” I clarified.

“Miss Stackhouse.”

I nodded, unsure if I was meant to answer that or not. My nerves shot through me, and a small sweat broke on the back of my neck.

He poked at his plate some more, and tossed the fork. He sighed, before he lifted an empty glass from his desk and filled it with, what looked like whiskey, he downed

a measure.

“Drink?” he offered, holding the bottle out to me.

I politely declined.

“If there is anything else, Sir?”

He closed his eyes, “I have told Mrs. Fortenberry, time and time again. Please call me Eric. And yet,” he sighed, “no one ever does.”

I was just meant to drop the tray off and leave, I was going to get in trouble. But, he was the one talking; I was just being polite and listening. I figured he didn’t have

a whole lot of company, or any at all when I thought about it. He had to have been lonely.

He looked at me then, directly this time and his gaze was an intense one.

“Why is that, Sookie? May I call you Sookie?”

I nodded, “Yes, Sir, you may. I fear though, addressing you so informally… well it just wouldn’t be proper, Sir.”

He rolled his eyes. “And above all else we must adhere to propriety…” he sighed.

“Is there any-”

“No, that’s all, Sookie. Thank you.”

I nodded again, swiftly making my exit.

Another sigh of relief as I quickly made my way down the endless steps of the endless stairs, through the confusing corridors and back to the kitchen. I had curtains to

clean.

The next few days went much the same, and I was glad for it. I enjoyed routine; it gave me comfort, a sense of security almost. I learned that Mr. Northman was not

talkative in the mornings, as I would silently as I could go about my business and he his, both of us ignoring each other. I wouldn’t see him face to face outside a glance

or two as he walked to his bathroom. I wouldn’t see him at all, for almost a week. And the next time I saw him, it wasn’t in the most appropriate of settings.

“Darn cat…” I mumbled to myself, huddling my coat close to my body as I looked around the large land for this cat that I just had to find. Apparently, according to Mrs

Fortenberry, Nelly, the cat, had been missing for two days and it was my job to find it. I knew she was testing me, that, and the others just didn’t want to do it. I

understood, it was meant to be warming up – weather wise – and yet if anything it felt as if it was getting colder. I was in hell, and now I had to traipse around in the

cold wet, looking for a stupid cat.

“Nelly? Puss, Puss… here Puss?” I called, looking through bushes, up trees, and inside the stables. Still no sign of Nelly, the little minx.

I’d been gone for what seemed like hours, and the sun – what we managed to see through the clouds here, was already starting to fade fast. I couldn’t go back

without the cat or there would be ‘hell to pay,’ I was sure.

“Nelly? Cat? If you’re out here can you just show yourself so I can go back into the … less cold?” I would say the warmth, but in truth it was as icy as outside sometimes

with the attitudes of some of the staff.

“Nelly, please? I know it can’t be fun being out here with wet fur okay? We have nice hot milk for you?” I called out, louder and louder, to no avail. I decided to climb

one of the trees to the East of the house, maybe a higher perspective would help me see it, I wondered.

Ooft,” I said as I struggled to climb the tree in my uniform and my heavy winter coat, but I could not go back without the cat, I kept thinking. First the girl dies, and now

her animals were dying? That would not go down well, I assumed.

I was up the tree a few minutes when I gave up; I was cold and wet, and starving. If Nelly didn’t want to come home, personally that was her business. Let her be

free, as we all longed to be, I thought.

I turned around, attempting to get down, one leg, then another…and then I heard it.

A quiet giggle.

I froze mid way down the tree.

I looked to my left and was shocked to see Mr Northman casually leaning against one of the other trees. So shocked was I to see him watching me, I missed my footing

and landed with a hard smack on the ground.

“Ouch!” I said as I landed, I thought I’d broken my butt.

“Miss Stackhouse!” I heard, before I heard rushed footsteps in my direction. “Oh my… are you all right? I didn’t mean to frighten you!” he said, grabbing my arm and

helping me up by the arm of my coat, gently. His touch far more tender than his build and frame would let one assume.

“Are you injured?”

“No unless an aching ego counts?” I asked, dusting myself off, not that it mattered, I was covered in wet mud all down my back.

“I’m sorry if I startled you, it was not my intention.”

“What was then?”

“Sorry?”

“Your intention, were you just enjoying watching me make a fool out of myself?” I said, momentarily forgetting my place. I panicked, instantly backing out of his grasp.

“I’m sorry, Sir, I didn’t mean anything by-”

“No, please, I enjoy your candour, it is so… rare these days,” he said, with a somewhat regretful look in his eyes.

“Still, it was not my place to-”

“I won’t tell anyone, I promise,” he smiled, he actually smiled, and it hit me like a breath of the freshest air. I had began to wonder if he had teeth, that maybe that was

why he never ate any of his meals and seemed to survive on desserts and alcohol alone.

“Thank you, Sir.”

“Eric,” he said, urging me to use his first name. I simply shook my head.

“It just wouldn’t be fittin’,” I said with a friendly smile.

“Rules… all these silly rules,” he mumbled.

“Mr. Northman?”

“Yes?”

“Have you seen the cat? If I go back there without it, I fear Mrs. Fortenberry and her wrath.”

He rolled his eyes. “That thing has been nothing but trouble. She’ll be in the barn if anywhere, not out here in the wet, spoiled old thing she is.”

“I already checked there, no sign of her anywhere.”

He shook his head and began to walk, we were a good half mile from the house and his long legs made it difficult to keep in time with him, I had to run to catch up from

time to time until we got to the barns. He smoothly climbed the ladder that I’d been up a time before, his frame making short work of the long ladders to the top.

“Come on up to see,” he shouted, and I looked around to ensure no one else saw us and I did just that. Sure enough, there he found her, hidden in a nook of the barn

roof, hidden by a makeshift hay nest.

“Nelly, laziest cat in the world, so lazy she forgets to come home to eat,” he said, petting the fuzzy animal in his arms. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Thank you, Sir. Really, Mrs. Fortenberry was quite insistent that she be brought back home.”

“Maxine is quite insistent on most things, is she not?” he said lightly as I began my descent down the first of three ladders, him closely following.

When we got down I held my hands out for the cat, thankfully she let me hold her without fuss, cuddling into my coat easily.

“Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome, anytime,” he nodded.

“Is there something I could do, to thank you?” I offered, and I was stunned at myself. Why had I even suggested that?

He looked thoughtful for a moment before he spoke. “Call me Eric?”

I smiled and shook my head, “It wouldn’t be proper, not given my status, Mr Northman.”

A beat passed us, “You have a sweet tooth.” I stated as fact, because I knew it to be true, “What’s your favourite cake?”

“You bake?” His eyes lit up as they fixed on me for a moment as we walked side by side.

“I do, it’s one of the few things I do well. Unlike… finding lost animals, or climbing trees.” I laughed, looking at the ground rather than facing him. It was odd, having an

actual conversation with him. Outside the house seemed to be allowed, I told myself.

“Or not spilling milk…” he looked at me out of the side of his eye, a slight smile on his face. I noticed then just how pale he was, as pale as I imagined the character in a

Bram Stoker novel I once read being – deathly pale, vampire pale.

“I am sorry about that…”

He just smiled. “Bake me a chocolate cake and we’ll forget about the spill then, how’s that?”

I wondered if we had supplies for such a cake, I’d have to root around. I knew items were not as widely available as they once were, rationed for the war just like

everything else.

By the time we got to the back door, I had agreed to bake him his cake as soon as I could, and thanked him again.

“Shall I go in this door with you, or would that too not be…fitting?”

I shook my head, “You’re the master of the house, Sir. You do as you please, remember?”

“Yes, but would they be frizzled?”

“Most likely…” I said, shedding my coat, still holding Nelly close.

“Then I think I shall, for entertainment if nothing else,” he said with an unfamiliar glint in his eyes, one I realized I quite liked to see, and wondered if I’d see it again.

Only time would tell, wouldn’t it?


A/N: Sorry for the layout mess on this chapter, I’ve tried to re-upload a number of times but it keeps going screwy. To view it ‘properly’ pop to my fiction blog, the link is in the profile! Thanks for your time! xox


Chapter 3: Chapter 3


Chapter three! I meant to post this yesterday, but I was working on chapter 4 and forgot! Thanks again so very much for all the adds, and messages and reviews on here and on FF it’s just so encouraging, it’s wonderful at inspiring me to keep writing! We meet Miss Pamela this chapter, the minx!

Sookie.

Lord Niall didn’t return within the week as promised, but did return in the middle of the next week and with company too. The day of his arrival was unlike any day I’d seen since I arrived. Everyone was happy, joyous even, on news of his actual journey home, and that he’d arrive before the night was out. Everyone was in the mood for stories, none more so than my cleaning partner of the day, Amelia.

“Oh, it was ever so sad when Lady Brigant passed; he mourned her like no other man I’ve ever seen. To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s something he ever really got over himself…” she shook her head, helping me dust as we both stood on ladders, taking care of the giant chandeliers. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to ask, the subject no one talked about.

“What about his daughter?”

She grimaced, “Oh that … well…”

I wasn’t stupid, I’d worked out for myself that Niall’s daughter was someone very dear to Eric, but who she was to him I was not sure. All I knew was that Eric’s face

was the one in mourning now, I just wanted to know what for.

“She and Mr. Northman were … together?”

“Aye, not for long mind you, but they were. Miss Sophie was … unusual. She was what Eric liked to call a ‘free spirit’ though it drove her father to his edge at times. She

refused to adhere to his rules, and even less to those of a husband. She refused countless men’s offers of marriage too, leaving Niall rather ashamed. But she was sure

she wasn’t going to marry just anyone,” she smiled. “And then Eric came along, and he seemed to be her match. It was actually rather beautiful to watch unfold …

But…”

“But what?” I asked, ignoring the fact that Eric had used the same words to describe me. I wasn’t sure if that was good, or bad.

She sighed. “He got called to service, for the war, and he had to go before they even got married. She was distraught, but she soon began planning for their life

together, and it seemed to satisfy her for a time, within the long periods of sadness she’d fall into in his absence.”

“Oh, that’s so awful. How horrible for both of them.”

“Indeed. He wrote when he could of course, and he did return … but it was two years before he did so and he was injured, and by then they’d both changed so much.

He more so than her, he’d lost a little of his shine, unsurprisingly if you ask me. All he had to have seen and done out there fighting to keep us safe? I don’t think it was

ever something Miss Sophie considered. She just wanted the man she knew back, but he’d grown up…”

“And she’d stayed the same.”

Oh the poor girl, I thought as I dusted.

“Yes, that and losing her brother Victor years before to the Titanic of all things… well, it was all a little much for everyone here to deal with.”

“But they married?”

“Aye, they married anyway, still in love, just… a little at odds. She got pregnant right away, and that, for a time at least seemed to bring the ‘old’ Eric out of his shell.

And for a long time things were wonderful between them, Niall was happy again, the house was happy again.”

I sensed doom in her tone. I could gather what happened, and I instantly ached for Eric, so sorry that he had to go through all he had.

“Then the baby started to be born, and it all went wrong. One day she was here, swollen and happy with a grin on her face, the next they were both gone. I’ve never

seen two men take it as hard as I have in Lord Niall and in Eric.”

“That’s so awful, twice the loss … thrice counting Victor, how tragic.”

“Indeed … indeed. So you see, that’s why we just leave him be. After their deaths he became somewhat … violent.”

I was shocked, he seemed so mild mannered.

“How so?”

“Angry at himself mostly, but with drink he’d just take it out on whoever would cross his path. He would always apologise afterward, but his outbursts were mean, and

rather frightening at the time. Now though, he seems more…” she shrugged. “Accepting of it all, I suppose.”

“Oh … right. Still, it’s all very sad.”

“It is, but you can’t tell him I told you, or anyone else for that matter. It’s something we just don’t discuss, not with him around, and definitely not with Niall-”

“I promise. Thank you, it has cleared up a lot of questions I had about everything.”

She nodded.

“Let’s get this done, shall we?”

I agreed. I hated heights, and I wasn’t great going up or coming down.

The night Lord Niall actually arrived, the flurry of activity was somewhat entertaining within the house. She was run like ship at full sail, busy, and with an air of

excitement none could quite place. Everyone had something to do, or somewhere to be, and there was a classic feast prepared for the occasion. His guests, I was told,

were close personal friends of the Lord, and would be staying for an undetermined amount of time. I wasn’t surprised. Most of these people were dripping in very old

money and didn’t have to worry about silly little things like jobs. They could stay here forever it if suited everyone, and in some homes, some did!

“Oh Susi, good!” Mrs. Fortenberry said as I rounded the corner of the kitchen.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“I’m just at the end of my tether. So much still needs to be made right for his Lordship and well… all the men are tending to the grounds and what not and Mr.

Northman needs his dinner attire, you can go give it to him, won’t you?” she had the pile of clothes, clean and pressed in hand already.

“Of course.”

She stepped back. “Are your hands clean? Last thing we need right now is you soiling one of-”

I held up my hands, to show her proof that yes I was clean.

“Good girl. Off you go then.”

Making my way from the kitchen, up two staircases, three hallways and then the grand staircase itself, it was always a mission not to spill anything. But this time I had

only clothing and I managed to get to his door in one piece, not having to knock since for once the door was wide open, and I was happy to see the window were too,

letting in some much needed air to the usually dark and dank room. I made my way inside just as he came out of the adjoining door that led to his bathroom, he smelled clean even from where I stood, and it was a smell that suited him – unlike that of day old whisky or rum. I carried on in silence for a few minutes before we met

face to face, and he grimaced.

“They told you then?” Eric said.

“I’m sorry?”

“They … the others, they told what happened between Sophie and I, then?”

I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? So, I did the smart thing, and I did not say anything.

“You look at me now, like they do.”

“How do I-”

“You looked at me just … differently before, now you have the same look in your eye when you look me that they all do when they look at me,” he said sadly, and there

was a beat. “Pity, I think, or something…” he said, whipping off his waistcoat.

“Whatever it is, I don’t like it. And if you do pity me, I ask you to stop. I don’t want your pity; I don’t want anyone’s pity.”

I shifted, uncomfortable where I stood.

“Your clothes, for dinner,” I said, laying them out on the bed one by one changing the subject.

“Someone should be up shortly to-”

“I don’t need assistance, I am capable of dressing myself you know,” he said, clipped before his demeanour changed. “”I’m sorry…”

“It’s alright, Sir.”

“How come you allow me to address you by your first name, but you won’t extend me the same gesture?”

“Because, Sir, you’re a gentleman.”

“Says who?” he smirked.

“Says … well, everyone.”

“Ah, and so because everyone says something, surely it must be true then?”

I knew that not to be the case but this was an entirely different matter.

“Well, no…”

“So then who’s to say I really am a gentleman? Perhaps I’m merely… a scoundrel.”

“Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” I offered with a smile.

“Yes, exactly, if I were a mere scoundrel would you address me by my name then?”

“I suppose I would have to, wouldn’t I? But, society tells me you are worthy of respect by their standards, and by their standards we all must adhere … or else there

would be … anarchy.”

“Are you … mocking me, Miss Stackhouse?”

“I would never do such a thing, Sir,” I said with a smile that said otherwise. “Now you really ought to change. Mrs. Fortenberry is all a flutter at the news of Lord Niall’s

return.”

He sighed.

“If I must, I must, but I really don’t see the need for assistance for a simple dinner, I can do it myself. ”

“Well I would hope so.”

Oh, no, not again. My eyes went wide and I slapped my hand over my mouth.

“You would?” he asked, cocking a brow in my direction as he unbuttoned his shirt. It pained me to look the other way.

“I…”

“Say what you were going to say, Sookie.” His tone was even, and that scared me; it gave me no hint of his emotion.

“I just think that a man your size and age should very well be able to dress himself, if only for dinner, unless you have issues with bow ties, everything else is fairly

simple.”

He smiled, and I think my heart stopped. His hands stopped what they were doing and they rubbed his chin, his scruff forming rather quickly into a dark blond beard.

“It is simple. Sometimes I admit I have issue with certain items that I am required to wear, but otherwise you’re right, I see no reason why I need a valet, other than

society telling me so.”

I nodded, straightening out his room a little while he talked. I needed to keep my hands busy. They distracted my mouth and kept me silent.

“Society tells me a lot of things, Sookie. As you said, it tells you that I am gentleman, yet I have done nothing to prove that so to you. It tells me that you are a maid

and as such don’t deserve the same level of respect as I, or people in my position monetarily deserve. It tells me I need to wear all this,” he motioned to his attire on

the bed, “just to eat dinner with a group of people, most of whom I don’t even like! It tells me a lot of things, and most of the time I just wish it would shut up and let

me be,” he said, exasperated as he sat on the bed with a bounce.

I still said nothing, simply holding the silk bowtie in my hands.

“Say something, will you? The silence is deafening.”

“You’re disgusting.”

He looked at me, stunned, and honestly I think I was just as stunned as him.

“Excuse m-”

“No, you asked to hear what I think, and that’s what I think. There are other people in the world that would kill to be in the position that you are in, people with no

money, no home, no lavish dinners being prepared and served by other people every day. And you, you sit there as if it’s this huge burden! To be waited on hand and

foot, to have your every whim realized without much effort on your part at all! It’s disgusting, and I think you need to grow up, that’s what I think.”

Oh, God. I was completely sacked this time. In fact, I was sure he’d just skip the sacking and chop my head right off. I always was too quick with my mouth, at least

that’s what Bill would tell me before … well, before things got ugly.
The sweat started to break on my skin, and I thought for sure my heart was about to beat out of my chest!

He sat there, his shirt open, the dim light of the room not really giving me a clear view of his face. I didn’t know what his mood was, and that worried me.

“You know nothing of my life, Sookie. Nothing!” he said, getting louder with each word.

“And you nothing of mine, and yet here we are.” I held my ground, not really sure where my strength came from, but I wasn’t to be bullied. Not by any man, never

again. He stood up, and as it always did, his height seemed to shrink the room, and my lungs as he stepped closer to me. Before either of us had a chance to speak

again, there was a polite knock on the door, causing me to step back. Bobby had come to fulfil his duty as valet, a polite smile to go with his knock as he entered allow

me to exit without so much as another glance in Eric’s direction.

We stood in line, as was their custom to greet his Lordship and his guests. My nerves kicked in something fierce, and I thought for sure I would see my dinner again if I

were to speak. His Lordship entered first, two other servants by his side, and the women. We curtsied as he acknowledged us in passing. He stopped when he got to

me, and I swore my heart did too.

“Oh it is so good to be back, something smells amazing. I do so hope it’s a roast, Mrs. Fortenberry, you know my favourites,” he smiled, and then he got to me. His

smile faded for a split second as he took me in.

“You’re new.”
“Yes, Sir.”

He looked to Mrs. Fortenberry, then to me, and she took the liberty of speaking for me, which I didn’t like very much.

“She’s Sookie Stackhouse ma’ Lord, from the agency in London, they sent her to us as a replacement, she’s been working out well so far at least, neat and tidy too.” I

thought that was the closest thing I would ever get to a compliment from Maxine, and I chose to take it as such.

“I see… where are you from girl?” he asked, his voice gruff with age, but friendly.

“America, your Lordship.”

“Oh, really? That’s interesting isn’t it? You might find one of my guests most agreeable then, she too is an American. How nice, how nice indeed,” he said, walking on

mid sentence to the stairs where he and the two other servants ascended.

Then the other guests arrived and introduced themselves, which was unusual, usually the man of the house did introductions, but Niall seemed as though he had

somewhere else to be instead. In came Lady Selah Pumphery the young wife of Lord Pumphery. According to Amelia they owned more land in England than God himself.

She was followed by Miss Pamela Swynford De Beaufort, heiress to an oil fortune from Texas, I was told. She never married, though it wasn’t for the lack of suitors

either. Following her we had a Mr. John Quinn, owner of a well to do events planning business that he ran out of London and New York – new money, so Mrs.

Fortenberry said. Each guest had their own servant, which meant a lot more extra mouths to feed. Pamela was the only one sans a ladies maid, to which she asked if it

could be accommodated. Mrs. Fortenberry looked to me immediately.

“Yes, Miss. I’m sure Susi here would be delighted. She’s served as a Ladies Maid before, and did a wonderful job of it, and she’s also an American.”

Pamela’s face lit up for a moment. “Really?” her twang let out. “Oh that is good news, yes, please… Susi?”

I just nodded, I didn’t’ want to correct her or Maxine in front of everyone.

“Excellent, will you come now? I must change for dinner…” she asked, and made her way up the large staircase too. I had guessed this wasn’t their first time staying at

the estate; they all seemed rather comfortable there. I followed Miss Pamela up to the room, the room next to Eric’s on the east wing, she knew her way there too.

“Oh I do so love this room, the views of the land are just spectacular,” she said with a happy sigh, throwing herself down on the bed. The large dark wooded four

poster bed looked as comfortable as a cloud.

Her bags were already in the room, and I asked, “Shall I unpack for you, Ma’am?”

“Yes, please Susi, thank you.”

“It’s actually Sookie, Miss,” I blushed. “Mrs. Fortenberry has this thing where she forgets my name, only ever my name…” I said quietly, making her laugh.

“She is a tough old bird that one, isn’t she? And you’re from home? Where?” she asked, sitting up to pay attention to me.

“Louisiana. New Orleans specifically.”

“Really? Another Southern girl, oh that is good news.” She sighed, “I’ve been living in England for a few years now, but my mother remarried and is still back home, they

come and go when it pleases them however, usually when it doesn’t please me.” She scowled but the smiled and I found her most engaging right away.

I nodded as she indicated what needed brought out first as I unpacked her neatly packed cases, one by one, and she began to undress. The other lady that I had

waited on had been full of modesty, hardly ever undressing until I had the new clothes ready and waiting to go on. Pamela seemed the opposite of that, strolling

around the room in her underwear and stockings and nothing more. I blushed a little, not used to the sight of another half naked woman in my presence.

“You’re pretty, Sookie… you know that?” I looked at her then, and she was staring right at me. My blush came back, this time I felt it down my neck too.

“Adorable, you aren’t used to compliments then I take it? But you are, very cute. Those baby blue eyes, those big lips… porcelain skin, what’s not to like?”

“Thank you, Miss.” I said avoiding eye contact though simply swallowing hard and going back to my unpacking. She was right, I wasn’t used to such compliments and I

was not really sure what she of all people meant in complementing me in such a way.

She smiled, “Am I embarrassing you?”

“No, not at all…” I said, though I was sure my voice gave me away, causing her to giggle again as she took down her hair.

“I’ll wear the sapphire satin one for dinner tonight, my jewellery is in the smaller case, and my shoes are in the medium sized case.” Pamela was beautiful. She was

very tall, and had a regal air about her, her dark golden blonde hair that landed on her shoulders and curled beautifully when it fell. She had a fixed stare too, with her

green-blue eyes, one that made me as uncomfortable as her flirtatious sounding words, but I tried to take it in my stride.

“I want to see Eric, is he ready?”

I buttoned up the back of her dress, fixing the clasp at the top of her neck. She took her seat by the dressing table to admire herself as I went to take on putting her

hair up.

“I believe so…” I said, teasing her hair and putting it in place with her pins.

“You don’t say much, do you? I know you’re new, but really, you can relax. When you’re with me the usual ‘rules’ don’t really apply. Selah on the other hand…” she

rolled her eyes, “she’s just dreadful.”

I’d keep that in mind.

“I haven’t seen Eric since last summer, and even then I didn’t see much of him. I do so hope he’s snapped out of his reclusive stage, it really was unbecoming of

someone like him.”

“I wouldn’t expect that, Miss Swy-”

“Pamela, please, my last name is such a mouthful, and I’d rather we address each other by our first names. My friends, they call me Pam, so, either or will do nicely.”

She and Eric had a lot in common it seemed.

“Miss Pamela,” I settled for, instead of making it too casual.

“Why not?”

“I haven’t been here long, but in the time that I have he hasn’t been what you might call … social.”

“Hmph,” she said looking in the mirror. “Well, I’ll just have to put an end to that.”

I finished off her hair as she applied her rouge and lip stain, she slipped on her shoes and did a little twirl.

“How do I look?”

“Lovely, just lovely,” I admitted, because, well, she did.

“Good. Is he still rooming next door then? I think I’ll go and make a nuisance of myself, care to watch?” she asked cheerfully.

After my last exchange with Eric, I was hoping to avoid him altogether. I smiled and politely declined.

“No, Ma’am, I have work to be seeing to, but you go ahead. Dinner will be another ten minutes or so.”

She nodded as we both made our way out the door. “Thank you, Sookie. See you later?”

I nodded too, and made my way quickly down the hall that led to the grand staircase, passing Amelia and Bobby on my way by. I covered all manner of work within the

estate as part of my job, but thankfully dinner was not on my rota. I don’t think I could stomach a nightly display of back-patting from rich obnoxious people being

truthful. So, I happily helped in the kitchen, all the while pushing down that dreading feeling my last conversation with Eric left me. I was out of line, I knew that, and

yet I also knew that he had asked for my honest thoughts. I was perhaps just a little too honest. I had to make amends, and I thought of just the way to do it. A way

that might make the rest of the staff endear to me a little more too.

Who didn’t like sweet baked goods?

After I helped clean up the kitchen I began to breakout my old ingredients, right before the two accompanying servants sat at the table with some coffee.

“I’m Diantha,” the short girl that was accompanying Lady Selah offered, “and that’s Jake, he’s Mr. Quinn’s valet. You’re new, aren’t you?”

I turned to greet them, leaving my baking to one side for a moment to introduce myself and make small talk. I was happy to have it actually, since the others here had

yet to include me in most of their conversations. Diantha was sweet, and she preferred to be called ‘Di. She was from Ireland and was as much a chatter box as I’d ever

heard. Jake though, he was just a strange one. Silent as the grave, and had a stare that left me cold. I didn’t like him much at all, and made a note to stay as far from

him as I could. I had my cake and my muffins baking nicely before I was summoned by her bell to help Miss Pamela undress, I checked the temperature once more

before I hightailed it to the East wing. I wasn’t expecting to see what I saw when I entered the room.

Pamela and Eric were sitting on her bed, comfortably by the looks of things, both with drinks in their hand, and smiles on their faces.

“Oh, I’m sorry … you rang?” I said, addressing her, and she giggled, hopping off the bed, shoeless.

“Yes, Sookie I did, I need you to get me out of this dress,” she winked at me before turning her back and allowing me to access. Why Eric wasn’t doing this, I didn’t

really know. I tried to push the thought out of my mind that I was undressing her to get into bed with him.

“Won’t you have a drink? They work you girls so hard here. I insist you have a drop of rum. Sookie?”

I looked at her, and she was being sincere as could be, but I still had to decline.

“No, thank you Miss.” I said, reaching the last of her buttons, and then the zips. I noticed from the corner of my eye that Eric was watching us both intently.

“Sookie, I do so hope Eric has been treating you well? If he hasn’t, you will tell me, won’t you?”

I just looked at her, and then to him, he smirked.

“He’s been fine.” I untwisted the knots on the side of her dress, remembering to breathe.

“Fine?” she asked, looking from him then back to me. He simply shrugged.

“If there is anything else, Ma’am?”

She smiled. “Don’t be too hard on him, darling, he is only a man after all. They need all the help they can get, sometimes when even they themselves do not realize it.”

“Pam…” Eric said, his tone deep and almost embarrassed.

“She’s so cute, Eric, how could you be anything other than a sweetheart to someone so sweet…” she asked him, and he just quirked his brows at her, downing his

drink.

“I’ll see you in the morning, Sookie. Thank you for your help tonight,” she said when it was clear that Eric was getting just a touch uncomfortable at me being there. I

thanked my lucky stars when she dismissed me.

Remembering my baking, I panicked and began to run back to the kitchen, praying that they’d be the first good thing I could do this week, without burning my fingers in

the process!


The next morning I managed to drag myself out of bed before everyone else, and arranged a muffin on each side plate on the large table. Some were strawberry, and

some were blueberry, and those who didn’t like one, I hoped would swap someone for one they did. I boiled the tea pot, and began my day. When the others came in

they were surprised to see me standing there, to say the least.

“What’s this then?” Mr Dearborn asked as I stirred the pan of scrambled eggs.

“It’s breakfast, with a little extra treat that I threw together… help yourselves.”

They all and I mean all, looked at each other, and then back to me, still no one saying a word. Amelia was the first to sit, taking a big bite of her bun she smiled. “These

are wonderful Sookie, do I taste some nutmeg?”

I nodded and smiled as the others took their seats. Malcolm, Diane and Liam all held matching scowls however.

“You shouldn’t be using the ingredients, what if we need them! There is a damn war going on you know, we are rationed you know!” Diane gave out, earning a scowl

from Mrs. Fortenberry in return. I simply said nothing.

“Now Diane, you know that’s nonsense, for a cake and a few buns? You know as well as anyone we stock pile for baking! Thank you, Susi, this was very sweet of you.”

I smiled, ignoring their faces as everyone helped themselves to some breakfast. I had coffee, for the first time in years.

“Yes,” Di said. “Miss Selah is positively addicted to it, her father has connections, so it’s really top stuff from Brazil I believe, very expensive,” she said, sipping her cup. I

was delighted as I wasn’t really a fan of the famous ‘English tea.’ It was too weak and dreary for my taste buds, but I made do. The war made it near impossible to find

good coffee, and if you did, it was usually triple its normal price, and just not worth it when you had to scrimp and save. This however, reminded me of home, just a

little.

“Who is the cake for?” Dawn spoke up as we began to get everyone’s breakfasts on the trays. Amelia had helped me with the upstairs fires that morning, thankfully,

and we’d gotten everyone warmed up in no time at all. It also meant she did Eric’s bedroom, leaving me free of anxiousness. Pam though, she slept like the dead and

was last to ring for breakfast that morning too.

“It’s for Mr. Northman. He requested I bake him something when he discovered it’s what I used to do, as a profession, before.”

The cooks rolled their eyes and Dawn simply sipped her tea, “Oh, that’s certainly interesting, what else did you and Mr. Northman talk about?” she asked, her tone far

from friendly. I knew the whole table was listening, so I did my best not to blush. I did not even know why I was blushing, it’s not to say we were discussing anything

inappropriate.

“Not much at all. It was during my search for Nelly. He … knew where she was, and helped me, that is all.”

“How cosy,” she remarked before getting up abruptly and putting her cup in the sink. “I have things to do,” she said, and all but stormed out into the hallway.

She was difficult to understand, that one.

I had Pam dressed in a wonderfully engaging mauve dress, and black fitted jacket. It was ever so modern, and it reminded me of the one thing I missed about London,

admiring the fashions. In the stores, on the women themselves, it was all so beautiful.

“So Eric told me you put him in his place last night, is that true?” she said with a grin as she applied her makeup.

I looked at her, and she must have seen the panic in my face, “I … didn’t mean to.”

She laughed, turning to face me.

“Meaning to or not, I would have loved to have seen it. Very few people give him a piece of their minds, truthfully at least, nowadays. I’m sure his face was a picture.”

She smiled.

“It was scary actually, a rather scary picture.”

“He’s harmless really, his bark is far, far worse than his bite. He just needs a little understanding.”

It was hard to understand someone when you knew so little about them though, I thought.

“He’s been through a lot, and I know you weren’t here for it, but it changed him. He was once; believe it or not, the life and utter soul of a party. He was the last one

standing at every party, every dinner, charming everyone off their feet and into bed.”

I could see that, he was very charismatic underneath his armour. I can imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end of such flirtations and charm.

She sighed. “And now, well now, he’s just a shell of himself. It makes me sad. I hope to salvage something of the old Eric one of these days though,” she said, fixing

her lip stain in the mirror.

“But it hasn’t been easy, nor will it be, I see that now.” She sighed before she admired herself in the mirror once more.

Lunch was served in the dining room, and I volunteered this time to be the one to take care of Mr. Northman’s as he had, again, opted out of dining with the other

guests. I wanted to bring him his cake, and I wanted to clear the air as best I could. While he had asked for it, my opinion was harsh and uncalled for, and it was really

not my place. That, and I just wanted the anxious feeling to go away whenever I thought of him. I got to the door and heard voices behind it. He usually ate lunch

alone, but with the guests in the house I did wonder why he wouldn’t join the rest of them in the dining room.

The door was slightly ajar, allowing me to hear a little of what was being said.

“You said you cared about me, and now what? Because there’s some new-”

“You need to calm down, Dawn,” he said, and I was slightly taken aback. What was Dawn so mad at him for? And then things started to make sense. “I never promised

you anything, I never said or did anything that would make you think that what happened between us was anything more than a mistake,” he sighed.

“That’s not true, you said-”

“I said nothing, and you know that. Jesus, when we did what we did… I wasn’t myself. I wasn’t even fully capable of …” There was pacing. “I don’t know what has you

so … flustered Dawn, but whatever it is, I want nothing to do with it. What I did with you was a huge mistake … I was lonely and you were … accommodating.”

“You bastard.” I heard Dawn say.

“I may be a bastard, but at least I’m not lying to myself. Stop creating a fantasy in your head where there is none in reality. What we did was a mistake, nothing more,

I told you that at the time. I need you to accept that.”

Dawn came storming out of the library, and at seeing me, her tear filled eyes turned mean.

“Ugh, You!” she said pushing the tray upward, leaving the top of the damn cake stuck to my chest. My apron now covered in chocolate, and my delicately decorated

cake, squashed.

Great.

Eric came to the door, a tense look written all over his face.

“Did she hit you?”

“No. She ruined my apology cake though…” I commented, deflated, just like my cake.

“Come in, we’ll see what we can salvage,” he said, exhaling loudly as I walked into the darkened library.

I wondered if we could salvage the cake. I also wondered if he Pam was right, and that the Eric she knew, the well adjusted, friendly, charming one was still in there. It

seemed to me that he was, he just needed that little bit of understanding she talked about. So, for once I set aside my judgements about him and his dalliances with

the help, and I tried to salvage something, something in him.


A/N: FF continues to ruin my layout of the text making it look sloppy. If you’d like to read it as intended, pop over to my blog for that, and Bonus!Skars in a Tux! 🙂 Link is in the profile! xox


Chapter 4: Chapter 4


Chapter 4 time!I’m so glad so many of you have latched on to my new baby, it’s been fun for me to write so far! Fans of the other stories don’t worry either, I managed to actually sit down last night and map them out – something I rarely do, so they both have an end in sight at least! I hope some mojo for them comes back soon I hate to be left hanging with stories too! Enjoy the update xox


Sookie:

I made my way into the slightly darkened library, him ahead of me, and I laid the semi-squashed cake on the table in front of me.

“Oh dear…” I sighed.

“It’s not your fault, it’s hers. Her and her melodramatics, and mine, come to think of it,” he sighed. “I’m sure we can salvage it. Besides, the proof is in the tasting.”

“I would say so too if I hadn’t spent twenty minutes making fancy designs on the cream topping,” I sighed again, trying to shape it with a small knife, but to no avail.

“It’s what’s inside that counts, at least that what I’m told in life. Personally, I’d rather apply it to things like cakes, and buns. The inside of them really is what counts,”

he smiled, clearly joking.

“It was meant to be an apology, but as it turns out Dawn squashed that idea with her hissy fit.”

He grimaced, “Yes, about that-”

“It’s none of my business,” I said quickly, attempting to keep it that way. “But what is my business is to ensure that you know how sorry I am, about before, I was out

of line and-”

“But that’s just it, you weren’t. I was the one that asked for your opinions, and it’s not your fault if I’m not man enough to handle them,” he said, cutting around the cake, and smoothing out the chocolate cream on top to make it look even again.

“I’m the one that should be apologising to you, Sookie. Having talked to Pam, having had time to think it over, it was brash and unnecessary, and I hope it won’t

happen again.”

I nodded. I hoped it wouldn’t either, but knowing me and my mouth I wasn’t so sure.

“Sookie, I do want you to know how much I enjoy your candour, and how since you’ve come to be here, I have begun looking forward to our time together.”

I hadn’t known that, and the idea that he acknowledged me at all meant … something.

“Thank you, Sir.”

He nodded somewhat bashfully before eyeing the cake again. He sliced into it with a happy look on his face, and he took a bite.

“Ohmygodit’ssogood.”

“I’m sorry?” I smiled. Watching him eat it was like watching a child have his first taste of sugar.

“It’s so good. What do I taste here? It’s all so … creamy.”

“I can’t tell you that, it’s an old family addition.”

“Ah, I see. Well, all women have their secrets I suppose.”

If he only knew, I thought. My secrets had very little to do with cakes and muffins.

He went to reach for the whiskey that sat on his desk to wash it down, and I stopped him, putting my hand over the rim of the glass. He looked at me, confused.

“My cake wasn’t baked to be washed down by booze. There is milk on your tray, and if you’ll forgive me, you could use it.”

“I could?” He raised a brow at me, but he told me to be honest, how could I not?

“Well, you’ve not been eating, and not to sound like a mother hen or anything, but that’s just not right. A man of your size can’t sustain on sweets and alcohol forever.

You’re the colour of death, and frankly I’m wondering what sort of luggage you’re carrying around in those bags.”

“Bags?”

“Under your eyes,” I smiled. “Now, drink the milk, please.”

He laughed a short laugh before he put the pint of milk to his lips, and rather impressively managed to down the whole thing in one go without spilling a drop.

“What? You asked that I drink it, it’s drunk,” he shrugged.

I sighed. “Yes and I bet you barely tasted it. No matter, it’s done. There might be some hope for those bones of yours just yet.”

He smiled then. “I am glad we cleared the air.”

“I am too…” I said as I stood there looking at him, the dim light provided by the lamps around his library not giving me a clear look at the real blue of his baby blue eyes.

A blue that I realized matched my own.

“The others are going hunting today, I expect you’ll be expected?”

He sighed, “Yes there’s nothing like a little senseless murder before dinner to really work up an appetite.”

I just shook my head as I went ahead and pushed open the shutters on the windows, finally allowing some light to flood through. I pushed open the window too,

allowing some much needed air into the room in the hopes of getting rid of that alcohol stench. He sat in his overstuffed dark green leather chair, just watching me.

“You don’t approve of my lifestyle, do you?”

What was it with him and the questions? He certainly was a nosy bugger.

“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know, just a feeling. Do you ever just get a feeling about someone?”

I shrugged. “I do sometimes, I suppose. But my approval of you or not, it doesn’t matter, not really.”

“Why do you say that?”

I turned to look at him, to find him looking right at me with a gaze that would have been a little scary if it weren’t for the soft, somewhat concentrated look on his face.

“Because I’m just the maid,” I said, trying not to sound as bitter as I felt in that moment, but before he could answer me, Pamela sauntered through the door.

“So you are alive. Niall is downstairs making excuses for you. He’s an awful liar, by the way,” she said, taking off her gloves, then taking a seat on the other side of the

desk. “Hello Sookie.”

“Miss Pamela,” I nodded, before attempting to make my way out of the room.

“Sookie…” Eric called after me.

“Yes, Sir?”

“Have Bobby prepare my riding clothes, and the black boots.”

I nodded. “Of course, Sir.”

“Oh, and Sookie?”

I turned again, and I saw him smile.

“Thank you for the cake. It’s wonderful, and Pamela can’t have any.”

I heard her sigh and I just smiled as I made my way out the door, where I stood for just a second when I heard Pam mention my name.

“You apologised, I hope.”

“Yes, Pam, I did. And she did too, hence this delicious cake.”

“I really can’t have any, can I? I know how possessive you are with your baked goods…” she laughed and he simply ‘tutted.’

“We cleared the air.”

“Good, glad to hear it. She’s not like the others, she’s actually sweet. That Dawn girl however…”

“Oh, don’t.”

“I can’t believe you did that, I mean really.”

“You’re always going on at me in your letters, are you not? To ‘get out there’ more. This was just as much a mistake as that would be.”

“But she’s so … what’s the word … oh, yes, a bitch.”

I smirked to myself. Dawn was a little mean, ruining people’s cakes and what not.

“Enough, I don’t want to discuss my mistakes today.”

“No, let’s discuss mine instead, while you get ready to take me out hunting,” she said happily and I decided that I’d eavesdropped enough for one day, and made my

way downstairs with one thought only. He really was such a strange man.


An hour or so later, the house was once again a flutter with activity. Everyone had finally been dressed and ready for a ride, the horses prepared and the pre-hunt

snacks distributed. I was tidying up the drawing room at the time of departure, giving me the perfect view from the south window of all the guests in their riding gear,

and of course, Eric. He was with Lord Niall, smiling and patting him on the back, both were dressed in their black riding clothes, coats and top hats to match. He looked

magnificent, to be frank. In the pure day light in clothes that accentuated his tall figure, he was a sight to behold, that was for sure, and on the horse he seemed so

self assured, so confident in his self and he was flirting.

Or what I took to be flirting, with not only Pam, but with Selah as well, and both ladies were enthralled by whatever funny tale he was spinning them. The other men

just looked annoyed.

“Sookie?” I jumped, Dawn was standing at the door, an annoyed look on her face.

“Yes?”

“You can’t just stand around all day, daydreaming. Maxine needs you in the kitchen, now.”

I nodded, resisting the urge to tell her to go twitch at someone else, but not wanting to cause any more tension between us. Since the cake issue earlier that day she

hadn’t so much as looked in my direction, other than to bark orders at me, that was. I just wasn’t in the mood to deal with her and her issues. Whatever they were,

they had nothing to do with me. I was to help in setting the dining room table for dinner, cleaning out the carpets, and tending to the fires before everyone returned,

and in an attempt to stay out of Dawn’s way, I managed to spend a lot of time that afternoon perfecting the cutlery just right, as well as the table decoration.

“What on earth is the matter with her? She’s out for your blood today!” Amelia said as we finished restocking the baskets beside the fire, full now of freshly cut fire

wood.

“I know, I really wish she’d just leave me out of it.”

“It?”

“I accidentally overheard her with Mr. Northman, and she didn’t like it. She almost toppled me over on her way out the door too. So rude.”

Amelia’s eyes widened. “I had wondered…”

“Wondered what?”

She tutted to herself, coming closer to me.

“You don’t breathe a word of this, to anyone ya’hear?”

I nodded.

“Well,” she said. “Ever since Mr. Eric arrived here, Dawn has been sweet on him, even when Miss Sophie was still with us. Dawn is a born flirt, and privately would

always take the opportunity to discuss what she thought of him and how he looked at her. It was all nonsense of course, Mr. Eric just had this way of wanting to be

nice to everyone, overly so. I think he just wanted to fit in at first.”

I could understand that, especially in this house.

“But she always took it as something more, and it became an issue with her and Miss Sophie a time or two. How she’d look at him, or talk to him in a certain manner.

Eric didn’t mind it seemed, but Miss Sophie…” she blew air from her lips. “She’d be furious with him, and her.”

“Did anything-”

“Not while she was alive, I’m sure of that. No matter how hard Dawn tried, and believe me that girl is nothing if not a try hard.” She rolled her eyes.

“And now you think that she and he had some kind of … relationship?”

She shrugged. “She’s overly personable with him. He asks us all to call him Eric, but only she has the gall to actually do it. It tells me she has the gall to do a lot more

than that, if you ask me.”

“I’m sure she’s not the first or last to fall for his charms though, or any gentleman’s charms. We can’t really blame either of them, they’re both grown enough to know-”

“Yes that is true, you do so want to see good in others don’t you, Sookie?”

“I try to. I know there is darkness in everyone, but if we’re so busy looking for that we miss the light too, and that’s just a waste.”

She just smiled and shook her head at me.

“The beds need changing. Will you start with Miss Pamela’s?”

“Yes I’ll do the East wing if you’d like, you do the West?

She smiled. “Done.”

Miss Pamela was a neat one, that’s for sure. Her bed was barely ruffled, only in one spot where she’d slept. Her clothes were lovingly placed, her jewellery displayed by

colour and by size, and changing her bedding took merely minutes. Mr. Northman’s on the other hand…

I sighed. He wasn’t one for tidiness, and as I discovered, he wasn’t one for sleeping without a bottle under his bed.

Three empty bottles of whiskey were found, and I rolled my eyes at each one. But still I stripped and changed his linens, opened all the windows in his room – much like

the library was in dire need of refreshing. I wondered about him as I worked, surrounded by his things, how if this was just his way in general, or if this was his way of

dealing with the fact that he lost his wife, his child, and a life that had been mapped out before him. I had fallen into a somewhat similar pattern when I lost my first

baby. Not that it was really a baby at that stage, but to me it was. To the doctors it was blood, a lot of blood, and a lot of pain for me physically. Emotionally though, it

took me a great deal of time to accept that I had lost the possibility of a new life, and with the others the longer it went on the harder the loss. Perhaps, I thought, this

was why he drank, why he indulged in dangerous dalliances with maids at his convenience. He wallowed in this half life because he’d lost his real one when his wife

and child passed. I noticed his clothes hung with a disorganization that would surely drive Miss Pamela mad. His cuff-links too were in disarray, and I put things to rights

a little, assured though that if I checked again the next day his own version of ‘organised’ would have returned. It didn’t matter, that was my job, to pick up, to

organize, and to work behind them as they led their lives. It had taken me a time to get used to that idea too. Being honest with myself, I was not so sure I had

entirely embraced the idea that as the help I was to be seen rarely and heard even less. I had gone from a well respected member of my community – I ran a business

for heaven sake – to an invisible woman. Sometimes, just sometimes, it stung.

I looked out the window, and noticed that it was starting to darken. That meant that the guests would soon be returning for dinner. I closed up the drawers and shut

the windows, stoked the fire, and left the room in a considerably better state than it had been when I entered. It was when I got back down to the drawing room to

tend to that fire that I ran almost literally, into Dawn. She looked less angry with me than she had all day, and I took that as a good enough sign.

“Sookie, are you busy?”

“Not right now, why?”

“I … wondered if you would do me a favour. You see I have to help Mrs. Fortenberry with dinner, she and the cooks… everyone pitches in when there are more people.

More hands and all that.”

I nodded.

“It’s just they need two more silver candelabras for dinner tonight, Lord Niall requested them. They’re in the locked room on the East Wing. Could you be a dear, and

fetch them for us?”

“But-” I found it odd. All dining room garnishing was kept in the cupboard by the kitchen corridor, for handiness.

“Will you just do it and stop questioning me? I have been here longer than you and can you just pull your weight for once?”

I glared at her, but nodded anyway.

“Fine. You know, just because you’ve had some kind of spat with Mr. Northman doesn’t mean you get to take it out on everyone else.”

“What the hell would you know about it?” she said, bitterly.

“Nothing, and that’s how I’d like it to stay. What he does in his own time is his own business, even if it is a mistake.”

She huffed and walked off down the hall, leaving me to head back up from whence I came, again. It was a wonder I wasn’t dizzy from the amount of time I came up and

went down those blasted stairs. Walking slowly to the East Wing again, I shuffled the keys out of my apron pocket and tried the one that I knew fit no other lock I was

used to unlocking. The click gave way and I turned the glass door handle. It led me into a darkened room. I turned on a large lamp to my left and the room lit up.

It was decorated in a lilac colour, the ornate paper holding a gold pattern through it. There was a large dark wood four-poster bed, made up and left untouched but

covered in boxes. In fact, there were boxes everywhere, paintings too. I lifted one from the pile and was stunned by what I saw. It was a family portrait, Lord Niall, and

who I assumed to be Miss Sophie. She was a small woman, but not overly so. She wore a lilac dress, her dark brown almost red hair was in soft curls, and she had a full

bosom and a somewhat playful look in her eye. She was pretty, and yet there was something overwhelmingly sad about it all. I wondered if it was just because I knew

her end, and that’s why it made me sad. It also made me sad to see a bassinet in the corner, covered up. Baby clothes and blankets sat on top of another box. It was

just a room filled with memories, ones I imagined were quite hard to bear, which was why they locked them away where no one could be forced to see them. I put

everything back in place though, and went in search of the elusive missing silver. I hadn’t been in the room a half hour when it happened.

I heard footsteps coming down the hall and at a hurried pace, more than one set too. Then it happened. He swung open the door, and the look on his face was enough

to frighten me half to death. Team that with his raised voice, and I was shocked I didn’t die right there on the spot.

“What are you doing in here?” he yelled, approaching me quickly, and I backed away. A second later Pamela came in, rushed and breathless from having chased Eric

from outside, I gathered.

“Eric, please leave her be.”

“No, I want to know what the hell she’s doing in here. Where you not told? This room is none of anyone’s business!” he yelled again, this time getting louder and

louder as I just stood there and attempted not to cry.

“I … I was-”

“You were told to stay out of here, but you just couldn’t help yourself, could you? Are you all the same here? Can’t any of you mind your own Goddamn business!”

Again, his voice got louder, so much so that a second after that Lord Niall came around the door, a concerned look on his face. Following him, I saw Mrs. Fortenberry,

Amelia, and of course, Dawn. She, out of all of them, had a smug look on her face, very smug indeed. It meant only one thing. I’d been set up for this. She had wanted

this, for me to get in trouble. I was in a sea of trouble, that’s for sure.

“Sookie I thought I told you-” Mrs. Fortenberry began, but this only seemed to enrage Eric further. My breathing was shallow, and getting more so by the minute. I was

sure I was about to faint. All of their eyes on me, all judging me, and his … Eric’s eyes just so full of hurt and anger, it was all too much.

“Miss Stackhouse, there was to be a stipulation…” Lord Niall began, but I just couldn’t stand it anymore, I dropped the linen sheet that I’d held in my hand and push

passed them all, and ran right out of the room. It wasn’t until I got downstairs and out the back door that I recalled taking a breath. With that breath, I began to sob

as I slid down the side of the wall, my fear, my embarrassment, all of it coming out in tears.

I sobbed, and I sobbed, so much that I was sure my nose and eyes were red. I was so engulfed in my tears that I didn’t hear footsteps approaching me, not until Trey

was right in front of me.

“Sookie? What on earth? Are you all right?” he asked, grabbing my arm and standing me up, making me look up at him, his eyes full of concern.

“I just … can’t do this anymore. I’m constantly walking on eggshells, trying to do my best … but my best isn’t good enough for these people. And Dawn, that … that …

harlot,” I sobbed.

“What did she do now?”

I hiccuped back some more tears. “The bitch set me up to make everyone mad at me, in Miss Sophie’s room,” I sobbed.

He rolled his eyes. “She never does know when to leave well enough alone. Come here … it’ll be all right,” he said, hugging me, a hug I welcomed more than air in

those moments.

“I never meant to upset him, but oh God … his face.”

“It’s not your fault. You didn’t know what they kept hidden up there, though if you ask me it’s just down right wrong, locking away her memories as if she never existed.

It’s wrong of them, and it was very wrong of her to do that to you. What did you do to her to make her so angry at you?”

“Nothing,” I sniffled back tears. “Not that I know of at least. I never work with her, she prefers to work alone, and I’ve not had a cross word with anyone except Mr.

Northman since I arrived here. I just don’t know,” I admitted, dejected by the whole debacle.

“Come on, come take a walk with me then, don’t be letting them see you cry.”

I sniffled once more before he extended his elbow for me like a gentleman and we walked towards the east gardens.

“Since you’ve arrived Dawn’s nose has been out of joint, because you’re young and pretty-”

“Amelia is young and pretty and she doesn’t knock her out of sorts.”

He smiled, “Yes, she is, but Amelia is of no threat to her, you see.”

“How am I a threat? I’ve never done-”

“Because he likes you, and he talks to you. He doesn’t talk to anyone else, you see?”

Oh. Really?

“I hadn’t really thought of it like that. I mean she has a crush, that’s for sure.”

“More than a crush, she’s infatuated with him. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest.”

“Really?”

“Yes…” he sighed as we kept on walking. I spied Nelly in the distance, halfway up a tree, watching something. Some poor bird I’d imagined.

“She came here from London, just like you, just when Miss Sophie and Mr. Northman were courting. She took a shine to him right away and Eric, making us all call him

Eric though most of us never do, at least not in mixed company any road, she thought he took a shine to her too. He hadn’t though, he was with Sophie, and they fell in

love, and that was that as far as he was concerned.”

“But Dawn didn’t like that idea very much, did she?” I’d surmised.

“No, she’d come from a household in London where she’d been maid for an Earl. She got drunk on punch one night and let slip she was his Mistress. I suppose she’s

just going by what she knows. Serve the house, and serve the Master in a completely different way,” he shrugged. “She’s a nice girl underneath it all really, she just

hates her lot in life, and strives hard to get out of it. Though her way of attempting to get out of it, it’s getting her nowhere. Everyone knows men never marry their

mistresses.”

I nodded. I never had been in the place of a mistress before, and I rather hoped that I would never be. I had been someone’s wife, and that was bad enough. The idea

of being a mistress disgusted me a little, not that I cared what or who Dawn did in her spare time, but the treatment of a mistress was never that of a loved one. You

lusted after your mistress, and you never really loved her, not while you had a wife that demanded that emotion by law.
“He’s dismissed her more times than I can count, but it makes you wonder just how much strength one man has against a woman like that, one that knows what she

wants and isn’t afraid to say it out loud.”

We stopped by the tree, the same tree I fell from in my search for the cat in days previous. It reminded me of Mr. Northman then, and how he seemed like a different

person. I sighed to myself, wondering just how I was meant to exist in that grand house, with all its secrets while holding my own, and still try and keep the peace. I

began to question if it were even possible to try. Amelia had been right. I always wanted to see the good in people, but maybe I’d done the opposite of what I had

hoped, instead of missing the light for search of the dark I simply ignored the dark in favour of the light. I looked up to Mr. Northman’s library window with a glance and

saw him there, watching me, watching us as we talked. Perhaps I was wrong about him. Maybe this wasn’t who he was just because of his loss. Maybe he was just an

insufferable man with a temper that swung more times that a clock’s pendulum? Either way, I knew one thing for certain. I wouldn’t be going out of my way to please

him, not anymore. I’d been bullied by a man once in my life, and I swore never again. I didn’t leave my family, my business, and my money just to come to some God

forsaken windy shithole to do it again, no Sir. I wanted nothing more to do with the illustrious Mr. Northman.

I wondered though, just how long that would last.


Chapter 5: Chapter 5


Chapter five! I really should learn to be like other writer’s and space out my chapters, but then where would the fun be in keeping everyone waiting when I have the goods? Not fun at all! Thanks all so much for the reviews and messages again it’s been fantastic! Enjoy the chapter! xox

Sookie.

After my meltdown and my talking to from Trey I calmed myself down enough to face the masses. But once I went back inside I was immediately taken into Mrs. Fortenberry’s private room with her and Mr. Dearborn, for privacy.

“Susi, I just don’t understand what made you go in there, now tell me at once.” She said, confused and still clearly flustered.

I looked from her to him, and decided that I didn’t have to save Dawn’s hide. She’d certainly not have done the same for me, that’s for sure.

“One of the staff asked that I retrieve one or two spare silver candelabras that were in that room. I know now that that wasn’t the case, and it was just so that I’d be caught and … humiliated.”

She sighed, “Mr. Dearborn, I’ll take it from here if you don’t mind.”

He nodded, sighed to himself, and made a silent exit, leaving me with the frazzled woman I called my boss.

“Was it Dawn?” She asked, an all knowing look on her cross face.

I simply shrugged. “If it’s that obvious … perhaps it was.”

“Next time she asks something of you, and you know it doesn’t sound right, come see me before hand, will you? Save us all a lot of trouble.”

“Are they furious?”

“Mr. Northman was, Lord Niall was simply in shock, and the guests … well, being truthful I think they enjoyed the excitement.”

“Mrs. Fortenberry, could I request a favour?”

“A favour after all the hassle you’ve caused? You’ve got a cheek!” she grimaced.

“No, that’s just the thing, I don’t want to be the cause of anymore trouble, and so until things … settle, can I work downstairs? Only downstairs?”

She paced the small room and looked at me with tired eyes. “What of Miss Pam?”

“I can still assist her, I just … I need to stay out of his way.”

I didn’t need to clarify who ‘he’ was, that’s for sure.

She thought about it, and then sighed. “Fine, if it’ll keep you and all of us out of trouble, stay out of sight until she calls for you then, for a few days at least.”

“Thank you, really, thank you.”

“Yes, all right.” She sounded exasperated. “We got a delivery this morning. It still hasn’t been stocked in to the right cupboards, and you can start with that.”

And so, for that whole day I managed to stay downstairs, out of sight out of mind – or so I hoped. When Miss Pam requested me for her change of clothes for dinner I steeled myself and made my way to the East wing, hoping against hope that she was the only one of them that I’d see.

When I entered her room though she wasn’t alone. She had Lady Selah there, and they were in the middle of a conversation.

“He wouldn’t go out riding with me today either, have you seen him?”

“No, not since lunch, and even then he was– Oh, hello Sookie, I need your help. I just can’t decide what to wear tonight, and they have several friends of Lord Brigant coming to dine this evening.”

I had heard that through the cooks chatter, more plates were to be placed, more meat to be cooked, all for Army friends of the Lord.

“I see, well, I spied that spectacular velvet dark purple gown, the one with the lace sleeves? Perhaps that and that black diamond necklace and bracelet set?”

She tapped her chin and opened up the closet. “Oh, yes I think this will do just nicely. I’d forgotten I’d packed that. Aren’t you helpful!” She smiled, but Lady Selah on the other hand simply smirked before walking in front of me.

“She is helpful… helpful in causing trouble.”

“Oh Selah, shush,” Pam said, on the hunt for shoes.

“Well what? She’s just a maid, and yet there she was rooting through Sophie’s private things, making Eric madder than I’ve ever see any man. I mean, how dare she?”

I hated that she stood looking right at me, and yet talked about me as if I weren’t there. That was her right I supposed; I was only the help, after all.

“That’s enough, Selah.”

“I’m surprised they didn’t give her her marching orders for a stunt like that. If she’d have been my maid I certainly would have.”

Pam sighed as she came out with a black pair of shoes, with gold detail.

“Well, lucky for all of us, Sookie doesn’t work for you, she works for Lord Niall, and since this is his estate, he knows what’s best for it.”

She rolled her eyes at Pam, and fixed her stare at me. “Servants who think highly of themselves… it’s a joke, and they’ve only got farther to fall when the inevitable happens. They ought to remember their place.”

I wanted to slap her. I wanted to just grab her by her stupidly curled hair and throw her out the door, but I couldn’t. So instead, I stayed silent until she left.

Pam looked at me then. “I told you she was awful. She’s got such a very large stick up her arse, I’m surprised she can walk most of the time.”

That made me laugh, and in turn it made Pam smile.

“Oh, Sookie, you’re still distraught over what happened?”

I shook my head, assisting her by unhooking the back of her current dress, loosening her corset, and letting out the ribbon.

“No, I … well, yes. I’ve tried to shake it, but it’s been a long while since a man … since anyone spoke to me like that.”

She closed her eyes. “I could shake him, I really bloody could sometimes.”

“It’s all right, I will get over it.”

I hoped.

“You must think him so awful.”

“No … I don’t know.”

“Well I gave him a piece of my mind, be sure of that. He has no right speaking to any woman like that, unless she’s his horse and he’s in battle, and even then, it would be wrong to yell at a horse,” she smirked. “But really, he’ll come around.”

“What he does or doesn’t do is none of my business. We’ve had a handful of conversations since I arrived here, Miss, and to be frank, most of them have ended badly on my part or on his. I think it best now if I let the others take care of him, and just stay as far out of his short tempered way as possible.”

She stood again in just her undergarments and garters, no shame, and not even a hint of modesty. She turned to me and touched my face.

“I don’t blame you, not one bit, but he will feel very badly for how he acted towards you. I know him, and he’s somewhere right now beating himself up over how he spoke to you. I’m his friend, so I’m a tad biased, but I do hope one day he’ll find himself again, because this lost version of my friend is unfamiliar to me too… I just want him to be happy, that’s all.”

“Are you … sweet on him, Miss?”

With that she laughed as I held out her dinner gown for her.

“Oh good God no, not at all. Though, my mother would love if I married him, she’d love if I married at all to be truthful,” she sighed. “But marriage means babies and more babies, oh, and a husband, and I want none of those things if I can help it.”

“I see … but do you not inherit if you don’t marry?”

She rolled her eyes. “That is the case most of the time, but my father knew me well. I have enough millions to keep me comfortable. When they run out I’ll be sure to find some smuck for a marriage of convenience to ensure the money and keep my mother happy, but for no other reasons other than that.”

“Because it’s not what you favour?”

I’d met a few people of Pam’s persuasion in London. There was a first for many things I figured, including women who just didn’t want a man, but had everything they needed in a woman, and vice versa.

She looked at me in the mirror for a minute, as if she were trying to figure out what I’d say.

“No, they aren’t what I favour, most of the time anyway. I suppose you think that’s evil and-”

I shook my head. “I think nothing of the sort, Miss. If you ask me, people should be happy, and if being with someone of the same sex makes you happier than that of the opposite sex, then who am I to judge you?”

“Most think it’s wrong, evil and depraved…”

“I am not most, Miss. There was a time that I might have questioned it, and prayed for your soul, but I’ve grown up, and I understand life a lot more now. I try not to judge too much, where I can help it.”

She smiled.

“Have you ever been married, Sookie?”

“Once, yes.”

“Really? You seem so young still.”

“Not by society’s standards, I hear. You’re an old maid now by age twenty if you aren’t careful,” I smiled.

“What happened? Did he die? Is that how you ended up here?”

I nodded, not wanting to fully tell the lie.

“Oh and here I am going on and on about not wanting a husband when you lost yours. Oh my dear, I am so sorry-”

“No, it’s quite all right, I just … mourn the loss of my children more than his loss. Is that evil of me?”

“No,” she said, not waiting a beat. “Not at all. Oh, Sookie, how many-”

“Three. Two were early pregnancies, but one was a birth, three cries and then … nothing,” I said, remembering it as if it were yesterday. “I don’t blame you, Miss, for not wanting to go down that road, of husbands and babies. Nothing’s for certain, not a gentleman’s word nor God’s gift of life. You do right to live your own the way you see fit.” I nodded, delicately placing her hair with her pins, in a different style from the night before.

“You’re a good woman, Sookie.”

“I sometimes wonder that, Miss. If that’s all?”

She looked confused, but she dismissed me anyway, and just as I opened the door to leave Eric walked in, all neat and sleek in his dinner tux, though the beard still left something to be desired. He looked like the deer caught in the headlights, and I was sure I looked no different as we both passed, but didn’t acknowledge each other. I hightailed it down the stairs as quickly as I could, but on passing the drawing room I heard my name called.

It was Lord Brigant.

“Miss Stackhouse, may I speak with you?”

He was a tall enough man, but he also carried himself like a gentleman. Not a slouch in sight and his state of dress was immaculate. His grey hair was short and brushed into a style that suited his face. He wasn’t overly round, but he wasn’t a slim man either, his dark brown eyes and thick brow somehow softened his features and made him appear less severe.

“Yes, Sir?”

“Come in, sit, please.” He gestured to the royal blue velvet couch where I took my seat.

“I’ve been home a few days now, and I haven’t had the time to have a talk with you. I like to know who is living in my house, as you can imagine.”

“Of course Lord Brig-”

“So you’re an American. Nice people those Americans, no matter what the English say.” His accent certainly wasn’t that of an English native. It was a mixture of what I knew to be Scottish, and it almost had a hint of the same accent Di had, Irish.

“I was born here myself, an English lord for a father and an Irish rebel for a mother. It was quite the scandal in its day, I’ll tell you that,” he laughed, as if it were this big joke. “So, anyone that makes… fun of you for being a Yank, you pay them no mind. It takes all sorts.”

I just nodded as he continued.

“I’m told you were previously a Ladies Maid, is that so?”

“Yes, Sir. I was for a time, in London, but I got positioned here as a house maid, though I like to keep busy where I can.”

“That’s good. I respect a hard worker, and a house this size, it needs a lot of that.” he nodded, pacing the room and then coming back, “I enjoy London, and I am looking forward to going down in a week or so again, for the summer season. I do so enjoy the Opera there. But I love being home too, or at least I used to. I have to find that love again, I fear.” he shook his head as if shaking his thoughts away, “I still have to decide what other staff we’ll be taking, should Eric decide to come this time or not.”

That was news. He hadn’t gone before, but maybe there was hope now that he and Pam were back in touch that he would venture outdoors like a normal person. Then again, who was I to say what was normal?

“I try to be a fair employer, Miss Stackhouse, so if there is anything amiss or anything that goes on where it shouldn’t, I expect you’d let me know.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good. Very good. Now, this run in from the other day.”

“Sir, it was a mistake on my part, I was told to fetch something that turns out wasn’t in there at all, and I should have known, but I…”

He sighed and began to pace a little. “It was his idea to just store the things in there for a time, but a time has turned into just over a year now, and I’m still unsure of how to broach the subject with him. It’s not healthy, that much is obvious judging by how he reacted to you just being there, which, I’m sorry about by the way … that wasn’t right.”

“It’s all right, Sir.”

“No, it’s not. My father ran a cold household Miss Stackhouse, I do not. I do not have my staff treated in such a manner. It’s just not right, and he won’t be doing it again.”

I nodded, unsure of what else to say.

He nodded to himself, looking out the window. “Well, I just wanted to meet you properly my dear, and to apologise again.”

“Thank you, Lord Brigant. I appreciate that, I do.”

“Good, I’m glad. That’ll be all,” he smiled before retuning to his writing. I took a deep breath as I made my way out of library only to find Dawn standing at the bottom of the grand staircase. We simply glared at each other in passing, and I made my way to the kitchen again. Not only was I now avoiding Eric, but Dawn too. Soon, I thought, I’d be sleeping in the barn with the horses and the cat, just to get some damn peace!

The next few days went by incident-less thankfully, and after dressing Miss Pam on my fifth day on kitchen work, I was looking forward to my day off. The others would just have to make do, as I had plans. Not very exciting mind you, but still plans for me, myself, and I.

I wanted to walk into the nearest village. I needed new stockings, and some new undergarments perhaps, and I wanted some new fabric to make a dress or two for myself. I had my first two weeks pay, and I was feeling the need to treat myself. I dressed myself in my normal clothes, just a plain dark brown tweed skirt to my ankles, a crisp white high collar blouse, with my boots and winter coat. It was red, and probably in need of replacing, but I just couldn’t afford another heavy coat, and even though it was early May, I was still in Scotland and for this Louisiana girl, it was practically still winter temperature. So I snuggled into my coat, took one of the larger baskets from the kitchen, and set off for my day alone.

The nearest village was a good six miles from the estate, but the roads weren’t bad and the day was dry, at least. It gave me my first taste of the surrounding countryside, and I had to admit it was simply breathtaking.

By the time I got into town, it was just afternoon, so I stopped for some tea and something to eat to tide me over, having bought most of my goods early on. I was just all set for the walk back when I got outside to see his Lordships car sitting outside the barbers. And just as I was making my way past the fabric store, I saw him, and he saw me.

Eric, exiting the barbers with a fresh face, sans beard and with shortened hair. It suited him very nicely. I didn’t stick around to tell him as much though, I cut down a side street, and back on the path to home. I was enjoying my walk back, my arms a little sore from carrying the now much heavier basket, but still enjoying the little warmth the sun was providing from behind the clouds. It had thankfully stayed dry because if it hadn’t the enjoyment would have been dampened, as would I. I heard a car behind me, and I knew it was him, but I was still determined to ignore him. Inside or outside the house I wanted no more incidents.

Sookie?” I heard him call as the car slowed behind me, and I continued walking.

“Miss Stackhouse?” The car pulled up beside me, but I quickened my step even more. This seemed to annoy him, as he then hit the horn, making me jump.

“Don’t you honk your horn at me, mister!” I said, turning to face him, and then continuing to walk. The car crawled at a slow pace beside me.

“You are still angry with me. I deserve it.” He said, resigned.

Hmph,” I said, and kept walking and ignoring his pleas for me to stop.

“Please stop, you’re going to kill the car.”

“No. You’re the one driving it, you’re the one going to kill it. Why don’t you have a driver anyhow?” I said, finally looking at him. He had on a mixed wool tweed suit jacket and trousers a dark tan colour, matching his flat cap. I hated how handsome I found him in that moment.

“I like to drive. It helps me clear my head.”

“Yes, walking does the same for me. Now if you’ll drive on and excuse me I have more walking to do.”

“You are still mad at me, and I do deserve it, but I was hoping since we ran into each-”

“We haven’t ‘run into’ each other, you’re following me, there is a difference.”

Oh God, Sookie, shut up!

He laughed, and then stopped the car altogether, but I kept walking. I heard him slowly jog up behind me, and he grabbed my arm gently.

“Please stop. I wanted to talk to you, but you’ve been avoiding me for almost a week, and I daren’t set foot in the kitchen, Mrs. Fortenberry is very strict on that matter,” he smiled again.

“As she should be, she can’t just be having every Tom, Dick, and Harry pacing her floors.”

“And I’m a Tom, Dick, and Harry then?”

“Well you sure act like one of them, neither Harry nor Tom though.”

With that he laughed heartily out loud.

“You are something, Sookie.”

“As are you, now please … go away,” I said, beginning to walk again, and still he followed. “Just… go away. Whenever you’re around I have this habit of making a fool of myself! Or worse, you turn into an ogre! Please just go.”

“Please forgive me,” he called after me, causing me to stop.

I said nothing, but I did turn to face him.

“Please? I am ashamed, I never should have reacted that way. It was just seeing someone in there at all was bad enough, but having it be you … just … made it worse.”

“Why?” I asked, still cautious on that subject.

He shrugged. “Please let me talk to you, but not on the side of the road. Get in and let me drive us somewhere, peaceful. Please?”

I debated about it, in my head. I knew that I shouldn’t. I knew that I should just keep my distance, and yet there was a pull towards him – one I just couldn’t rightly explain at that point.

I didn’t say anything, I simply nodded, and he smiled, offering his hand to help me into the front seat of the car. It was a fine car, that’s for sure, only the best I imagined would be acceptable for a Lord. We sat in silence for the short amount of time it took for him to drive us both to another side road, one that led to the expansive lake that led the path into town. It was fresh water, and glorious to look at, though I guessed that it was as cold as the nip in the Scottish air. He pulled the car to a halt and took a deep breath. I had thought for a second that maybe he’d brought me there to kill me, with the way his temper changed, one could never be too sure.

“Why do most of our conversations begin or end with an apology?” he asked, and I laughed. It was true, bitterly so.

“I’ve worked there for six and a half weeks, and we’ve had almost as many arguments. It’s why I’ve been avoiding you. Best way to keep the peace, I imagine.”

“And you’re scared of me.” It wasn’t a question, more a statement of fact.

“Yes.” I said looking out at my surroudings, still in the silent car.

He sighed, and tutted to himself.

“Jesus, that’s the last thing I want. I never meant to scare you or to put fear in you…”

“But you did, and I don’t like it. I lived in fear of one man in my life, Mr. Northman, and I don’t intend on doing it again.”

He nodded. “I hope this isn’t out of turn, but Pam mentioned you’d been married, though if she’s broken some kind of confidence, I’ll never speak of it again.” He looked embarrassed to have been gossiping, it was almost sweet.

“No, it’s not something I hide,” at least not entirely. “Yes I was, and it wasn’t the most pleasant of unions. He was a bully and I was … a victim. So you can imagine why-”

“I put the fear of God into you by shouting the odds like I did. I am so ashamed. I just lost my temper, and I’m sorry.”

“I wasn’t doing any harm, you know? It’s just a room, and touched or untouched no one can take those memories from you, Eric.”

He turned to me then, a half smile on his face as he restarted the engine as began to drive us back onto the road.

“You called me-”

“Yes, but don’t go making a song and dance of it. And only this once… Eric.” I smiled. “Or twice.”

“It sounds nice when you say it.”

“I’m sure it sounds nice when Dawn says it too.” I rolled my eyes before I faced him “You are encouraging her, you know.”

“I am?”

“Of course. You’re a flirt, and with the way you make a girl feel at ease around you like you do… Is it any wonder she’s besotted?”

He sighed, “I never meant to encourage her, really, I didn’t. But when Sophie and the baby died, something in me broke, Sookie, and I’m not really sure how to fix it.”

I nodded. “I understand that.”

“I know, Pam told me…again I hope it wasn’t out of place.”

I simply shook my head, it wasn’t though so much out of place but I hadn’t been surprised she told him.

“How old was yours?” He asked.

“A few minutes old, yours?”

He closed his eyes, then opened them, focusing on the still lake.

“An hour or so. She was so beautiful, but so very weak. The complications with Sophie meant that neither of them could have survived no matter what any of us did. It just seems so…”

“Unfair,” I finished for him.

“Yes, extremely so.”

I stayed silent.

“The funny thing is, I question it all the time, you know?”

“Question what?”

“What’s real, and what I’ve been making up in my head, just like Dawn. Maybe it’s what everyone does so they can cope?”

“What do you-”

“Sophie, my love for her? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I loved her to be sure, she was a wonder… but after she passed I think I’ve put her, and our relationship on some kind of pedestal just because she died.”

“But you loved her.”

“I did, very much. But love sometimes wasn’t all I needed from her. I wanted understanding, common interests, anything else we could grasp onto other than the idea of being ‘meant to be,’ you know?”

I wasn’t sure I did know, so I stayed silent again.

“What of you and your husband?” he asked, and I found myself yet again unwilling to lie to him.

I thought about that. For a long time I did love him, at least what I perceived to be love. And then it had dawned on me, if he truly loved me, he would have never hurt me as much as he did, no matter what he said.

“I was young,” I admitted. “Very young, and idealistic, I suppose? He was a nice man, at least at first, but soon things turned dark.” He turned quickly to me then, a serious look on his face, though he said nothing. “But no, I thought I loved him for a time, but looking back on it now, it wasn’t love, it was pretend love, whatever the name for that is… but had it been real love things might not have turned out like they had.”

He nodded in understanding, though I gathered he didn’t. How could he understand it when I could barely understand it myself?

“I don’t wish to marry again,” I said, and I looked at him then. “And I don’t wish to turn out like Dawn either,” I added, giving the hint that whatever he liked in me, it was only to stay as innocent as this conversation, and to go no further. I wasn’t to be a distraction for him, at least not physically. “I’m not the play thing of the rich and permanently bored, Eric.”

We were both silent for a few seconds before he smiled.

“You’re a smart woman, Miss Stackhouse.”

“I am, I know that. I’m also a hard working one that would like to keep my job, so I’d like it very much if you and I could try and not … antagonize each other anymore. Accidentally or otherwise.”

He nodded. “I’d like that too. I’d also like it if you’d just embrace my first name. I do like to hear it every now and then.”

“Perhaps, but only when we’re alone and there’s no sense of-”

“Impropriety in it? Of course,” he smirked before he began again. “On a more serious note, I … have asked for help.”

“With your temper?”

“Yes. That, and Pamela has emptied all the liquor accessible to me. It’s been since the day after our run in since I’ve had a drink. I feel a lot better for it. I’ve eaten too,” he smiled.

“And taken care of the dead animal growing on your face. It’s been a big week for you then, hasn’t it?” I smiled back.

“It has. It would top my week off nicely if you’d agree to have dinner with me, in town? It is your day off, is it not?”

“I’m not so sure that’s wise.”

“Pamela will be there. I’ve asked her to come, and she wants a night away from Selah and John, not that I can blame her. It’s this little pub, not far from here-”

“But you stopped-”

“I can enter a public house without having alcohol Sookie, I promise.”

I looked at him then, his big earnest blue eyes and his face now hairless made him look like a teenager. It was amusing how the tables had turned. Now he looked like he was the one that feared me, and not the other way about.

“Fine, I agree to it, but only because Miss Pamela is wonderful conversation.” I said getting into the car.

He gasped. “Are you saying I’m a bore, Miss Stackhouse?”

I smirked, and rolled my eyes, trying my best to hide my smile, “Heavens no, that’s the last thing anyone could accuse you of. Melodramatic on the other hand…”

“Oh, thank you … thanks very much. I’m melodramatic?”

“Just a touch…”

“And you’re not?”

“No, I’m a woman. We have a unwritten law on that sort of thing you know … the mystery of makeup and the trademark on melodrama. It’s a widely known fact.” I smiled big and wide, teasing him.

“You Americans…”

“Yes, yes … watch the road before we both end up in that icy water!” I said as he swerved on purpose to make me jump.

“Pam will keep this to herself, won’t she?” I asked as we got to our destination a dozen or so miles into the town. “I just don’t want anymore bother with Dawn, that’s all.”

He shook his head, and offered me his elbow, which I admit I was hesitant to take.

“She won’t breathe a word.”

“And it doesn’t bother you that they probably think that we’re-”

“Let people think what they want. We know we’re friends, and that’s how you want it kept, right?”

“Right…” I admitted, now very much unsure.

“That settles it then, we’re friends, and friends dine together all the time. It’s not our fault the rules of the house state otherwise. Now for one night, please just be yourself. Just be the Sookie Stackhouse you were before they slapped an apron on you and made you call me Sir. Tonight I’m just Eric, she’s just Pam, and you’re just you. Sounds like a … what do you American’s call it, a ‘deal?'”

I smiled at his attempt of my accent. It was appalling, and yet so very endearing.

“All right, Eric, you’ve got yourself a deal!”

“Excellent!” he said with a big wide genuine smile as he led me inside.

This would be interesting, that’s for sure.


Chapter 6: Chapter 6


Chapter Six time! Quick thank you to scribeninja and Seastarr08 for their pre-reading opinions and awesomeness, and to everyone on here and on FF for the continued support, it only kinda rocks my socks 😉 3

Sookie:

The dinner was a strange one. It was so very casual for one, and for another, I was clearly still just a maid dining with a Lady and a Gentleman. The looks I received from others in the pub were almost bordering on comical as a result.

“How is the leg these days, Eric?” Pam asked, sipping on her drink, all of us having finished our meals. The small talk that we made was slightly awkward at first, but with Pam there, things didn’t stay awkward for long.

“It has its bad days, like the rest of me, I suppose.”

I didn’t interrupt and he continued, looking to me.

“It’s why they sent me home, from France. I caught some shrapnel to the leg. I thought for sure for a moment that I’d lose it, but I got a good doctor,” he shrugged.

Oh…” I said, sipping my rum. What else was I to say? Sorry you had to go to war to almost die, only to come back here and lose everything you hold dear… Drink? No, I just kept quiet and let them talk, much like I’d done all evening. I had heard and seen the horror stories of war, having lived in a small halfway house just by one of the larger hospitals in London for a time. Poor men in uniform going in, coming out, with all manner of injuries. Some with missing legs, some with no hands, some with half a face. I can only imagine how horrific it was to go through what they all went through, what some of them were still going through, just to keep us free.

“You’re very quiet, Sookie. I had hoped that we didn’t scare you as much now that you know me a little better at least. I can’t speak for lanky limbs here,” she smiled, nudging me with her shoulder with a smile.

“I’m not scared.” I looked to Eric. “At least not anymore. I just like listening since it’s clear that you two are really great friends. I’ve not had that since I left home… It’s just nice to see, that’s all.”

“Are none of the staff even a little bit friendly? I can’t imagine living in an environment like that,” Pam tutted to herself as she poked at her meal some more.

“No, there is one or two that are just lovely, thank goodness, but they’re few and far between,” I smirked. “But I am thankful for them.”

“Like Trey?” Eric asked, not looking directly at me, and Pam sat up a little straighter.

“Uh, yes, like Trey. He’s a nice guy, and Amelia too, she’s a sweetheart.”

“I’m sure he is,” Eric clipped, and I didn’t much like his tone.

“You don’t like Trey?” Pam asked Eric, and he just shrugged again.

“I like him well enough, I suppose.”

“Yes, its obvious,” she rolled her eyes. “Have you made your decision about London yet? I still think it would be good for you. Get you out of this godforsaken place for a few months, get you back into the swing of things.”

“What if I don’t want in the swing anymore?”

She cocked an eyebrow and grinned, “You, not swing? Wonders will never cease.”

I blushed, and I think for a second Eric did too.

“Pam, as much as I love you, do I have to remind you that not everyone is as … open minded as you when it comes to such things.”

“Yes, yes, also known as bores,” she sighed. “I have tried to get you-” he just raised his brow at her and that shut her up.

“Well, regardless, it’ll be ever so boring without you there to help me make fun of all the old fogies. I really think you ought to think it over. Besides, I heard Niall talking last night and he wants to ‘try out the new girl’ for a season. I assume he means you, Sookie.”

“What … what does he mean … try out?” I said with apparent fear in my eyes because she patted my hand, and handed me another drink.

“Oh don’t worry, Niall isn’t like that at all, not with the staff…” she glared at Eric. “You see, Niall knows his bounds, and he’s never looked at another woman since his wife died. He was so devoted, and besides, he’s seventy almost. I don’t even want to think about old man peni-”

“Pamela!” Eric said, looking around, and it was obvious we were being watched, so I gathered there was eavesdropping as well.

I hid my smile behind my hand. I really couldn’t help but laugh, he looked so offended and she so amused by his offense. It seemed that that was her game; she liked making him, or anyone, just a little uncomfortable.

“I really shouldn’t be drinking. I never do, and it’s having quite the effect on me.”

“Is that so?” Pam asked, flirting again, causing Eric to roll his eyes and sip his coffee. “How much of an effect are we talking about here, New Orleans?”

I smirked catching her drift. “Not enough, and besides, I thought only one of the guests at the Estate liked to dabble with the help, Pam,” I said to her, but pointedly about Eric.

“Oh, wonderful, now you’re both on my back about that.”

“It’s not so much diddling the help that I have an issue with, darling, because let’s face it, some of them are just … yummy,” she smiled and I shook my head. “But it’s that girl, she’s clearly just the devil in an apron after what she did to Sookie, and I know you’re attracted to a girl with a bit of bitch in her, but seriously Eric, the next time-”

“There won’t be a next time, don’t worry about that.”

“I’m not saying cut off your balls to spite your libido, just choose better … next time,” she said, looking at me, and I had to speak up.

“It’s not like that with him and I, so you can stop the anvil sized hints, Miss Pam.”

She pouted when Eric laughed.

“And why not? You’re adorable, and as far as I can tell, not completely mental.”

“Well, thanks? I think,” I replied, finishing off my drink. “No, we’re friends. At least we’re going to attempt something of a friendship. He can get his end away with whom he chooses, but it shan’t be with me.” I didn’t dare look at Eric when I was discussing it. I couldn’t really believe I was discussing it at all. There was just something about Pam, and Eric if I was being truthful that just made me want to share and be outrageous.

She sighed. “Well that is a shame. You’re too cute to be so celibate, darling.”

“Thank you for the compliments, but it’s just not in the cards for me. I’ve explained this to those who need it explained, and I hope that it’s understandable.”

Eric nodded into his coffee, and Pam just pouted again sighing, “I’ll never understand an attractive woman resigning herself to the life of a nun simply because it’s ‘frowned upon’ to do otherwise. The war is changing the world, and I hope against hope it’ll be for the better, of all of us.”

It was easy for her to say. If I took a lover and got pregnant what happened to me then? Or the child? Or my job? No, there were far too many risks involved, and they were ones I just couldn’t afford to take because I was attracted to someone I had no business even being attracted to.

“I really must be getting back… It’s getting late, and I’ll have some organizing to do before lights out.”

“Must we? Selah … Quinn … Must we?” Eric asked, his voice full of faux drama. He made Pam and I smile as we began to slip into our coats.

The drive back was interesting. I hadn’t spent a lot of time in motorcars since I’d arrived in England, and even less so since I’d arrived in Scotland. Miss Pam and I sat in the back, and for a moment it was almost as if I were a Lady again, with a little money and a hell of a lot more pride. Eric drove the car around back, letting me out at the side of the house. I knew I couldn’t enter through the front door, no matter how friendly I was with the two of them now. It just wouldn’t be fitting.

“I’ll be up in moment, Miss Pamela, to see to your night clothes.”

“Thank you, and thank you for this evening. It was a great respite from the usual boring chatter,” she smiled, kissing me on each cheek like I’d seen some of the French ladies do in London from time to time. Eric took my freezing cold hand and helped me from the car.

“Thank you, Mr. Northman,” I smiled, almost unwilling to let go of his warm hand.

“Back to that then are we?”

“Needs must…” I nodded. “Goodnight.”

“Yes, goodnight Sookie,” he nodded before going around again, and getting in to drive Pam to the front of the house. I took my basket of long forgotten shopping and made my way merrily to the back door, where of course I ran smack dab into Dawn. She glared, and I just ignored her as I hastily made my way to my room to change before seeing to Miss Pamela and shutting down for the night. I was just fastening my apron when I heard a knock, and she didn’t wait for an answer before she just waltzed into my bedroom.

“What do you want? Sorry, there aren’t anymore baked goods for you to ruin in here, you’ll just have to search out the kitchen.”

“Still prissy about your stupid little cake then?”

“Mr. Northman didn’t think it was stupid though, did he?” I glared at her through the mirror before I braided my hair and twisted it in a bun to hide under my cap.

“Is that where you were all day, with him?”

“I don’t really see how I spend my days is any of your business.”

“The car, his car, dropped you off.”

“Did it?” I feigned ignorance with a smile.

“Why?” She took a breath. “I just don’t see it. You’re nothing special.”

“Aw, aren’t you sweet. You too,” I turned to face her, ignoring her jibes.

“He loves me.”

I chortled, unable to keep it in.

“Oh, please. You don’t really believe that do you? If you do…you have a way to go before you’re schooled on the ways of the world, Dawn, especially this world.”

“I was the one he depended on, when they passed. I was the one he wanted around. I was the one he took to his bed-”

“Please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself, you know that?”

“I don’t care. He’s mine, and you can just keep your filthy American hands off him.”

I rolled my eyes. Her insults really were a bit crap, weren’t they?

“Dawn, you’re a maid, just like me,” I smiled. “The only difference is that I know my place here, and you seem to forget you aren’t his wife, and you really aren’t even his mistress – if that conversation I overheard meant anything. All I heard was your shamelessness and his shame. At least pretend to have some dignity.”

“You’re an evil bitch, you know that!”

“I am? Really? How so? Because I befriended a man without trying to get him into bed? Without trying to improve my lot in life? Oh shudder at the thought,” I said, dripping in sarcasm. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have to see to Miss Pamela before bed.”

She laughed, bitterly.

“Is that why you don’t want him then? Because she’s more your type than his? I always knew there was something queer about you.”

“You are … wrong. More wrong than I thought possible. She’s a nice woman, something I’m sure you know nothing about, that’s all.”

“I see how she looks at you,” she snarled.

“And I see how he doesn’t look at you, now,” I sighed. “Are we quite done here?”

Just at that Amelia poked her head around the door, thank heaven for small favours.

“What’s going on in here? You can almost hear you both in the great hall!”

“Sorry, I’m just finishing up,” I said, walking past Dawn out into the hallway, and making my way quickly up the stairs.

“Miss Stackhouse?” I stopped in my tracks as I passed one of the bedrooms. It was Mr. Quinn. He and I had had very little interaction outside of bidding each other good day and such.

“Yes, Mr. Quinn, what can I get for you?”

“I was wondering if you’d show me the knack to opening the windows. I need some air, but the darn things just don’t seem to want to open.”

“Of course, there is a particular knack to it, let me show you.”

I walked into his room; this room was rarely used if only for guests, I was told. It was decorated as lavishly as the rest of the house of course, but there was something cold about it, and I didn’t just mean the temperature. I didn’t notice it at the time, but he clicked the lock on his bedroom door when I entered. I stood on my tiptoes to reach the window latch, and yanked and yanked until it gave way.

“There you go, Mr. Quinn. Be sure to close it before you-” I turned around and he was undressing, much to my dismay.

“Mr. Quinn, I ask you to wait until I leave before you-”

“Why would I wait? It’s because of you that I’m undressing. I’d like … to get to know you better, Miss Stackhouse.”

“You … you would?” I gulped, trying my best to figure some way of talking myself out of this one.

“Yes. I see you in here each morning, lighting the fires, going about your business ever so silently, and I kept thinking I’d like to know what you’d be like when you’re not forced to be so silent.”

My stomach felt sick, and a sweat began to break out on the back of my neck.

“I … don’t think it would be appropriate, Mr. Quinn. I … should leave.”

“You should but you won’t … will you?” he said, stalking towards me as I leaned up against the window, hoping against hope that it would break and set me free, never mind that I was several dozen feet up in the air.

“Mr. Quinn, PLEASE,” I said finding my outside voice, not that anyone would hear me.

“Please what?” he smirked.

“Please put your clothes … back on, and please just let me be.”

“I will, when I’m finished with you.”

“Please? I beg you not to do this.”

“No one has to know,” he grinned, and I felt disgusted. Still pressed up against the window, I held my ground, not that it did me much good, but I held my place and grasped my apron in an attempt to keep him from pushing up my dress.

“Wouldn’t you rather do this with someone willing? I’m sure there are more than enough willing women, Mr. Quinn,” I said through tears that I couldn’t stop from falling.

“Oh shush, you’ll enjoy it eventually if you’d just relax, now come here.”

I shook my head.

“I said come here!” he yelled, and I just closed my eyes.

I wanted to stop shaking. I was willing myself to be strong, and yet somehow I just couldn’t manage it. He placed his hand around my throat, as his other hand made its way up my skirt. I wondered if I vomited all over him, if it would dull his desire for this. I doubted it. Just as I felt his hand on my garters, there was a sharp knock on the bedroom door.

I froze, as did he.

“Yes?” he asked loudly to whomever was on the other side of the door. I wanted to scream but I knew if I did I’d only be in deeper trouble.

“Mr. Quinn, it’s Pamela.”

“Yes?”

“I believe my Ladies Maid is in there with you. I need her, so if you could send her on out.”

“Pamela. I’m quite busy, come back later.”

My heart was beating out of my chest, and I wanted more than anything to just run to the door, but I was trapped against the window.

“I’m sorry. I can’t do that Mr. Quinn, send her out now.”

He looked at me with pure disdain as he reached for his robe and pushed me to the side. I took my leave and ran to the door, slowing down when I got there to unlock it.

Her eyes were full of concern on the other side, and I wanted to hug her in thanks. However she knew, I didn’t care, I just cared that she had impeccable timing.

“I seem to have split my dress, the one I wanted to wear for dinner tomorrow night, and I need it fixed. Sorry to drag you away from whatever it was Mr. Quinn needed you for,” she said to me, but her eyes said otherwise.

“Honestly Pamela, you women, one hole in a dress and it’s the end of the fucking world,” he cursed with disdain, and she just rolled her eyes.

“It is if it’s couture, Mr. Quinn. Goodnight,” she said, walking on as I followed. When we got to her room I simply couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst into tears.

“Thank you … you have no idea he …”

“I have an idea all right, come here,” she said, hugging me.

“How did you know that he was-”

“He’s a randy old bugger, and Amelia let it slip that she didn’t like him very much. Said he was very hands-y when she ran into him earlier, and she likes everyone. Besides, he propositioned myself and Selah too, and when I heard rattling at his window, I opened mine and they’re practically side by side … I heard everything.”

“Oh. Thank God for that.”

“Indeed. Here…” she said, handing me a tumbler of whiskey. “It’ll calm your nerves.”

I took it gladly, my hands shaking as I did so.

“Fucking men…” Pam sighed. “I hate that they think they have a right just because they have a dick.”

I nodded, and just at that a knock came to her door, and I swore I jumped the height of myself.

“Eric, oh good it’s only you,” she said with a sigh as he entered the room cautiously, surprise lit his face as he saw me.

“Are you alright? You’re the colour of the walls.”

I just shook my head.

“Mr. Quinn has to leave, as soon as possible, Eric,” Pam said instead.

“Why?”

“He…” She looked to me, and I nodded.

“He tried to have his way with a rather unwilling Sookie tonight. Is that the kind of man you want as a guest here?”

His eyes went wide, “What?”

I just felt shame.

“I did nothing to encourage him I just-”

“No, Sookie I doubt you did. Jesus … that bastard. Did he hurt you?”

I shook my head. “No … he was going to have his way … whether I wanted to participate or not. Had Pam not intervened when she did, my night would have been a lot worse, that’s for sure.”

Eric looked like he wanted to kill something, but I couldn’t let that happen. Instead, I told him to stop pacing and have a drink with us, that it would help me more than possibly beheading one of the guests.

“But to just think he has the right to … violate a woman … I …”

“I know, but it’s fine.”

“Fine?”

“Sir, no disrespect, but he wasn’t the first to think he had it easy with a housemaid and he probably won’t be the last.”

He looked disgusted. “I may be a lot of things, Sookie, but I have never forced myself on anyone in my life, in any way.”

“Of course not, why would you need to,” I sighed. “I can see it’s not in your character.”

“His however … He’ll be on the first train in the morning, I can assure you of that. I’ll speak to Niall right away.”

“I don’t want to be a cause of any-”

“He was the cause though, Sookie, when he thought he could hurt you like that. No, he has to leave.”

I nodded, and I noticed Eric had a book in his hands, he saw me notice.

“Oh, Pam, I found the book you were after, that’s why I’m here. I wanted to give it to you for some night time reading. I think you’ll like it.”

She nodded and thanked him with a kiss to his cheek, and he took a step closer to the door.

“I better be going,” I said, standing up and leaving my glass by the canter. “Thank you so much, again, Miss Pamela. Really.”

“Don’t worry about that, you just go and get some rest, all right?”

“I’ll see you for dressing in the morning.”

“Eric, be a darling and walk Sookie to the servants quarters,” she quirked a brow at him and he shifted his stance, as if he felt awkward about her request.

“There’s no need, really, I can get there without-”

“Not while he’s still in this house, and not at night, so please just let him escort you? So I can sleep easier?”

I gave in. She really was great at the guilt tripping, that Pamela.

We made our way through the halls wordlessly, as everyone was most likely asleep, and I wanted no more drama that night. By the time we got to the ground floor entrance, we both stopped.

“Do you want me to walk me to your room?” he asked in a whisper.

“No thank you, this was very kind of you. And please tell Pam I got here safe and untouched by prying hands,” I smiled a little, attempting to make light of it as best I could.

“I’m sorry that happened to you,” he said, fixing his serious blue eyes on mine.

“I am too, but it could have been a lot more … horrific. Small favours that Pam heard what she did.”

“Yes, for once her busybody nature paid off,” he smiled, and it made smile too.

“Yes, it did.” I shifted self-consciously, the air between us filled with something awkward and unsure.

“Goodnight then,” I nodded, and he did too, stepping back as I went through to the other side.

“Oh, Sookie?”

“Yes?” I asked turning at the head of the stairs.

“I … was thinking, if you get a break tomorrow … if you’d like to accompany me for a walk. Someone told me I need more air,” he smiled, bashfully, “and I know of your fondness for walking.”

“I…”

“Only if you can steal away, and only if you want to, of course.” He said with hope in his voice and eyes wide and earnest.

I thought about it carefully. I had a spare hour or so between luncheon and having to prepare for dinner service.

“No, I’d like that. Weather permitting?”

“Of course,” he smiled. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

It wasn’t a good night. It had been nothing short of horrific, but by the time I got back to my room and snuggled into bed I began to think that perhaps it had had a happy ending, and that’s what I had to focus on.

Every cloud, after all.


Chapter 7: Chapter 7


Chapter Seven! Special thank you to storiesforevy for making this cute banner for the story that you view on the entry at the blog –link is in the profile! Feel free to stop by!


Sookie.

For two days in a row, after luncheon, I changed into my outdoor boots and found Eric at the side of the house waiting for me with Thor, his dog. The dog was large, with a smooth tan coat, with great big brown eyes and a loyalty that was to Eric and to Eric alone. And other than a sniff or two in my direction, I just tried to stay out of his way, animals always made me jumpy.

Each day we’d exchange pleasantries and begin our walk. He was slower to be sure, though he didn’t have a limp or anything that told me he was in pain. I knew because a man his size and shape shouldn’t be a slow walker, but I took my time beside him and we talked. We talked on a whole manner of subjects, of Quinn who was hastily asked to leave that first morning, of Niall and how he was preparing for London again in the coming days, and of how he hoped he’d feel up to facing the ‘wolves’ at this point, how he’d hoped I was more settled now, and that things could in fact settle for me. We’d walk for a few miles, and then back again, chatter of the war most on our minds.

“It wasn’t the best time of my life, that’s for sure… but being out there, at least I felt at use. Now, I just feel like a nuisance, being here while they’re all out there risking their lives everyday.”

“You did your duty. There shouldn’t be any shame in that just because you got injured,” I admitted as we crossed the lane, back into the property again. The skies were turning grey; we’d made it home just in time it seemed.

“I know, but I feel it anyway. Being young enough to serve, but unable to go back and maybe do some good…”

“Or go back and maybe get yourself killed? That’s another side of the coin you have to consider, and honestly, the war has taken enough. Be thankful it hasn’t taken you too,” I said sincerely as we crossed the orchard, and into the yard.

“That’s what Niall says too. He’s insisting that I start living life again.”

“Well, he and I agree on that. Perhaps in London you’ll have more social opportunities than you would here. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”

He sighed, “You would think, but I just don’t know. I don’t know if I’m ready, and Niall seems to want me married off again as soon as possible.”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m heir to Sophie’s fortune now, since we were married, and Niall wants it to happen, should he die that I inherit everything.”

“Oh… that’s huge.”

“My thought exactly, Sookie. I just-” with that, Mr. Dearborn rounded the corner and interrupted his sentence. We both grew silent as we got to the house.

“I’d better get back to work. There’s a guest for dinner tonight coming from Glasgow, I think?” I said as I shrugged off my coat, with Eric’s help, and slipped into my house shoes. He simply stood at the back door, waiting.

“Yes, a Lord Andrews. Apparently he’s an old, old friend of Niall’s.”

Eric couldn’t have sounded any less enthusiastic if he tried, I just smiled.

“Well, its roast chicken tonight, I know you actually like that.”

“You and my eating habits-”

“Well, at least you have some now, ones that don’t just involve cake and whiskey,” I shuddered.

He smiled.

“I suppose that is something.”

“It is,” I nodded.

There was an awkward silence, much like the day before ,when we’d finished our walk and just about ran out of things to say to each other.

“Well, I better be going,” I said.

“Yes, me too. I’ve to get Thor fed. He’s bound to be hungry after all his walking.”

“I’ll have them send his food up.”

“Thanks…” he said, scratching the back of his neck. “Are you free tomorrow?”

I smiled. I knew it was coming, but I still liked when it did.

“Yes, I’ll meet you at the same time, weather permitting, of course.”

“Of course, have a good day, Sookie.”

“You too Er-… Mr. Northman.”

He just rolled his eyes playfully before he took off with Thor by his side, and I returned to work.

All eyes in the kitchen were on me as soon as I entered and Di was the first to speak up, “He’s a sweet man, isn’t he?” she said, dreamily.

“He seems quite taken with you. Walks two days in a row for well over an hour at a time, what have you both been up to?” Liam all but hissed, his voice laced with inappropriate innuendo.

“It’s this little thing called walking, Liam, and judging by that belly on you, you aren’t familiar with it at all.”

Mrs. Fortenberry chuckled but stopped herself before she faced me, “Well, personally, I think it’s nice that you’re helping him get more air. He needs to get out of the house more.”

Pfft,” Dawn said from the hallway, but we just ignored her.

“Believe it or not, all of you, it is innocent and it will stay that way. Don’t go confusing me with … other members of staff that don’t know what boundaries are, or how to stay within them,” I huffed, putting my apron on. Mrs. Fortenberry smiled, handing me the clothes to take for washing.

“Oh is that so?” Dawn spoke up.

“Yes, it is as a matter of fact. I’ve told Mr. Northman that too-”

“You have?” Di spoke up, an excited look on her face. “You really told him that?”

“Why shouldn’t I? I have no interest in being anyone’s mistress…” I said in Dawn’s direction, a hit not missed by the rest of the staff. “Nor have I any delusions of grandeur of being anyone’s wife. I’ve been there and I’ve done that, and I have no desire to do so again.”

“I wonder if Mr. Northman knows he’s befriended an old maid, soon to be literally in your case, Sookie,” Dawn snarled, arranging the trays.

“Well, I suspect he does, and yet he still prefers it over soon to be homeless unemployed maid with a streetwalker’s reputation if she’s not careful. Funny that, huh?” I snapped back, making my way into the servant’s hallway to set the table for our dinners.

Tensions rose between Dawn and I for the rest of the night, and I was sure it wouldn’t change until something happened to make the change, one neither of us was willing to concede to. As far as I was concerned she was very much in the wrong treating me as she had been, and I hadn’t done much to deserve it, at least not at first. After that though, I didn’t make a big deal out of spending time with Eric, but I did secretly enjoy the look on her face when I would do so. Pamela and Selah left that night, and I had to admit I was sad to see Pam go, and in truth I think she was genuinely sorry I wasn’t going with her. But, we exchanged goodbyes, and she promised she’d write and that we’d keep in touch until the boys and I got to London, and we’d catch up then. In short, I felt bad because Pam seemed sad to be going back to London alone. And as it turned out she wouldn’t be there long alone, at least not from what I heard from the staff. They were off in a day or two, and I would be going with Amelia, Bobby and Trey – something that made me extremely nervous.

The next afternoon, I was kept more than busy since Dawn was conveniently ‘sick,’ and had to take to her bed all day, thus making it near impossible to take my break and my walk with Eric. I was disappointed to be sure, but at breakfast I made sure to let him know he’d be walking Thor solo that afternoon.

“I am sorry to hear that,” he said, looking up from one of his books.

“I am too. I’ve come to enjoy the little breath away from the madness here.”

“There’s madness here?” He quirked a brow, with a sly smile. “I never would have guessed.”

I sighed, “No, no one ever would. Everyone is just ever so calm all the time.”

“I’m sure I could charm Maxine into letting you away for an hour or so though, if you’d like?”

I blushed, shocked that he’d bother to go to any lengths to spend time with me, and I was flattered even if I didn’t have the right to be.

“That’s very sweet of you, but I can’t. With Dawn down, there’s her work as well as mine to do, it wouldn’t be fair to leave it to Amelia alone.”

He nodded. “That’s understandable.”

“Well, perhaps tomorrow?”

He looked up again. “Yes, perhaps. I hope you’re going to London with us? Niall likes to have staff on hand, but really there is plenty of staff in the London home as it is, he’s just odd that way.”

“I look forward to it. Seeing actual sunshine for one thing,” I smiled.

“That is true. Scotland just loves its clouds, doesn’t it?”

“Just a little…” I said, gazing out the window for a second. Then I looked around the library, it was the second one in the house, the larger much grander one being downstairs.

“You love your books, don’t you?” I asked, scanning the titles on the shelves.

“A little, I suppose it’s how I was raised. Always with books, from just about everywhere. My father was a big fan of reading.”

“Oh?”

He smirked. “You don’t know … who I am, do you Sookie?”

That confused me. Was I meant to?

“You’re Eric Northman, who else?”

“Ah, but I mean my silly status. You never wondered where it came from?”

“I just assumed you were born into high society like the rest of them?”

He chortled a little before he stood up beside me. “Not at all.”

I looked at him then, more confused than before, hoping he’d clear the clouds on the conversation.

“I was born the son of a miner’s daughter and a small town librarian, believe it or not,” he smiled. It was a sad, almost regretful smile.

“I don’t understand?”

“My father and my Grandfather had this little idea, a little idea that they grew into this huge thing, when I was just a baby. They pulled their money together and turned a very small library in Sweden, into a publishing empire. The biggest in the country, one that is still going today.”

“I see… Well, that’s good?” I said awkwardly.

“You see, Sookie, I think it’s why I just don’t feel comfortable here … not here, here,” he motioned around the room with open arms. “But I think it’s just not who I was born to be. I’m not noble, I’m not anything other than extremely wealthy, and I’ve certainly not done much to really earn it, not really.”

I sat in the leather chair and he sat in the one across from it.

“I see. So that’s why you keep pushing for the even footing, with us and you,” I nodded to myself.

“Partly, yes. I mean I know it’s custom, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. Perhaps, had I earned my millions by working hard like my father, or my Grandfather, but as it stands all I did was out live hard working men… And now? Niall wants to give me his worldly goods too, when I clearly haven’t earned any of it.”

I knew Eric Northman to be a man of extreme internal conflict, that much was obvious. Not just by his personal loss, but his personal gain as well.

“I hope you aren’t expecting me to molly coddle you here?” I smiled a little, as I touched his hand to get his attention. He looked at our hands, and then looked at me. His hands were warm, and soft, which surprised me.

“I won’t sit here and say I understand your conflict, I never could. I don’t have that luxury, but you do have options here.”

“What are they?” he asked, sounding as lost as I’d ever heard anyone.

“Well, you can choose to sit here, in this dark room, and read all the books you publish until the day you die – or until your eyesight gives out from reading in such bad light,” I chided with a smile. “Or you can get up and get out there and do something with yourself. Earn the respect you receive, earn the money you get. If not by working for it, then by using it for something good!”

He looked confused. “I do like books, Sookie. They somehow make me feel safe, is that silly?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“You don’t?”

“No, getting lost in another world for a time… sometimes it’s the welcome reprieve from the real world that we all need. See, just by keeping the business running you’re surely helping more people than you realize,” I smiled. “But I’m talking of using your name, your influence, for those with neither of those things in the real world. Just … think about it,” I said, checking the large clock on the wall, I had to get going.

“I will. Thank you…” he said, taking my hand in his again and kissing it once. “You are a huge help, Sookie.”

I just smiled. “It’s what they hired me for, Sir,” I said before giving his hand a quick squeeze and bidding him good day.

For two days I saw little of him, we were all busy getting everyone packed and ready for London. The Lord was quite a clothes horse, that’s for sure. He had many parties planned, I was told, and he had a lot of Opera dates planned with his friends, and lots of dinners. I was tired just thinking about it!

“Dawn, can you pack his Lordships shoes in the large trunk by his bed? I’ve set it up for you,” Mrs. Fortenberry said as I kept on folding shirts.

“It’s just not fair!” she said to Amelia, though I could still hear her from the end of the room. “She’s only new. She knows nothing of how they operate in London!”

“Well, aren’t you still ill?” Amelia asked innocently enough, and with a point, Dawn had been ‘ill’ for a few days, and milking it for all its worth.

“Not so ill that I couldn’t be of some use, unlike some people.”

I just rolled my eyes, having had enough of her inane insults to last a lifetime.

“If that’s the case then why don’t you stop your belly aching and help pack instead of just standing there complaining about it?” I said, snippy as you’d like before I walked out of the room and into Eric’s bedroom. Only I couldn’t get in because Thor was in my way.

“Okay … shoo…” I said, waving my arms at him, and he just looked at me – bored.

“Thor, I have to get cases so … let me in?” I waved my arms some more, but he just laid down.

“If I step over you, do you promise not to jump up and bite me?”

He huffed. I took that as a ‘yes Sookie, you’re nice, I won’t eat you,’ and stepped over him.

I stepped in to find Eric standing there completely naked holding a small towel to the back of his wet hair, he stood with a shocked look on his face that I’m sure matched my own.

“OH MY GOD I’M SO SORRY … I … I’M SORRY,” I said, turning around faster than I’d moved in my life.

“Sookie! I … I’m not… ready to go down yet.”

“Right, yes … no … right … Okay, sorry I just needed the last case for-” I said putting my hand over my eyes when I heard a low chuckle, and then feet padding in my direction.

“Here,” he said, but that meant I had to turn around and face him. Instead I just put out my other hand, and he chuckled again, placing the handle in my hand.

“Thanks,” I said before I reached for the door handle with my other hand, trying not to peek. “Sorry…”

“I’m not,” he said, and I could almost hear the smug smile as he said it. I didn’t stick around enough to hear more, instead I walked out and closed the door tight behind me. Amelia was going down the hall and passed me with a surprised look on her face.

“Are you all right?”

“I just…” I took a breath. “Oh, I’m so embarrassed. I just saw Er … Mr. Northman…”

“Well that is his room, silly,” she smiled but I lowered my tone.

“No, I just … saw him in the nude.”

She laughed, and grabbed the case from me. “Yes,” she sighed dreamily. “It is a treat, isn’t it?” She winked before she walked off, leaving me to deflate my embarrassment.

Well I never!

The journey to London took a long time, but thankfully I was in a coach with Amelia for company this time, and I gather I had heard her whole life story by the end of the journey. When we stopped to eat, we always ate with Eric and Niall, and they were even sweet enough to send us all tea from first class, which was welcomed on the long journey. The trip was faster for us this time, less stops and a solid destination. It was still a day later when we finally arrived, and I was ready to sleep for a week, but couldn’t – there was just too much to be done. The London house was thankfully smaller, but still huge by anyone’s standards. There were small part-time staffs employed at the house year round, just to keep things up and running. We met Sam Merlott. He was the man of the house you could say. When things were quiet, he provided butler service and cared for the grounds. When his Lordship came he was a jack of all trades, or so Niall joked, as we were all introduced. Then there was Barry Horowitz, the footman, and Dillon Prince the chauffeur. I could see why the maids were required as there were none at the London house, not all the time anyway. Once we got settled in and grabbed a quick lunch – a much appreciated bowl of thick vegetable soup with homemade bread provided by the cook, Hallow – Amelia and I got to work putting the house to rights as Eric and His Lordship ‘took a stroll out to lunch.’

“Do you girls need a hand? Those fabrics are rather heavy,” Sam asked, coming into the drawing room as Amelia and I were taking all the dust sheets off the furniture.

“No, it’s fine, thank you Sam,” Amelia said with a shy smile, and something told me she was sweet on Sam, and by the way he looked at her I’d have guessed the feeling was very mutual.

“It’s nice to see you again, Ames,” he said, helping her anyway.

“Yes, it is nice to see you too. I was hoping they’d need me here this summer, again,” she said with a blush, and I felt very much like I was eavesdropping, so I excused myself to go start the bedrooms, if only to give them a little privacy. I winked to Amelia on the way out, which only served to deepen her blush. It was sweet.

After freshening up the bedrooms, making sure all the windows were open, and all the beds were aired out, I took the shopping list from the kitchen and volunteered to go into the markets to fetch what was needed for dinner. I was getting ready to leave just as Eric and Niall came back. Niall took to his study to make some phone calls, whereas Eric caught me by the side exit.

“Where are you off to?” he said, a relaxed look on his face. He was even a little pink around his cheeks and ears. It was adorable.

“Just off to get some necessitates for the next few days, and to clear my head. How was your lunch?”

“It was nice, I forgot how busy things were down here. How loud and crowded,” he said, looking to the ground whilst scratching the back of his head, rubbing his shortened hair.

I nodded. “It’s taken me a while to get used to the quiet up at the Estate. Being back in the city is bound to be an adjustment after so long in…”

“Self inflicted seclusion? You can say it, it’s fine,” he smiled.

“Fancy anything in particular for dinner?” I asked, changing the subject.

“Surprise me. We have a few guests coming tonight, did they tell you?”

“They did, a Duchess of all things. That must be exciting?”

“I suppose. I knew her from here a few years ago. Last I heard she’d moved to America but now she’s back, and with a new husband that Niall must meet, apparently,” he rolled his eyes. “Such is life here, moreso than in the countryside. We’re expected to be social every night,” he sighed.

“And that’s worse than hell for you, isn’t it?” I chuckled.

“Just a little.”

I laughed fully then; he was like a little boy being told he had to do something he just really didn’t want to do.

“How about I do you a favour then?”

“Like what?”

“How about just after the last course I come and get you with some very urgent phone call that will take you away most of the night…” I said, smiling, and his smile matched mine soon enough.

“Would you? Really?”

“Of course, as long as Lord-”

“He can lump it, all this was his idea anyhow. Thank you.”

“No problem. I better be going, I have to go to the butcher too for tonight, and try and find a decent amount of un-rationed sugar,” I sighed. Everything was on lock down, or so hard to find these day, and what was there – well the prices were out of this world! I had a little bit more hope of change after news broke the day before that the Americans had finally decided to pull their weight and join the war. I hated the idea of more loss, but if it could gain a win it was all for the one good.

“Well, why don’t I drive you? We could get you there and back in half the time and I do owe you for getting me out of the conversations from hell, later on.”

“Oh … I … there’s no need, really…”

“I don’t mind, but if you don’t want to, I understand.”

I thought it over for a second, and it was a generous offer, but I thought it would be crossing whatever tiny bounds he and I had left, so I declined.

“But, thank you…”

“Have a good afternoon then, Sookie.”

His tone was a little lower than before, the pep had gone from his stance too. I wanted to soften the unexpected blow to his happy mood.

“You too … Eric.”

He put his hand on my shoulder to bid me good day, to pat me in passing, to just touch me innocently. Only it didn’t feel so innocent, and I didn’t want it to be so. In that moment I knew that I had to stopcrossing my boundaries with him. A friendship was one thing, but I still had to remember my place, and he of course had to remember his if he didn’t want to earn the wrong kind of reputation. It would be frowned upon to say the least, and I just didn’t want any more dramatics in my life. The walk into town did me good, but like Eric, I too found it a bit of an adjustment to the noise and the crowds again, even after only a half a dozen weeks away.

That night, as dinner was slowly winding to a close, I kept myself busy above stairs, keeping an ear out for when they’d move rooms to talk further of the events of the day, and when that happened, I was to make my move. When I did so, the look of sheer relief on Eric’s face said a lot, since he was currently in the grasps of Lady Luna Garza, a friend of the Duchess, from France. She was a stunning woman, no doubt about it, with her caramel skin, and big brown eyes, shiny, long chestnut hair. Personally, I wondered why he was so quick to dodge her obvious charms, especially if like he said, Niall wanted him settled again – and soon.

We got to the end of the hallway, and well out of ear shot when he laughed.

“That was genius, what did we ever do before the telephone! Thank you, again.”

“You’re welcome…I…”

“You sound unsure of something,” he commented as I lifted the basket of fresh sheets I had waiting for me to leave upstairs. He took the basket from my hands wordlessly.

“I just … no, it’s not my business.” I shook my head in an attempt to forget it, but he wouldn’t let me.

“You know I enjoy your opinions, as harsh as they may be sometimes,” he grinned as we took the large staircase together.

“She’s very beautiful, I’m just not sure I understand your reluctance to converse with a beautiful woman, that’s all.”

We reached the top and he handed the basket back to me, again, wordlessly.

“She is beautiful, that’s true, but then I talk with a beautiful woman every day and that bothers me none…”

It took me a second to register that it was me, I was the beautiful woman that he conversed with. I blushed and suddenly found the basket to be the most interesting thing in the world to look at.

“Sookie…”

“You’re flirting with me,” I said, facing him finally.

He grinned, a pink tint to his cheeks too, as I was sure there was to mine. “Am I?”

“You know you are.”

“Oh…” he continued to grin.

“I’m not one of your ladies, Eric. Not in that manner. I thought I made it clear.”

“You did, crystal clear, but it doesn’t mean the mirror doesn’t get foggy every now and then, does it?”

I sighed. He really was treading on dangerous ground.

“Don’t, okay? Please don’t. We agreed that it would be a friendship, and that’s all I can offer you. If you’re expecting me to behave like Dawn or others-”

“I would never expect … or want you to behave like anyone but yourself, Sookie.”

“Well … I … I …” I stammered, not really sure of where this conversation was actually going, besides in circles.

“Am I making you uncomfortable?”

“Yes, you are.”

“I don’t mean to … or maybe I do.” With that, I looked him right in the eye, I wasn’t sure what I saw there, but it wasn’t malice or ill intent and that put me a little at ease.

He looked from my lips, to my eyes and back again, and I knew that look, it just wasn’t one I’d ever received from him before.

“I like you, Sookie … I think you know that,” he said, lowering his head as if to try and catch my eye, my eye that was trained on the carpet.

The feeling of panic began rise on my skin again, sweat breaking out just a little at his words.

“We agreed. You know how I feel about things like this.”

He pursed his lips together and took a step back, a curious look on his face.

“Sadly, I do.” With a sigh, he took another step back. “I’ll say goodnight then.”

With that, I took a step back too, a little shocked that his walls went back up so quickly, and then I chastised myself for even feeling shocked. I didn’t want his walls down, or I shouldn’t have wanted that. I didn’t want to be the object of his boredom, I just wanted to be a friend, and to do my job, and bother no one. But I had bothered him, the look on his face as he returned to his room was evidence of that, and in turn I had bothered myself because of the bother I had caused him. I sighed to myself as I called it a night, hoping to put an end to my circle of confusion where Eric Northman was concerned, but something told me that this was just the beginning.

Just the beginning indeed.


A/N: Tut tut, Mr Northman doesn’t like being Friend-zoned at all, does he? 😀 Remember reviews are just adored! x


Chapter 8: Chapter 8


Hi guys! Well I finally have another new chapter for you to dig in to! Ending Southern Belles kind of depleted me for a bit, so it’s taken a little while to get back on the ball. But here we are, and with an Eric point of view to boot 😉

SPOV:

“It simply won’t do, I’m telling you again it just won’t do!” She screeched from behind her bathroom door, before she came out a sour look to match her tone. Lady Annabel Forsyth had come to stay at the start of our second week in London; she was by all accounts the belle of every ball, and quite the socialite to boot. A Lady by birth but not in nature she was a spoiled one and she made it known to every member of staff just what she wanted and how she wanted it, with no air of manners about her person at all.

“Take this and have it altered tonight, will you, I think I might wear it in the afternoon tomorrow, or I might wear this,” she held up and pink silk dress, and in this summer heat, I wondered how smart an idea that was, but kept my opinions to myself. I took her clothes for mending, and left Amelia to take her requests for luncheon and what she would ‘prefer’ to have today since the day before she refused to eat until she discovered where all her food originated from, apparently she was against imported goods, for some strange reason or another, I wasn’t sure entirely. She was a daughter of a friend of Niall’s, and as such she was being shown off in the hopes of nabbing herself a suitable husband during the season, and she had her eyes on one man in particular. Eric Northman. Annabel was young, having just turned eighteen she was prime for London season, and the horse and pony show that it was. Apparently she had ‘many suitors’ and that they all came from ‘good money’, but Eric was different, he came from lots of money, and stood to inherit even more when Niall died. She was almost giddy at the prospect of it all. Sadly for her Eric had left a week before, to go stay with Pamela, and he hadn’t returned since. She had spent most of her week with us, choosing outfits and perfecting her hair and topics of conversation of which to impress him, it was all very calculated. Eric and I on the other hand, well, he was clearly having problems with my boundary insistence, and as such we barely spoke three words to each other before he left to ‘give me all the space I’d need’. It was fairly safe to say he was annoyed, but at whom I couldn’t say, if it was me or himself he was madder at. Either way he’d been gone just over a week and there hadn’t been a peep from him since. I would say it was a welcome reprieve from his constant presence, as intimidating as it sometimes was, but the truth is I missed him terribly, and I missed our talks more than that. I just hated that my past prevented me from moving forward, but in a way it was for the best. I had no desire to end up like Dawn, heart-broken and delusional, nor washed up with a bad reputation either. No, I knew my stance was correct, whatever my initial reasoning for it. I was still legally married to Bill; I wasn’t really a widow – as much as I wished I was. And to tell him that would be to tell him the whole truth about me, thus making the basis of our initial bonding, a lie. I couldn’t do that to him, and truthfully, I couldn’t do that to myself either. I never had a lot of friends, not since marrying Bill, and here I was starting to build something for myself. Sure, I was ‘just the maid’ but I was here doing it all with help from no one and I couldn’t risk that, not now.

So what did I do? I pushed my ever-increasing attraction to him down deep inside, in the hopes that it would stay buried and that no one would need to know, no one would find out and we could all just get on with our lives. But as I was soon to learn, nothing stays buried forever, not even the so-called dead ex-husbands.

EPOV:

Pam sat there with a smirk on her perfectly made up face. I didn’t find my anguish funny at all, but she found it hilarious.

“Can you blame me darling, really? You’re all a tizzy because you’ve finally found a woman unwilling to succumb to your charms; I never thought I’d see the day. Let me enjoy it.”

I paced by the window once more, I’d been staying with Pam for over a week at this point, and I was still no further for my plan of action, neither were Sookie was concerned nor where Niall’s plans for me sat in the great scheme of things either.

“It is not as if I assumed all women merely live to fall at my feet –”

“Eighteen year old you assumed that, and he was right, from what I can recall.”

I rolled my eyes, back then I was young and foolish and having newly inherited my fortune, it was safe to say I went a little wild with it. I look back in shame, but also with fond remembrance of some of the times Pam and I had in Europe, deflowering daughters together and apart for years. I shook my head, that wasn’t who I was, not anymore.

“Things change, I’ve changed, and whether or not you want to admit it Pam – you’ve changed too.”

She just rolled her eyes at me, going back to drinking her tea.

“It’s all a matter of perspective, times have changed and I’ve changed with them, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy toying with European women anymore. Unlike you I haven’t accepted my fate as hermit quite yet. Honestly Eric, resorting to that Dawn girl, of all girls in that little village you could have drunkenly diddled.”

Now it was my turn to roll my eyes at her, she really would never get over this. She hated Dawn, she said she gave her a ‘bad feeling’, and thus the fact that I’d had a dalliance with her didn’t sit well with Pam at all. I found it odd, since we fucked around more than any two people should in our day, but I guess even Pam had her standards. Sookie on the other hand, Sookie met those standards.

“She’s just scared; a woman in her position has a lot to lose Eric. And indulging bored playboys? Probably not high on her list of things to do in life.”

“I don’t want her to merely entertain me, I like her Pamela.” I never used her full name, unless I was deadly serious or seriously ticked off. “I don’t know how to make her see that, she thinks badly of me that I only want to get close to her –”

“To fuck her until she screams or passes out –”

“Well, if you must be so crude, then, yes eventually.”

“Crude, listen to you,” she tutted at me, “you’ve been spending far too much time with the elderly, Eric. Remember when we used to have fun? Remember Versailles?”

I was twenty-one, we’d spent a summer in Paris, and there isn’t a whole lot of that season I remember thanks to a nifty little upscale Opium den we frequented.

“Barely.” I commented and she laughed.

“Well, I’m sure Sookie will come around,” she raised her brow, “pun intended.”

I just shook my head.

“Sometimes I wonder if you ever grew up, Pam.”

“Now, now, Darling, don’t go taking it out on me just because you’re sexually frustrated the busty maid, with the very nice arse, won’t give in to your untamed charms.”

She was teasing me, and I knew she wouldn’t stop.

“I’m telling you, that is not all I want. I really love spending my time with her, Pam. In fact it’s come to be the best parts of my days, seeing her outside of work…seeing her be free and funny, allowing her guards down and letting herself laugh.”

I sighed. I had left Niall’s the week before because I could not stand the air between Sookie and I. The shields were up and there was no bantering, no laughing and no accepting my invites to walk with her. It was as if she’d shut me out completely out of fear of what we had turning into something else. I can’t blame her though, for those were my hopes exactly, I wanted more. I wanted all of her. I wasn’t sure if it was because I knew she was unwilling and it was simply a case of wanting what I couldn’t have, or if I indeed just really wanted her.

I needed the time to figure that out, but in my time away, I missed her terribly and Pam pointed out that it couldn’t just be a physical attraction in that case, since what I missed most were our most innocent of talks.

Finally Pam grew serious, and it was a relief for a I was due back to the London base soon and I needed a plan of action.

“Look, being honest with you Eric, I feel Sookie has more than enough emotional baggage to keep you at bay indefinitely,” that didn’t fill me full of hope; I thought friends were there to help in a time of need! “But, if your feelings are genuine then tell her, make her see that you mean what you say. She’s been hurt, she has a past one I get the feeling she’s not so eager to share, and you just have to make her see that you’re worth all that risk.”

Was I worth it though, that was my question. I was to be married off, into ‘society’ at the first sign of an advantageous match, Niall needed reassurance that his estates would live on, even though me, the husband of his dead daughter and a replacement for his dead son.

“Eric, you know me and you know I’m never one to go by the rules…but I know you are, now at least.”

“And?”

“And well,” she looked worried, “what you think you feel for Sookie, I ask that you think about it long and hard, there aren’t just her side of things to consider here my friend. There are yours too, what of your feelings? Where do they lead you? Do you intend on marrying her? And if you do, are you willing to put up with the gossip, the social ridicule and out casting that one might receive when they not only diddle in emotions with the help to public knowledge, but flaunt it so freely?”

“Pam…”

“Yes, yes, I know, you don’t give a flying anything about society and her rules, but Eric if you have children, they will, and they’ll be raised with that stigmatism and the gossip surrounding it. You know as well as I do that I hate the blatant hypocrisy of the whole thing but raising children in this world is hard enough when you have a flawless reputation as so many deem to have, but a tarnished one puts so many blocks in the road.”

She was right; having the right name meant the world to most people. It meant you socialized in the ‘right’ circles, went to the best schools, universities, and eventually got into the best jobs or found the best husbands. The world was changing, but it didn’t seem to be changing fast enough for my liking.

“This is all moot, Pam, she won’t have me.”

“She’s a smart woman.” She winked with a sly smile on her face in passing, but she stopped. “In all seriousness, I’ll do whatever I can to ensure your happiness Eric, as I know you will for me. So, if there is anything…”

I nodded, Pam was a lot of things, to a lot of people, but to me she was fiercely loyal and I respected her more than any man I’d ever met.

On return to the London house, I was greeted by my valet and a large stack of messages left in my absence, all from Sweden, and all in desperate need of their boss to round things up. I made note to schedule a trip there as soon as possible.

“Sir, If I may, there is a young lady staying with us, and if all is to be believed, she’s your intended.” Bobby said as we got to my room, I noted fresh flowers by the window and couldn’t help but wonder if Sookie picked them out herself at the market this week.

“My what?” I asked, clearly distracted.

“A Lady Annabel Forsyth, her father –”I knew who her father was; he was a Lord from a line of Lord’s going back generations. Old, old, money and a lot of great social status to go with it, it didn’t help that he was a bit of a knob though. So, I couldn’t help but wonder what his offspring would be like.

“What’s she like?”

“Well,” Bobby mused, setting out my dinner jacket and shirt, “she’s tall as women go, slender of course and rather meticulous about most things, a perfectionist I’d say.”

“Ah, picky then?” I said and he laughed, nodding his head.

“Very much so, but, also very beautiful.”

“I’m sure she’s lovely, but really I wish Niall would seek my consent before going ahead with these ridiculous invites, I feel like a prize at a fair.”

“In a way you are, Sir. The biggest prize at that.”

Bobby’s words stuck with me, mainly because they were what I’d been thinking since before we even arrived in London. I wasn’t some prize husband to be won to the highest bidder, in this case the richest girl with the best reputation, that’s not what I wanted at all. When I’d met Sophie, it was by chance at first, and then Niall decided he wanted to invest in the publishing business. That’s when I first came to the London estate to stay. What Sophie and I had been young puppy love, but I do think we made the choices for ourselves, at least, I hoped we did but now I wasn’t so sure.

“Dinner won’t be for another hour, do you want to get dressed now or …” Bobby asked, but before he had finished I was already half way down the staircase. I looked in most of the rooms, and found Amelia and Sam deep in conversation in the piano room, but no sign on Sookie anywhere. I finally found her, out by the pond, her feet dangling over the edge, her toes popping in and out of the water. Her eyes were closed and her head tilted to the sky, she was enjoying the sunshine. I stood by the doors, just watching her, so still and at peace, I almost hated to interrupt, but my need to hear her voice won me over and I walked over quietly, I did not want to frighten her, so I spoke before I got too close.

“Sookie?”

Her eyes popped open and her head turned in my direction.

“Eric, I didn’t see you there… I’m on my break I was just –”

“No, it’s fine. I just wanted to say hello.”

She smiled and her blue eyes just lit up, “Hello.”

“Yes, hello,” I said awkwardly.

She slipped her feet out of the bright blue water, and sat on the edge of the surrounding, hugging her knees to her chest and giving me a space to sit.

“How is Pamela? I hope she is well.” Sookie said, still that happy look on her face, a stark contrast to the last time I saw her. Our last couple of weeks before I left had been a bit of a strain to say the least, and I admit it was because of me that it was so.

“She is well, she sends her regards. She’s planning some trips this summer to Europe I think, but with Pam things change at the drop of a hat, so who knows.”

Sookie smiled again, “what a wonderful way to live though, care-free and on no one’s schedule but your own, it must be quite wonderful.”

I suppose I never thought that Sookie and the others lived their lives according to ‘our’ schedules. I suddenly felt very guilty.

“She hopes to stop by, before we return by the end of the season, she I think is more looking forward to chats with you than the rest of us, just don’t tell Niall that. He’s convinced she’s in his fan club.”

“I’ll bet she is, she just won’t admit it. How was your time there? It’s not far from here I’ve been told?”

“No, less than fifty miles, but she likes the outskirts when the city is booming, but she has no problem exploring other cities in the middle of crowds, she’s an odd one.” I smiled back.

“She is, but I like her oddness, it adds character that so few have.”

I agreed with her there, Pam certainly had character, by the bucket load.

“You look well, and you caught a little sun, that’s good.” She said, taking in my features, as if she was reacquainting herself with my face. I felt goose bumps break out on my skin as her eyes focused in on mine, she was so close to me and it make the urge to reach out and touch all the more difficult to ignore.

“Yes, she likes to have meals outside when it’s like this, she says it makes her feel more European, but personally I think she’s just a Texas girl making the most of her time in the heat.”

Sookie beamed, “I understand that, I miss feeling the heat on my skin, my poor bones don’t know what’s happened since I moved out here.” She fixed her dress, and slipped her now sun-dried feet back into her shoes. She wasn’t wearing her usual stockings, I noted, and her skin was very pale indeed and she had the tiniest ankles I recalled ever noticing. She caught me looking and crossed her legs away from me, an amused look on her face.

“You have a guest, well, I say you, she’s here to see you specifically I’ve been told.”

I sighed, another one.

“I heard from Bobby, I really wish Niall would just inform me, or at the very least give me a little warning before he just springs these things on me.” I repeated to her what I’d told Bobby, it was true, I didn’t like surprises much.

“He’s a man on a mission I suppose. The doctor called twice this week I thought you should know.” She said, her tone suddenly serious.

“What for?”

“He took an attack of sorts at the Opera, they called the doctor to him there and he was ordered home for bed rest, but, getting that man to bed rest is like catchin’ a tornado in a bottle, it’s just not going to happen.” She said and her native accent slipped in a little stronger than usual, I found I liked it very much.

“Then the other night at dinner he started to get very breathless, so we called the Doctor again, of course she read us the riot act when in reality there is just no talking to the man.” She sighed, her pretty pink lips pursing into a pout. We talked a little more about Niall and just how she and the rest of the staff were doing their best to keep from getting too tired or worked up, but it wasn’t easy, and I really knew that to be true. He was set in his ways and no one or no thing was going to change that.

“I’ve missed this.” I blurted out, perhaps I shouldn’t have done, but I found I didn’t really care. My hand grazed against hers as he sat next to mine, her hands were cold even as we sat in the warm rays of the sun.

“Where is he now?” I asked, ignoring the heat I felt creeping into my cheeks.

She rolled her eyes, “being a stubborn mule,” then her eyes widened and it was her turn to blush, “please don’t tell him I called him that.”

“I might be calling him it myself if it’s true, where is he?”

“He’s out to call on one of his old war buddies, refusing doctor’s orders, but he did say he’d be back for dinner, he’s got Lady Forsyth with him.”

“So this Lady, what is she like?”

She shrugged, “I’m not sure.”

“Of course you are, you’re good at reading people Sookie at least I think so. What was your first impression of her?”

She shook her head, “that’s something for you to judge yourself, she’s here to see you so… she’ll be different around you.”

That was always the crux with these high society women; they had more faces than an octopus had legs. I never knew where I stood with them, not really. Trying to differentiate between what was real and what was on show to bag a husband was hard, and it was growing more frustrating by the day.

“Please?” I begged for some kind of impression so I knew what I was facing.

She mused my question over for a few seconds as she got up and began to pace, I paced with her and we ended up heading for the gates of the garden that led onto the long lane, I opened the gate for her and she thanked me.

“At first she was quite, it seemed like she didn’t really want to be here, but then Niall kept telling her stories about you, and that seemed to perk her interest a little.”

“But your first impressions?”

“She’s a little spoiled. But, no more so than any other young woman in her position, if I had a Daddy that gave into my every whim, I’d wager I’d be a little spoiled too.”

“How old is she exactly?”

“Just turned eighteen.”

That made me stop in my tracks, I was past thirty now, and they really wanted me to wed a mere girl? I was not sure how well that sat with me.

“Oh, Eric, don’t look so shocked, men do this all the time. In fact it’s expected to be more advantageous to marry a much younger woman.”

“But a spoiled…barely out of her childhood years herself, girl? Really?”

She giggled, “You aren’t being very optimistic, maybe you two will get on like a house on fire.”

“Most houses on fire means you should run, far, and fast.” I kicked a rock as we walked on, mulling over what was being laid before me.

“She’s young, which means she’s probably impressionable, and you’ll probably sweep her off her tiny feet and make a million babies in one of her father’s mansions in Surrey.” Her tone sounded remarkably hostile at that, and I stopped and looked at her.

“Does that bother you?”

Her eyes met mine and then they looked away, as if the grass by the edge of the lane was now the most fascinating thing she’d ever seen.

“No, of course not, of course it doesn’t bother me… of course not.” She said in a stammered panic and the flush in her cheeks began to rise.

It did bother her.

“You already said that, twice.” I smiled, but she still didn’t look at me, if anything she was like a spooked kitten, and she began to retreat.

“I had better be getting back, it’s past my break time and I’m needed to finish off dinner…”

Sookie…” I tried to reach out for her hand, but she backed away further.

“I’m sorry, I had better be going. Goodbye.” She said as she turned and all but ran back to the house.

Well now, that was certainly an interesting development. Very interesting indeed.

A/N: Dying to know what you think! Hit the little button of love!


Chapter 9: Chapter 9


Hey guys! Two in as many days, I hope you’re enjoying it so far! If you are don’t forget to hit the little buttons and sound off below, or how else will I know what you think? 😉 x


SPOV:

Walking back to the house I realized one of two things. I was terrible at hiding my true emotions. There I was showing him I was just another jealous woman, and it put my head in a spin. While it was true I was very attracted to him, and it seemed to only grow as we spent time together. I was also no fool, I knew my place! It became my new mantra, I knew my place and I knew he had his, and his was with the willowy teenager who could give him babies. I avoided upstairs work for a couple of days, glad to be of help in the kitchen for once. Though not officially my job, there was a party planned for that coming Saturday night and it was a case of all hands on deck for preparations. A Prince of some sort from the Middle East was accompanying an old friend of Niall’s, though thankfully he wasn’t staying with us. We had one who thought herself a Princess and she was more than enough for any household. As expected she draped herself over Eric at every given opportunity, even her chaperone was less than impressed by her behaviour, or so I heard from Amelia who was working the after dinner clean up and over-heard quite a bit as the drawing room opened up to the dining room in this house. I tried my best to pay it no mind, but of course the more I told myself not to dwell on something, the more it just wouldn’t leave my mind. In truth I hated the idea of her being his wife, she was a child and I knew at least on a intellectual level that she could never satisfy him. Not that I was fooling myself into thinking that I could either, but I did a damn better job of it that her and her stupid giggling. No, men didn’t marry women to converse; they married them for status and money, and all other matter of issues. I knew that first hand, I was married off to a Gentleman with good prospects simply because he was a gentleman with good prospects. It didn’t matter that he was also unstable and abusive, and a complete and utter fraud. No, none of that matters, nor did it matter that I was just about Annabel’s age when I was handed over to Bill too. I was far too young, I knew that now, but then, then I thought I was all grown and knew my own mind. How foolish I was, now I was many years older and I was still no further for it.

“Sookie, there is a dance in town tomorrow night, will you go with me?” Amelia asked a distinct panic in her voice as we polished the silverware the next morning.

“Thanks darlin’ but you’re not my type.” I joked. “Why not ask Sam? Or why hasn’t he asked you? He’s clearly sweet on you.”

She shook her head and blushed, it was adorable.

“Amelia, you really need to take the bull by the horns here, you both clearly like each other and there’s nothing standing in your way.”

As I so wished was my situation.

“I can’t. I mean… I mean I could, but I’d die. I’d just DIE.” She sighed.

“And what? You want me to go in case he’s not there or in case he is?”

“A little of both?” She said biting her lip, “It is true, we like each other, but we only ever get to see each other in the summer season, with me living in Scotland and him living down here. It’s the darndest thing.”

I laughed, it wasn’t really, but her love life was a nice distraction from my own muddled thoughts.

“We can go after the dinner clear up, Lord Niall is going out with Lady Muck, so we won’t be needed until after midnight, gives us a good five hours to dance our feet off, and nab you a Gentleman.” I nudged her laughing, but she just grew more and more pink.

“What if he doesn’t ask me to dance, Sookie?”

“He’ll ask you, trust me. It might not be all he asks you either if you play your cards right.” I said taking the polished silver back into the dining room where the display cabinet was.

“You going dancing?” I heard from behind a newspaper and almost dropped the tray and out of my skin to boot.

“Eric! You scared the life out of me!”

“Sorry, I couldn’t help but over hear…because Amelia is very loud for such a small woman.”

“It’s fine.” I said, getting back to work putting everything back in its place.

“So, you’re going to the dance at the town hall?”

“Yes, I’m more going for her sake, but I hope it’ll be fun, I haven’t taken advantage of my days off as I should have, so an evening out will be nice, I hope.”

He smiled, “you dance?”

Everyone dances, Eric, it’s just a matter of how well or how not so well they do it.”

“You’re calling me Eric…” he pointed out and I realized that I had let it slip, and often.

“Should I not?” I looked at him coyer than I’d intended. I didn’t mean to be a flirt with him, I should have been doing the opposite, but, I just couldn’t help it. I would internally kick myself, later.

“You know you should.” He grinned.

“Well, alright then, but only when no one is around.”

“Sounds naughty.” He said putting down his paper and watching me with interest, though what interest he found in me replacing the silver into its cabinet, I had no idea.

“Hoping to meet anyone…special?” he queried.

“At the dance? No, not particularly. Speaking of, how is…”

“Oh, God.” He sighed sitting back on his couch with a little dramatic flare to his actions. “Sookie, she’s so young, too young, and Niall thinks it’s wonderful but we have nothing in common.”

I nodded.

“That could change.”

“Unlikely to if you ask me, all she talks about are hats and shoes and dresses she’s having made and what Ball she’s going to next. Honestly, she’s like Pam only ten times more vapid.”

“Don’t let Pam hear you say that. She’ll have your guts for garters!” I laughed.

“I’m going to tell him to put a stop to this match making nonsense, tonight.”

“Really?”

“Yes, if I’m to find a wife, I’d rather it be on my own. Though he is a stubborn old bastard, so I doubt he’ll even adhere to my request.”

“Ah, so you’re going to request that he stop, not tell him. Asertive.”

He glared at me, playfully.

“Are you mocking me?”

I just smiled as I closed the cabent doors.

“Would I ever do such a thing?” And with that I made my way downstairs again. Smiling unbeknownst to myself the whole way there, I really did love our little talks, more than I should have, perhaps.

I’d just gotten the bedrooms aired out for the day when Lady Annabel, or Lady Muck as Amelia had dubbed her – and her chaperone got back from the city. Apparently it was tea with an ‘old’ friend, I silently chuckled at how a girl of merely eighteen could classify her friends as old when she was still so new. She’d bought three new hats and demanded to know what I thought of each of them. In one she looked like a deformed poodle, and another drowned her pretty face out of the picture because of the sheer enormity of the thing on her head. I told her they were all beautiful of course, I mostly just wanted out of the way.

“Oh, um Sally?” She asked as I was making my ever silent exit.

“Sookie.”

“Right, of course, forgive me, but … I’ve heard you and Mr Northman, well that you two converse often?”

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said nothing.

“I was hoping you’d tell me a little about him, he is so silent during dinner, and I’m not really sure how to broach the subject.”

“What subject, Miss?”

She sighed and sat on her bed with a huff.

“Well, that’s just it, any subject at all would do, he just won’t talk. I mean, his Lordship told me he was the strong, silent type, but I wasn’t expecting a mute!”

I chucked at that, for Eric, once he let you in, was anything but a mute.

“Please? I know I’ve been somewhat of a pain since I’ve arrived here but it is only because I was told to make a good impression, and I get impatient when I’m nervous, he makes me nervous.”

I understood that, when it came to Eric particularly.

“I’m not really sure…”

“Anything at all would be helpful, Sookie.” She pleaded again and this time I found myself feeling sorry for her, but then my selfish side kicked up inside me. Did I really want to endear her to Eric? Was I really going to help?

I looked into her eyes, and my moral side won out. If she was his, and being honest with myself, she was to be, they may as well have something to talk about before the poor girl’s heart broke. I thought back to all our walks together, all our talks, and the one topic I knew he was overtly passionate about was his books. He loved to read, and loved even more to converse about the worlds he dove into; bound by the leather he printed them in.

“Books, they’re your best bet, really. He likes all manner of subjects, but currently he’s embracing the Gothic Romantic themes more than most. Oh… and the Sherlock Holmes stories are some of his favourites too.” I rattled off thinking back on our conversations around Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and both of our favourites – Bram Stoker’s Dracula as she simply beamed at me, her usual sour demeanour completely changed. That surprised me.

“Thank you, so much, so very much. I was simply at a loss…this will be most helpful.”

I shook my head at myself as I finally made my exit. I had dinner to help with, and the table to set before I could even think of washing my hair before leaving for the dance that evening.

By the time we got back upstairs for the clearing after dinner, I passed the parlour to find Eric and Annabel deep in conversation, a book in his hand. I suppose I had no right to feel the pangs of jealously that I felt witnessing the seemingly innocent scene before me, but the truth of the matter was it was my own fault. I had done this, so could I really hate her for getting close to him when I practically pushed her there with information about him? No, I couldn’t. So, I swallowed my bitter feelings, curled my hair, put on my best dress and tattered old coat and went to dance my woes away.

Would there be enough music in the world do achieve such things, I would surely have fun finding out.

Amelia had danced the night away with both myself, and then with Sam, but mostly with Sam and I was happy for them both in truth – they made a sweet couple. I on the other hand danced many a gentleman, but promised nothing to none, for I still had my pact, if I wasn’t going to give in to Eric Northman I certainly wasn’t going to give in to anyone else. But that didn’t stop me from enjoying myself, and holding back the eye roll when the Yorkshire farming men would attempt to mock my accent, as if they were ones to talk about a funny accent, I thought.

When it came time for home, we all made our way out, and we bumped into a few of the staff from the London house, in particular, Dillon Prince, the driver whom we rarely saw since he lived off the land, with his sister. Sam and Amelia took their time and were no where to be seen, so when he offered to walk me home, I didn’t want to be terrible and say ‘no’.

“Thank you again, Dillon. You really didn’t have to walk me back, but it was nice.”

“No problem at all, Miss Stackhouse.”

“Oh, Dillon, no one calls me that. It’s just plain old Sookie.” I smiled as we slipped through the back gates and began walking up the garden path, passing the stables after a few seconds of slow pace.

“Okay, Sookie.” He smiled and I felt a little awkward, it felt like this was a date of sorts and it really wasn’t nor should he be getting any ideas of the sort either.

“I had a good time tonight, and it was nice to see Amelia have fun too,” I mused and he agreed.

“Though, I just know I’ll be sore tomorrow and I’ll be cursing myself for dancing so much.” We rounded the corner, past the darkened stables, the lights from the kitchen were still on, that was a good sign. It meant someone was up, and I could make my excuses to Dillon and go to sleep.

“Well thank you again, Dillon. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Sookie, wait.” He grabbed my hand and I resisted the urge to pull away, I didn’t want to be rude so I didn’t.

“I really should be getting inside.” I protested.

“I was hoping we could talk a little… I’d like to …get to know you a bit better if that’s alright.”

No, it wasn’t.

“It’s late, Dillon, we’ll have plenty of time to talk tomorrow, I’m not going anywhere.”

“No, you’re not.” He held onto my hand, gripping my wrist with his other hand, pushing me up against the wall, it hurt.

“Dillon, this isn’t funny. I’m saying goodnight please respect that.” I protested again but I had the feeling it fell on deaf ears. Before he had the chance to respond I heard footsteps, and then a deep voice causing Dillon to back down.

“What are you doing out here at this time of night?” Eric asked him, ignoring me. His eyes were fixed and scarily angry, on the man in front of me. Eric was still in his dinner attire, sans his jacket and tie he was just standing there in his white dress shirt tucked neatly into his black trousers, showing off just what broad shoulders he had and a slim waist. I hated myself for letting things like that distract me when he was eyeballing the chauffeur.

“Just saying goodnight to Miss Stackhouse, Sir.”

“Wasn’t what it sounded like to me, Prince?” Eric all but growled.

“I assure you it was innocent.” He objected.

“Hmm, well whatever it was, it’s over now. Run along.” Eric dismissed the smaller man, and just like that he scampered off in the other direction in the dark of night, I wasn’t sure where the driver lived here in London, but if the setup was like at the larger estate, I assumed he didn’t have far to go.

“Thank you.” I said, standing up a little straighter. “But it was no problem he was just…saying goodnight.”

“Why are you lying for him? I heard you from the door.”

“Were you eavesdropping on me?”

No…”

“Really? Then what were you even doing out here at this time of night, skulking in the shadows.” I didn’t move, I merely crossed my arms, my tone wasn’t altogether civil either.

“If you must know, I was in the kitchen, I got hungry and decided not to wake anyone and just come down and make myself a sandwich.”

I scoffed.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing, I’m just surprised you even know how.”

He raised his brows at me, and a grin spread to his lips.

“Look at you, all brash.”

“I am not brash, I’m just annoyed.”

“Annoyed that I saved you?”

“Oh, please, I could have handled him.”

“I’m sure you could but my way was quicker. What were you going to do, flirt with him some more, maybe kiss him goodnight?”

It was my turn to be offended then, “How dare –”

“Well…?” he took a step closer to me, closing me against the wall. Only, with him I felt no fear, not like I’d felt with Dillon. “Where you?”

My breath got shallow, but I didn’t want him to know the effect his close proximity was having on me, or my body.

“That’s none of your business.”

“No, perhaps not, but I’d like to know anyway.”

“Why?” I questioned unsure of where he was going with this.

“Because I want to know why you’d kiss him, and not me. That’s why.”

His eyes travelled from my eyes, to my lips, and back again. Something about it made me shiver, and I was sure it wasn’t the chilly London breeze.

“Well?” he asked taking yet another step towards me, we were now completely encased in the shadow of the house, as I leaned against the cobble dash wall and he stood mere inches from my face.

I still hadn’t answered him; we just stood quarrelling with each other through some seriously intense eye contact. It was like we were at war, but there were no words for weapons, not this time.

“No.” I said simply.

“Because you’ve sworn off all men? Or because he wasn’t the one you wanted to taste.”

Why did he have to talk that way, all it did was float images to my brain of things I had no right to think about.

“Why do you care so badly anyhow?” I countered trying to get my mind out the gutter, but that was near impossible once the sent of his cologne hit me. Christ that man smelled good.

He smiled, “Isn’t that obvious?” with that his lips came closer, but they didn’t aim for my mouth, instead, he reached for my face and tilted my chin upward. His soft warm kiss landed on my jawbone, it was unexpected and so utterly erotic in that moment, I wanted to melt.

I…” I tried to speak, to say anything in my defence, but the truth was I had none. I wanted this so badly and I was tired of denying myself.

Next his lips trailed to my neck as one of his hands snaked into my hair and dragged against my scalp gently, I swore my toes curled.

“Do I get the honour, Sookie? Hmmm?” he hummed against my skin and it felt like I was suddenly on fire.

“Wha-“again, no words were coming out.

“Do I get to kiss you, tonight?” With that he pulled back, his mouth agape, his lips crimson, and there was a hooded lust in his eyes that I’d never seen before.

I didn’t answer him, at least not verbally; instead I wrapped my arms around his neck and went in for the kill, so to speak. I think my boldness both shocked and aroused him further because when my lips hit his, and we finally kissed he let out a guttural moan that went straight through me. His hands went to my hips, holding me there, grazing his fingers along the material of my dress, my open coat allowing him such access. There was no sound at all, only us, only breaths. Breaths laboured and taken through millisecond escapes from long languorous kisses and forbidden touches.

My hands slipped from his neck, to his shoulders and then finally to his waist, the heat of his skin through his thin shirt made my head spin, or perhaps it was lack of air from our kissing? Either way I was feeling decidedly faint. His hands were still in my hair, trailing then down to my neck and finally to my hands where he grasped them both and we stood there, kissing still, holding each other up.

The sounds of Amelia and Sam coming back were the only thing that pulled us apart. We were too late to move from where we stood, so Eric turned us both around into the very darkest corner of the wall where he was sure we wouldn’t be seen. For the few minutes that it took Sam and Amelia to say goodnight, and to sweetly kiss each other goodnight – I was stood almost cradled in his arms. I’d never felt more safe in all my life. I hated to break it off, but needs must and what we were doing… in the cold light of day, I knew I would regret.

My friendship with him was already based on a lie; I couldn’t take anything any further on the same lie. It would be cruel to us both to do so, I knew that. So, I pulled myself out of his grasp, neither of us said a word as I slowly backed away, holding my breath until I reached the backdoor, he didn’t follow me, and for that I was thankful for if he had I really don’t want to think what we both might have done. Probably things that in the harsh light of day, we’d both regret, I’d worry about the things we had done in the morning, that night I’d just enjoy my high and sleep like a baby. I deserved that much at least.


Chapter 10: Chapter 10


A/N: Ah this writing mojo is a funny business! Nothing for days and days, and then suddenly a chapter pops up. I don’t understand it at all, but it means there is an update! Be a love and let me know what you all think of it? It’s adored as always! X

EPOV:

I could not sleep, not after that. It was as if my brain went into overdrive and could not shut itself off no matter what I did. All I could think of was her. How she smelled, how she tasted, how it felt to get that close to her. I had wanted to get close to her since I first saw her, but it soon turned into something more than simple attraction, and it became complicated for both of us. She had her rules that she was set on following, and I knew I wasn’t going to violate them, or her, by going against her wishes. But then we got closer anyway – in the emotional sense rather than the physical that I had first expected. I found I liked the idea of that better than what would have been a rushed release of hormones for both of us.

But now, I was hard, painfully so when engaged in that kiss – a kiss unlike any other I could remember giving or receiving in my life – and I had kissed my share of women. I couldn’t get how she tasted off my mind, how warm she felt to touch, and how soft and inviting her embrace was. I regretted nothing, not even the shame I felt when I allowed myself to take care of the painful erection I’d been sporting most of that night. Nor did I regret the thoughts of her that passed through my head as I did what I had to do. Sweet relief came, no pun intended, with thoughts of her, her gloriously plump lips, and what I imagined were her just as sweet and ample breasts, all there for the taking, my taking. The release helped, but only momentarily, because where my physical needs were sated for the time being, my emotional ones continued to run amok. As I tossed and turned for most of the night, giving up and getting up just before sunrise, I decided to take myself and my muddled thoughts out for some fresh air in the hopes it would clear some of the cobwebs.

What happened next was the real question. I had pushed my luck and somehow she gave in, but the look on her face as she backed away from me that night said otherwise. She regretted it, I could tell, and I wished that she didn’t because I didn’t know what to say or do to make her think otherwise. I knew, common sense told me that we could never work out, not really, and not out in the open, proud and shame free as I so wanted. I knew it, and Sookie knew it too. I hated that fact more than anything, but as Pam had reiterated, society was not changing as fast as we wanted it to, sadly.

I walked by the various markets, the hustle of the city starting up at just after six am, and I decided to pick up the morning newspaper for myself and head back to the house. I was sure she would avoid me, as was her nature when she panicked, but I had hoped that she would face me and we could at the very least discuss what had transpired between us the night before. A flash of how she kissed me came back to me as I took the steps to the main door two at a time, and God how I wanted it to be more than just a memory…

“Sir?” I was interrupted from my thought by Bobby holding up my new cufflinks to put in place before I went back down for breakfast. I found it a tad absurd that I was capable of dressing myself to leave the house but needed a man to assist when it was just inside? And for breakfast at that? I just didn’t understand the need.

“Yes … those. Thank you.”

“Sir if I may, Lady Annabel was inquiring after you today. She suggested a day in the park, if you are free of course.”

Why couldn’t she just ask me herself?

“I … um… I’ll have to see what Niall has planned first.” I had hoped he had many things on his agenda that he would need my help with, if only to keep our ‘alone time’ to a minimum where Annabel was concerned.

Sadly Niall left even before breakfast to go see a horse breeder in the country, leaving me to dine with the Lady and her awkward chaperone, Miss Holdston. The woman never spoke a word when I was present, and I was beginning to think she was a mute.

“I was thinking since it is such a nice day, we could perhaps take a walk together? You and I that is,” she suggested, as I knew she would. I put down the newspaper and took my teacup in hand, nodding.

“Perhaps it would … yes.”

She beamed, and it made me sad that I did not hold the same enthusiasm for her plan as she did. Overall I think I drowned out most of her chattering, that was until Sookie appeared in the doorway, tray in hand, and a rather nervous look on her face. I perked up instantly, and by the look on Annabel’s face it wasn’t a reaction she missed.

“Good Morning Sir … Lady Annabel … Miss Holdson.”

Holdson nodded, and went back to being fascinated by what was in her tea cup. Annabel merely nodded, and I spoke.

“Good morning Sookie,” I said as she came over to my side of the breakfast table to serve the food on her large tray.

“Sleep well?” I asked, causing Annabel to raise her head and look directly at Sookie, who now looked like a deer in headlights.

“I … I …” she looked from me, to the Lady, and back again. “I slept as usual, Sir. Peacefully.”

“Good, I’m glad to hear it. I’ll take the boiled.”

“I’m sorry?” she asked, clearly flustered as her cheeks were turning a nice shade of red, much like the red she turned when I kissed her. That colour suited her, very much.

“The eggs?”

OH!” she said, serving it up quickly, and moving on to the others, placing out the eggs, and the toast in the middle of the small table.

“If there is nothing else?” she asked, and I answered.

“No, this is wonderful, thank you.”

She nodded, biting her lip as she stepped back and out of the room, as silently as she entered it.

“What are you thanking her for? She’s just doing her job,” Annabel spoke up, and I glared at her unapologetically.

“Because I have a manner, that is why, something I thought a Lady was meant to possess in spades. Clearly I was wrong about that,” I said harsher than I had intended, but the one thing my parents raised me on was the importance of manners no matter whom or what you became. Her disregard for them only made me dislike her more.

She sat back on her seat, looking as chastised as I’ve ever seen a woman look, whereas I had suddenly lost my appetite for food.

“Excuse me.” I took my leave from the table, and before I was out of the room I heard Holdson finally speak, only to chastise her more on her manner, or lack thereof, I imagined.

I turned the corner to see the end of Sookie passing up the large staircase. I took my shot at speaking with her, hopefully alone, and climbed the same stairs in record time. I rounded the corner of the bedroom I had seen her enter, and before either of us had a chance to speak, I merely caught her by her hand and spun her closer to me, and in a step, against the wall.

I kissed her again before either of us had a chance to stop the other, and it was as glorious as the night before. She had dropped the fresh sheets she held in her hands, leaving her hands free to go to my face where she held me in place as each of us planted kiss after kiss, provoking small moans from the other. I pulled away, just mere inches, and only so I could move my focus to her jaw – she liked that – her grip on my shoulders got stronger when I would kiss her there, and moreso when I moved to her neck. The soft, shallow, breaths she was letting escape were shooting through me like a drug, a drug I wanted more of, a drug I would happily die of. I could feel the bones of her old style corset under her uniform and I wanted nothing more than to feel her body without it, without all of it in the way as it was.

“Wait … wait …” she said breathlessly, putting both her hands on my chest and pushing me back, I complied, but disappointedly.

“We shouldn’t be doing this … at all, never mind in here …” she whispered, looking around the room, and I realized we were in Lady Annabel’s room.

Oh.

“We could go to mine?” I suggested, aiming for her neck again but she stepped out of my gentle grasp.

“I …” she caught her breath as she stood further away, a panicked look on her face once again. “We … that …”

“Yes?” I asked, watching her squirm.

“I told you … I will not be your mistress.” She was stern when she wanted to be, I’d give her that.

Oh, yes, that.

“I know.”

“Good …Wait … if you know, why are you still … with the kissing?” she said, waving her hand at me frantically, as if to prove her point.

I shrugged, “Same question I should ask of you, really.”

“Meaning?”

“Well, if you still mean what you say, you still kissed me back, that means something too, you know?”

She grew pinker by the second, and gathered her fallen laundry in the meantime.

“Yes I suppose it does,” she said, fixing her hair that I had messed.

“And you want to kiss me again. I know you do.” My cocky words earned me a glare, one I was sure could freeze water.

“Now, Sookie, don’t lie to yourself, nor to me,” I said, as it was true there was nothing I loathed more than a liar. Approaching her gently like she was a spooked horse, as she looked about ready to run, I touched her cheek softly.

“I … never said I lied, I simply said it can’t … happen … again.” As she finished her sentence, I merely – innocently if you will – planted a soft kiss on her cheek, one that made its way to her mouth as she stopped talking. I felt her body go limp in my arms, and it was amazing. She gave in as I shut the door with one foot and moved us closer to the bed slowly. Our mouths in exploration of each other, soft kisses, wanton but somehow still gentle. I hated the fabrics of our clothing in those few moments, keeping me from what I wanted so desperately, and from the sounds of her reactions to my touch, something Sookie wanted just as badly, too. With a soft thud, her head hit the ruffled blankets on the bed. My weight on top of her causing her to moan a little louder, a sound that went straight to my groin, a sound that I would take pleasure in creating forever for her if only she’d let me. I knew she would not though, she was stubborn. I was sure one of the many things that turned me on about her, was the fact that she was so set in her ways, even from me. For a few glorious minutes we continued to touch and grind and kiss, and all too soon it was over, for she had come to her senses and pushed me away.

Eric…” she sighed as she stood, straightening her uniform and her hair once more. All the blood in my body had rushed to my dick and I was having a difficult time thinking, never mind stringing together words.

“I don’t regret wanting you,” I spoke up as she gathered her sheets once more.

“You should.”

“I don’t, and nor should you, we’re doing nothing wrong.”

She scoffed, but wouldn’t face me.

“Eric, there are things in my past, things that mean that this … between us … it can’t go beyond today. Do you understand?”

“Sookie, everyone has a past. I have one I am not proud of, and everyone has their secrets.”

Granted, some are worse than others, but I looked at her sweet angelic face, her lips pinkened and her cheeks flushed, and I couldn’t imagine anything in her past that would turn me away.

She sighed, and suddenly looked as if the weight of the world was on her delicate shoulders.

“I will not be your Mistress, and I cannot be your wife.”

Hard truths, but honest ones, and they made my heart sink at the reality she was speaking.

“I know…”

“So then you know, this has to stop. Now. You must stop what you think you feel for me and … I don’t know … focus on the young woman downstairs, the one that is infatuated with you, the one that society approves of. Your life would be easier if you did.”

“Easier yes, but miserable.”

She looked saddened then, and I knew she felt as heartbroken as I in those moments. She was a strong woman, stronger than she looked, and I had no doubt that her life had been a hard one. But she came through whatever it was she went through, and she came out the other side with class and dignity and a heart which was more than I could say for the girl downstairs.

“Then if not her, choose someone else,” she said, as if it were that simple.

“What if I choose you?” I asked as she made her way to the door. She turned and with tears in her pretty blue eyes, and she broke my heart.

“I’m not an option, Sir.”

SPOV:

When I made my exit from Lady Annabel’s room, I managed to hold in my tears until I got to the bottom of the staircase that led to the kitchen, and then I sobbed silently to myself. I knew what I was doing what stupid, knew that I was stupid for even getting emotionally involved with someone like Eric in the first place. I knew the one and only outcome was this one; no matter how far we went or how much my feelings grew for him, I knew everything was based on lies – my lies – and therefore I stood on shaky ground, ground that I knew would one day crumble.

I took the basket and changed my uniform, and just as quietly made my way into town. I thought that the walk would soothe me, or at the very least distract from my mind filled woes for a time. Little did I know that it would only add to them, ten fold. You see I took my time, in no real hurry to get back to the house or what awaited me there. I collected the pre-ordered meat from the butcher, as well as extra vegetables, all of which had gone up in price yet again from the week before. I really questioned the inflation prices if the war kept on going much longer, I dreaded to think how I might survive on my own again now, if Eric decided that my personal rejection of him, and us, warranted a professional dismissal. I doubted that he would be so petty, but one was never secure, not now. I had options of course, though none of them were particularly appealing. I could stay where I was, watch the man I very well may love marry another woman … another girl, and live as their maid as I watch him live a miserable life while I look on from the sidelines, or I could quit and throw my lot in with others, or maybe make things a thousand times worse by finding a crueller household, or none at all and become destitute. I could never be his mistress, I had too much pride for that, and he could never be my husband for many reasons, the main one being how ashamed he would be to his peers in the process, and how sullied his good name would become. I could never allow that to happen, not to Eric, because of me. Lost in my thoughts, I almost missed my name being called across the busy main street.

“Sookie?”

I turned and saw Pam sitting in a motor car not far from the markets, her driver gone and her maid also absent, she was waving with a smile on her face.

“Hello, how are you?” I asked as I approached, my smile mimicking hers.

“I’m well, and you?”

“I … muddling through. I am picking up a few extra pieces for dinner tonight, thankfully no guests other than Lady Annabel. You’ll be at the grand party on Saturday, I assume?”

She rolled her eyes. “Yes I have been summoned by Eric to be his gossip monger for the evening. There is nothing I like more usually, but I tire of the London scene so easily now. Come in, sit with me a minute?” She opened the back door to her large and ornate ‘car.’ Hers was a lot more feminine than I had recalled Eric’s to be. It was a shiny silver with black rims and large black tires. Eric’s had been black on black on black, sleek and cool, much like himself.

“I have a proposition for you, Sookie.”

“Oh?”

“Mmm, I like you very much, and I feel that we get along, don’t we?”

“We do…”

“Well you see, my Ladies Maid, Narcissi, she’s taken ill… Well, I say ill, the poor fool is married and pregnant and happy about it…” she sighed, “and as such she’s due any day now, and it leaves me without her vital services for at least three or four months. Now I have to discuss this with Niall, but, I feel you would be the best woman for the job. That is of course if you want it, and it would be temporary and you could come back to Niall … and Eric … at any time.”

“What if he doesn’t agree?”

“Who, Niall? Oh, he’ll agree, trust me, I have my way around Niall. He loves me, so he’d grant me anything I desired if I go about it the right way. But I wanted to know from you first. No point in asking if it’s not what you want.”

“And I’d come live with you?”

“Yes, well, for the time being. I’m organizing a small trip to France.”

I gulped, France … as in where the majority of the war was taking place?

“Oh…”

“Oh don’t fret, where my home is, is far, far from the front lines. I just need to be there for a few weeks, a month at most, to check on things, see old friends – basically show my face and my support. We would be perfectly safe. I assure you, I am in no hurry to get myself killed.” She smiled, and I knew that to be true, Pamela loved her life too much for that risk.

“In that case then, I would love to.”

“You sure? It’s a good wage, more than you make with Niall … much more, and let’s face it, I’m just much better company,” she winked.

“I’m sure, I need the change. But see with him first, I don’t want to ruffle any more feathers.”

She nodded, and I checked the time on my watch, I was late.

“I’d better be getting back,” I said as I exited the large vehicle as gracefully as I could with a basket full of goods. I was standing outside the car, and I glanced – merely glanced to my left and that’s when I saw him, I saw him and my heart stopped.

Bill.

“Sookie? Are you alright?” Pam asked, but my thoughts were far from her. What was he doing here? How was he here? Why? Was I the reason? Surely I had to have been the reason. The way I left things with him … I assumed he was dead. I hoped. But I knew, deep down inside somewhere that he wasn’t, that it had been too easy, all things considered, and I knew this day would come. And now it had, and I still almost lost my mind.

I panicked, and I looked to see Pam looking on her face full of concern for me. I made my excuses to Pam and apparently my basket full of food, and left as quickly as I could. It wasn’t until I reached the house, a good mile away, breathless and filled with terror, that I even realized I had forgotten it. It was the least of my worries however, with Bill on my tail. I knew then that I had to get out of there, and the sooner I did, the better it would be for everyone.


A/N : Go on, hit the little button of love! 😀


Chapter 11: Chapter 11


Hey guys! I see that Absolution doesn’t really appeal that much on here, huh? Oh well, can’t win them all! Onward! Chapter 11! You know the drill 😉

EPOV:

I paced the library, ignoring my long forgotten cup of tea that sat on the desk, and I paced some more. I had shunned Annabel earlier that morning in favour of torturing myself some more, alone, because I never did that enough it seemed.

I knew her position, Sookie’s that is. I knew hers and I knew mine and yet I wanted to disregard all I knew about my life, and what little I knew about hers and just say ‘to hell’ with it all and make her see that it would work if we wanted it to. I wanted nothing more than to be able to take her into my arms free of concern for what others might think of us, take her there and keep her safe. But, I knew things were a lot more complicated than that, and to simply ignore all I knew of society and her expectations – as well as what Pam had driven home in her little lecture, that it would indeed follow us and our children should there be any, forever. I hated that small but important truth. It was of no matter, I realized because no matter what I wanted – she didn’t want it… or me as it turns out. I was not so used to rejection, at least not from women, it had been a good long while since that had happened, and even longer still since it had happened with a woman that I wanted more from than simple carnal pleasures. I was also not so used to feeling so attached to a woman, a woman that I had only known a short while at that. It was a very confusing time for me, that’s for sure.

“Sir?” I looked from the window to see Amelia standing by the desk, a tray of fresh tea in hand.

“Oh, thank you, Amelia. Is it that time already?”

“It is,” she smiled leaving the tray down with a few sandwiches and another paper next to it. I really was spoiled here. “If there’s anything else?” She asked.

“No, that’s lovely, thank you.”

She curtsied and turned to leave, but I needed some information out of her first.

“Amelia?”

“Yes, Sir?”

“Have you…” I cleared my throat lightly and continued, “Have you seen Sookie this afternoon?”

“No, well I saw her just before she left for town, but since there I’ve been busy as a bee in the kitchen, I think she had the bedrooms to do…which she’s done because well…they’re done. But I haven’t seen her, why? Need something?”

I looked at her and I wondered just how much Sookie had shared with her, if anything at all. I had to be cautious. Amelia was a nice girl, but gossip spread and soon became a guessing game with false truths.

“I… no not specifically, I was just curious.”

She smiled, it was a knowing smile.

“Forgive me for speaking out of turn, Sir, but you seem to be awfully curious when it comes to Sookie, specially.”

I nodded. So it was that obvious then?

“Yes, you could say that.”

“She’s not like some girls, you know? She’s not like Dawn…”

I closed my eyes, annoyed that everyone seemed to know and disapprove of that little detail.

“Yes, I know that too.”

“So then you know that she just wants to get on with things? She has no delusions of grandeur, Sir. Nor any romantic notions of whatever it is you’re feeling for her to become, and I know you feel something for I see it – we all see it – when you look at each other.

“Is this the part where you tell me that liking her is a terrible idea and that nothing can ever become of us because of our respective ‘places’ in society?” I sighed and she took a step back.

“I would but it seems you’re already well versed in that song, Sir.”

I nodded, sitting on the edge of my desk, and I motioned for her to take a seat by the desk, which she did. I took a large bite out of my cheese and ham sandwich, enjoying the taste, but with my mind still racing the enjoyment was short lived.

“I just don’t know what to do.” I said with a mouthful of food, it made her giggle.

“I’m sure she doesn’t either.”

“What has she told you?” I was curious to know.

“Honestly? Nothing at all. She’s been as silent as a church mouse on the subject of you, on a lot of subjects come to that. But, it’s as obvious to me as the nose on her face that she feels something for you, and let’s face it all those mysterious walks you two go on, well, it does get people talking.”

“We were just walking! I swear it.”

That made her giggle too.

“You don’t have to justify anything to me, Sir. But, others do talk, and those who don’t talk are still watching.”

I assumed she meant Niall.

“I see…”

“I know nothing of how far things have…advanced with you both, but, for both your sakes I would just advise you both to be careful. You’re a good person, from what I’ve seen of you in your time with Lord Niall. And from what I’ve seen of Sookie, well, she’s been burned before, and she’s a good woman and a good friend, and I wouldn’t like to see you…or anyone…” she added as an afterthought, but this was still very much a friendly threat, “to hurt her again. And if you care about her … I see that you do, you wouldn’t want to hurt her either, right?”

I nodded.

“Then I think you both need to figure out what’s best for both of you, in the long run, and whether that includes the other.”

She excused herself and left me with my tea, and my even more muddled thoughts.

Wonderful.

I sighed and bit into my sandwich, and if there was sad way to bite, I was sure I achieved that sadness.

SPOV:

I was panicking. I was also working at twice my usual speed because my mind was spinning and the only way I could focus my thought was to focus my hands on something to keep me from over-thinking. I managed to get all the bedrooms done in under an hour and I made a healthy start on the downstairs library. Those books got so dusty! I was halfway through the first cabinet when the doorbell went, and I heard Pam’s voice talking to Amelia who had opened the door for her. I hurried to the hallway to find her standing there, slowly shedding her coat, I noticed the basket I’d left behind was sitting on the floor.

“Sookie, you forgot this earlier. I would have brought it over sooner but I had errands to run before I get ready to leave for my trip. I’m here to see Niall.” She said as Amelia nodded, looking from both me and then to Pam, a look in her eye that told me she wanted to know later what was happening. After much pandering, Pam got Niall alone in his office and I stood at the crack in the door and I listened into the conversation, the conversation all about me.

“Really? Why not just hired from the agency, there are plenty of women looking for new work, Pamela.”

“Well,” Pam sighed, “You know how hard it is to find good help these days; with the war it’s every woman in petticoats thinking she can be a ladies maid, and we both know that’s just not true. There is a skill to it, and you have to have a certain temperament, Sookie and I get along, it’s a good match.”

“I see. Well it is true that you and she seem agreeable in your personalities, I suppose it helps you’re both flighty Americans.” I heard Niall smile and his seat squeak. “I agree to it.”

“You do?”

“Yes. She’s … well she’s a distraction for Eric too. A distraction he can’t afford to be indulging right now, so perhaps getting her out of the way will force him to see that his future is… elsewhere.”

My heart sank at his observation, but I cannot say it wasn’t an expected one. After all, it was something I had been thinking and saying ever since this thing with Eric began to take legs.

“And she’s welcome back when my –”

“Oh, yes of course, of course. A few months should be sufficient for me to get Eric on side, to make him see that Annabel is where he should be focusing his time and energy, not some servant girl.” I heard him stand, “But, as you said, it is a pain to find good help and she is good at her job – very good. She’s quick and clean, and she’s got manners that girl, which is more than I can say for most. It’s hard to find, so yes. Once I have things with Eric settled and put to bed – so to speak – it should be no problem to have her come back and work for us.”

I loved that he thought he could control Eric, as if he were some horse out to stud or something ridiculous, he had to have known that Eric wasn’t one to be pushed and prodded, he had to have known since I knew Eric only a fraction of the time his Lordship had, and even I knew that much.

“Well I don’t think –”Pam began but Niall cut her off.

“No, you’re right, it is a good idea, yes, I agree to it. When do you leave?”

“Uh, we leave for the ship tomorrow evening.”

“Excellent, more than enough time for the agency to send me another maid in the meantime I just ask that you bring her back in once piece, heading to France in a time like this. It can’t be safe, Pamela.”

“We’ll be fine, we’d be in no more danger there than here, they are everywhere now after all.”

I heard shuffling, and decided that it was best if I make my exit before they came out of the room. So, I headed to the kitchen, where I found no one but Amelia, crying.

Oh, Lord.

Forty five minutes of comforting a forlorn Amelia on the subject of Sam and their relationship status, I was summoned by the room bell, to Eric’s room.

When I got up there, Pam was sprawled across his bed, a bored look on her face, as Eric stood by the window. He didn’t look at me as I walked in, and Pam merely sighed and rolled her eyes.

“He’s not happy I’m taking his favourite toy away,” She said as she stood.

“Pam –”He chastised his tone cutting.

“Oh come on, she knows I’m joking, she’s not a toy, and if she is she’s one that won’t let you play.”

He glared at her as I looked between them.

“I think it’s a good idea, I need to get some time away to clear my head anyway –”

“But…France? As in France where most of the war is being fought right as of now that France? It’s there where you must clear your thoughts?” He asked his temper no longer under control.

“It’s just for a few weeks, until I get the house and the contents – what’s left of them anyway, sorted out, then we come back to London safe and sound.” Pam interjected though I had a feeling she was merely repeating herself.

“Why go at all? Why not send one of your men to do it for you, I’d really rather you did that, I do not see the point in –”He said.

“Eric I didn’t ask you for your opinions on my actions, it is my home and I wish to see it safe, and I have friends returned from war – some in pieces might I add – that I also wish to see safe, forgive me for not consulting you but it is none of your business. I’m merely telling you now because Sookie has agreed to accompany me for the duration of the stay, as my Ladies Maid since my own is now on leave until she has her infant.”

He looked to me, his eyes full of concern and possibly anger.

“You agreed? So you want to get yourself killed then?”

“Oh, Eric, calm the dramatics will you? It’s not as if we’re going to be digging the trenches for heaven sakes.”

“Well you may as well, travelling to Paris alone in this day and age and in the middle of a God damn war!”

Pam rolled her eyes, “You know of my house, you know my staff and you know as well as anyone how well protected we will be.”

I did not know anything about her forms of protection, but imagined money said a lot more in those circles than in most others, especially at a time like this.

A few more exchanged glances later, and Pam excused herself leaving only Eric and I in a room filled with unsaid words. He ran his hand through his short blond hair, his brow wrinkled as he paced the floor. He liked to pace, I noticed.

“Sookie, you don’t … you know have to go. If this is one of Pam’s crazy ideas, and you’re just going along with it so you won’t upset her, just know that if you say no, she won’t be mad.”

I folded my arms, the thought that he thought I could be so easily led, annoyed me.

“It’s not that.”

“Is it because of me, then? Because of the things I’ve said? The things we’ve done?” He said an air of uncertainty in his voice, an air I was not used to hearing from him. He was always so self assured and confident in his speech, even when sad or angry, but this, he just seemed confused.

“Honestly, it’s partly that, partly… I just need some space. It’s not often girls like me –” and I was a ‘girls like me’ girl now, I always had to remind myself I wasn’t the girl that grew up on a small plantation farm, with money and nice things, with two successful working parents. I was the maid, and if I wanted to keep my job and my freedom, it was a maid I’d stay.

“Sookie, if you want to travel all you have to do is say –”

“Eric… Stop.”

He turned and looked at me, his eyes so full of disappointment.

“We cannot keep having this conversation, its hell, on both of us. I don’t want to be saying these words anymore than either of us wants to hear them, but we need to hear them. The reality of the situation is, I’ve been offered a job for a time, one that allows me to see a little of the world.”

“That is at war, or have you forgotten?”

“No, I haven’t. How could I forget? But, Pamela assures me we’ll be safe, and it is just for a short while until she squares everything away. Besides, you do have other concerns, much more pressing and relevant concerns if I recall correctly, like taking a suitable wife.”

“Please don’t start that again, I just…can’t.”

“Fine,” I sighed in return. “That’s fine. But you know it’s expected of you now, and fooling around with me –”

“It wouldn’t be fooling around, this isn’t a joke to me, Sookie.” He said with a serious look spreading across his ridiculously handsome face as he came closer to me.

“I know that…” I whispered. “Or at the very least I hoped it wasn’t.”

“So, then you know that I’m saying this and acting like an idiot because I… I just don’t want you to go.” With that he ran both his hands down my arms, sending a shiver through me. I wanted nothing more than to fall into his arms, and stay there. But, I knew I couldn’t.

“Eric, you’re very sweet.” I tried to reason; I knew I had to go. Now just because of the upset that may have happened if he and I carried on, but the complete mess that would arise if Bill found me, and in turn ruined everything anyway.

“I’m also very serious, please, just stay, just stay and let Pam go off on her stupid trip with her friends herself. I’m sure there are suitable Lady’s Maids in France still. Stay here where you’re safe.”

He was truthful in his requests, and the earnest look in his loving blue eyes told me more than anything else. I wanted nothing more than to spare his heart the pain of my lies, and if that meant going, then it was what it was.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Eric. It’s the last thing I want. And if we continue this way, I know one of us; perhaps both of us, will end up hurting and in the end resenting each other for things –”

“What things?” He asked, still holding my arms in place softly, rubbing his fingers up and down in a slow comforting motion.

“Lots of things, things that –”

“May or may not ever happen. We don’t know, and that’s what this is about, Sookie. The unknown.”

I shook my head, his idealistic notions were romantic but I was a realistic woman.

“I haven’t been truthful to you and I can not in good conscience continue …this.” I motioned, backing away slowly. “I’m sorry.”

He looked hurt, and even more confused if it were possible.

“I don’t understand…in what ways have you been deceitful?”

“Too many to count. Which is why this ends, and I go. And when I come back…” If I come back, I thought to myself.

“You’ll be with Annabel on the way to a life that is acceptable.”

He narrowed his brows at me, his expression turning angry.

“How dare you tell me what I am to do, are you just like the rest of them? Are you? Giving me orders like it is your right!”

“No, but you know I am right, this will never work don’t you understand? No matter how I feel about you inside, it doesn’t matter because everything else smothers those feelings with … fact.”

“And the fact is you’re just a lying servant girl, is that right?”

His words hurt me, so much so that I felt tears in my eyes. But, if what it took was for him to hate me, then so be it. At least he would hate me for my own reasoning and not my lies, my deceit, and then there was Bill who was still very much alive despite my earlier thinking. It was a disaster, and I had to get away from it, getting away from it meant keeping Eric out of it too, so it had to happen.

“That’s exactly it.” I said as I turned and left him for the second time that day. I would keep out of his way until I had my things packed and my transportation arrived to bring me to Pamela’s townhouse, from there we would leave, and by morning I would be a country away from Eric Northman, my worries and pains however, they travelled with me.

What was next for me, I had no idea, but I was willing to find out if it meant keeping those I cared about safe from the pains of my violent past.


Chapter 12: Chapter 12


Hey guys! Chapter 12 is ready for you! I’ve had a dodgy few days with this ‘surprise’ cold that just pounced on me, but it’s starting to fade, so fingers crossed I’ll be back to full speed again in no time! In the meantime, a little WW1 drama awaits for you. Press the little button of love if you feel so inclined! 😀

SPOV:

I had finished putting away some of Pamela’s newest purchases, and sat down for my afternoon cup of tea while she took her bath. It had been almost three weeks since we’d arrived in France, and I was just beginning to get into a routine where my work was concerned. The journey over was far from easy. Pam didn’t travel well by sea, and as such spent most of the journey trying to keep the contents of her stomach down. She swore left right and centre she would be a world traveller even if it killed her, and by the looks of her during that trip she might have been right about that, thought I hoped she was wrong. When she finally found her sea legs we were able to enjoy the remainder of the trip for what it was, the last remains of the pre-war world. In which Ladies were still treated like Ladies, and Gentlemen were still attempting to be Gentlemen, because once we got to France it was very clear things were changing, and fast.

Eighty miles in to the Capital city there were trenches, no one really offered an honest answer on any questions we had, and those that did seemed sketchy at best. It was a fright, to say the least, being so far from home and at least in my case being unable to speak the native tongue. There was also a somewhat callous attitude to the war itself, which confused me, we were it seemed, a lot more sympathetic back home and in England, but then maybe that was just their way of dealing with it all. I suspected, it didn’t mean they weren’t feeling the loss of all their young men to that horrible and almost certain death within the war, it was just their way of dealing with things. Little things took some getting used to, like their language for instance, that was a huge adjustment for this Louisiana girl. They also had a vast rage of candy and chocolate stores, which were not great for the waist line, but because of the war they were closed two days out of the week, as suspected the ration business was just as serious, if not more there, as it was back where we came from. Rations were placed on things like flour and sugar, and bread of course, but the food; in general the food had surpassed my expectations in so many ways. They say people go to Paris to fall in love, but I was beginning to think they meant with the food, for I for one was in love.

Pam’s home on the other hand was also shocking but for so many …other reasons. When she told me that she longed to embrace a more Bohemian way of life, I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked when I realized that it was here, that she embraced such ways. Her home was as sumptuous as I had expected that was for sure, but what was absent was the traditionalist manner in which it was run. Here there were no uniforms for example, and the guests never announced themselves or expected special attentions, they came and they went and little fuss was made if they did so. There were also no set meal times, and the staff was small, consisting of just a cook and a driver, and I suppose, myself. Lafayette Reynolds her ‘chef’ hailed from Louisiana, though he had been living in France for many years himself, as an only child living in a new country found himself housebound a lot as a child and it was there he learned to love cooking. He had befriended Pam and the two had become close, he worked for her part time, and part time in a well to do area as a cook. He was a tall, black man, with strong shapely arms and a warm smile – and a penchant for wildly coloured scarves on his head while he cooked in the heat. He was a friendly, tactile man, and it took a little getting used to as well, as it was safe to say that tactile was the word of the day when it came to those in Pam’s household. If I didn’t know any better I would say she had the beginnings of a brothel house on her hands at times. Pam it seemed was all about sharing and caring, and I didn’t just mean in her weekly donations to the poor. Her ‘guests’ often shared rooms, and often they all just shared one room – hers. At first, I will admit I was stunned, it was not as if I did not know what was going on behind those closed doors, and even though everyone was of age and seemed happy to be doing what I imagined they were doing, it still didn’t sit well with me at first. How I was raised, it just wasn’t like that, not at all. A woman was to marry and be intimate with only her husband. At least, as a girl that’s what I believed, and I held true to it as well. But as the world opened up before my eyes, and in some ways crumbled at my feet with its startling reality, I began to question just whose teachings I should have been paying heed to.

“I was really pleased Sarah was able to make me those, the cost of the silk import hurts me, but the beauty of those dresses… I can live with it.” Pam sighed as she took another look at her

“I suppose with the tax costs, everything is that much more expensive now.”

“Very true, I haven’t treated myself in a while so I can justify it all nicely.” She giggled, pulling out a light blue dress with lovely lace work, it was an older dress, one I had unpacked for her when we first arrived.

“Would you like this? We’re about the same size, I think… I think this would suit your colouring too.”

I smiled, knowing she didn’t ‘believe’ in uniforms for her employees, that she hated them and said they were restrictive, even if the French Maid style of uniform ‘turned her on’. It meant that every day I had to have something of my own to wear, clean and pressed and presentable. It was more trouble than it was worth most days, but I had to admit that I liked being treated as an equal again; it had been a long time since I could be just, myself.

“Oh, it’s pretty… I like that.”

“Try it on, you’ve got bigger breasts than I have but it shouldn’t be an issue.”

“You were noticing my breasts again?” I scoffed.

She looked, a lot. She was actually worse than Eric in that regard and she wasn’t half as subtle. She just laughed rolling her eyes.

“Of course.”

I just shook my head, it was just a joke between us at that point, but I was glad we could be humorous together.

“You miss him, don’t you?” She asked and it took me by surprise a little.

“I don’t know who you –”

“Yes you do, don’t lie. Eric, as if I need to tell you.”

I sighed and continued my folding.

“Sookie?”

“It’s for the best okay?” I offered after a few more seconds of silence. “He and I can’t go any further, so why bother torturing ourselves like that? It’s not right, it’s not fair – to either of us.”

“He misses you.” She stated calmly.

“You can’t know that.”

“I can, he wrote me.”

I turned to face her at that little confession.

“Really?” I asked trying not to sound too happy about it, but secretly, I suppose I was really pleased that he cared.

“Yes, and he talked a lot about you and how you both left things. He’s confused, Sookie. Eric hates being confused, it drives him nuts, and he loves knowing just exactly what he’s meant to do and he does it. This? This is not good for him.”

“Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong, he still knows what he’s meant to do, this time though he just doesn’t want to do it, not really.”

“With Lady –”

“Yes with her or whatever other Lady I’m sure Niall would deem suitable. I am not suitable.”

Fuck Niall!”

“I’d rather not…” I said confused at her choice of words.

“No… I mean fuck him and his ancient opinions, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. This is just the question, the one question that matters… Do you miss Eric?”

She sat in the chair that sat in front of her opulent dressing table and mirror, the lights around the mirrors framing her beautiful face in a way that I hadn’t noticed before. She was earnest, and she meant what she was saying, so I decided to be just as honest.

“Yes. Of course I miss him. I hated the way I left things Pam, simply hated it. I never intended to…start anything with him – with anyone – and things just began to… escalate so fast and if I hadn’t have left, it would only have been worse for us, in the long run.”

“Oh, Sookie… I think you need to just talk to him, just even through a letter, you don’t have to see him now, so it might be easier? The distance might make it that much less difficult to express what you need to say.”

“I don’t think he wants to hear from me, Pam; the way I left things with him… we weren’t even speaking by the time I left in your motorcar. He wouldn’t even come downstairs. Maybe it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie?”

She sighed, I sighed, and we both looked back to our previous distractions. Here the paper on her desk, and I hid myself in her closet a while longer. She called me out about ten minutes later, where I noticed she had taken her hair down for dinner, and picked out a red and black dress too with matching shoes.

“I’m having a few people over for the night…” she said and I knew by now what that meant. Normally it would mean I had at least three bedrooms to set up, but in Pam’s home, it was almost always only the one bedroom – her bedroom – that was in use. We didn’t discuss what went on, but we both knew that I knew, and we both knew that I wasn’t to be one sitting in judgement of how she lived her life; it was after all none of my business. I wouldn’t press the issue until she brought it up, if she brought it up at all.

“How many for breakfast then?”

She grinned as I fixed her shoes, finishing her relaxed but as always very polished look for the evening.

“We’ll have to see who survives the night.”

I laughed a little because it was true, whatever went on in that room of hers most people who stayed were always late for breakfast, or Lafayette told me.

“You want to join us?” She asked, as she always did, and my answer was always the same. No.

“But thank you for offering.”

She shrugged before standing to admire herself in the mirror.

“Well, you know you’re more than welcome, I don’t run things like the old fuddy duddies.”

Of that I was very much aware.

“I know…thank you.”

“Okay, good night then, Sookie.”

“Yes. Good night.” I said as I made my way to the door.

“Oh and Sookie?”

“Yes?”

“There is some writing stationery and some ink pens in the closet by the stairs, you know, in case you’re feeling…wordy.”

With a knowing smile, she left for her night with her ‘friends’ and I was left with a lot to contemplate.

EPOV:

“Thor? Come on boy, come on!” I said out by the gardens, giving him a good run around with the rubber ball I’d been throwing to him for at least a half an hour when the rain started to pour down. It had been a month since Sookie’s departure, and in that time I had taken my leave in London to attend to some things back in Scotland. Well, that was lie, I had taken my leave just to take my leave, and I needed a break from all of them. From Niall and Annabel, from the rest of the London crowd in truth too. I was simply just tired of it all and needed the silence that I knew the hills of rainy Scotland could provide. I looked around the vast estate, that I was to one day call my own and I still was at odds with myself over whether or not I could in good faith accept Niall’s offer. He didn’t have any other family, and if willed to me, I would own everything outright. It was a rather terrifying thought. I loved it there, no doubt. The quiet and solitude warmed my soul, even if the freezing rain froze just about everything else. But, it was also a lonely place when it wanted to be, full of people you did not really know or care to know, or worse, full of people you did not like. But, there were a select few that came along like a breath of fresh air, like Amelia that cared little about airs and graces, much like Sookie and Pam too. I had taken some time to write to Pamela, in hope that she would write back with news of Sookie too, I wasn’t too subtle in that regard, but it was Pam and if anyone understood the need to be blunt, it would be her.

I hated how she and I left things, after the final conversation I had taken to hiding in the library to avoid her, I didn’t want to say goodbye, I didn’t want to see her after such a rejection. And now, I regretted my actions because I missed her face, and her voice and I wanted to know that she was okay. When I got inside with Thor, shedding my wet jacket, I found Dawn in my study, leaving mail on my desk, as well as a hot cup of tea.

“Thank you.” I said, letting her pass.

“You’re welcome, is there anything else while I’m here?” she asked, and such an innocent question it was, when asked by anyone else but with her it meant something else entirely.

I looked at her sharply, I had thought we had moved past this, but clearly I had been mistaken.

“No, thank you…”

“Eric, you know it’s not right, you being up here all by yourself all day with no one to talk to. It’s just not healthy.” She looked concerned I’ll give her that much, but I was scared in truth to get too comfortable with her again, after the last time I got far too comfortable and all hell broke loose.

“I’m fine.”

“I know that, but really, it’s good to be around people, people that care about you….”

“Like who?”

“Like… me.” She said, shyly, a small smile on her soft face. Dawn really was a beautiful girl, she just wasn’t very sane, and I had made a mistake in leading her on like I had. Things in my head hadn’t really been all that straight when I literally fell into bed with her that night so long ago now, but it had come back to haunt me ever since.

“Dawn, I appreciate …your kindness. I really do, so please don’t take this the wrong way…”

“I care about you, Eric. That’s all I’m saying here. I care.”

I nodded, “And for that, I thank you, it’s very sweet but I just…we …” I held my hands up, “this is as far as that caring goes, I need to make that clear.”

Again.

She nodded, fixing her apron in a fidgeting motion.

“Dawn I don’t want to hurt you here, you’re a great girl, you’re beautiful and everything any man could possibly want –”

“But I’m not what you want, am I?”

I didn’t answer her, how could I say that? Say that no, you’re not what I want. I wasn’t a cruel man.

“I hope you find it then, whatever it is you’re looking for, Eric.”

“I’m sorry, Dawn, I –”

“No, don’t do that. Don’t be sorry, you’re not sorry, so please don’t pretend to be.”

She left with a sour look on her face and yet again I was left to contemplate my actions. I found it ironically humorous that the two women currently in my life that I had an intimate history were the complete opposite of each other in just about every way possible, if you didn’t count their job title that is. The one I wanted desperately – didn’t want me, and the one I knew I had to avoid was the one that was in a sense, chasing after me with all she had. I tried to ignore it all and filtered through my mail, my train tickets sat to my left and I knew I’d soon have to start packing. I was bound for Sweden, to check on the business there. I hadn’t been in over a year, so I dreaded the thought as to what I might be facing. Having lost most of my younger workers to mandatory enlisting, I knew the business would suffer and not just money wise.

Then I found one letter in a hand writing I didn’t recognize. I opened it swiftly, and found it to be from Sookie.

Sookie of all people, this I wasn’t expecting at all. I smiled as I noted her delicate handwriting, and what seemed to be her well thought out words. She said she wrote to me, to hopefully clear the air, and that she hated how she left things with me. She told me of their traumatic journey and how Pam had been ill. I had suspected as much, Pam did not travel well, least of all on boats. She told me of Paris and her impressions, and then she told me of her regrets towards me. Wishing that she had not acted the way she had but ‘given her circumstances’ she saw no other way around things. I longed to know what those circumstances were, I knew she had a past – as we all did, but something told me that in hers lay something dark, something that scared her so deeply that she feared it would ruin the rest of her life. I could have been a bastard and pushed to know, but I also know that if Sookie was anything like me, that pushing and demanding something from her would only make her revert further into her shell. I revered into myself in times of trouble, I had seen that in myself more recently than ever, but then she came along and slowly pried it open without so much of a scratch. I had come out of my shell for her, without even realizing it. I longed for that feeling again, one that I knew now only she could provide me. In her letter she asked for my forgiveness, for her behaviour, and that she hoped to one day be able to ‘explain things to me without repercussion’. She aimed to make light of things too, saying that she was doing this for those reasons, of wanting to fix things between us and to give me something new to read in her absence, for like her fondness of walking she knew of my fondness for reading. I smiled imagining her face as she wrote her little joke, before she signed off with a large elegant ‘S’ at the end of her page.

I had so much to say to her, things that needed to be said but not by letter. I needed her to know that I accepted that she had her secrets, just as I had mine, and that in time if she wanted, I would gladly be there to hear them. I had learned a long time ago that there was rarely a person that came without some sort of emotional baggage. I myself had tons of it, so I knew only too well how easy it was to acquire. I pondered my desire for a time, before I realized I wouldn’t, nor could I; put it off until she came back – if she came back at all. I thought of Dawn and the heartbroken look on her face as I rejected her, and I wondered if that’s how I looked to Sookie. Either way, she had reached out to me again, she had taken the time to write down the feelings she couldn’t express to my face, and it sounded like she wanted to fix things. I wanted to fix things too, but how? Nothing had changed since she left; I was still expected to marry someone I held no romantic feelings for, and she was still held a class status that would be frowned upon by everyone, should we make things official. The inner torment was tiring to say the least, we both knew these things, and yet there it was in black and white, in her elegant hand, telling me that she cared for me, and that regretted how things were left between us. Surely those reasons if nothing else meant that she wanted a different outcome for us both? That it meant that if I could quell her regret in some way, surely I should do it? I made a note for Bobby to add to my travel itinerary, one way or another I would find out for myself, in France.


Chapter 13: Chapter 13


Hi guys! Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments and reviews last chapter, it really keeps the engine chugging, so you’re awesome for that. I come with an extra long chapter, with extra goodness. And maybe something a little …unexpected. Any questions, comments, concerns are welcome as always! xox

SPOV:

In my weeks in the sweltering Paris heat I’d learned many a thing. I had grasped a few choice phrases to get me around the city, to shop for the necessary items for the house, and even at times, for myself. Lafayette had been a huge help with it all though, and without him the days I had off would not have been half as much fun as they ended up being.

With him I had rediscovered my love for baking, since being Pamela’s Lady’s Maid was not a very time consuming job. She spent most of her days in just her robes for starters. It left me with chunks of free time, and since Lafayette was really the only other person I knew in the whole city, it made sense for me to stick close by him. We would spend hours in Pam’s vast kitchen, just cooking and baking, each of us trying to outdo the other. We had to be creative though; rations were still placed on a lot of key items, so I decided to improvise with my baking recipes. I ended up creating lots of goodies that ended up sugar free, and just as tasty, if not more so. And, judging by the fact that Lafayette all but inhaled a batch of my sugar free chocolate cookies, I’d say they turned out great. ”

“C’est fabuleux Mon Cher!”

“Really?” I beamed, I was whipping up a batch of applesauce ones next, using up the leftover sauce from one of his creations for dinner that evening.

“Oui! Mmm.” He said devouring another one, “I can’t believe there isn’t sugar in these or hardly any salt! I urge you to serve these as part of desert tonight, I think they would go down a treat!”

“Oh, no I couldn’t. I’m just practicing for right now…” I shook my head, rolling up the sleeves of my dress to stir the thick mixture some more.

“Well, I think they would be a hit. This crowd that Pam rolls with, they like new things, they crave it, and the war has given them little to be excited about. This is a new form of…almost fat free cooking. Those women would love that!”

“But they aren’t fat free…”

“No, but they’re sugarless which is just about the same thing. You think of anything else, you let me know!” With that he disappeared upstairs and I was left to my own devices for a half an hour or so. I liked having time to myself, usually, but lately it just gave me too much time to think. Since writing to Eric two weeks before, I had heard nothing from him. Not that I was surprised in the least though, the way I had left things I wouldn’t have blamed him one little bit if he choose to ignore me in favour of his teenage bride to be.

I sighed at the thought; I both pitied her and envied her all at once. She was a girl and he wanted a woman, that much was obvious, but she was also a young girl that could give him all the things I couldn’t and I knew I had no business pining for something that I could never have, not properly anyway. And if I couldn’t have something honestly then I didn’t deserve it at all. I remembered my mother used to say that about things back home. If we couldn’t earn them honestly, then we didn’t need them.

“You look deep in thought.” Pam said from the doorway.

“Oh…I was kind of. Good afternoon.”

“Good afternoon to you too. Could I get a cup of coffee? Is there any left from the ration?”

“There should be, Lafayette has been saving it.”

“It’s why I love him.” She smiled taking a seat at the table next to me. “He’s been telling me about your cooking. And, I think he’s right, I think you need to showcase your talents tonight, Sookie.”

“Tonight?”

“Mmhmm. The party I’m throwing, there’s some very important people are coming, some high ranking army men too, and their ladies of course.”

“Of course,” I smiled.

“It’s a small gathering, but I think it’s necessary, all my friends have been hankering for one of my parties since we got back in town, there are restrictions of course, but it should be a good time. There will be music too.”

I nodded, I had no doubt that it would be an eventful night, I just wasn’t so confident in my food being the centre of it all.

“In all seriousness, why let them go to waste?”

I mulled it over, since being here I had reignited my love for food, and I hoped that some of the things I was taught as a girl had stayed with me. What would be the harm in just seeing if other people liked them? All things were in place, the ‘small get together’ was planned, and for Pam a small gathering meant no less than ten people. By eight dinner was served to them and they were more than in a merry mood by the time my deserts rolled around. Lafayette gave me a wink as he passed me in the hallway, where I had stood, curious to see how things were received. I heard lots of ‘mmm’s’ and ‘ahh’s’, although given it was a Pam party that could have meant any manner of things. I made my exit to my room, where I read for an hour at most, when Pam came into the room, with a smile on her face.

“You have to join the party. They think I’m a mean ogre keeping the creator of such sweetness locked down here in her dungeon.”

“I couldn’t.”

She rolled her eyes, eyeing the dress she’d given me.

“Put it on and come downstairs.”

“Pam no!” I protested as she threw it at me, it landed in a heap at my feet on the bed. She was persistent if nothing else, that was for sure.

“Sookie, yes, Come on, I’ve been raving about my little piece of Southern Gold all night, they want to meet the woman that’s created such amazing little pieces of baked heaven, and on a sugar ration.” She quirked her brow at me, and threw the dress in my direction.

“Pam this is a very sheer dress. You’ll see my corset.” I said, examining the stunning blue silk and lace dress.

“Well that usually means one thing, darling.”

“Which is?”

“No corset.” She said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

“No…Corset? Pam, I’d be…naked without it.”

“I can get you a slip if you’d like, I like these fashions better, and they’re so much more freeing.”

I was mortified at the thought. She left the room and came back, a silk garment in her hands.

“Come on, we don’t have all night. Come up for a few drinks at the very least.”

With that she took my hand, stood me up and began yanking the buttons on the back of my uniform, and helped me shrug it off my shoulders.

“Your corset is such an old style, how are you able to move around in it?” she queried taking in my undergarments.

“I’m used to it.”

“It might do you some good to get some real air in your lungs.” With that she fingered the ribbons out of my underwear and it freed my corset up so I could take it off. Before spending time with Pam the idea of being naked in front of another person, man or woman filled with terror, but her freeing attitude gave me a sense of freedom in myself. I let both the dress and the undergarment fall at my feet, ignoring the look on Pam’s face as she took me in. I took the white silk slip that she had fetched from the airing cupboard and slid it on. I still felt naked but she was right, at least I could breathe. Then I slipped on the dress which she helped to button and zip up, slower than most. I knew Pam found me attractive, it was hard to ignore when she made it as obvious as she did, and I wasn’t sure what I thought of it. Years before if I thought a woman wanted me in such a way, I was sure I would have felt disgust or panic for even entertaining the mere idea, never mind expanding what it might be like in my thoughts. Now though, I thought of it as a compliment that someone as beautiful as her would think of me in such ways, I didn’t encourage her, but I didn’t stop it either, and if I was being honest, I liked the attentions, I liked them very much.

I finished touching up the curls on my hair and borrowed a little of Pam’s makeup to give me a little more of a polished look before I descended on the party. Since arriving and beginning working ‘with’ Pam, I’d had my eyes opened to so many things. She lived her life the way she wanted, and didn’t give a damn what anyone else in society thought if they found out – which of course they did, but no one talked about it. Pam introduced me to her acquaintances. They weren’t her friends and most of them weren’t even really her ‘speed’ or so she said, far too close minded for her liking, but she indulged them none the less. They seemed rather taken with me, or I should say – with my baked creations. When I told them most were lower in fat than the usual incarnations, the ladies in particular took notice. I had six different houses place an ‘order’ for the next week before I’d even finished my first drink. It was just a tad overwhelming. The parties at Pam’s weren’t like any others I’d ever seen. No longer was there formal attire required – in fact most nights it ended with very little attire at all. Nor were there a seating arrangement or a menu created for a sit down dinner or a formal meal, no, in its place there was drinks – lots of drinks and trays of food left for those to nibble at should they so please. It confused me, but her staff hired for the occasions seemed to know the drill of her desires, as did her guests. It had taken me several weeks, almost heading into my third month with her, to get used to such…freedoms as she called them.

The war had changed a lot of things about the country I now inhabited, or so I was told. The plight of its people and of its men in particular was a sore spot for most, not that I could blame them, death was death and loss was loss, in whatever language you spoke or thought in, the emotions were all the same. There were officers all around the city, threats of attack over and over came through but little action was taken, Allied forces did what they had been doing for so long now – the best they could. The men in the flaming scarlet trousers and caps patrolled the city; those uniforms would be exchanged for blue uniforms at the front where they’d face danger and death on a daily basis. One could only just imagine the fear that ran through them as they did so.

I learned early on that different patches on different uniforms meant different things, I wasn’t so sure anyone really knew what exactly they were, but there was a level of respect, or maybe it was fear, whatever it was it was shown anyway. I saw that the Welsh Fusiliers, Americans, Canadians and even the British officers all differentiated by a glance thanks to their patrol uniforms, and accents of course. Since the supply depots were in the north, hospitals in the south, and aerodromes on the west, it was not unusual to see Blues – the men as they were called – coming from the trenches, battered and bruised and all but broken men, shadows of their former selves. It make me think of Eric and how he had one point had been one of those men, battered and broken trying to make his way back to real life, I found myself seeing his face in every man that passed from time to time, and I wished the best for them, just as I wished the best for Eric himself even if he had decided to ignore my letter.

Another interesting thing I noticed, the men that weren’t fighting in the war, for whatever reason – be it injury, age, or they had returned from war, alive but changed. They embraced colour now more than ever in their daily fashions, where us women, we were expected to respect and adhere to a more sombre set of rules – much to Pam’s dismay. She longed for the days of bright fuchsia pinks and ocean blues. She told me that when she got the chance she would travel to India for silks herself if she had to, I didn’t doubt her, her seasickness on the other hand…

I had been mingling at her party for well over an hour, it was almost like an out of body experience. Having been a lowly maid for well over a year now, being back in what I would have deemed my ‘normal’ clothes, conversing with people as an equal, well it was downright strange. Once Pam told her lady friends that I was the one responsible for the ‘treats’ that evening, I was inundated with questions and requests. Pam looked on proudly, winking at me in acknowledgement when two ladies – mistresses of an army general and another mistress of a Lord, requested that I send them some for a pretty price too. I was gobsmacked, I was doing business, at a party, and for snacks that cost next to nothing to make, if you knew where to look and shop that was. I was just enjoying my freedom, as I stepped outside with Lady Celine, she was the wife of another guest there too, a Lord Andrews, he was deep in conversation with the General, and Celine was bored and wanted to smoke, so I accompanied her.

“Do you smoke, Sookie?” She asked, her broken English mixed with her French accent made her words seems so much cuter than most.

“No, but I could use a break anyway, let’s just tell everyone we’re ‘getting some air’.” I said and she nodded with a smile. We were talking no more than five minutes, at least, when I saw him.

John Quinn.

My stomach turned, I had no idea he was invited to the party, and for a moment felt shunned by Pam that he had been considered at all after what he tried to do to me. When his eyes fixated on me, he grinned. It was a gross yellow tinted grin, and one that said ‘oh this will be fun’.

“Sookie Stackhouse, my how far you’ve come. Working your way up fast, I see.”

“Excuse me?” Celine said but he ignored her. “Sookie do you know this man?”

“No, I don’t, not really.” I said, my gaze falling to the ground.

“Oh, Sookie and I go way back, so far back in fact that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting someone from her past. Someone very, very, important.”

With that my eyes flashed to him.

No.

He couldn’t have? Could he? How!

“I need to speak with you, Susannah.” He said and my stomach churned. I excused myself from Lady Celine, she looked confused but granted my exit, and Quinn followed me back into the house, I led him to the library, there was no one in there.

“Susannah Compton then is it?” he said once the doors were closed.

There was no point in denying it, he clearly knew.

“How?”

He shrugged, “I met William in London, as he was staying with a relative of his, Bellefleur?”

I knew of an uncle, and maybe a cousin of his with that name, I had no idea they had relocated to London though.

“There he was, asking for any information anyone had on his missing wife. And wouldn’t you know it, he had this pretty little pocket portrait of a woman that looked an awful lot like you, the whore I couldn’t get my hands on in Scotland. So, I said to myself that is a con that’s gone on far too long.”

“It’s not a con, I’m no longer his wife.”

“Why because you left and changed your name and decided to be a skivvy for a living? Darlin’ it don’t work that way ‘am afraid. The law is the law and you’re his wife, and he wants you back.”

“What if I don’t want to go back?”

He smirked.

“As if you have a choice. He will find you; he deserves to find you…after all you did to ‘im. He could call the police on you, have you arrested for what you did, you know that?”

I was sweating, I could feel the panic setting in, I knew all John Quinn said to be true, Bill would stop at nothing to find me and settle the score. If there was one thing he hated, was someone else getting the better of him, and I had done that in my attempts to escape.

I pushed Quinn and his stupid menacing face aside, and made a dash for the stairs. I got to Pam’s room, and saw the brandy bottles and poured myself a large glass, my hands shaking as I did so. I had finished off my first drink and was halfway through my second when Pam came in, a concerned look on her face.

“I just saw the asshole, he was not invited just so you know, but he’s friends with the men and heard through the grapevine that I was hosting a thing… what did he say to you? Did he touch you?” She got angrier as she spoke, but I assured her he didn’t have time this time to lay a hand on me, not that it mattered now.

“What do you mean?” She asked.

“He knows – he knows everything. The reason why I can’t be with Eric, not really, the reason why I can’t be honest, why I’m so scared all the time…and the reason why my name isn’t really Sookie Stackhouse.” I said, all but sobbing as I sat on the edge of her bed. She didn’t say anything, she just watched, her expression blank.

“I’ve lied to everyone, Pam. Everyone, and I never lie. I’m not even very good at it usually…” I confessed. I swallowed my tears and continued, if it was to all break loose, I may as well be the one to break it.

“I tried to kill my husband, I stole from him and I ran. I ran all the way to the docks and booked myself on the first boat to England. I thought I’d done it. I thought I was a murderer, Pam. That’s why I ran. That’s why I lied.”

I told her my woes, of how I married him under the assumption that he was a gentleman and true to his word when he was neither. I told her of the beatings and the deaths of the baby, the pregnancies, and the violence that plagued my married life with him, and I told her of our last fight.

“I wanted to kill him; I had so much rage in my heart, Pam I wanted to kill him with my bare hands!” I paced her room, tears flowing, my eyes stinging red and my lips swollen, but I kept talking because I needed it out there, for my own sanity if nothing else. “So, when he hit me, and he hit me again, I reached for the first thing I could find – which happened to be my Grandmother’s antique marble dogs, that sat atop our fireplace…and I whacked him with it. I hit him so hard he fell to the floor, there was so much blood… my god so much blood…” I cried still, remembering that horrid day, a day I had tried to bury in the back of my mind forever.

“And I ran. I thought he wasn’t breathing, and I was sure in fact that he wasn’t… and I ran. I took the money; I took whatever I could carry to sell…”

I looked to Pam now, who had been silent during my rant, and I expected anger from her, I expected to be fired on the spot for being such a deceptive wretch. Instead none of those things happened, she was crying too.

“Oh my darling…Come here.” She said her arms wide open, offering the hug I desperately needed.

“I don’t know what to do, he knows where I am now, he knows and that just means he can do what he likes at any time. If he reports me to the police…”

“He won’t, we won’t let him.”

I shook my head, I knew very well what Bill Compton was capable of, much more than she did. My worries did not quell. I sat allowing her to hold me, to take me to her and comfort me, it had been a long time since I had allowed anyone to see me weak, and I shocked myself by letting it all go to Pam. She held me for what seemed like a lifetime, just comforting me, assuring me I would be okay. I wanted so badly to believe her, it was when I looked to her for answers that I was shocked by the one she provided.

She kissed me, sweetly at first, like the kisses all the ladies gave and received here on both cheeks as form of ‘hello’, but then she moved in again and this time to my mouth. She planted a soft moist kiss there once before pulling back, looking me in the eye as if for permission to do it again. I didn’t confirm nor did I deny her, so she did it again, only this time it was harder, with more intent than before. Her hands cupped my face, and I felt her tongue press lightly on my lips asking for access there too. I complied, out of curiosity if nothing else, and I had been curious since I had moved here, the going on could have made me nothing else when I thought about it, and it felt nice, it felt…safe almost. In that moment I wanted nothing more than to feel something, anything other than dread and guilt and fear, this provided that. So, when her hands moved from my face, to my breast, I did not protest, nor did I protest when she started to softly undo the lace and ribbon that held the bodice together at the front, her eyes would catch mine, avert to the task at hand, and flit back to my eyes again. She was as unsure as I was it seems, but, I was too curious to stop it. I had dressed, and undressed Pam countless times, I had seen her body and all she had to offer. But this was different, this was more intimate than any of those other times, this meant something more. As I undid the knots I had tied hours before, and helped slid off the stocking I had put in place, I knew there was no going back, not now. Allowing her to undress me was also a new experience, she was gentle and just as curious as I was, at least that’s how it seemed to me. Neither of us spoke a word; we just took things slowly, shedding out clothes before she directed me towards the large bed, where I sat nervously as she yanked off my slip finally, and then my stockings from my legs, that same curious yet seductive look on her face.

“You’ve done this dozens of times, haven’t you?” I asked my breath hitching slightly as her cold hands met my warm thigh.

“Probably more. Does that frighten you?” She asked finally stepping out of her remaining clothing, standing before me as nude as anything, and not a hint of shame about it either. I on the other hand was not as brave as she, nor as experienced in this field as I would have liked to have been, with neither man or woman, and especially not women. Unlike a man she was delicate and soft, her neck long and elegant leading to breasts that were begging to be touched. I was shocked when I realized that I was the one wanting to do the touching.

“A little… I don’t…know.” I answered her, in a daze and still unsure. But she shushed me gently, kissing me sweetly and began to put me at ease.

“It doesn’t hurt, and my way, no one gets pregnant.” She said as she took off her jewels, causing me to burst out laughing, defusing the moment that seconds before had been tense and unsure.

I smiled, as did she.

“Just let me make you feel better, that’s all this is.”

“It doesn’t mean that I don’t still –”

“I know, but that’s not what this is about. Trust me, Sookie. Do you trust me?”

I nodded as she crawled on the bed behind me, gently edging me back towards her, and the mass of pillows at the head of her bed. We laid there, just kissing softly for a time, her hands trailing over my body, and mine cautiously doing the same to her. Then she moved, leaving a trail of wet kisses in her wake, before she focused her attentions between my legs.

“Pam … I…”

“I know…” she said continuing to gently ghost her hands up and down my thighs before she settled between my legs, slowly at first as if she was afraid to hurt me, but when my eyes rolled back in my head, she took that as a all the permission she needed to continue. Continue she did, lavishing me with kisses, on my mouth, down my neck, and particularly my breasts, as her long slender fingers probed my sex, making my toes curl in the process.

“It’s such a shame…” she mumbled.

“What is?” I answered breathlessly, as she worked me over, her speed picking up, and with that my heart rate feeling as if it would implode at any minute.

“How you hide all this away, you’re so beautiful, you deserve to be worshiped.”

I felt the tears sting in my eyes, and she noticed, she slowed herself down to climb on top of me, grinding on me now, sending new and surprising sensations through me. She kissed me then, this time it wasn’t full of lust or curiosity, it was full of love. I knew I didn’t love Pam, not in the way she loved women, but I did love her. Was love simply all that mattered, did it matter what kind it was? I wasn’t so sure of anything anymore. She took my hands and guided me to her body; it was a strange feeling, a woman’s body, so like my own, but not. Her breasts, her neck, her hips, all soft skin supple and inviting, all mine for exploration. And explore I did, until I felt myself lose all control when she spread my legs and made me breathless using just her mouth, it was never something anyone had ever done on my body before. I had only ever been with Bill, and everything with him was as lackluster as expected, but with Pam, well, nothing was expected, and certainly not this.

She giggled as she slid from underneath me, lying then next to me under her blue silk sheets, no sound from either of us but breath and the occasional crackling from the fire.

“Feel better?” She asked with an arched brow and a smile.

I giggled, it seemed to be her sole mission that night, and I had to admit she had succeeded.

“Yes. Very much so.”

“Good, job well done then.” She grinned falling back onto her side of the giant bed. We laid in silence for a few seconds, though it seemed like longer, it seemed like an eternity really, the silent air filled with all the things we needed to say.

“You’re fretting, I can tell.” She said, and she was right.

“You know this doesn’t mean –”

“What, that you love me?” She laughed. “Oh, Sookie, darling no I know that, that wasn’t what I was expecting from this at all.”

“Oh…”

She smiled, touching my face softly. “Darling, it was sex, plain and simple, and an honest to goodness attempt at loosening you up a little. You were wound so tight tonight I thought you’d go pop at any moment and fly all over the room.”

I smiled.

“I mean I do love you, it’s just a…different kind of love?” I tried to make sense of my feelings now, but sense wasn’t coming.

She nodded, she seemed to understand it better than I did.

“Besides, you love another, and who am I to stand in the way of … insanely complicated possible love.”

“How do you know I love him?” I was curious about this, for I wasn’t even sure it was love, I wasn’t sure of much.

“Because, silly, he’s the one you worry for, the one you care about, the one you think about day and night. And, I’m sure it’s the same for him. You brought him back to life, Sookie, that’s no small feat. Before you, I was sure we’d lost him to his solitude forever.”

“He hasn’t responded to my letter, so all of my worry and thought may have been for nothing.” I said as she swept a small hair from my face.

“Hmm. I can’t be sure; perhaps he’s just…licking his wounds.”

“Or maybe he’s taken my advice and moved on.”

“Not likely.”

“Likely. When it’s what he was meant to do anyway.” I fretted once more.

“Eric rarely does what he’s meant to do, haven’t you learned that by now? If he doesn’t want to do something, he’ll very rarely be guilted into it.”

She was silent, as was I when I dared to ask.

“Have you ever been in love, Pam?”

She looked to me, the glow from the fire shining upon her striking face.

“Once or twice.”

“The first?”

She smiled, “I was thirteen, and she was my tutor. We were in Texas, now you know I was in trouble…” She shook her head, “she was older and more beautiful… I wanted her, I didn’t know that it was considered wrong to think such things then, but then again I still don’t believe it’s wrong…”

“What happened?”

“I fell in love with a woman who played me like a fiddle, I was so very young and naive…She was eighteen and wanted a play thing.” She shrugged. “After that I told myself I would never get hurt again, I met Eric on a trip to Sweden when I was sixteen, and from there we…travelled. My father had died and my mother she remarried, I was free, she didn’t care. She said that it was my reputation that mattered and as long as no one knew me, I could do what I pleased as long as I married a man eventually for my inheritance. As you can see, I’ve been putting that off for as long as possible.” She smiled again.

“Were you and Eric ever a couple?” I had to admit I was curious about that, I always had been.

She shook her head, no.

“Never in the true sense. I mean, I adore him, I do. But he’s too intense for me I’m afraid. And, he has a little too much penis.” I giggled, as did she, before she grew somewhat serious again. “We did share women though, a lot of women, over the years. It was a game to us for a long, long time.”

Suddenly I felt self conscious, was I part of this game?

She saw my discomfort.

“Oh, Sookie no. Trust me, if you were part of any game, you know about it. You’d know because we’d tell you. It was never a cruel game. It was a fun one, until it wasn’t.”

“Why?”

“I fell in love with a girl who was in love with Eric. Eric then wasn’t in love with her, and there was drama and threats of killing herself and it was all just too much, so we both took a step back, he went back to Sweden to run the business and I came to London to step back into real life again.”

“Wow…”

“Yes, so all the games in the world can’t last forever, even the best ones.”

As I laid next to Pam that night, with so much swirling around in my head. I had just had sex with a woman, I was still in love with another man while sadly still married to another, none of which the man I loved actually knew about because as far as I knew he was off engaged to his toddler of a prospect. Oh, and my ex husband who I thought I had murdered was out to get me. Needless to say that sleep eluded me that night, and the night after, it would be the night after that, that it would elude me because of visitor, a tall, pensive Swede in demand of answers I just wasn’t sure I could give him right away.


Chapter 14: Chapter 14


Hi guys! As per the voting poll on my blog here is the winning chapter – War at heart was chosen by you, so enjoy! Hit the little button of love if you feel so inclined!

SPOV:

I was lost in thought, as well as into my seventh batch of cookies. I had four cooling and two packaged up, I even found some stray ribbon and made the brown paper packaging a little bit fancier. I had received orders at Pam’s party, and they’d even called the next day to confirm that they wanted the ‘treats’ delivered if I could as soon as possible. And so that is how I spent my morning, having woken up before Pam, I decided not to dwell or panic, but instead to focus my thoughts on something I knew like the back of my hand, and that was baking. By the time Lafayette arrived at ten, I was almost done, and he looked confused.

“I still work here, don’t I?” he asked shrugging off his jacket and putting his head scarf in place.

“You do, I was just finishing up my little project.”

His eyes widened, “did you make any more?”

I smiled.

“Yes, there’s about twenty cooling in the larder, and there’s fresh milk, so… you know.” I hinted heavily, of course there were extra, I wasn’t a cruel woman.

He grinned big and happy as he headed towards the Promised Land.

“How did the party go? Anything exciting happen?” He asked a mouthful of banana cookie in the way of his words. Just as he said it, Pam walked in, still in her dressing gown.

“Is there coffee?”

“Some… woman what happened to you?” He asked her.

“Coffee.” Was all she said, and I continued to busy myself cleaning up.

She and I exchanged glances, and on that alone, Lafayette was able to sense something was amiss.

“Ladies, how was the party then? Good night?” He asked, his eyes flitting from me, to Pam.

“It was… eventful enough I suppose,” Pam smirked, sipping from her cup.

“Yes, very eventful.” I concurred making him take a step back.

“You know, I don’t even think I want to know.” He commented making Pam giggle.

“Oh you’d want to know, but you aren’t going to. What’s for breakfast, chef?”

“Ah! We have a speciality this morning Môn maîtresse, salmon, which I shall be making with these, and pancakes if you please.” He held up a small platter of fresh fish.

“Excellent. In the mean time I have some mail to reply to, Sookie I’ll be heading out at noon, I’ll need you shortly before that?”

I nodded, “Of course, have you settled on which outfit? I still prefer the green…”

“It’s for a hospital visit, I know you think I need to be sombre –”

“Those men are dying, Pam.”

“Exactly, why not give them a little thrill on the way out.” She reasoned sauntering out the kitchen door and up the stairs. I just shook my head.

I had dressed Pam that mid morning in one her brand new bespoke dresses that she decided was ‘depressing’ enough for visiting an ill man, but decided she didn’t want to kill the mood altogether and added a modest feather headdress, if there was such a thing, to ‘spice it up’ a little. It had taken us an hour to get her prepared, but when was ready she was as always, a picture. Her style here was so much simpler in its construction; than it had been in Scotland or in London even. I encouraged it, selfishly as the soft fabrics and drop waist gowns required very little from me as a Ladies Maid. She was on her way to visit an old friend just outside the city, Alcide; her driver was doing the honours of getting her there and back before dinner that night. Her friend, Serge was recovering in hospital having been discharged from his duty at the front lines of the War. He had lost some toes, and took some hits to the shoulder, but all reports looked promising and Pam wanted to celebrate that small victory. As it was needless to say Pam valued her friends, and Serge was in for a treat of an array of alcohol and food that she had Lafayette acquire as a gift that she planned on sneaking to him without getting caught, she was taking a chance but she wanted to cheer him up, so I couldn’t fault her though process.

She and I didn’t discuss what had happened between us, and for that I was almost thankful. What more was there to say? It was a one time event for me and I knew we both knew that. Since before Pam; I had never even entertained the idea of finding a woman anything more than merely pretty. I loved Pam dearly, and I knew she was fond of me, but beyond our friendship I knew we had nothing else to offer each other, and I was glad there were no awkward expectations now, instead we just fell back into routine, and that is exactly how I liked it.

While they were gone I busied myself with some baking, keeping the house clean and neat, and organizing the mail and the telephone messages left for her throughout the day. One was from her mother, a very sharp tongued Texan named Vivian, who told me in no uncertain terms that her daughter was to call or write as soon as she could on some urgent matter that I was not privy to. I had promised to pass one the message, and hung up the telephone more intimidated by a mere voice than I had in a long time. I still wasn’t so used to the sudden noise it would make when someone was on the other side, nor was I particularly sure of what my manner of address should be, but I would worry about that at another time. Recovering from my shock of being berated by Pam’s mother, I took to the kitchen, and finished off three more cakes for my ‘customers’ suddenly beginning to see why she ran from her family; if her mother’s charming personality was anything to go by. The idea of simply baking and receiving such money for it? It was absurd, it was not really a job but somehow Pam’s little speech at the party had put me with the in-crowd, and that crowd had money to burn, even now during such economic hardship, and so a telegram with requests arrived and I was to fulfil more requests as soon as I could, my eyes widened and Lafayette’s mouth dropped when we saw what they were willing to pay for such ‘hand made delicacies’

He and I kept busy that afternoon and he left for his home around four, leaving me on my lonesome, but I took the rare peace and time to indulge in Pam’s library, and relax as my baking cooled. The weather had cooled too, it was almost September now, and I was guessing that Fall would be around the corner in no time if the temperatures continued to drop the way they had. Just before sunset, I had finished closing all the windows, and I’d set the fires in Pam’s room and the living room in an attempt of warming up the now cold house, when a knock came to the door. I knew it was not Pam – why would she knock, it was her house. But as far as I was told we weren’t expecting any visitors that night.

I opened the door, and there he stood. His tall increasingly handsome form clad in what I knew to be his travelling clothes, complete with top hat, and his favourite navy blazer that I knew he preferred over his coat, for comfort whilst on the move.

“Eric!” I said the shock clearly evident in my voice as I am sure it was on my face as he turned to face me.

“Hello, Sookie,” He nodded respectfully, not as surprised, but then again why would he be, he was the one knocking at the door of the house I was living in, clearly he knew I was here.

“I… Uh… Pamela isn’t home.” I began somewhat awkwardly.

He smiled, I had almost forgotten how sweet his smile was and how it lit up his whole face as if from within.

“I see. Well… I know she will not mind –”he gestured inside. Of course! What was I doing this was not my house; he was not to be my guest after all.

“Oh! Yes. I… Yes. Come in, of course.” My voice had suddenly taken on this loud, high pitched resonance, and I had a crazy smile on my face, I was nervous to say the least. He walked into the hallway, putting both his large suitcases down, and shedding his coat and hat, and suddenly there he stood in a charming navy three piece suit, complete with a meticulously tied blue tie. His blue eyes bright and focused on me, he smiled again.

“You’re looking very well, it seems Paris and Pam’s world suits you, you’re glowing.”

I fought the urge to touch my face, I was sure I wasn’t glowing but merely blushing up a storm. Instead I clasped my hands together to stop myself from fidgeting.

“I do like it here, the rules are –”

“There are no rules, not with Pam.” He laughed, cutting the tension a smidge, but not by much. What did I do here? I had no clue, so I nodded in response.

I was breathless, excited, scared and terrified all at once. It felt as if my heart were about to explode.

He looked around the hallway, and gestured to the drawing room, I merely followed, still all but frozen in my moments.

“This… is a delightful house.” He said, just as awkwardly as I felt in the moment.

“Yes. Pam keeps things fairly simple here, I like that.”

“Yes.” He said, looking to his shoes. I began to fidget again.

The seconds ticked by, but they felt like hours as he and I both stood, clearly both of us wholly unsure of what happened next.

“Would you like some tea? Or something eat perhaps? You must be hungry after travelling so far.”

He nodded, swallowed hard and finally answered me.

“Yes, that would lovely thank you…”

“Do… you want to wait here and I can fetch it for –”

“What if we dined in the kitchen? I assumed her staffing is still as sparse as it was? Lafayette has…”

“Gone home for the night.”

“Good… I mean not that that’s good. I look forward to seeing him again, I just… would like to talk with you, and eat.”

Tense, very, very, tense.

I nodded and led the way down the small set of stairs that led to the kitchen, the light was fading fast, so I used the candles and one of the lights to keep us from ending up in the dark. He leaned against the doorframe, silently just watching me as I heated up the soup and stuck the plate of food Lafayette had left me for dinner in the oven to heat those up too. Chicken and vegetable broth and some dumplings would do just nicely I thought. I brewed a pot of tea just to be safe, and to kill some time so I gather myself together. We sat at the impossibly small kitchen table together, and I noted that besides the meal I shared with Pam and Eric in the pub what seemed so long ago now, this was really the first time we had dined together – alone.

I took a deep breath as his fingers brushed mine when I passed him the cutlery, and just came out with it.

“When you didn’t write back I assumed that you had… taken heed of my words before I left and … well… moved on.”

“No… No. Oh, Sookie of course you must think terrible of me now. I …” he shook his head as if at himself. “No I wanted to write back, truly I did. And I even attempted it a number of times. But there were things that I wanted to say that I could not say on paper. I … for all my knowledge of books and words and for all my love of words, I lacked the know how in saying the right thing on paper. And so when I left for Sweden –”

“You were in Sweden?”

“Yes. I had to go check on the factory… it had only meant to be a small trip. I was to spend a week there and come straight here. But, with things how I found them… Well, I ended up being kept there, much longer than I had anticipated. And the longer I left things without a reply, the worse I felt, and the more I just wanted to get here and see you.”

We both began to eat, the silence now less deafening now than it was before. I tried to process his words, had it all been a simple misunderstanding? Had he really wanted to clear the air with me, but just couldn’t find the words? Ironic, I thought for a man so in love with the written word that he would fail to use it when necessary.

He looked at me, across the tiny space we shared, a cautious look in his eye as he happily tucked into his meal.

“Pam is visiting an old friend, though she should have been back by now.”

“How is she? Well I hope?”

“Very well, yes.”

So well in fact she and I shared a bed not so long ago. Oh, God. Did I tell him that? Surely I would have to. But then again there was a long list of things I had to tell Eric, it was simply a matter of when now, not if.

“How was your trip?”

He sighed, “Why don’t we take our tea to the drawing room? It’s a long story.”

When we got comfortable on Pam’s large opulent sofa, the fire had thankfully picked up and was now roaring providing a welcoming heat.

“I left Scotland with the intent of being gone just a week or so to Sweden and then to come here and … fix things.” He looked at me with a somewhat cheeky grin and it made me wonder just how he planned on ‘fixing’ things. He then went on to tell me of the affects of the war on his business, on his workers and on the moral of the business in general. His factory foreman had done all he could, but the majority of the men under fifty were shipped off or in MIA, and it was up to the women now, as it was just about everywhere, but Eric felt bad having the women do the hard labour, when I pointed out that women were more than capable and that I was glad men were finally seeing that we were built for more than looking pretty and sitting silently. He laughed, but agreed, but he still insisted on fairer hours, and more pay be put in place, much to his foreman’s dismay.

“I like that you are a fair man. So many others in your position would abuse their power, so many do.”

“I have no desire for power, I never have. I want nothing more than a normal, quiet life.” He sighed. “I hope to have it one day, when things are more settled, and if this God forsaken war ever reaches its end.”

“There have been some positive advancements, with the American’s joining in… there’s renewed hope.”

“Hope is wonderful, but the reality of those men, out there on the front line it’s not something you easily forget, even if your physical injuries heal, the experience it… never leaves you.”

“I am sorry…”

“No, no,” he said putting his cup on the table in front of us, “don’t be sorry, just… I wish more people were aware of how difficult it is to just slip back into your old life after going through something like that. Before the war, I was an apathetic, petulant, self- indulgent boy… the things I did. The people I carelessly hurt…”

I wasn’t aware if he knew that I knew his history, at least a little bit of it in his years with Pam.

“People change, sometimes they become worse, and sometimes, like you, they grow up for the better.”

“Sometimes I wonder about that.”

“Well I didn’t know you before, but I know you now – a little at least, and you’re none of those things anymore. Well, you can get a little lazy every now and then.” I quipped sipping my tea, willing myself not to grin.

“That’s good to know, thank you. I’m working on the lazy thing, even though it’s not really laziness… I just…”

Couldn’t bear to face the world some days? I assumed that’s what it was, but neither of us commented on that.

“Sookie what you said in your letter, did you mean it?”

“Of course I did. I hated the way I left things with you, it haunted me. Knowing that you thought me to be this woman… Eric I have so many things to tell you and I know I risk losing you in doing so.”

“Surely it cannot be all that bad, can it?”

“I think it is.” I stood; I did not really want to see the look on his face as I told him.

“Eric, I lied to you, only at the time I did not really know it was a lie, not completely at least.”

He furrowed his brows at me, I took it as a sign to continue, even though I dreaded the thought.

“I … I’m not a widow and my name isn’t Sookie Stackhouse.” There I had said it, outloud and to the right person. With that though his posture changed, he tensed, and the look on his face became more ridged than before.

“The name change was necessary, when I left Bill …” I took another deep breath trying to organize my thoughts once more. “I was in a miserable marriage, he was… it wasn’t the best of situations. During one final brawl, I got lucky and I smacked him over the head with something heavy, to stop him, to get away, and at the time I thought I had done what I never imagined myself capable of doing. I thought I had killed him.” I finally exhaled, and he was sitting up, his steely gaze not moving from me. “I ran, I stole what money we had, and I ran to save myself. It was cowardly I am sure to some, but it would have been idiotic for me to stay. And so, I changed my name and came to England in the hopes of burying my old life when they buried Bill.”

He said nothing, and so, I simply continued, in the hope that

“My real name is Susannah Stanton, then Compton. Stackhouse was my Grandmother’s maiden name, Sookie was her nickname for me.”

He nodded, looking as if he was taking this all in, slowly.

“So everything you said, about understanding why I was the way I was, what I was feeling… why I was feeling… all that you related to with me and my grief…” his voice was low, sad, and it broke my heart. “It was a lie.”

I swallowed nervously, before I nodded. I could not speak my shame, for I feared the tears in my eyes would break and I would just sob openly.

He stood up and paced by the window, not looking at me. The tension in the room was so thick I was sure I was going to suffocate.

“Eric say something.” I urged.

He shook his head, the view from the window more fascinating than my need for a reaction.

“I knew you were hiding something, but this is just… Everything has been a lie then?”

“No!” I protested. “What you see, what you’ve seen, who I am, is who I have always been, just with a different name and a tremendous amount of guilt. Until London, I thought Bill to be dead, and I hid the fact that I had murdered him from you, though now I question which you find worse, a murderer or a liar.”

I sat, defeated and deflated. I knew he despised liars, and lying women most of all. All the women he knew were lying in some form or another, to get their hands on him and his money. He never admitted the last part of course, but it was obvious to the blind and deaf that that was their reasoning. Perhaps now he thinks it mine too?

He looked at me then, his eyes as full of pain as I’d ever seen them. I hated that I was responsible for putting it there.

“How do I know to believe that? How do I know that you’re not just exactly like the rest of them… how do I know anything when it comes to you anymore?”

“You trust me.”

He scoffed as if that was the most insane idea I had ever had, and just at that Pam came flourishing through the front door, complaining about the state of the city with the raids. When she saw Eric and I standing there she looked stunned, I guessed he hadn’t told her was coming either.

“What’s going on…?”

When neither of us answered her she set down her bags, and began, “Oh, Eric if you’re upset about Sookie and I being intimate please don’t be. It was only one time and it was really a matter of –”

“What?” He asked, anger returning to his hurt face. I sighed, closing my eyes. God damn, Pam.

“We hadn’t exactly covered that part of the confession hour, Pamela.” I said.

“Oh…” she said, stepping back silently. “Sorry.”

He looked to me, his brows furrowed so tightly I was stunned his face didn’t stick that way, and then he looked at Pam.

“For fuck sake!” he yelled to no one in particular before he grabbed his jacket, and made for the door, slamming it behind him for good measure.

For fuck sake, indeed.

A/N2: If you want to participate in voting for what comes next, check out my word press blog, the link is in my profile here! Thanks so much for the support lovelies!


Chapter 15: Chapter 15


As per request via the vote, here’s the new War chapter, Eric stylie! Questions, comments, concerns, rants, general chit-chat lol. All welcomed! 😀


EPOV:

When I walked out of the house, or rather stormed out would be a more fitting description, I headed towards the city, which was in itself a mistake. There were raids, and a bomb – a small one, but still a bomb, that had gone off somewhere nearby, there was a lot of people, a lot of panic, and a lot of smoke. Everyone was being taken off the streets, or told to stay inside. And in the mile or so walk around I had seen countless people, all in various states of shock, disarray, but thankfully no one appeared to be hurt. It was a jarring reminder of what was going on; right on the door step. Rather literally, and that behind closed doors may be chaotic, but out in the real world things were and could be, a lot worse.

Sookie had lied, she wasn’t a widow… those conversations were lies. They did not feel like lies though, that’s what hurt most, I had believed her entirely because I wanted to. I wanted to trust and love and see the good and for so long I denied myself that and when I opened up to her, it had taken a lot of guts on part to do so. To now find that it wasn’t as genuine as I thought it to be, it stung. And then the fact that she thought she killed her husband, God how did I even begin to process that piece of information? She thought herself to be a murderess the entire duration of our friendship, but she’s not really, but only discovered this information recently and still ran? My brain was tired, as were my feet, almost two hours of walking around my favourite streets of Paris, trying as I hard as I could to gain some much needed perspective on the situation. She clearly wasn’t the violent type of woman, so evidently she was acting in self defence; there was no other explanation as I recalled her voicing how unpleasant her marriage had been, I felt there was a much deeper story there too. But, of course my rashness gave her no time to explain. I swallowed my pride and turned the street that led to Pam’s townhouse, upon entering the house was quiet, save for the ticking of the grandfather clock in the hallway. I entered the drawing room to find Pam sitting on the couch with a drink, staring into the flames in the fireplace.

“That girl upstairs has been through hell, and it took a hell of a lot of guts for her to put herself out there like that.”

“I don’t want to talk about this with you.”
“Well you aren’t going to talk to her, not with that face and tone.” She snapped.
“Pam, stay out of it.”
“I can’t. I’m in it, because you’re my friend, as is she.”
“A friend, who you just had to fuck, didn’t you.” So I was still getting used to that fact.

“Don’t get fucking smart with me, Eric. You don’t know what went down –”
“Well, apparently, you did.”
She rolled her eyes.

“It wasn’t just about getting her into bed –”
“Wasn’t it? I knew you had a crush on her but I ignored it, because I thought we were through playing games with women, and with Sookie of all people? You knew how I felt about her and you still had to have her, didn’t you.”
She blinked, as if I had slapped her in the face

“You selfish bastard. You really don’t get it do you? No, of course not, because it’s all about you – still. You know what, you don’t fuckin’ deserve her.” She said with a sharp stare before she turned on her heel and marched out of the room and up the stairs, leaving me with her words ringing in my ears. I had tried to piece everything together, but nothing was making sense in my head. Sookie was not like the other women that were London Ladies, trying to land me for my money and my forthcoming bullshit titles. She was the girl that baked for me to cheer me up, and talked books with me, and walked through muddy fields so I could exercise my leg and get fresh air, she was the girl that made me smile and laugh, and feel more alive than I had felt in a good long while. Why was I piling her in with them just because I was in shock? I knew it was shock because nothing could have prepared me for all that came from her mouth that night, and then Pamela’s little bombshell combined, it was all just too much for me to process whilst looking at them both in front of me.

Nothing was going as planned, I had planned to be here weeks before, and I had planned to confess my love for her, hear the same in return from her, take her in my arms and make everything right in both our worlds. None of that happened of course nothing ever went to plan, and as I paced Pam’s drawing room that night in front of the now dying embers of her fireplace, I accepted that perhaps the reality could be better than my fantasy. If I just let it.

But could I accept her lies, and trust her again? Why had she trusted her secrets to Pam, trusted her body, and her soul to Pam first and not to me? I was a man and my ego was bruised, I knew that much too. Pam and I had shared our toys for a very long time and I never so much as blinked twice, but, Sookie was no one’s toy, and the thought of her being toyed with made my blood fucking boil. And that is when my epiphany of sorts occurred. Was I not also treating her like a toy? One I was mad at because Pam got to play with her first?

I was an idiot.

I debated for a few moments if my words could wait until morning, and then decided that I had to at least try and make things right with Sookie, my mother’s advice ringing in my ears.

‘Never go to bed on an argument’ I heard as clear as a bell, it was always something I tried to remember, but it seemed never more fitting than in that moment of indecision.

I knocked on her door and to my delight ask told me to come in. She was still awake, in bed with a book, leaning on her side for the best light.

“What is it, Eric? It is late you know.”
“I know… I just…” I took a deep breath, suddenly very aware of my height.

“You just what? Came to judge me some more?”
“No. I came to apologize, for the way I stormed out before. It was –”
“It was called for, if I had been in your shoes and had to absorb all you heard in such a short period of time, I would have panicked too. I don’t blame you for leaving.”
“You should, it was rash and I was taking it all so personally. I do that a lot; take things personally when I shouldn’t.”

She nodded, putting her book to the side and focusing on me now as I stood in her doorway, awkward as could be.

“You can come in and sit, if you’d like, I’m comfortable so I’m not getting up.”
“Nor should you, I am the one disturbing you. I just, I hope you’ll forgive my initial reaction.” I said taking a seat at her desk.
“I forgave it when it happened, we all needed a little space, and I know I sure did.”
We were both silent for a few moments, the air no longer tense but still so much left unsaid. So, I began again.

“What… should I call you now? Sookie or Susannah? What of your husband? Where does that leave… things… between us?”

She sighed.

“I had thought for a long time that a name was important, but it turns out, I like Sookie just fine, if it’s all the same with you. Susannah is who I was, that girl, that green, silly girl, that’s not who I am anymore, even if I wanted to go back, I know now I could not.”
I nodded, it made sense. She had become a new person, almost literally.

“I had earned my family name however, and the repuation that came with it, one that I am not so keen to give up so easily.” She sighed breaking eye contact with me for a spot on the floor. “As for my husband? Well, according to John Quinn, he’s still looking for me. When I saw him in London, besides almost fainting in shock, I gathered that he was searching for me. London made the most logical sense if someone had tipped him off.” She shrugged. “As for where it leaves things with us, I just don’t know.

“John Quinn knows him?”
“Fell in with him apparently, he made it sound like whatever Bill is at, it’s not exactly above board, not that it shocks me that a man like him, or Quinn for that matter would be in some dodgy business together, but either way, he knows I’m here, so chances are –”
“Your husband knows you’re here too.” That was another dreaded fact of the situation.

“Please don’t call him that anymore, he’s not my husband, at least not as far as I’m concerned and calling him such things gives him higher rank in my life than he will ever have again.” This time she scooted up, curling her feet underneath herself, still wrapped in her blankets, all I could see was the top half of her white cotton bed wear.

“I see. What are you going to do about him now then?”
“I really do no know what there is to be done; I do not want him in my life. I want nothing to do with him at all, but I know that my reality and my fantasy are two very different things, and that eventually, I suppose I will have to deal with him. It was the one thing being with Pam made me realize. Doing something so unlike me.”
“Which was?”

“My life was still my life, and living with this lie, living with the fear of him finding me hanging over my head? It was more trouble than its worth, it was a waste of time. I hated lying to you, I left because I couldn’t do that anymore, and I did not want to deceive you any further than I had already done. I am not that kind of woman, Eric, I did not take pleasure in my lies, and they were simply there to do what no one did for me, which was to protect me. No one was there to save me from Bill the first time, no one but myself, and I got away from him once on my own, and it stands to reason I could do it again. But, if you can’t accept what I have told you and take my truth as it is intended now, then whatever we have or had –”

“Sookie please…”

“No, let me say this just to have it said, please?”
I nodded even though the idea of her entertaining the fact that I would no longer feel for her because of her confessions broke my heart a little.

“Eric I have felt nothing but guilt for every lie I have told, but those lies protected me and got me away and made me into the woman I am, the woman I think I was meant to be. Not in my profession maybe, but in myself. I am stronger now than I have ever been, and it’s because I had to run, lie, and protect myself that I was able to grow, to hold onto my truth and share it only with those who earned it.”

And I earned it.

That thought almost made me smile.

We looked at each other silently then, almost as if she was challenging me to question her. I wouldn’t.

“Okay.” I said, standing up to leave.

“Okay?” She said, clearly confused.

“Yes.” I said softly, taking a step closer to her, allowing me to stand next to her bed now. “Okay.”
“That’s it? You’re okay with it?”
I nodded, looking her straight in the eyes and meaning it.

“Oh…”
She looked puzzled, not that I blamed her, my mood had done quite the turn around. But as always once I took time to digest my surroundings and the facts, things usually came out differently. I had a right hook to the panic button, and I was really working on stopping that, tonight being a prime example.

“Sookie, everyone has a past as I have told you before, and as much as we may want to know all about the people we care for, you can never truly know everything about a person. No matter how hard you try, and that person must have something for themselves. What you choose to share with me, and vice versa, as you say, has to be earned and I know that now. I accept that now. And I accept that the waters of your past are murkier than others, but I do not sail on clear waters myself.”

She nodded a more understanding look in her lovely eyes just then. I leaned over her and I heard her inhale sharply, she wasn’t expecting me to do so. So I did not kiss her where I wanted, instead I aimed for her cheek, planting a good night kiss there and stepping back.

“Good night, Sookie.”
“I… Yes. Good night, Eric.” She said, flustered with a sweet blush flushing her cheeks. I simply turned to leave but before I got out the door, she moved.

“Eric wait!”
I turned to look at her but before I could her hands were on my face, pulling me down towards her smaller frame, pulling me in for a kiss I had waited months for.

Her warm, sweet lips, her hands on my face and neck pulling me close as if she could not get me close enough. My own hands instantly found their way into her hair, down her soft cotton covered back, resting on her waist as we kissed, falling deeper and giving into that need there and then against her door frame. I hoisted her up a little so she was flush leaning against my chest, leaning further still against my body as we continued to explore each other’s mouths as if we were the last two people to ever kiss the last kiss.

She pulled back and her fingers went to her lips, touching them as if they burned.

“That was… inappropriate, I’m sorry.”
I almost wanted to laugh, because she could not have been more wrong.
“It was entirely appropriate, feel free to do that any time you’d like.” I said, still a tad breathless.

She smiled and I felt the need to just confess all I felt in that moment, for better or worse. I needed to get it out, and since it was the night for big confessions, I went for one of my own.

“Sookie, these feelings I have had and still have for you and that I think… hope that you reciprocate, they mean so much. After Sophie, I thought that part of me had died, that I would never be able to feel this way again. And then you came along, like a candle in the dark, and allowed me to hope for the first time. To look forward to your conversation, to the days spent together, and to our time together. Those feelings are very real for me and I won’t let them die without at least fully allowing myself to explore them, your letter, it gave me hope – hope that you felt the same way. Is there… a chance that we can embrace that sliver of hope as one, in time?”

Her eyes shone unshed tears and emotion there in abundance as she nodded, but then focused on her feet with a smile, almost in a shy manner. I found it incredibly endearing.

“I am glad you came here. I am glad, even though it was difficult, that you know the big things now. I know it will take time to… let it all sink in and I understand that. I understand if you need time.”
“I do, but I can have that time, and spend it with you, too, right?”
She smiled again, making me do the ‘inappropriate’ and grabbed her chin gently and inch her towards me for another knee weakening kiss.

“Yes, I believe you can.” She said as we pulled apart and I forced one leg in front of another to step away from her that night.

“Good. I look forward to the morning now; I look forward to our time.”
Her smile grew wider and I knew she felt the same way too.

“Until tomorrow then?”

She nodded.

“Until then.”

And with that I left and slept as soundly, knowing that I had time, and plans and hope. Those were things I never really knew I longed for until that night, but I did, and this time I was not about to mess things up by crawling into my shell and allowing the world to simply spin around me, I was going to actively live, for the first time in a long time.

Thanks to her.


Ps. There won’t be a poll this chapter guys, as I have already started chapter 16, striking while the iron is hot an all that jazz! xox


Chapter 16: Chapter 16


A/N: A little early 1900’s Eric was nothing if not … inspiring… this week. Enjoy 😉

SPOV:
I woke up beyond early the next morning, the sun had barely hit the horizons and I was up out of bed and tiptoeing into Pam’s room as silently as I could. She was face planted on her pillow, knocked out cold.

“Pam…”I whispered, nudging her.

She grunted.

Paaam…” I nudged again and she spoke, muffled into her linens.

“What? Is someone dead? Are you drunk? What is it, Sookie?” she said, all without opening her eyes. I took that as a sign she was awake and hoped on the bed beside her, annoying her, judging by the sound she made.

“He … came to me last night…”
“Congratulations, finally, you’ve fucked, now go away.”
“Shhh and No.” I chastised her as she turned to face me, but not really face me as her eyes were still shut. Pam loved her sleep more than any other person I knew, personally I thought of her as a rather humanized cat, she liked to lounge, clean and admire herself, and sleep, she was basically a cat.

“He came to my room and we talked.”
“God you’re both so sad… just take off his clothes and climb on him already.”
“Pam!” I scowled again, “would you listen? We talked and he’s less… I don’t know, panicked now. He understands why I did what I did, and he accepts it. He accepts me.”
With that she opened her eyes, fixing her lips into a pout.

“And that’s what you want, his acceptance?”
“Well, that’s a start for what I want, yes.”
“I see. And his reaction about… what happened between us?”
That was a little unclear, but I figured if he could accept that I was an almost-but-not-really-murderer, my little adventure with Pam was something he would surely understand. Given his own personal history with her, I found it hard to believe he would not get over it, and soon. He wasn’t a very judgmental man, from what I had seen, at least not completely, and he was not one to hold grudges.

“We’ll discuss it, I am sure, but for the time being, we’ve over come something huge, and I just thought I would share it with you before I went for my morning walk. Do you want anything back from –”
“I want to sleep? Lafayette comes at ten, he brings breakfast, but if you’d like to pick up a newspaper, please do so.”
“Okay. Sorry for disturbing you.” I said, still cheery and somewhat hyper as I hopped off her tall bed again and began to tiptoe out of the room.

“OH! Pam.”
“Whaaaaaaat?”
“Before I forget, your mother called last night, in all my upset I almost forgot.”
“What the fuck did she want?”
“Other than to intimidate me, I am not sure, she wants you to call her at your first availability. It sounded important.”
“It always is with that woman… thanks.”
I nodded, as she stuck a pillow over her head and I made my exit.

Running straight into Eric as I left Pam’s room.

“Oh…Good Morning.” I said, red-faced to his quizzical look.

“Good Morning…”
I looked to the door and back to him.
“This is not what it looks like.”
“What does it look like?” He smirked.

“That I’m exiting Pam’s bedroom at dawn after… a night in there. That is what it isn’t. I assure you.”
He pursed his lips, a twinkle of something in his eyes, and that smirk ever ready.

“Are you sure? I mean it was not the first place my mind went, but perhaps it should have been.”
His tone was mocking.

He was making fun of my embarrassment.

I got mad, and fast.

“No it most certainly is not where it should go. Just because Pam and I had…” I gestured, unable to get the words out, frustrating me even more. “Does not mean that I am some philandering –”
“Sookie,” He said, calm and low before he leaned in and kissed me, silencing my rambles. “Good Morning.”

As I pulled back and fought the urge to just melt into a tiny puddle of Sookie goo, I relaxed as he smiled.
“You’re up awfully early, Pam doesn’t usually surface until noon, does she need dressed at dawn?”
“No, I was in there annoying her, truth be told. I had things to get off my chest.”
With that his eyes travelled to said chest, and in a no-so-subtle way, he ogled with both brows raised comically, and smiled again his eyes meeting mine.

I just shook my head at his silliness, ignoring the fact that he was standing there in just his long underwear, and a vest. His arms and collar bone really were a sight.

“Why are you awake?”
“I was thirsty; I went to the kitchen for some water.” He made his point by holding up a glass filled with water.

With that a wild haired Pam opened her bedroom door.

“Hello, hi there, it’s six am, could you two go flirt somewhere else please? Thank you.”

With that she closed the door, but a second later, opened it.

“On second thoughts, sod the flirting, you could just go back there and get naked and get down to business? We all know you both want to, so could you please spare us – and by us, I mean the world – the bother of wondering and just go do it so I can get back to sleep without the sound of you two pretending to be coy around each other?”
My mouth fell agape, as Eric just burst out laughing as she closed the door again.

He then held his hand over, signally me to go in that direction. The direction of his room. Wordlessly, in fear of the wrath of Pam again, we moved to his softly lit room where the drapes were still drawn shut and only one oil lamp lit the room from his bedside.

“She really hates to be woken up before her time, I’ve learned that.” I said taking a seat on his messed bed as he put his water by the lamp and sat next to me.

“One time, we were travelling from Sweden, and the journey was hell for her, she slept almost twenty four hours, I started to worry that she was dead. Now I’ve learned to just let her awake from her death sleep on her own, her snippy tone is almost too much sometimes.”

“I just want you to know that my being intimate with Pam, it in no way diminished what I felt for you.”
His face dropped.

“Felt?”
“And feel,” I confirmed just in case he was thinking my feelings were solely past tense. “But at the time it was not about much else other than allowing me to feel better, feel free, calm, and loved. And I felt all those things with Pam, but that’s not to say I don’t feel them with you, even if we weren’t there yet.”
He nodded.

“There are many different kinds of love, I love Pam in my own way, our history is messy but we pulled through as friends, as family. And I see how Pam loves you and you her, I admit I felt… I love very few people Sookie, but those I do hold dearly to my heart I do not wish to lose.”
“How did you feel?” I probed.

“Honestly? Threatened. Pamela is so free and adventurous, I used to be too… but now I have seemed to have lost some of that and I know how appealing it is.”
I shook my head as he moved to the side of the bed, lying down. Was I to lie down too? What was happening here?

I didn’t dare panic, I knew I was safe with him, but it did not mean I was not anxious. Instead I ignored my over active brain and just laid down next to him, it felt natural and comforting.

“Eric, you’re right. I want what I feel for you to be real, I want it to be as real as you in front of me now, but I fear it cannot truly be real until you know everything. So yes
I do love Pam, and she has taught me so much and showed me so much in such a short space of time. But how I feel for her is nothing on how I feel for you. What I feel when you’re around,” I sighed, I never could put this into words that did it justice. “Nothing compares to it, nothing.”
He turned to me, his previous attentions focused on the roof.

“Really?”
“Yes, really. I would not have risked all I have to tell you the truth if I did not know you were a worthy, decent man, one that I love.”
There I had said it. We had both danced around those words for a long time, but it also felt good to confess.

He smiled, big and wide as he slid his arm around my back, pulling me beside him in a big bearlike cuddle. His lips went to my temple, and then to my ear, “I love you, Sookie, Susannah, whatever name you choose. I love you.”
I kissed him then, and it seemed as if we’d stepped into our own little bubble in that moment, him holding me, placing the blankets around us both and allowing us both to drift off to sleep in the others arms. It was heaven.

EPOV:

I woke up with the sun peeking through the minute space in the shuddered windows, I had lost all track of time, and who could blame me really, as I looked to the woman sleeping soundly in my arms. I took in her smell, one that smelled of summer, and soap and something that reminded me of mint. I noted her hair, long and soft, tussled around her like a security blanket of sorts, framing her pretty perfect face. I rarely saw her hair like it was, with her job she perfected a neat appearance, her hair always tied back and away from her face. I found I liked being one of few that got to see her like this. I slipped out of bed and into my clothes, before tip toeing out of the room to the kitchen, where I was met with a rather surprised looking Lafayette.

“Eric Northman, it has been a long while my friend.” He said as we embraced each other in a hug, a manly hug, very manly. Lafayette was not one for a simple handshake with anyone. I smiled; I had missed him, his humour and his wisdom in my absence.

“How are you, Lafayette. It is so good to see you doing well.”
He nodded and we fell into conversation about what we had been up to in the pervious few years since we had last seen each other. He was seeing someone again, this time he was not a married man, and with that we both breathed a sigh of relief. He seemed happy, content and busy.

“Am I interrupting?”
“No, not at all, I told Sookie I would deliver her baked goods for her today, I have not seen her around this morning; Lord knows where she’s gone off to.”

I smiled.

He looked at me, coyly.

“Oh… it’s like that is it? Well I never.”
“It’s not like anything. Sookie and I care very much about each other if you must know.”
“I am the last person to judge you, friend, but you know I wouldn’t be the first. Given the …circumstances.”
“I know, I don’t care what people say.”
He smiled then, “Well, good for you both then. Excellent, this war, its changing people and I hope it changes the world for the better. As it stands the poker the world has up its sizable arse is just unacceptable.”
He always could make me laugh, that’s for sure.

“Where’s Pam?” I realized it was just before noon.

“Oh, she left early. I had to help her with her buttons, but she left a note on the fireplace for Sookie. Something wrong?”
“Not that I know of…” I mused over her mood, and it wasn’t like Pam to leave without a scene, or at the very least fishing for compliments on her clothing before she left the house. I fixed myself and Sookie a plate of the food sitting waiting in the oven, and I warmed some bread too, as Lafayette excused himself to ‘pop’ into town.

I took pleasure in bring her food since I so often would receive my meals from her, it felt nice to reciprocate when I was allowed.

I got back upstairs to find her still asleep, though she woke when I sat on the bed again.

“I didn’t mean to sleep so late… what time is it?”
“Just after noon.”
“Oh God!” She shot up and I shushed her.

“Pam’s gone out you can relax, she left you this by the way, and Lafayette didn’t know where she went.”

She looked at the tray in surprise.

“You did this?”
“Well, honestly the food was cooked but I warmed the bread and didn’t burn it. Lafayette did the rest.” I said as proud of myself as I could be, I did not have the best track record in that kitchen.
I saw her cheeks pinken as she took the envelope, “So Lafayette knows I’m…”
“Yes.”
“Oh… okay. Well, thank you this is very sweet.” She blushed further, as she opened the note.

“She says she’s gone to visit a friend, an Ellen Jolie?”
“She was one of Pam’s … lady friends if you know what I mean.”
“Ah. She says she did not want to wake me, she says she’s not that cruel.” She laughed, “That she’ll be back in two days, and the dinner party is to still go ahead as planned. Hm.”

“She’s having another party?”
“Yes, this one is for some woman called Nora.”
I groaned. Not Nora. Anyone but her.

“Oh… Christ.”

“Bad?”

“Well not if you keep your wits about you, she’s rather full on in her desires.”
Her eyes widened.

“I’ve seen a few of those since I moved here; Pam really does have a diverse group of friends, doesn’t she?” She smiled, putting the note aside and taking a bite of the bread and some bacon. I dug in too, I was starving. We ate in relative peaceful silence, each of us almost sneaking a glance at the other from time to time. I got up then to move the tray from the bed, and open the shudders. The mid September air was muggy at best, fresh air was necessary. I looked back to see her sitting, legs crossed in the middle of my bed.

“What should we do today then?” I asked, I knew what I really wanted to do, but I also wasn’t pushing things. She and I had had a dramatic twenty-four hours, and if she did not want to rush, then neither did I. however what happened next assure me that we weren’t just on the same page of understanding, but also of want. She pushed herself up to her knees, and held out her hand. I came to her with no hesitation, as she pulled back the sheets and made space for me.
“This.” She said, kissing me softly, coaxing me onto the bed with her, I too, on my knees next to her.

My hands went to her neck, trailing up and down, through her hair and down to her narrow shoulders, her hands went to the hem of my night shirt, and she lifted it without so much a look of hesitation in her eyes.

“You sure?” I asked, mostly because I wasn’t sure my heart could take it if we started and stopped half way there. I wanted to be with her more than I had ever any other woman; the urge to just take her was almost too great. But, I knew I did not want to plough through and ruin what I hoped to be our first of many times together.

She simply nodded, as she began undoing the buttons on her nightgown, exposing her soft pale skin, inch by inch.

My fingers threaded in her hair pulling her in for a kiss, making her moan slightly as I did so, the sound going straight through me – before I went to the hem of her gown and did what she had done for me, and stripped it gently from her body.

I drank in the image before me, her delicate collarbone, her smooth arms, and how perfect and inviting her breasts really were outside of my imagination. I closed my eyes when her nimble fingers hit the waistband of my underwear, enjoying the feel of her hands there before she pushed them down my waist and I laid down on top of her, just losing myself in her kiss and her touch. I kicked off my underwear, becoming completely open to her and what we were about to do. I loved her, and I loved that she trusted me enough to want this with me in that moment. I let out a sigh of sheer pleasure as she worked me up and down, her grip tight but not painful; the soft warm feeling of having another woman’s touch after so long was almost overwhelming. I buried my face in her neck, after the few moments I needed to get used to the sensory overload I was beginning to experience. I touched her neck, and her soft but heavy breasts, before allowing myself to taste her skin as my hands took on a life of their own and began to roam in exploration. The little moans and murmurs that would escape her when I finally touched her sex, it was a sound I knew I would never grow tired of hearing. She was soft and wet, and so warm, it was inviting like nothing else on earth had ever been and as I worked her up like she had been working me up, and we both began to get more and more erratic in our movements, in our touch. Things went from slow and gentle to manic and head spinning in what seemed like no time at all. We had waited a long time, months and months of unresolved tensions, desires, thoughts all cultivating in this union. It was simply glorious.

Her lips and hands seemed to be everywhere at once as she moved to roll us over, leaving her straddling me, her hair in her way for a second or two, before she sat up straight and pushed it all back, allowing me easy and amazing access to those breasts of hers. She muttered something I did not fully hear, before she shifted, taking me in her hands again her eyes meeting him.

“I am trusting you, Eric.”
I nodded.

“You know you must stop before you –”
“I know, I will, I promise.” We were taking a huge risk, doing what we were doing with our circumstances as shaky as they were, but I loved her and now I knew she felt the same, the rest was just detail. And as I worked between her legs ensuring her readiness for me, watching her with her eyes closed and mouth open in pleasure, I knew that we would work those details out because this is what we both wanted, this is where we both needed to be.

Moving inside her, making love with her, listening to her moan and watching her bite into her lip to stop her noises, feeling her grasp at my body, the sheets, all of it was an overwhelming, electrifying heaven that I never wanted to leave.

“I really do love you.” She murmured, into my ear as we continued the rhythm we’d found fairly quickly, a rhythm that was rapid coming to the point of no return, and I knew I had to pull out, I had to, even if it was the last thing on earth my brain wanted me to do. I wanted to come inside, feel her body twitch around mine, I wanted it all, but having it all came with bigger risks, risks I would take but I knew she wasn’t ready for and since it was a bigger deal for her, ultimately understood that. So, I pulled out as she shuddered around me, and it took every inch of my willpower to do so, and I watched her shake and suck her lips between her teeth once more. Without so much as skipping a beat, she took me in her hands again, and generously began to finish me off; as I came I was seeing stars and swearing words, creating a bit of a mess in doing so. There was sweat and heat from all directions, and I was sure whoever was passing by the house just got a rather unexpected audio show that afternoon, but as I all but collapsed beside her, I cared not for anyone else in the world but her. She giggled as she flicked my hair from my brow, and slid in next to me, her body as hot as mine felt, her breathing just as erratic. We must have looked like fools, her hair was in a tizzy, as I was sure my own was, our skin red and both of us sated with what I was sure amounted to very silly looks on both our faces. But neither of us cared, not one little bit.

“I love you, too.” I answered her finally as she giggled, taking my hand and threading it with her own.

“We can do this, right? We can make this, whatever we are, work for us?” She asked, examining my hands.
“You’re damn right we can. No matter what.” I kissed her hand to make my point.
We were full of hope then, and as the old saying went, hope did spring eternal. And for us it did. But reality for us would be like a lead balloon to our floating hope, one way or another; someone would always try and bring it down.

A/N: Well, was it worth it? 😉


Chapter 17: Chapter 17


SPOV:

I woke up feeling groggy as my stomach rumbled. The room was now dark and a soft breeze was blowing through the half open windows. The only light came from the glow of the fire on the opposite side of the room.

“You lit the fire?” I whispered to him as he laid next to me.

“I did, I figured you’d be cold when you woke up.”

I wasn’t though, I was snuggle warm and content, he shifted to his side to look at me.

“Good evening,” with that a soft kiss landed on my forehead.

“Mmm. Good evening. I’m not cold, but I am starving. You realize we just spent all day in bed, I’m sure somewhere that’s a sin.”

He chuckled, tucking my hair behind my ear.

“The things we’ve done in this bed would probably be considered the sins, Sookie.”

“Hmm, you’re right. There was a time when committing any kind of sins frightened me beyond explanation.”

“But now?”

“Now, I know better than to believe the stories of men put in place to keep me in mine, to keep me scared. Men sin far more in telling those lies than any woman could by using her body for pleasure.”

“So basically they can -”

“Fuck off.” I nodded. “Basically, yes.” I smiled as he tucked me under his arm and drew me closer.

“I like that idea a lot. I never did pay much attention to the Bible bangers that spent too much time believing in something they couldn’t see to make the changes and not enough time believing in themselves and the changes they could make for themselves.”

“And you believe in yourself?” I asked, curious.

“I didn’t, after Sophie, I questioned everything, every little thing, but now… now there’s hope.”

“Hope for what?”

“A future, maybe?” He ran his finger down my arm, until his hand clasped mine. “A future with you, if that’s what you want.”

I could not stop the smile that grew on my face at his words, it was a scary prospect that is for sure, but one that delighted me as much as it scared me.

“The idea of facing the world with you as mine? One of the most pleasant thoughts to ever cross my mind -”

“So you have given this thought?”

“Of course I have, even in a childish, fantasy of a way – of course I’ve given it thought. I just never really took those thoughts seriously. Since I met you, the idea of this being a reality… was ridiculous…”

“But now…?”

“Now, things are different, you know of the skeletons in my closet – be they metaphorical rather than real as things stand, and I know enough about you for now, that it satisfies me that you’re the person I think you to be. You’ve accepted my past. My mistakes, and my reasons for the lies I told. You’re a good man, Eric Northman, so yes, the idea of this, with you, is a pleasant one indeed.” I beamed.

“If I were to ask you, what I think you know I want to ask of you…” his face tinted pink at his words, it spread to his neck even. He was nervous, suddenly as was I, at the meaning and weight of his words. “It would be something you would find… agreeable?”

“You know you can’t ask that of me, not yet. Bill is still alive, which means, legally at least, I’m still -”

His face dropped, as if that reality just occurred to him, the very big bump in our road to a happily ever after.

“But, if that weren’t an issue…”

I smiled.

“Then I’d be hinting that we go do it right now and to hell with anyone who thought we couldn’t.”

That brought the smile back to his face.

“So, all we need to do is get Bill to grant you a divorce and we’ll be free to do as we please.”

“You make it sound so simple, Eric. You do not know Bill, he’s not the kind of man that gives up his things so easily, why do you think it is that I ran from him? It wasn’t my first attempt, but because I assumed him to be dead, it was my only successful one. If we find him, or he finds me first, I can only hope time and perspective has changed him, otherwise we may never get what we want from him.”

“Come, we’ll discuss this further when we’ve had something to eat, your tummy rumblings are very distracting.” He smiled, though it was a sadder one that the others we shared that day, as we made our way, in our robes, to find something for our makeshift and very informal dinner back in bed by the fire.

We managed some toasted bread, lots of cheese, some pancakes I had made the night before, and a half a chocolate and cream cake that was left over from during the week, and of course some wine. There was one thing this house was never short of, and that was alcohol. We took the blankets and had a night time picnic of sorts by the fire, and it was one of the best, most peaceful nights of my life. Just being there with him, totally free to do and say as I pleased. To be in his arms, completely in the moment as we talked of all things we wanted for the future and just how we were going to go about achieving them.

“We have to go back, eventually.” I said, talking of Scotland and all things Lord Niall related. He simply groaned, sipping his wine at my feet as we lounged in front of the fire, together.

“Never. We can just stay here, just like this, where the rules don’t apply and no one’s watchful eye gets an eyeful.”

“I wish! But, I have a contract with the estate, and you… have … he’s your family now Eric.”

“I know, I just wish we could ease up on the rules, you know?”

“I bet you were an unruly child, weren’t you?” I teased, “one of those that never went to bed on time and never ate his vegetables!”

He rolled his eyes, “Maybe?”

“Mmhmm. Your poor mother then.” I smiled offering him another slice of cake.

“I was a handful, I admit, but all young boys are… I don’t think I ever went a day without getting some kind of mud on my clothes, I always remember she was forever doing laundry, and then when money got a little better, we had a lady that came and did those things for her, she never liked it though, she preferred to be the real lady of her house and run it all herself. My father wanted to just spoil her when the money started coming in, but she was having none of it.”

“Sounds like a smart woman.” I nodded, finishing off my cheese with a healthy sip of wine. He seemed a little lost for a few minutes after that, as if he was simply contemplating his place, or perhaps lost in memory, whatever it was, it took me touching his hand to bring him back to the present.

“Where did you go?”

He simply kissed my temple, bringing me closer to his side.

“Nowhere more important than here and now, I promise.” With that he kissed me properly, something that was fast becoming my favourite past time.

“Well good, because I think we should go back to bed and stop worrying about the future for tonight, and just enjoy the present.”

“You know, that’s one of the best ideas I’ve heard in a very long time, love.”

And with that, we added more wood to the fire, left the remains of our picnic and hurried back into bed where everything made sense because it was just he and I, doing whatever we pleased. Sadly I think we both knew that wasn’t going to last very long.

EPOV:

For two days it was as if Sookie and stepped into our own little world, it was just us, in Pam’s townhouse, together. Enjoying each other in all the ways we had wanted to since we first met, in a somewhat magical environment of ‘no one else around’. There were no cooks, or maids, or expectation or judgement. We ate breakfast together, we bathed together, and we strolled around Paris together, just enjoying every experience they had to offer. Which was to say a lot of food, and as much as she protested, a new dress for her from me. I had seen her admiring it as we passed, and admitted to her and myself how stunning she would look in it for the party, she of course proceeded to protest for the next ten minutes before I all but dragged her into the little boutique and proved us both right -she did look stunning in it.

“You’re not to get into a habit of that,” she said as we made our way, with some food for dinner, back home.

“I can’t hear you, sorry what was that?”

She just shook her head and rolled her eyes as I held her arm as we took the steps to the house.

“Really, Eric. It’s not necessary.”

“It was a dress, one, if I’m not mistaken you need one for the party tonight.”

She groaned.

“Do I have to go? I really don’t… fit in. I went one time for Pam and while the majority of people were nice, and asked for my baking, I just felt so out of place.”

We got inside and found it to be as empty as we left it, Pamela still had not returned.

“Sookie, you know how much I loathe these overly pompous affairs too, but it is your place. You are a -”

“Don’t say Lady.”

“Is it not what you are?”

“No, what I am is a Ladies Maid, there is a subtle but definite difference.”

I frowned and she noticed.

“What?”

“It’s not who you were born to be.”

“Says who? Sookie Stackhouse is a maid, Eric. I thought we came to grips with that little reality back in Scotland.”

“That was before I knew Susannah.”

She sighed.

She doesn’t exist anymore.”

“That’s not true. You’re still holding on to her, to your family.”

“I am not -”

“No? Then why the need for the divorce? Sookie isn’t married, Susannah is. We could by-pass the need for Bill altogether if that’s how you really felt. But, it’s not, you still cling to your old life, as well you should.”

That silenced her and she took a seat, very slowly, in the living room where we had been having our spat.

“I never thought of it like that before.”

I stayed silent, there was nothing more for me to say.

“I’ll go and get this on some plates for us, and leave Pam some for when she comes back.”

With that I took my leave to the downstairs kitchen.

It took her a few minutes, but soon I heard her footsteps on the stairs, as I continued to put out our dinner. When I looked up she was leaning against the door frame watching me.

“You’ve got flair, if it all goes tits up you could have a career as a Butler.” She smiled a little sadly.

“Wouldn’t that be fun, at least that way no one would bat an eyelid at us being together.”

“No, they probably would even then, let’s be honest, people are judgmental assholes most of the time.”

I laughed, because mostly, it was very true.

“Eric, my name… my real name, it means a lot to me, still.”

“As it should.”

“It’s my family name, and really the only connection I have left of all of them. I earned my name, my family worked hard to earn a decent reputation, and I can’t let that die because of Bill Compton. Not now that I know there’s a way out of this for me.”

I nodded.

“I realized it was important to you, but I was not so sure you realized yourself.”

“I do now.”

“Good, great. It just makes things more complicated of course, but, I have faith in us, I have faith in my lawyers.”

She looked confused.

“If Bill… If we find him or he finds us, and he refuses… I’ll take care of it.”

“Eric…”

“No, I won’t have him threatening you, he has nothing to hold over you and even if he does, we’ll make sure he does what we want.”

She raised her brows as she made her way into the room, to me.

“You can be mighty intimidating when you want to be, you know that?”

“It is the height, it scares short people.” I grinned.

With that she burst out laughing, before she circled her arms around my waist.

“It is more than that, you get this look in your eye… it is probably wrong to find it so… attractive.”

“Nah, it is just me you find attractive, any and all looks in eyes is just part of the package.”

“You’re cocky.”

“Yes, I am.” I said doing my best over exaggerated wriggle against her. She swatted me away, making her way to the plate when we heard the front door closing.

“Pam’s home!” She said, smiling setting the three plates on a tray and beginning to exit.

“You coming?”

“I’ll be right there, I’ll get the wine.”

She smiled.

“Okay, don’t take too long.”

I wanted them to have a moment, and in reality I needed one myself. I knew thinking it over that her husband was the biggest bump in the road we could face in the near future, and I was not completely sure how I was going to handle him, but I knew I had good men with the law on their side that could make Sookie look like the unwitting victim that he turned her into. Either way, he wasn’t going to halt her life any longer, and if being with me is what she wanted, I would be sure to do whatever I could in my power to ensure that it happened. For her happiness, and selfishly, for my own.

SPOV:

“Pam!” I said greeting her as she left her coat and bags in the hall. She looked radiant, her hair down and curled to perfection.

“How was your trip?”

“Oh, you know, trippy.” She smiled, hugging me with one arm as I balanced the tray in another, I was that good.

“I see your friend’s Ladies Maid made good work of your hair…”

“Jealous?” She raised her brows as we made our way into the living room. I just smiled.

“You look happy, Sookie. Am I to assume that you and Eric finally…”

“You may assume.” I grinned and she squeezed my hands.

“Finally!”

“Yes, yes. There is still such a ways to go, but it’s a wonderful start, I…am really happy Pam.”

“Have you tied him to a bed somewhere?” I blushed at her words.

“No!”

“Where is he then?”

With that all six feet five inches of him came around the corner with a bottle of wine and three glasses.

“He is here, and he comes baring wine for the lady on her travels.” He put the glasses and the bottle on the table as I took a seat, and he hugged Pam.

“How are you?”

“I’m well. You both look…rested.” She smirked causing Eric to smile.

“Yes… um… well…” Eric stammered.

“Too gentlemanly to comment, Northman? Don’t be shy, we’ve both had her now.”

My eyes widened, I could not believe that she said that. I expected Eric to bristle, but instead he just grinned.

“Yes, indeed we have, but only one of us gets to keep her.”

“Is that right? You know I might just employ her forever and keep her here.”

“Oh, please as if -”

“You two, seriously?” I interrupted. “I am not some toy you two can fight over, you know?”

With that they both looked considerably chastised.

“Sorry, I was joking, you know that.” Pam said pouring herself a glass of wine, then pouring one for both Eric and I as he took a seat next to me.

“Guests are arriving at nine, I want to take a bath and get changed before they do, Sookie.” Pam informed me, and just like that I was back to work, much to Eric’s chagrin.

“We were just going to have some dinner, Pam.” He informed her then, clipped as you like.

“It’s fine, Eric I don’t mind running her bath first, I’ll be right down, the water should be warmed by now anyway…”

Eric was giving Pam an eye that I did not like the look of. I had to intervene, so I touched his face to get his attention before I left the room in the hopes of snapping him out of it. I left my wine, and took the stairs to prepare Pam’s bath and dress for the party. This was to be a drinks only party, but of course I had goodies on stand-by for nibbles, thankfully baked before Eric arrived, otherwise I would have got nothing done. With the bath with added salts half filled, I began laying out her options for that night, when Eric came into the room, my plate and glass in hand.

“You should eat something, Sook.”

“Look at you, taking care of me.” I said acknowledging his sweetness with a quick kiss to his lips. He looked suddenly forlorn.

“Something wrong?” I inquired as he took a seat on the bed and I picked at my plate, and sat on his knee to do so.

“I just didn’t like her tone.”

I smirked.

“Oh, honey, I’m used to so much worse.”

He just glared looking a tad hurt.

“Not from you, silly. Just in general, it’s a low point of the job title, I suppose.”

“I hate that you’ve had it ‘worse’, I just hate that abuse of power.”

“It happens the world all over, men, women, children, most of us in our lives will have an employer who will, without a doubt abuse the power. Pam is not that employer, she just liked how I draw her baths.”

“You do draw good baths.” He mumbled into my neck.

“I know, let’s take this to your room and let Pam get ready, we can be late, very late for this party. In fact, we could not -”

“We have to make an appearance, even for an hour or so. Just to stop her from pouting.”

“I don’t pout,” Pam said, swanning into her room where we sat and kicking off her shoes. “I bitch, but I do not pout, I’m not a child, Eric. Come to the party, don’t come to the fucking party, I don’t care.”

Her tone had been off since she arrived, something was very wrong in the world of Pam and I needed to find out what it was.

“Could you give us a minute? I’ll be in in a second.” I tried to give him a look that might convey that I had wanted to talk to Pam privately. Once he exited the room, I turned to Pam before I started undoing her buttons on the back of her elaborately accessorized dress.

“What’s wrong, Pam?”

“Everything. Nothing at all. It depends on who you ask.”

“I am asking you.”

She sighed and shed her dress, taking the clips from her hair.

“I contacted my mother, and her news was not good news.”

“How so?”

“Her news? Was in relation to my cut of my father’s fortune. Long story short, I need to get married before the new year, or I don’t get my cut.”

That stunned me, particularly since Pam was so sure she was in the will with no strings attached.

“Married? To a MAN?”

She just looked at me as if I had two heads.

“No. Sookie, a woman. Of course to a man! Sadly marrying a woman would be both too easy and never allowed to happen, so yes, a man. The one thing in life I never fucking wanted to do and now I have to do it in order to keep on living the life I want. Fuck!”

“Oh, Pam… I’m so sorry.”

She sighed again, taking off her stockings and the rest of her attire, she grabbed the hot cloth from the water and rinsed it out before she climbed slowly into the hot water, placing the cloth over her face.

“We’ll discuss this later, please come to the party tonight, even just for a while. You don’t have to stay and play if you don’t want to.”

I knew what Pam and her party guests definition of ‘play’ was now, there was no way I was cut out for their kind of games, that’s for sure.

“Go be with your boy, come to me in a half hour to help me get ready?” She asked from behind the steaming cloth. I nodded even though she couldn’t see me, I patted her arm before I left and she shooed me away with a slight laugh. I knew she did not want my pity, but I could not help but feel bad for her, what a difficult position to be in, particularly for a woman with her preferences.

I found Eric on his bed with no shoes or shirt on, picking at my plate with one hand, and his nose in a book with another hand. He looked up as I entered his dimly lit room where we’d spent the majority of our two days.

“She’s in the shit.” Not the most eloquent of phrases, but the most accurate in the given situation, I felt.

“Oh?”

“Hmm.” I said, as I crawled on to the bed beside him, attacking my plate of cold meats and bread, there was even some fruit. I told him her tale of woe, knowing that sooner or later she would tell him herself.

“Jesus…” He sounded as shocked as I had been.

“I know…”

“Isn’t it ironic, at least a little.”

“What is?”

“We want to get married and can’t, the last thing Pam wants in life is get married and she has to do it.” He chuckled as he stole a grape.

“I suppose it is, I just feel so bad for her, Eric.”

“I do too. But, Pam is like a cat, she lands on her feet, time after time.”

“You know, that myth isn’t actually true… When I was little one of the boys that lived on the farm next to ours decided to test it out, the cat landing on its feet theory.”

He smiled, feeding me a grape.

“And the result?”

“The poor thing had to be put to sleep, he cracked it’s back.” I grimaced at the memory of that cruel boy and that poor animal. “It was horrid.”

“I can imagine.” He kissed me on the cheek, bringing me out of my horrible memory. I liked that aspect of us here, the little touches, the hand holding, the bigger kisses, and yes, the sex too. I knew that once we left there, and we would have to, everything would be different until I got hold of Bill Compton and got him playing the game we wanted him to play, a thought I dreaded more than anything. Instead, I snuggled up to my new beau, shutting out all thoughts of uppity party guests, ex husbands and a friend in crisis.

“Let’s worry later, for now… I think I should draw you and I a bath. Pam’s looked appealing.”

I smiled.

“She did say we could be late. You do that and hop in, I’ll get her ready and be back in about ten minutes.”

“So, a half hour then?” He chuckled, clearing my plate from the bed as I got up kissing him from his nose to his cheeks and down to his lips playfully.

“Yes, so a half hour then. Add the salts in your cupboard, they’re life changing.” I wiggled my brows before I fixed my skirt and bodice, straightening myself up. I still had a job to do after all.

The party could wait, Pam couldn’t.


🙂


Chapter 18: Chapter 18


Last time on War at Heart :

“Isn’t it ironic, at least a little.”

“What is?”

“We want to get married and can’t, the last thing Pam wants in life is get married and she has to do it.” He chuckled as he stole a grape.

“I suppose it is, I just feel so bad for her, Eric.”

“I do too. But, Pam is like a cat, she lands on her feet, time after time.”

“You know, that myth isn’t actually true… When I was little one of the boys that lived on the farm next to ours decided to test it out, the cat landing on its feet theory.”

He smiled, feeding me a grape.

“And the result?”

“The poor thing had to be put to sleep, he cracked it’s back.” I grimaced at the memory of that cruel boy and that poor animal. “It was horrid.”

“I can imagine.” He kissed me on the cheek, bringing me out of my horrible memory. I liked that aspect of us here, the little touches, the hand holding, the bigger kisses, and yes, the sex too. I knew that once we left there, and we would have to, everything would be different until I got hold of Bill Compton and got him playing the game we wanted him to play, a thought I dreaded more than anything. Instead, I snuggled up to my new beau, shutting out all thoughts of uppity party guests, ex husbands and a friend in crisis.

“Let’s worry later, for now… I think I should draw you and I a bath. Pam’s looked appealing.”

I smiled.

“She did say we could be late. You do that and hop in, I’ll get her ready and be back in about ten minutes.”

“So, a half hour then?” He chuckled, clearing my plate from the bed as I got up kissing him from his nose to his cheeks and down to his lips playfully.

“Yes, so a half hour then. Add the salts in your cupboard, they’re life changing.” I wiggled my brows before I fixed my skirt and bodice, straightening myself up. I still had a job to do after all.

The party could wait, Pam couldn’t.

Chapter 18:

Eric:

Pam’s parties were always a riot, and back in the day I loved nothing more than losing myself for hours, sometimes for days, in the debauchery of it all. But then, I changed or things changed but I mostly think I changed for better or worse. And now, it all seemed so sad. There was no real feeling, just sex. Drunken, or drug addled sex, the kind that you love at the time, it feels wonderful, until you wake up in the harsh light of day next to a stranger, filled with nothing but regret.

It worked for Pam; she liked her life. But with her mother’s news that she had to marry by the new year or she was cut off from a substantial fortune, I wonder how much longer she could hide away inside her bohemian lifestyle with little consequence.

“Eric Northman, as I live and breathe. I never expected to see you here again.” Nora said, sauntering to me, taking a glass of wine from the table as she did, I nursed my whiskey.

“Nora. Nice to see you again.” I offered as she air kissed my cheek, grinning.

“Nice to see you too, old friend.”

We were never friends. Lovers, yes. But never friends and the look in her eye told me she remembered that just fine.

“How have you been?” I asked, taking in the room around me. Pam’s home now filled with music, and three waiters waiting at the drop of a hat to refill glasses or offer new drinks. Her guests had arrived and were mingling nicely so far.

“I have been well enough. This war is dragging on, all of it so dreadful for the soul, don’t you agree?”

“Yes. I agree. It’s not something we want to carry on any longer than it has to. Hopefully there will be a resolution one way or another soon.”

“Yes. It is so very tiresome. Cut off from what we were all so used to. Those freedoms. The perfection of those long summer days when we’d just spend our time without a care, do you remember?”

I sipped my drink.

“I remember.”

She grinned.

“I had thought you had forgotten about me. When I heard you got married, I have to say I was the most surprised out of anyone. I remember you telling me you weren’t the… how did you put it? The ‘marrying kind?’.

I cringed. I had said that, and at the time, with her, I had meant every word.

“It was true then. I just… met someone that changed my mind.”

“I see.” She sipped her drink, I think I must have offended her. But, like the Nora I knew, she took it on the chin, smiling when she swallowed her sip.

“I was sorry to hear that she passed away. That must have been devastating for you.”

“You could say that.” I offered that and nothing more in way of explanation.

“But as they say, life goes on. And I’m so pleased you’ve come to play with us tonight, Eric. We’ve missed you terribly.” Her dainty Surrey accent, helped with years of elocution lessons pipped up; as she linked her arm with mine as led me further into the room. I was mingling maybe minutes more when Nora nudged me.

“Do we know her?” She aimed her eyes to the door. I knew who she meant right away, but said nothing until I looked. There Sookie stood in a soft baby blue dress, her hair curled and neatly piled, much like Pam’s who stood next to her, whispering in her ear. No doubt telling her who was who inside the dining room.

I couldn’t help but smile, and I disgruntled Nora noticed.

“Yes, we know her very well.” I removed Nora’s hand from my arm and went to Sookie. She looked nervous, as she fidgeted with her hands.

“Sookie, come in, let me introduce you to some people!” I said, proud to see how beautiful she looked.

“Eric let’s not. I’d rather just take a seat for dinner.”

“Please?” I asked quietly as her eyes darted around the room. “Don’t be scared. We can leave after dinner, I promise.”

She took a deep breath.

“Yes, alright.”

She gripped my arm as if her life depended on it, I hated that she was so nervous, but I also hoped to put her nerves at ease.

That was until Nora found us again, just as we were taking our seats for dinner. Sitting herself in between Sookie and I. Sookie looked at me, curiously, but far too well mannered to call out Nora and her lack there of. We took our seat as Pam began to speak. She talked of all her old friends, and some new, how she was glad we had all survived another year to be able to meet up again. Not that that applied to me since it had been many a year since I had last attended one of her parties. But, I listened anyway, before Nora leaned over to whisper something to me.

“Do I get you tonight, Eric? It has been too long since you and I… had fun. Together.”

Sookie must have heard her because she noticeably bristled in her seat.

“Not not, Nora.” I said, nodding to a still speaking Pam.

By the middle of dinner, she was making her case to me as to why we needed to ‘reconnect’, while Sookie and I barely got a word to each other, her attentions taken by a man to her left, he was handsome, and flirting too. I didn’t like it one little bit.

“Eric, I was just telling Thomas here that we have plans for the rest of the week, don’t we?” Sookie spoke up then, looking past Nora, much to Nora’s chagrin.

“Uh, yes. We do. Lots of plans. Sorry, Thomas.”

Thomas just shrugged and went back to eating. I would have to find out what that was about, later.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are?” Nora directed at Sookie. “And I usually know everyone that Pamela knows, rather intimately.” She said, sneaking a look back at me as if to really make her point. I gripped my fork tighter, fighting the urge to slap her with it.

“Are you family? Or just some little lost cause. Eric loves his lost causes, and with that old dress on you certainly look like one.”

Before I could reprimand Nora for her ill manners, Sookie smiled.

“Oh, that’s explains why you and he are friends then doesn’t it? Or rather it explains why he looks like he’d rather hell swallow him whole than have you touch him again. For a woman that tells to know so much, you’ve missed some serious detail there, haven’t you.”

Nora’s mouth went agape, and she closed it again, looking from Sookie back to me.

“Eric are you going to let her talk to me like -”

“She can talk to you however she pleases.” I said taking a bite of my potato. “Sookie meet Nora, Nora meet Sookie.”

“And just who is this … Sookie.” She spat her name as if it left a bad taste in her mouth, as I’m sure it did.

“I’m his lover.” Sookie spoke up before she took a rather large gulp of her wine, but she held a rather smug look in her eye. “You know, that title you’re so desperately trying to grasp? I’m that.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. A thing that further enraged Nora.

“Is that so? And what do you do, exactly?”

With that Sookie raised her eyebrows.

“What do I do? Hmm. Lots of things, by trade I’m a baker for example, but lately, mostly I just do Eric. Thoroughly. And what do you do?”

Nora’s face, it was a picture. And judging by the others at the table they’d overheard too. Pam looked proud as punch.

“I’m an heiress to my father’s diamond mining business, if you must know.”

“So, you do nothing then. You spend your father’s money until it’s time to find a husband and then proceed to spend his money. How nice for you.” Sookie deadpanned, and I could do nothing but watch in sheer awe as my little shy love just took on the room with her wit and sarcasm and won. Nora was left speechless.

Sookie stood.

“Pam, darling.” She said before she finished off her drink, “I want to thank you for dinner, but I’m simply exhausted. I shall retire for the night if that’s okay with my gracious hostess?”

Pam nodded, a smug smile etched across her face.

“Of course my dear, of course. The party will not be the same without you, but I understand.”

Nora let out a breath, as if relieved that Sookie was leaving. But turned to me surprised when I stood up also.

“Where are you going? Just because she is leaving doesn’t mean -”

“That’s exactly what it means, Nora. I don’t play well with other’s anymore, and Sookie doesn’t like to share her things.”

She huffed. Clearly not happy at all.

I leaned to kiss her quickly on the cheek as Sookie waited for me by the door.

“Good seeing you again Nora.”

By the time Sookie and got to the staircase, her hands were shaking.

“Did I really saw those things? God… I’m so embarassed.”

“Don’t ever be. It was fantastic. You really put her in her place.”

“But I had no right -”

“You had every right. You didn’t lie, she was trying it on with me, everyone could see that, even when they knew you and I were together. I’m proud of you, Sookie.” I said as we rounded the corner to my bedroom, our bedroom.

“I’m not. Everyone probably thinks me some -”

“They’ll think you the life of the party, unafraid to say what’s on her mind. Most in that room admire that. Not Nora of course, she’s rather… sneaky in her attacks. Or she tries to be.”

“She was a cow.”

“She was.”

“You really… were with her?”

“For a time. If it helps the majority of that time I was on a serious amount of opium.”

Her eyes widened.

“It’s times like these I realise how sheltered I’ve been in life.”

“Not for much longer. Soon we’ll be free to do as we please. I promise.”

“Still want to marry me even though I’m a loud mouthed ill-bred mess?”

I laughed at her sad face as she sat on the bed, slipping off her shoes.

“If it’s possible I want to marry you even more.”

She finally smiled, and it was a wonderful ending to such a stressful evening. If all my stressful days ended with her and her smiles, I could be a happy man, that’s for sure.

Sookie:

“Your dress is getting all dirty.” He said, fluffing some dirt off the hem.

“I don’t even mind. This is too nice.” I said leaning against him again. We found a park, and the sun was still warm in the sky even though it was almost six in the evening. We’d bought some snacks and decided to take our time, lounging in the grass without a care in the world. Or at least that how we wanted it to be desperately. But we had a two more days of this, and then we had to return to Scotland, and on our return, everything that we were here couldn’t be. It broke my heart.

“When we marry…” He began and I laughed. “What?” He asked, poking my arm.

“A little presumptuous aren’t we?” I giggled.

“Well… we will marry.”

“Oh, will we now?”

He scoffed. “You love me. How could you refuse me.”

“Perhaps I will. Perhaps it’s my plan to leave a trail of broken hearted handsome men in my wake. Perhaps.”

“Let me ask you properly then.”

I shook my head.

“No.”

“Why?”

“You know why. I don’t want it asked when there is still a chance that it may never happen. You may ask when I am a free woman, like you are a free man. You may ask then and I will have a delightful answer for you.” I smiled, turning to face him then. He planted a soft kiss on my lips.

“Then I will happily wait for that answer, my love.”

My heart soared. I was his love. It was still a new and wonderful feeling.

“When you are my wife, will you still indulge my ramblings on my books?”

“Only if I’m still allowed to ramble also…”

“Will we still take our walks, together, even when we are both married and boring?”

I laughed.

“I shall like very much to be boring with you, though I doubt we ever would be.”

“And will we have children?”

With that a streak of panic ran through me. I wasn’t sure it was possible for me bear children. I hoped it was just with Bill that those problems lay.

“God willing, I would like that very much.”

“I will not risk you if we are told not to. I will not risk losing you for something we may never be allowed to have. There are lots of other ways to have a family, if it is not possible the old fashioned way, we can always look into newer ways.”

I felt the tears threaten to spill at his words.

“Really? Most men would think their wives… broken. If they were unable -”

“Sookie. I lost Sophie in childbirth, I never want to lose you to anything, least of all putting yourself through something you may not be strong enough for. I would never force that option on you. Never.”

I kissed him sweetly at that. I found the more time I spent with him the more I fell in love with him. It was a little bit frightening how deeply I cared for him, how fast, how so very completely.

He groaned.

“The idea of going back… even though he is family now… it is just not appealing to me in the slightest. I still think your plan is crazy.”

A plan we had discussed to death the night he telephoned.

“I cannot walk in there as your lover, out in the open. I just could not do it. Eric, I may not have much anymore, but I still have my pride. A group of strangers I may never see again is one thing, this and them is entirely another. I won’t have them talk about me as your whore.”

“You are NOT my -”

“I know that, but you know that’s how they’ll spin it. I’ll be a money grabbing, conniving whore only after your money and the security you can give me. No. I don’t want anyone to know of us, until I am properly divorced and I can walk through those doors as your wife. Alright?”

He sighed.

“Yes. I understand it. I do not like it. But, I understand.”

“You’re a very understanding Gentleman.” I giggled.

“Yes, and you are a very contrary Lady, anyone ever tell you that?”

With a full on laugh, I pulled myself to my feet.

“All the time, darling. All the time.”

By the time we got back to Pam’s the house was thankfully empty, some of her ‘guests’ had lingered behind from the party a couple of nights before, now though there wasn’t a soul.

“I hate packing. So much folding.” Eric whined as he dragged his empty luggage from underneath the bed. He and I were planning on going back to Scotland, out of necessity more than want. A phone call the day before had put paid to our little vacation from real life.

Nial was ill and he was requesting that Eric come home and settle up the estate. He was scared and had moved in a couple of doctors and a nurse to take care of him full time, along with the staff. He also ‘requested’ that I come back and fulfill my contract, with Eric so at least I wasn’t travelling alone. I questioned the sincerity of Eric’s message to me from Niall, since I knew he couldn’t give two pennies if I returned safely or not, given the conversation I overheard with him and Pam before I left.

“Ha. Try being a maid, Mister. It is not fun and games.”

“I know, I’m ungrateful. I’m sorry.” He pouted slightly as he tried and failed to fold his collarless shirt. I took it from him to fix it.

“You’re not ungrateful, you’re just… privileged. I was the same before I had to start over. You learn, fast when you have to.”

My first few jobs were a joke, I was awful, nervous and uncoordinated – and very fired, very fast.

“Eric, I have to deliver some of my baking, it’s just a few blocks from here. If there aren’t any checkpoints or anything I should be back in less than a half an hour, you okay here until I return?” Getting around the city had been a bit of a struggle in recent weeks. Soldiers were deployed now on every street, or at least that’s how it felt sometimes.

“Of course. But if you come back to a suitcase full of shirts in a ball, don’t judge me.”

I smiled and grabbed my coat from the foot of his bed, it was a couple of weeks until October now, and you could certainly feel the chill creep into the air in the evenings. As I predicted there were patrols, but no one was being stopped or questioned, no trouble was brewing, at least for the time being. I walked up the steps to Claude’s home, a townhouse not too dissimilar to Pam’s, and was let in my Irene, his housekeeper. I had not wanted to stay long, but with Claude, a friend of Pam’s that I had met at one of her less-crazy parties, it was hard to say no. He was always so welcoming and so upbeat about live, even though he had lost his brother to the war, and his sister had married a ‘commoner’ and thus almost ruined his family’s reputation. He loved my banana bread and muffins, and would make me tea and force me have something as he regaled me of his tales of woe, when he came to dating women, when he had ‘little use’ for them besides admiring their dress and accessories. He always made me laugh, that was another thing I loved.

“I just do want marriage. It is so final. Like death. Death with a woman, for life. You know?” He gestured with his hand, his French-English heavily accented and adorable. I just could do nothing more than giggle.

“But it’s not for certain that you must, surely. You’re just a young man.”

“You flatter me, Sookie. I almost thirty. I have a pushy mother and father and just all this pressure that is just doing nothing but give me wrinkles. You see them? All under my eyes!” He got up close, making me laugh even harder at his high jinx.

“I find no woman acceptable, I just… no like.”

Something clicked. I mean, I knew the answer to my question before I asked it, but I felt I had better be on the safe side and ask anyway.

“Claude, since you no like women.” I said, using his accent a little, because I loved it. “Do you like… the men?”

He blushed.

“Maybe a little. But shh.” He indicated with his index finger and thumb just how ‘little’ he liked them.

I had the best idea since I decided to take some of the bones out of my corset for comfort. Claude needed a woman… Pam needed a man. Neither of them needed each other for anything else.

My god, it was brilliant.

Twenty minutes later I was leading Claude into Pam’s home by the hand. He was apprehensive, but he was willing to at least talk it through with Pam. As I kept reminding him, it couldn’t hurt to talk.

Eric looked oddly as I led Claude past his room, what became ‘our’ room, and soon peeked out from the doorway.

“Sookie,” he began softly, looking from Claude to myself. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, Eric. This is Claude, he’s a casual acquaintance of Pam’s, we met at a party here, it was him I was leaving the baked goods with.”

“Uh-huh… so why is he…here?”

“Oh, he’s here to marry Pam. Is she home?”

He blinked, confused, but I didn’t give him a chance to respond. Instead I walked into Pam’s bedroom, where I found her at her dressing table, letting down her hair from the afternoon.

“Pam.” I said and she looked around, shocked to see we had company.

“Claude? What the hell are you doing here?” She asked him.

He just shrugged.

“Pam, we have a proposition for you. Hear us out?”

She looked at us funny, as if I had suddenly grown two heads, but she nodded, got up and closed the door. Poor Eric being left on the other side, probably with the same look on his face.

I really hoped my idea worked!


A/N: Anyone still with this story? Love to hear from you, as always! 🙂


Chapter 19: Chapter 19


Hi guys! New chapter already I hear you ask? Well, yes. See, I go through stages. A fic is dead, it’s never coming back, there are no ideas… etc. Then suddenly it’s alive again, and I update twice in a week while aiming to start the next update when I post this. It’s madness I tell you, MADNESS. But, alas, that is my brain, and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry for this ramble, that also happen a lot! Eh! Either way, here be thy update. Enjoyith, comment, rant at me thyself. Can you tell it’s almost 2.30am where I am? 😉

SPOV:

What seemed like hours with Pam and Claude, planning and talking, and they finally agreed to talk it out. Eric eventually got let inside, and in on the plan too, he was silent for the most part, with a lot of pragmatic sounding sighs. I didn’t have the time to plan with them, I was due on a boat in a matter of hours, but I could aim them both in the right direction and hope for the best.

“Look, as someone that has married for what I thought to be love… sometimes it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes people turn out to be nothing like you expect. At least this way, you both secure your future, and continue to … live your lives the way you always have. On paper is where it counts for now.”

They were game, Pam practically giddy with the idea of a secret mission, like they were spies undercover. Whatever floats her boat, I thought, as long as it meant she end up happy – and for Pam happiness was a husband that had no interest in impregnating her. They had time to arrange something to their suiting, I was just happy I could help.

Our final real day in Paris and Pam insisted on taking us all out for dinner, a novelty since the city was at a standstill most of that week due to raids. But, a little thing like a war, never stopped Pam from living her high life. Lafayette, Eric, myself and Pam sat down to dinner with a timeless view of the Seine, and the falling leaves of the trees that lined the walk. I would be sad to see this city fade as I departed, but at least now I knew I had friends there, should I ever wish to return.

“I really don’t know what I am to do without you, Sookie.” Pam stated. “I have come to rely on you so much. Not just for my maid requirements, but as a friend, as a baker of crafty and low fattening goodies that were the sure fire cure for my hangover.”

“I’m not dying, we’ll see each other again. I promise.”

She smiled.

“We will. Maybe for my wedding…or for yours.” She winked, causing Eric to laugh. Lafayette just shook his head, still enjoying his food.

“Sookie girl.”

“Yes, Lafayette man?” I answered as he asked, causing us all to giggle at our choice of words.

“I will miss you. So much. I will miss the gossip, I will miss that sweet little smile of yours. I will miss your man friend and his manly fine self.”

“I will come back,” I looked to Eric who nodded. “I promise I’ve made too many good friends and too many amazing memories here to let it slip by.”

“Still it is a shame you must return to old life, one of upstairs downstairs divides.” He stated, before he sipped his wine. And it was true, it was that dreaded feeling in the pit of my stomach since we received the telephone call. I never wanted to go back to a life where I was treated like I was less than everyone else. I liked it there, with my new found freedom – even in the middle of a lock down and in a city surrounded by fear and war, I felt more free there than I had in my whole life. I also had Eric here. I had Eric in every sense of the word, and I didn’t want to let that go most of all. But, I had obligations, most noteable a signed contract that didn’t let up until Spring. So, until then, or until I found Bill Compton and got my divorce, I would swallow my pride and return.

“Not for long if I have any say in the matter.” Eric spoke up grabbing everyone’s attentions.

“Why?” Pam asked him.

“It’s bullshit.” The idea of us being separated angered him, as did the idea of the treatment I was going back to. I had to keep reminding him, millions of others had it far worse, but he was still unmoved. “All this fawning around with silly rules, dividing people and looking down on them because of their class. It’s bull.”

“It’s how we were all raised, most of us didn’t have the sense to question it.” Pam added.

“We’re old enough to question it now though. Nothing changes unless me make the change.”

“I think the war will change everything, if it ever ends.” I commented, taking a bite of food and waiting for the response.

“Amen to that.” Lafayette agreed. “At least it will have been for something, senseless death is never right. No matter what side we’re on.”

War made sense to those waging it, most of the time though, it made little to none for those fighting in it day after day. Those who risked their lives, their families, their future for someone else’s agenda. I had hoped it would be over soon, but I hoped harder that we came out on top. The idea of losing was almost unbearable. Even though France was under the Allied forces protection…or control, it differed however you chose to look at it. I chose to see it as controlled protection, sure there were armed men everywhere and getting in and out of the country was a pain, but at least we were still free to do that. If things went the other way, who knew what kind of extremes we’d be forced to endure!

Early that next morning, I finished laying out Pam’s clothes for that day, she watched with sad eyes from her bed.

“But I just do not want you to leave. What shall I do without you here?”

“My replacement is very nice, I’ve met her.”

“Still…” She pouted making me smile. “How are you and Eric going to cope now, being apart but being inside the same house. It seems so outlandish.”

“It is, in fact it’s pretty insane. But, I just won’t count my chickens Pam, not until they’re well and truly hatched.”

“And by hatched you mean?”

“Finding Bill or him finding me, whichever comes first. Eric has promised that he can be rather persuasive when the time comes.”

She chuckled finally getting out from under her blankets.

“Yes, I am sure he can be plenty ‘persuasive’ when he needs to be, in many areas when it comes to you.”

I fought my blush at her tone. She really never sugar coated anything.

“It’ll be horrid for both of you, waiting around until you find the ex, or Niall bites the dust.”

“Pam!”

“What? He’s old as the hills, Sookie. And he smokes cigars like they’re going out of style, he should know better! I like the man, he’s a fantastic host, and a good friend, but he’s completely stuck in the wrong era.”

“He’s set in his ways.” I agreed.

“Yes, snobbish and prudish ways. He wasn’t always so uptight. Before Sophie and her brother died, he was funny and jolly, but like anything, tragedy changes people.”

It had certainly had an affect on Eric.

“Eric has asked me, but not asked me, to marry him.”

“And have you said yes, but not really said it?” She giggled.

“I love him, I feel I know more about him than I ever knew about Bill – even after we were married. With Bill, I didn’t get a chance to know him before I became his wife and it was an awful thing when the real Bill stood up to me for who he really was.”

“I don’t know this Bill, but from all I’ve heard he’s a scary, manipulated arse. Eric is none of those things.”

“I know that, so already we’re a thousand paces ahead of where I was back then. Besides, I’m more worldly now, I know more of the world and how to live in it alone. I’m not that scared little girl anymore.” I said, proudly, as I handed Pam her gown.

“Yes, and I am just one of the many people in your live that is thankful for that. I wonder which of us will marry first? You to the love of your life? Or me, to the… convenience of mine.” She giggled. We spent a lot of that day in laughter, as it was our last together for a time, we enjoyed each other’s company, she was a true friend.

I didn’t much like travel by boat, it was long and tiresome, and full of snobs for the most part. But at least this time, I had Eric. He and I stayed in our room when it wasn’t required to leave for food or other matters. It was just us, as far as we were concerned, in our comfortable floating bedroom taking us back to England. When we finally broke apart for a trip around the upper deck, I found Eric deep in thought.

“Penny for your thoughts, my Love.”

He smiled.

“I like that you can call me that. I won’t like it so much when we have to pretend to be less than what we are…again.”

It was a sticking subject with us, it had been since we’d agreed to go back after all, and nothing had been resolved. I still refused to go there as his mistress. I couldn’t go in there as his fiance, since I was legally still married and it wouldn’t have been real either. Until things were settled for real, I wasn’t jumping the gun.

“And you know how I feel about this too, Darling. This isn’t going to be easy, but nothing in life is ever easy, and the things that are, are usually the ones we aren’t fighting for. I fight for what I want in life, I have for a long time now, you’re no different.”

He touched my face, before he leaned in to kiss my lips.

“I just love you, that’s all.”

“And I love you, we can do this. It’ll only be for a while, not forever. We’ll get a hold of old Billy boy, and your lawyers can kiss his lily white ass or I can!” I grinned.

“You’re so American, I love it.”

“Damn straight. Though I fear my time in the land of ‘good and proper’ has softened my brash American-self a little. Can’t be having that.” I shook my head, exaggerating what was left of my Southern accent for him.

“No, we can’t be having that at all. I love you just how you are.”

I grinned.

“And I love you just as you are too, my love. Now, let’s sneak back to our room while we still have time alone, I want you all to myself before we’re forced to spend our nights alone.”

“And yet we could un-force-”

“Eric…” I warned and he sighed, finally giving up.

“Okay, okay, I give up – for now.” He grinned that boyish grin that made me melt in the best possible way. I pulled myself away from my swooning to take his hand like a lady, and let him escort me back to the bedroom. In the bedroom I didn’t have to act like a lady at all.

EPOV:

I heard her intake a sharp breath as the car rounded the entrance of the estate and there it was, the large house in all it’s imposing glory.

“Are you nervous?” I asked as I squeezed her gloved hand.

“Terrified. I don’t know how we’re meant to be now. Before it seemed easily done. Now..” she exhaled. “Not so much with the easy when it’s put right in front of you.”

Yes, the reality of our predicament wouldn’t be easy.

The staff were out to greet us, a custom I found funny, since I knew they had better things to do with their time rather than stand around just to say hello. But, traditional ways were nothing if not expected with Niall.

Sookie sighed again.

“I can’t go inside with you.” She stated.

“What? Whyever not?”

“Servant, remember?”

It made my skin crawl.

“This is just beyond ridiculous, you’re coming in the front door with me.”

“I can’t, it’s not allowed.”

“Says who!?” I spat, more angry than I recalled being in a long time. Stupid fucking ancient traditions.

She just patted my knee, as if to placate me. I hated how accepting she was to all the insanity that we embraced once we were feet from that house. It was as if in mere moments she went from being my vivacious, amazingly outspoken Sookie, to being this timid little house maid.

I got out of the car before the chauffeur could open the door, I helped Sookie out too, even if she glared a little that I would dare to do that.

“Eric, my boy! You’re home!” Niall exclaimed from his wheelchair, he looked like he had aged ten years since I had last seen him, it wasn’t a pleasant sight to behold.

“I am indeed. Hello, everyone.” I said, nodding to the staff, and a beaming Dawn. There were three new additions to the lineup, I assumed they were the doctors.

“Well, excellent. I trust your journey’s went well?” He asked, his eyes flickering to Sookie who stood silently behind me.

“Yes.” I said, glancing to her myself, “Sookie?”

She looked frightened.

“Uh. Yes. Sir… Ma’Lord. It was plain sailing, as they say, thankfully. A few checkpoints at the border and such, but nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Good. You seem well. I trust Pamela was a good and fair employer?”

Sookie smiled.

“Yes Lord Brigant, she was most welcoming.”

I fought the urge to smirk, I knew just the kind of ‘welcome’ Pam gave her.

“Good, well let’s get inside before we freeze. Eric, when you get settled, come see me in my study if you will. Dinner is in an hour.”

I watched as Sookie made her move to walk to the side of the house, I wasn’t having it. Instead I went and grabbed her case.

“Please, Miss Stackhouse let me.”

It caught everyone’s attention, as Sookie then had to walk beside me in by the front door. They could jump off a pier if they thought I cared. She just blushed, fixing to remove her hat.

“Thank you…Sir.”

I fought the urge to sigh, this wasn’t how I wanted our dynamic to be – but she was right, if we wanted to do things right and her way was proper, then we’d just have to wait.

“Sir how was your travels? I trust they were fruitful?” Bobby asked as he took my bags from the driver.

“They were indeed, in business and in life, I enjoyed my time in France ememcilly. I am sad to be back a little, I must admit.” I admitted so Sookie would know, before she took her case from me, with a curt thank you. I watched as she walked down the hallway, through the door and down the stairs. Everything was so different already, and it had only been ten minutes.

Bobby continued to talk as we reached my quarters, the fire lit, the tray of tea and cakes sitting on the usual table, in many ways it was as if I had never left.

“Sir?”

“Uh, yes?”

“I asked how Miss Pamela was keeping? I am sorry I couldn’t make it with you overseas, how terrible it must have been without your Valet.”

I wanted to tell him I manged just fine, but I didn’t want to undermine him or his position here, he was a good man and hard worker, that’s what counted.

“I hope Stackhouse wasn’t much trouble on the journey back, Sir.”

“Excuse me?”

Or I had thought him a good person, before.

“Sookie, Sir. She’s a handful that one, never really knows when to mind her own business, I can just imagine she was as bad as Dawn when it came to trying to grab your attentions.”

I looked at him, and he must have been able to tell with the look on my face that I wasn’t pleased, he looked back sheepishly in an instant.

“Miss Stackhouse, Bobby, was a pleasure to be around, not at all needy in my attentions. And excellent company if you must know, as she had been here prior to our time away separately. She is a good woman, and a great friend, I do not take well to you insulting my -”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you and she were so … close.”

The staff talked, of course they did. The fact that Sookie and I went on walks together had her the subject of kitchen gossip for weeks. The fact that we were in Paris together at the same time, and travelling back for days, alone, of course was going to be a talking point.

“Home Sweet bloody Home.” I commented somewhat sarcastically as I all but threw myself down on the bed. Home Sweet Home, indeed.


Chapter 20: Chapter 20


Hi loves! For some reason I found this chapter a real struggle, I have no idea why! But here it is, with a slightly ‘dun dun dun’ ending, if you don’t mind 😉 Thanks all for the Happy Birthday wishes via PM on FF and on tumblr etc, it was very sweet! I had a great weekend and will embrace being a year older…soon. Enjoy and as always I love to hear what you think! xox

SPOV:

I walked the all too familiar path to the kitchen, with Mrs Fortenberry at my side, dictating as usual.

“You’ll be sharing with Dawn, Sookie.”

“May I ask why?”

“Your replacement has taken your room, and her contract has another two weeks on it, until then, you’re with Dawn. I trust that’s not a problem, is it?”

“No, of course not.”

It wasn’t just a problem, it was a huge problem. Nosy Dawn was the last person I wanted to share a room with. I left my luggage under the bed, and found a uniform in my size and began to wash and change. There was to be no rest, I was back, and being back in the big house meant big work. I sighed sadly, working for Pam had been a breeze compared to here. But, I was nothing if not an honorable woman, and I had a contract to see through, even if Eric disagreed with me.

Squeezing into the uniform wasn’t exactly easy, I realised I indulged a little too much when in Paris. All that amazing bread was now having an effect on my waistline. I pushed my tired feet into my work shoes, and tied my crisp white apron on over my black uniform dress.

Dinner was in a half an hour.

I went upstairs to the dining room to finish setting the table, when I found Amelia. She grinned wide and happy upon seeing me.

“I’m so happy you’re back! I want to hear all about it later!”

“I’m sharing a room with Dawn.” I admitted sadly, thankfully I had not seen Dawn since we arrived.

“Oh, no. That’s not good. Not good at all.”

“No, its not, but we best finish here or I’ll be in trouble. Don’t want that on my first evening back now do we?” I shook my head, hurrying along with the candelabras and the napkins.

When I finally entered the kitchen, the staff all stopped to look at me. The silent judgement seemed to last forever, before Malcolm, one of the cooks finally spoke.

“Welcome back, Lass.”

I smiled. Relieved.

“Aye, welcome back, Sookie.” Mr Dearborn spoke from the back door.

“Thank you, Mr Dearborn. It’s … lovely to see everyone again.”

I noted Dawn’s eyeroll before I was addressed again.

“Right, make yourself useful girl, go and ask his Lordship where he’d like to dine this evening.” Mrs Fortenberry ordered, leaving me confused.

“Why did we set up the -”

“Because,” she cut me off sharply, “he isn’t well as I’m sure you know. If he isn’t up to dining with the doctors and Mr Northman then he will dine in his room. There have been a great many changes here, Ms Stackhouse, since you left.”

I braced myself as I took the stairs on Lord Niall’s wing of the house, wishing desperately with every step that I could turn around run elsewhere. But, I was a big girl, and he was just a man after all. Just a frail, old, terrifying man.

“Ma’ Lord, if you’ll excuse me.” I said entering the room where he laid in bed, the fire roaring high next to him. At least his room was warm, the cold wouldn’t aid in making him any healthier.

“Oh, it’s you.”

“Yes Sir.”

“Pamela treat you well then?”

“She did Sir. Very well.”

“I’d wager you’re sorry to be back here then, all things considered.”

“All things considered I have a contract you have not yet terminated, I honor my commitments, Ma’ Lord.”

He looked surprised that I spoke up, and I don’t even know why I surprised myself with it, but I did.

“Mrs Fortenberry asks if you wish to dine in your room or -”

“Why on earth would I want to dine in my room? I have guests.”

“I… well yes, Sir.”

He shook his head. “Bloody Maxine, always fussing. Tell them to send up the Valet. I’ll be dressed and ready in fifteen minutes, hold dinner until I arrive.”

“Of course Ma’ Lord.” I curtsied and motioned to leave.

“Oh and Miss Stackhouse?”

I turned as I reached the door.

“Yes Sir?”

“I trust things were professional, in Paris. I know Pam doesn’t keep to traditional standards, but I would hope Mr Northman would know better than to… indulge in her pointless little fantasies.”

I swallowed hard, nodding a hurried ‘yes’, before I bolted for the door.

This was never going to work!

EPOV:

“THOR! Hey boy… aw look at you…” I said greeting my old friend with glee. He was just as happy to see me too, at least one soul on this estate was. I had missed him, and from the rapid wags of his tail, he missed me just as much. “We don’t have time for a walk now, boy. But first thing tomorrow, it’s you me and as many wild rabbits as you can find…” I promised kneeling to pet him more. I looked around at the damp yard, it never seemed to stop raining here, and when it did, it just stopped to snow. I looked back, the light from the kitchen illuminating the yard a little, I thought of Sookie in there, and now nonsensical the whole thing was. I wanted nothing more than to march in there and confess all to Niall. Tell him to stuff his money, his titles, and leave with Sookie safely with me. I had enough money to provide us with a decent life, I was sure we would make each other happy, but she couldn’t be my wife until she divorced Bill. Finding this Bill had turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. I had my lawyers, and a detective scouring London for him, but he seemed to be a slippery rat, and had thus far evaded me. But I would find him, and if the men I had hired in London didn’t scare him right, I wouldn’t mind in the slightest doing so myself. Sookie had danced around any real details on her time with this William Compton, but, I knew by the look in her eyes that the majority of it had not been pleasant.

I hated that he had hurt her, she had tried to escape him more than once, and for Sookie…Susannah, whatever she wanted to be called, to do that, must have taken serious guts. I love that about her though, that she wasn’t just another pampered social climber, she had lived life, she had fought to live and came through it a better person.

“We need to talk, Eric. Before the doctors decide to dine with us.” Nial commented as I took my seat next to him at the table.

“What of?”

“My will.”

“Oh, Niall, seriously now. The doctors tell me the attack was brought on by stress, if you take it easy – no more travelling for example… your heart should be fine.”

“My heart is old and tired, Eric. My brain on the other hand knows it still has things to settle. I want to know, if you met anyone… suitable while in Paris.”

I sighed.

“Don’t sigh at me, Boy.”

“Don’t call me, Boy.” I snapped and he looked taken aback.

“I’m sorry, it’s just been a long trip that’s all, I really don’t want any more set ups, Niall.”

It was his turn then to sigh.

“Then what am I to do?”

“Whatever you like, you know I think of it as a honor that you’d want to pass everything to me, but you also know it’s not something I really want either.”

“But you did agree.” He added.

“I did, I did but that was before the parade of woman and expectations came in the form of strings. Can’t you trust me? I married Sophie didn’t I? Can’t you trust I wouldn’t marry someone simply in it for the money?”

“I should, but I just worry. You’ve been at such a loose end since her passing. A series of dalliances with the help notwithstanding, you’ve refused every woman that has come near you.”

I bristled and he noticed.

“I’m sorry, Eric. Let’s drop it for tonight. Your first night back, I should just be happy you’re home.” He nodded, smiling slightly as the two doctors living at the estate full time now, entered the room. A Doctor Celia Ludwig, a petite woman in her early thirties if I had to guess, she had a sharp air about her and a very thick Scottish accent to go with it. Her associate was a Doctor McDougal, her partner in practice, and by all accounts in everything else too. His accent was thicker than hers, and despite living in the country for some time, even I had trouble making out what they were saying from time to time. It was an entertaining distraction though, as I tried my best to ignore Sookie as she came around the table with the wine. I didn’t want Niall to know just yet, but ignoring her when she came to my side was harder than I ever expected. I wanted to touch her, to kiss her, to take her in my arms and never let her go. But, I could not. Instead I thanked her without making eye contact, pretending to be engrossed by the topic of conversation at the table. I only prayed no one asked me my opinion as I hadn’t the first clue what they were actually saying.

That night I slept very little. How could I sleep alone now when I had gotten so very used to having her in my bed, even innocently sleeping next to me. I missed her and she was only mere steps away. By sun up, I was pacing the floors for no other reason that to give myself something to do. I had also cleared out the fireplace, in the hopes that if Sookie was tasked with morning chores, it would buy us a little more time together before they became suspicious. With just my luck, it was Amelia that came around the door at six thirty. She must have seen the look of disappointment on my face, because she silently left her things by the fireplace and turned to leave.

“Why are you -”

“I… forgot… Sookie is meant to do this today, Sir.” She said with a cute smile, all knowing and just fine with what she knew. I wanted to hug her. Instead, I smiled back.

“Thank you, Amelia.”

She nodded and five minutes later a flustered Sookie came around the door.

“She just yanked me from the kitchen, literally, yanked. I hadn’t even got time to straighten up my apron or -”

Before she finished I had her up against the door, my lips on hers. I missed her, all of her, all of her and her kisses. When I pulled back her eyes were still closed but she had a smile on her face.

“Good morning to you too,” she said before she kissed me again.

“Good morning, Miss Stackhouse.” I added before I placed a kiss on her forehead. “I miss you.”

“I miss you too, which is insanity since I’m only downstairs, but it feels like a world away.”

“It does. Sookie we could fix this.”

She sighed at my words. I knew it was a losing battle but I still intended to fight it.

“Eric, I can’t. We’ve talked about this.”

And we had, extensively.

“I can’t be your mistress.”

“You’re not. You’re my… fiancee if you’ll have me, I just want to take care of -”

“And it’s a lovely thought, and one I had wanted to agree to all day yesterday, and last night without you. But the small but real truth is, I will be nothing to anyone but your whore if we do this. Even when we are wed’, it won’t matter, the seed will be planted. That, and I honor my contracts, and this one hasn’t expired yet.”

“Stubborn woman.” I sighed but she just grinned before wrapping her arms around my neck and I hugged her close.

“We can do this, we just have to… bide our time.”

It wasn’t something I was happy about, but I knew deep down she was right. We could bide our time, and for the next week it was exactly what we did. We bided our time until the others left, or were busy, or I needed ‘help’ with something or other, I always requested Sookie. I knew Amelia suspected heavily if not flat out knew what was going on, but, she said nothing. Dawn on the other hand had nothing but attitude and eye rolling when both she and Sookie were in my presence. If she knew she wasn’t saying anything, but it was clear she wasn’t a happy woman in any regard. Sookie and I snuck our moments where we could. I requested a lot of tea that week for one thing.

“I have to go.” She said as she buttoned up her dress, we had been kissing up a storm in my room one afternoon, we hadn’t had time for much else in the week we’d been sneaking around, but it was all cherished nonetheless.

“Stay…” I urged.

She just shook her head, a knowing smile on her now rather swollen lips. My God she was beautiful.

“I have work to do, Sir. Doesn’t Thor need walking? Something to distract yourself with perhaps.”

“I’d rather you distract me, you distract me so easily…” I added kissing her again, and for a few seconds she let me, falling into my embrace again.

“Nope. No. They’ll get suspicious.”

“Sod them.” I pouted.

“Yes. I know…” She patted my hand. “I’m going into town after lunch today, I have to pick up some altered suits for his Lordship…”

“I may have to take a drive after lunch then, shall I?” I grinned.

“Maybe you should. And maybe, just maybe you and I bump into each other on the way… Wouldn’t that be something.”

Something indeed. With a little plan in place, I let her go, not that I had much choice in the matter. For that week I had gotten up earlier than her, and lit the fire in my bedroom, allowing us that little window of time together. It wasn’t much, but it was a lot in the scheme of things.

By lunchtime I was too excited about the prospect of having time for a conversation with her, maybe we could stop for a drink somewhere, I wonder if she’d let me buy her something in town? I wagered with myself that she would probably protest, but like all things where she was concerned, I would always try.

I spotted her walking by the side of the road, her old winter coat had seen better days, but she was on her merry way, as I pulled up beside her.

“What a surprise to see you here, Miss Stackhouse.”

She smiled.

“Yes, just in case the cows and sheep learn to speak and out us to Lord Niall, what a surprise to see you here too, Sir.” She rolled her eyes more at herself than anything as she climbed into the motorcar.

“I have to go to O’Neills to collect Niall’s suits and his coat he had cleaned, and I have to stop off at the market for the makings of a large stew for tomorrows lunch.”

“They expect you to carry all that back on foot?” I asked, shocked.

She just chuckled.

“Oh my sweet Love… They expect us to do it all.”

An hour or so later we had ran her errands together, receiving many a strange look from the townspeople as we did so too, but if it was something that bothered Sookie, she didn’t let it show.

“Do you like that?” I asked as we passed one of the ladies shops, the fashions were forever changing, but it was a coat that seemed pleasing to me at least.

“It’s lovely, but it wouldn’t do much good come winter, there’s not lining, see?” She nodded and simply walked on. Note to self : A good coat includes good lining.

“Do you feel hungry?” I wondered.

She shrugged.

“We ate…before. Did you?”

“I did. Amelia brought me my lunch, I had a lot of work to do for the estate this morning. With Niall ill, more ill than he wants to admit, I had to take over his chores. Pay cheques, the rota for the staff, ordering new uniforms for winter, that sort of thing. And I spent half the morning on the phone with London, trying to get a tag on Compton.”

Her face perked up at that.

“And?”

“Nothing. It’s as if he’s a ghost.”

She shook her head.

“Maybe he is, at this stage I’m beginning to wonder if I saw him at all.”

As we past a jewers I eyed a necklace that I thought would look lovely on her, I looked to it and back to her.

“Don’t even think about it, Northman.”

“But why?”

“Where on earth would I wear that thing? To clean the fireplace?” She chuckled, but it just made me sad. I wanted to spoil her, so desperately, as she deserved. Even more so that she wasn’t the kind of woman that expected it.

“Please?”

“Nope.”

We walked on and I reverted to our previous conversation.

“He’s out there, why he’s taken this long to be uncovered I cannot tell you. But we will find him and sort things so things with us will be as they should be.”

“And how is that?” She smiled bumping into me gently as we walked.

“Where we can go anywhere we want together and I can hold your hand, and where I can buy you things I think you could make more beautiful and not ask you.”

She rolled her eyes, but a smile appeared as she did so. I rather enjoyed teasing her, afterall.

“Oh is that what you think it means?”

“Well that, and getting to do all the other things we’ve been unable to do since Paris.”

She gasped, false shock on her face.

Baking?”

With that it was my turn to roll my eyes with a smile. We were almost at the car, I was holding the boxes filled with Niall’s clothing, and she held the basket full of food. How anyone expected a tiny woman to carry these over a mile to home, I had no idea. I bumped into a gentleman in an overcoat and a hat covering the majority of his face.

“Terribly sorry.” I said as he nodded in acceptance of my apology, and I carried on to the car where Sookie waited for me to unlock it and we made our way back to the estate. What I didn’t know then, what I could not have known then, was that the gentleman I had bumped into was in fact not a gentleman at all, he was Bill Compton.


Chapter 21: Chapter 21


Sookie:

With October came the cold, not just an Autumn chill or the fall of the leaves, this was a typical Scottish fall which meant snow.

Yes. Snow.

“But it’s Fall, Amelia…Not Winter!” I complained as we shuffled inside one Friday morning, fresh snow on the ground and slippery ice on just about every surface. In the space of two days, we’d become a winter wonderland of possible accidents.

She just chuckled.

“Fall, you’re such an American. I love it.”

“You know what I don’t love?”

“Hm?”

“Rooming with Dawn. My God she’s nosy. I caught her yesterday going through my things, like the little sneak that she is. And she talks in her sleep too.”

Ames rolled her eyes, before we got into the back hall.

“Ellen’s contract is up in a few weeks, then I hear she’s got a job lined up in Edinburgh, someone her uncle knows, then you’ll have your room back… and your privacy. I had to share with her for a few months when I first came here, it was hell too.”

I nodded. Ellen was a sweet girl, very silent most of the time, but from what I could tell she just wanted to do her work and get on with things. She was the opposite of Dawn.

“And it can’t be easy now, with you and Eric.”

My eyes widened.

“Oh Sookie, please.”

“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I whispered and she just chuckled.

“Oh, okay Stackhouse. Whatever you say. Anyway, you’ve been back ages now and you haven’t asked me about Sam.”

I had completely forgotten, I felt like a bad friend.

“Well?”

She blushed.

“He’s asked me to marry him.”

It was my turn to widen my eyes.

“Oh Ames!” I dropped the basket of wood and hugged her.

“That’s amazing! When?”

“A few weeks ago. He just flat out asked me to a dance and then afterward he said he didn’t want to waste my time, which of course had me thinking he was going to just break it off … but no, then he asked me. He’s asked Niall to be relocated here for the Winter, but with His Lordship being ill, we’re still in limbo. I do so hope it can happen.”

So did I. They were a sweet couple, it would have been a shame for it not to, and if anyone deserved a little bit of happiness it was Amelia.

I delivered Eric his lunch that day, catching him in the middle of a phone call as I did so.

“And still nothing? What am I paying you for Bellefleur?”

I assumed it was to do with Bill, so I waited.

“Right, right. No, that’s fine. Yes. Speak to you soon. Goodbye.”

He sighed as he hung up.

“Still no sign. They’ve found John Quinn though, and got some information out of him, apparently Bill told him he was going away on business for a few days, he didn’t say where, but that he’d be back soon and when he was, he’d get in touch with Quinn again.”

“So … we wait?”

“We wait. Andy is keeping an eye down there, and as soon as he spots him with Quinn he’ll let us know, call some men who are less than polite as far as abusive husbands are concerned.”

I tried not to be shocked, but I wasn’t so naive to believe that just asking nicely would get us what we wanted. Not where Bill was concerned. I must have looked a tad forlorn because the next thing I knew Eric’s strong and capable arms were wrapped around me, and I just fell into his embrace. I needed his comfort now more than ever.

“Can we really do this?” I questioned.

“We can, if it’s what you want.”

I remained silent.

“It is what you want, isn’t it Sookie?” He asked, leaning back to look me in the eye.

“I do… I did… I do.”

“Or you did?” He looked hurt.

“No. I do. My darling, I do want for us to become real. Something real and true, where I can proudly walk into a room with you and we can begin a life together in the sunlight, instead of this… skulking around in the shadows, hiding.”

“It’s all I want too.”

“Then I trust, one way or another, we’ll make it there. I hope we will.”

I wanted it to be easy, like Sam and Amelia. No one was batting an eyelid at their love, their plans, I was envious if I was honest.

“There is salmon for lunch.” I announced nodding to his covered tray.

“Um… Could I maybe skip it?”

I raised my brows.

“I mean… could I trouble someone for a cheese sandwich maybe?” He asked awkwardly.

I just smiled.

“With pickle?”

He smiled then, matching my own I imagined.

“You know me well.”

I moved away from him, parking myself on his desk, opening his tray and helping myself. He just laughed.

“I’m taking Thor out later, if you’d care to -”

“I can’t. Mrs Fortenberry has me cleaning all the copper.” I sighed before I took another forkful of food.

“How has it been being back here?”

“Hell. Compared to Pam’s… in the grand scheme of things… it is what it is.”

“Which is unnecessary.”

He could keep pushing, it wasn’t going to happen.

“I’ll go fetch your real lunch now.”

“No, don’t go…” He reached for my hand before I slid out of his soft grasp.

“I’ll see you later, Sir.” I winked before I made myself scarce with the tray of what amounted to a lot of basically untouched food. Thor was in for a big lunch.

EPOV:

I woke up on Sunday morning to quite a surprise indeed. A dressing gown clad Sookie sneaking into my room and eventually, my bed.

“Am I dreaming?”

“No, it’s real. It’s risky as all hell… but… no.” She whispered, climbing into bed with me, her feet cold, her hands warm and quickly all over me.

“Sook?”

“They’re all off to Church, even Lord Niall. He’s gone in the car, the others are walking…”

“And you?”

“A lying harlot who stayed behind to be naughty with her future husband… you know… the usual.”

I grinned from ear to ear as she kissed me, allowing myself for the first time in weeks to relax with her in my arms.

“I told them I was ill. I faked it.”

I kissed her again.

“I figured I’ve faked a whole identity, a little flu to be with you wouldn’t send me to hell if the rest didn’t.” She smiled, her hands sneaking up my nightshirt causing my body to ache for her instantly, I wanted her touch everywhere.

“I’m very happy about that…”

“The faking identity or …”

“All of it. All of it led you here… so…Happy.” I punctuated with a kiss on each word, my hands going for the strings of her nightgown, loosening it up so I could yank it down easier.

“I think we can do this, make each other happy, can’t we?” I asked as I slid off my undergarments, freeing myself as she moved under the covers of the bedding, maneuvering herself on top of me. I still felt as if I was dreaming, but I knew I wasn’t when her lips met mine again, as her hand grasped between my legs sending a thrill of pleasure through my body. This time I didn’t have to will away my desires where she was concerned, no, now was our time and I intended to spend it wisely. I watched as she carefully unbuttoned my nightshirt and slid down further so I could scoop it off. She in turn scooped off her own, leaving me with an amazing view of her breasts. My mouth went there instantly, as if some kind of magnetism pulled me toward her. The sigh of pleasure she let out only added to my own fire, slowly building as her hand held me tightly, massaging me softly but making me hard.

“You know that you must…”

“Before… I know. I know.” I said not caring for precaution in that moment but knowing if I didn’t adhere to it, we’d both fret afterward. Her own fingers worked inside herself, it was incredibly sexual, and something I did not expect from her of her own accord at least. But she worked herself and me at once and I was blinded by the lust I felt in those moments. She was truly beautiful, so poised and confident like this, and as I pushed inside of her, listening to her cries, I wanted nothing more than the world to see just how stunning she was to me. I watched through hooded eyes, the flush of her neck rising to her cheek as she worked above me, allowing me inside her in such an intimate way, one that I longed for since we left Paris. That feeling, unlike any other, I could only describe is as ‘alive’. I felt alive more with her in these moments than I did in the majority of my time without her. Inside her, watching her move with pleasure with pain, with happiness and ecstasy. It was the best feeling and one I didn’t want to lose, not now, not ever

The flush of red spread to her chest as she slowly picked up the pace, her breath starting to become labored, her mouth agape.I gripped onto her rear tightly, balancing us both out, keeping her up there, but not allowing myself to simply be a spectator.

“I… Eric… I need you. I need this.” She chanted over and over, as she rode harder and harder with each word, I was helpless to stop her in a way, had I even wanted to I wasn’t sure I could. She was a woman on a mission, chasing that thrill, that infinite moment of pleasure, and I wanted to give it to her, I wanted to give it all to her forever. She didn’t slow, not even when I flipped us over, spreading her legs that much wider and quickening my pace. I felt her nails claw into my back as she cried out, I didn’t attempt to contain my own vocal appreciation either, not where she was concerned, not now when we had this tiny window of opportunity. She moved faster, harder, more determined and I felt like my bloody was burning, in the best way possible as I tried so hard not to come inside of her, I wanted to, I desperately wanted to, but, we were taking enough risk already. Instead, I felt her tighten, I watched as her lip went between her teeth and I knew she was so close, I aided the process along with my fingers, and suddenly her breathing stopped for a second, there was a gasp and a moan and I felt her body crumple in my arms. I pulled out as fast as I could before I too lost my ability to control myself, spilling on her stomach as I buried my face in her flushed neck.

“Jesus Christ.” I moaned still reeling, as she just giggled a little, shifting so I could fit beside her.

“I guess that’s one way to pray on a Sunday,” she announced with a wicked glint in her eyes, I loved it.

She laid in my arms for a little while, far too little a while for my liking, before she made a move to leave.

“No…” I protested, pulling her back into the bed. She giggled, escaping my grasp.

“Needs must, Mr Northman. I have to get back to my room before they return lease we get caught.”

“Let them catch us, I don’t give a flying fuck anymore.”

“That’s the sex talking. You’d care very much if seeing us in bed together sent Niall on his final rant of this world straight into the next with a heart attack.”

“Hmph. He’ll never die. He’s here forever to keep us apart.”

She patted my chest, before leaning in to kiss me once again.

“You’re ever so dramatic, Darling. You sure there isn’t some American in your heritage?” She smiled.

“No, just a lot of Swedish.”

“Who knew they had such flair for the dramatics! I’ll see you later.”

I sighed.

“I love you.”

With that, in the middle of fixing herself up, she turned to me with a wink.

“I should bloody hope so.”

And as quickly as she sneaked into my room that morning, she sneaked back out. I still wasn’t so sure I wasn’t dreaming, that was until I was met with the wet patches in the bed.

Definitely a reality, and one I had to face as I got up to strip my bed. I couldn’t let one of the girls do that, and I certainly wouldn’t leave it for Sookie to clean. I shuffled on a clean sheet from my wardrobe and climbed back into bed. Sweet dreams of Sookie were sure to follow.

SPOV:

My morning went from wonderful to woeful in about an hour. I returned to my room before the others returned, I even had time to wash up and fix myself a little too, which after my morning with Eric was more than necessary. I looked at myself in the mirror beside the sink, unsure of what Susannah Compton would have thought of my choices now, of my actions this morning and of my life in general now. I wondered what my Grandmother would have thought if she were still alive, or my parents for that matter. I was sure they wouldn’t have approved of my actions but the reasons behind them were something not even they could deny. I had needed to escape Bill, and where that led me, not even I had any say.

When the others returned I had told them I was feeling better, because, again, after my morning with Eric, it was hard not to smile from ear to ear. I wanted to make myself useful, so I agreed to pop into town, since the snow had stopped and I wanted to clear my head anyway, and I promised to bring back all that was needed for the coming week as far as our ration was concerned. Thankfully Amelia agreed to come with me, making the load to carry back that much lighter, and the company wasn’t so bad either.

“So Miss Pam is just going to get married? I didn’t think that was her path, at all.” She said as we rounded the corner to the smaller road into the town center.

“Neither did I, but there you have it. He’s charming, I think they could make it work.” I would divulge all of Pam’s secrets, it wasn’t my business after all so it certainly wasn’t Amelia’s.

“Do you think you’ll be invited? Since you played cupid an all?”

I smiled, I hoped I would be, it would be a sight to see after all.

“Perhaps.”

“With Eric?”

I blushed.

“Oh Sookie, it’s so obvious. Especially now. You should have seen his face that morning I tried to do the fire and it wasn’t you, it was like someone died.”

With that she put her hand over her mouth.

“Not that I mean that you… or he… or that you’re in any way like Sophie…”

“Ames, relax. I understand. And honestly, it’s sort of a relief that someone knows and isn’t fully disapproving. We might be crazy… but I’d like to think we know what we’re doing.”

“You love him?” She asked as we reached the market.

“I do.” I smiled and walked ahead of her into the store. I might have wanted to gossip like a schoolgirl, but I knew better than to do it whilst holding no cards. After things were official with Eric and I, then I could squeal it from the rooftops if I so desired. Until then, I had to keep a lid on it.

“Okay do you want to go to McCluskey’s for the flour, I can get the fish.”

She nodded and we parted ways, she taking the cobbled path up the busy street, and I taking the side street to the fishmonger that we did business with weekly.

Just as I was walking up the steps to enter the establishment, I heard someone call my name. My real name.

“Susannah?”

My heart just about stopped as I turned to face the man in the overcoat and hat, as his face came to view, I finally saw him for who he was.

“Bill?”

I looked around, sure that no one had heard him, as I approached where he stood.

“Hello, Susannah. It’s so good to finally see you again.”

I was stunned to say the least. Eric had been looking all over London for him, and yet here he was.

“What… Why …Why are you here?”

“I was hoping to see you, hoping that we could… talk.”

“Talk? Talk? After everything… you want to talk?” I whispered harshly.

“Please? Just… a few minutes of your time, I can see that you’re busy.” He added, nodding to the basket in my hands.

“Tell me what you want, Bill.”

He sighed as we walked further from the store, down the little empty street.

“I wanted to find you, for so long that was all I wanted. Now I have, honestly I’m not sure how to deal with these feelings.”

“I don’t care much for your feelings, not anymore.”

Cold, perhaps, but I needed to be. I couldn’t let him see me emotional.

“Susannah, I’ll cut to the chase then, shall I?”

“I wish you would.”

“I want us to give it another try. I want to … make right my wrongs.”

I could do very little, I could only laugh.

“You cannot be serious?”

“I am. Very serious.”

When I continued to laugh it continued to annoy him.

“Susannah, I don’t think you understand how serious this is. You are my wife and as my wife you must-”

That made me very serious, very fast.

“I am NOT your wife. And I certainly must NOT do what you say. Not anymore.”

This angered him, and his sweet, kind, gentle smile faded and in its place was a angry scowl. Now that I was more familiar with.

“You think I don’t know what kind of scam you’ve got going here? Sookie?” He said my new name with such disdain it was almost hard to believe. I said nothing and he got closer to my face. “You think I haven’t done my homework here? The big lie you’re telling to everyone, to the Lord…To the Gentleman I saw you with, batting your eyelashes at him like some common whore.”

That earned him a slap, hard, across his annoying looking face.

“How dare you-”

“How dare I what? Tell them the truth? Your little story would be blown, what then? Where do you go?”

“You know nothing.”

“I know what John Quinn tells me, and that’s a lot. I know how you’re here under an assumed name, living a lie, posing as some Lord’s skivvy. I mean really, your Grandmother would be ashamed.”

“She’d also be ashamed to know that the man I married, that that was all a lie too, wouldn’t she. I think she’d be just fine knowing I was doing what I must to survive – away from you.”

I pulled away from him but he grasped my arm, yanking me closer to him.

“This … isn’t over. Susannah.” He whispered threateningly to my ear. I yanked away, before I hurried onto the main section of town, thankfully there were people. And then, there was Amelia.

“Sook?”

“Hm?”

“You look white as a ghost…”

“Oh I just…”

“And… uh, where’s the fish?”

I caught my breath as we walked, before I answered her.

“Oh they didn’t have what we needed fresh, new order in tomorrow, I’ll go back.”

She looked at me then, curiously, but if she suspected anything, she didn’t say. I knew one thing for sure though, Bill was right, this wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.


A/N: Well? 😉


Chapter 22: Chapter 22


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.


SPOV:

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.”

I exhaled.

“It’s… He’s here.”

“Who? Bobby?”

“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.

“What?”

“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?”

He nodded.

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.

Fuck.

“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.

EPOV:

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.”

“Eric…”

“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.”

He chuckled.

“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.”

I smiled.

“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.

SPOV:

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.”

“Oh?”

“Just… life.”

“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…”

I sighed.

Did everyone really know?

“Mrs Fort-”

“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?”

I nodded.

“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.

“Alone, Eric.”

“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.

“Eric…Please.”

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 Sookie…”

“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?

“Bill?”

“Hello, Susannah.”

“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.


Chapter 23: Chapter 23


Eric:

“What do you mean gone?” I asked Amelia as she stood in my library, a look of fear on her face.

“I mean, I came up here thinking she was here, and she’s clearly not. She was up here, she was sent to Lord Niall… and she never came back down. So either she’s left or she’s hiding up here like a fool.”

“She’s not up here, I thought she went downstairs…”

“She’s not. She hasn’t been for a couple of hours.”

Something felt very wrong. I told her I would be outside the door waiting, and I did wait, until I saw Dawn and my need to discover why she had done what she had done too over.

“Dawn, I need to speak with you.” I said, spying her across the vast space between Niall’s wing and my own where she stood with towels in her arms.

She looked frightened, but I found as much as I hated intimidating women, I cared not for her feelings at that point. It was the same old song where she was concerned, and I was beyond tired of listening to it. When I got over to her side, I led her into my library.

“Explain yourself, now.”

“I’m sorry, Eric.” She cried.

“No, you’re not. You’re only sorry we caught you, otherwise you know Niall would never have named you. Now, tell me, why did you do what you did? Do you hate me… Sookie, that much?”

She shook her head before wiping her crocodile tears.

“I… hate that it’s not me. I want to leave it behind me and I want to forget my feelings… But I can’t seem to. And she just…I hate her You’re right, I do hate her…” She admitted, sobbing.

“Why?”

“Because you clearly love her, and I think, why could it not have been me? What is the matter with me that I am not lovable?”

I sighed.

“Jesus Dawn…It’s not about that.”

“Then what? I tried hard, Eric. I tried to make you love -“

“You should never have to try. Have I not told you that before? Just because I do not feel for you how you want me to, doesn’t mean that no man ever will. You are…” I touched her cheek, still weary to keep my distance. “You are a beautiful woman, Dawn, you are just so clearly misguided right now. I can’t forgive you for what you’ve done for Sookie and I where Niall is concerned…You’ve put us in a very difficult position.”

“You put yourselves there.”

She certainly had balls, I’d give her that.

“Dawn, how I feel isn’t going to change. Not for Sookie and not for what I do not feel for you. I’ve told you, time and time again, to move on, and yet you still fixate on this hatred, why?”

She shrugged.

“Are you that bored? Is your life that empty?”

“Perhaps it is.” She pouted.

I nodded, pacing by the window, I looked out and saw Thor watching something by the side of the estate, it was in a blind spot though and I couldn’t see what he saw. It was probably another deer, he had a thing for chasing deer, and then getting himself in trouble because of it.

“Look… Dawn I think it’s time you started looking for somewhere else to work.”

That set her off again, the tears flowed and she started to weep.

“Please, Eric. Please don’t fire me…I need this job…”

“Should you not have thought about that before you decided to fuck with my life? If this had been in any other house, you’d have been out on your ear without so much as a word!”

“I know, and I am sorry, really I am…but she doesn’t deserve you.”

I closed my eyes, she really wasn’t going to change her tune, was she?

“I’m not sacking you, I’m warning you. I want you out of here…anywhere else that will take you, you go. I’ll even make some calls myself if needs be. But I need you gone. I can’t stand this tension, Dawn. I want the staff to have as peaceful a working environment as possible and you seem to be the opposite of that. Do you understand?”

She nodded.

“How long do I have then?”

“A month, or six weeks. Say six weeks. I’ll make some calls tomorrow, see if any households needs new staff.”

I swallowed hard, I felt like an ass, but I had had enough of everyone else dictating and controlling my life. Dawn’s little outburst proved she wasn’t a loyal woman, and I didn’t have to deal with that, not anymore.

By the time I got back to Niall’s room to check on Sookie, she was gone and Niall was in an extremely upset state, claiming she had stormed out furious at him. I had decided to give her time to calm down, Sookie was like myself in a lot of aspects, and when she felt anger, I knew it best to give her her space.

It wasn’t until almost eleven, when Amelia came looking, her face ghostly white.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, she was talking with Niall, then left… I assumed she went back to work.”

She shook her head. No. Sookie hadn’t returned to the kitchen. Then where the hell had she gone?

“Outside?” I suggested, though I knew as soon as I did it sounded stupid.

“No, she hates the cold, remember? She wouldn’t be out there alone much less in the snow alone.”

Right, the snow had started falling again that afternoon. It wasn’t even really Winter yet!

“Of course… I just…” And then I remembered. Thor. Thor was looking at something outside, by the side of the house. He never came to the side of the house unless it was with me… me and Sookie.

“Amelia come with me a second?” I said before I stormed out of my room and down the stairs, Niall was standing by his door and I knew he saw me. Amelia followed quickly after me.

“Sir? What is it?” She asked as I opened the side door, and there they were.

Tire tracks. Almost covered by the light drift of snow now, but there were definite tracks…and no one had taken the cars in our out all day.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Amelia, tell Bobby to get the car for me, I need to grab my coat.”

“Wh- What’s wrong?”

“I think I know who has her.”

“Has her?!” She asked, alarmed as she followed me back through the hallway and up the large staircase again. “What do you mean? As if someone … took her, Sir?”

“Yes. I don’t think Sookie left here tonight. Why would she? She had no reason to leave.” I announced.

“Actually Eric, she may have had her reasons.” Niall commented as I got to the top where he stood, it stopped me in my tracks. I nodded to Amelia to go and hopefully do as I asked, before I looked back to Niall once more.

“Did you run her off then? Did you succeed?” I asked, my anger over taking me once more, teamed with the panic I felt, I really didn’t care what I said, or to whom.

“We had…harsh words, I admit I could have handled things better.” He closed his eyes, as if in shame.

“Better? How about not at all. Niall, I have given you all due respect in my time here, I married your daughter because I felt love for her, I wanted a life with her, but you know what? It wasn’t allowed. God, or whoever is making the rules didn’t allow it, and she was taken from us, both of us. And for a time we were united in our mutual grief…”

“But now you’ve found someone new is that it?”

“No, I found someone who pulled me out of the darkness I lost myself in for so long. A darkness I never thought would end. I mourn for Sophie as you do, but does that mean I am also to condemn myself to the grave with her?”

He sat down at his desk, his head in his hands.

“I miss her, I miss them all.” He whispered.

“I know you do, I do too.”

“Do you? You move on now, and what then? I wait to die alone here in this house filled with people I pay to be here? Is that my end?”

I did not want to be cruel, but I found myself still angry, no matter how much I pitied him.

“And what of me? Am I to be another of those ‘paid’ to be here? Is that what the fuss about the will is about then?”

He stood up, tossing the contents of his desk on the floor in a rage.

“Goddamnit man, NO. I just…Sookie…or whoever she really is, is a nice girl. But the pain my mother withstood was very real. My motives might not be so pure, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. I wouldn’t wish that kind of outcast horror on any woman, particular a woman you, my accidental son, deem to love. A boy I barely knew who has become like real family to me, and I had hoped I had become like family to you, since so many of your own are gone too. Perhaps I was wrong.”

I sighed. He could certainly get under my skin like family, that’s for sure.

“She would not just leave, Niall. I know her, and I think it’s time you heard the full story, I think with everything, you’ve at least earned that. I can’t lie anymore, and I won’t, but I want to do this calmly, for what follows, I feel will not be so calm.”

Sookie:

I took a deep breath before I opened my eyes, suddenly everything hurt and I was wishing I was still asleep. But then I slowly remembered what happened.

Bill, the car, the dog, the snow…then nothing.

I shot up straight, and regretted it right away. My head hurt.

“There you are, sleepy head. I was beginning to think you’d sleep your life away.” Bill said, but I couldn’t see him, I saw two windows, a couch, a chair, a wireless and another room. Then he appeared, plates in his hands.

“Just in time too, I’ve made us dinner. It’s not steak, but it’s as close as we’ll get with the border confines and the strict export around here, right?”

I blinked before I tried to touch my head, only one of my hands was caught in the bed frame, chained. I swallowed, my throat dry, rough, sore.

“Bill? Why… Why am I chained?” I fought the sob that crept up my throat, before I looked down and saw I was in my undergarments, my uniform and shoes gone.

“Oh that, that was just a…precaution, while I was out. I can let you out if you promise to behave.”

I said nothing, but I heard Big Ben chiming in the distance, so I realised we were somewhere central.

“I think you need to eat, my darling. You are so pale. You haven’t woken, not really, in and out but nothing real in three days, I was starting to fear whatever I gave you, was too much.”

“Why did you -”

“I needed to get you away, away from those people and that life. Susannah, or is it Sookie now? You don’t belong with them, Sus, you belong with me.”

He smiled. He honest to God, smiled.

“I…have to pee.” I admitted, because I did, something fierce. I guessed that after three days, I would need to. Three days, I knew Eric would know I was gone, I just hoped he could find out where!

“Alright, this is my place, and I have my own bathroom too. So you can just go through there and freshen up, and come back for some food okay?” He said as he took the key from his breast pocket and unlocked me. I sat up, slowly. Everything hurt now.

I stumbled slowly across the room until I got to the bathroom and closed the door. There was one window, but it was too small for me to fit through, even if I had the energy to run at that point, I knew I couldn’t. So I did what any self respecting woman would do in my situation, I turn on the water, and let it drown out the sound of my tears as I sobbed out my panic, my pain, my fear. Then I washed my tears away as best I could, and I fixed myself and picked myself up.

When I walked out, a small round table was in the middle of the floor, I hadn’t noticed that before.

“I thought you’d be in there forever, but I want you to be comfortable so it is understandable you wanted to freshen up.”

“Bill, where is my dress?”

“I will get you new clothes, soon. Sit. Eat.” He motioned to the chair in front of him, the plate sat with food that to my starving stomach, was amazing.

I sat and looked at the food. My mood somewhere between desperate, and furious.

“Why?”

“Well, we can’t have you running around in your -”

“Why did you do what you did?”

“I told you.”

“And I told you!” I yelled from where I sat. “Bill…” I fought the tears again.

“Susannah, you are my wife. Mine. You are mine, don’t you understand that? Did you really think I was going to let you go? You swore in front of God, Sus, that you’d love me forever… and forever means forever. You swore until death parted us, and guess what my darling? Death didn’t take me.”

I felt my insides churn.

“I have no intention of giving you up again, Susannah. You must accept this. When you do, things can start to…get back to normal. Now eat, before your food gets cold.” His tone was friendly, but with an undercurrent of what I knew to be his true meaning.

For three more days, things continued like that. He would sleep on the large sofa, assuring me that he wasn’t a ‘monster’, and would not ‘touch me against my will’, no, he’d just kidnap and keep me against my will, clearly they were different things to him. They were not different to me, and he was the monster he thought himself too good to in fact be.

I kept quiet, I read the books he had there, he read the paper and when it was time for him to go to ‘work’, I was restrained once more. Sometimes he trusted me not to scream, which I didn’t have the energy for anyway, and others, it seemed he was suspicious and I would receive the injection to knock me out, when I would wake once more, it would either be dark or the next day. I was quickly losing my mind. I felt hopeless. I was weak as anything from the injections, whatever it was he gave me when he left, it played havoc with my energy even when they wore off. I couldn’t run, even if I wanted to. He was there, being creepily kind, the kind of pleasing that you just knew was false, and I knew it to be false because, well, he was Bill. No matter how much he had told me he was a ‘changed man’ and that losing me had made him see things differently, I was not buying what he was selling, not in the slightest. Men at their core, don’t change, no matter how much we may want them to. And he certainly didn’t change, at his core Bill was as rotten as a fallen apple.

“When you face heals, then we can talk about taking you to get new clothes, perhaps.”

“Perhaps.” I said from my position on the bed, reading, but not really reading. My face was a mess that much was true. Having caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I would be healing for a few weeks at least. I had a purple eye, and a yellow bruise on my neck where he’d injected me the first time. Having been smashed up against the glass in the car also took it’s toll on my face too. All in all, it was obvious someone had gotten to me.

By the fifth day there, my eighth away from Eric and kept against my will, I realised there was only one way out of there.

I had to play along. And I would, because I wasn’t living my life like this. Not for Bill, not for any man, no matter how many injections he had.


Chapter 24: Chapter 24


Hi guys. Well, this one is a hard chapter to part with, I’ve had it sitting on my computer for a few days now, pondering whether or not to go ahead with it how it is. Ultimately though, it’s rough, it comes with a warning of sorts for those of a …delicate disposition… but hopefully, in the end, you’ll forgive me for it 😉 I’m nervous about this, so feel free to review!


Eric:

“No Sir,” he said, “He checked out of here this afternoon, bit of a shady fellow if you ask me. Not at all friendly or chatty, was down right rude to Angela my barmaid too.” Mr Fellows told me from behind his bar, where Bill Compton had been staying. I had gone there the next morning to confirm my suspicion on what had happened to Sookie. I knew she had no real reason to flee on her own, and as much as my ego was second-guessing and telling me she’d left me because of all the dramatics that surrounded me, my heart, it knew better.

He had taken her.

I had explained all I knew, the best I could without betraying Sookie’s trust completely, to Niall. Once he was fully aware of her situation his stance on things… softened. He even offered to get in touch with his ‘contacts’ in London in the hopes of putting feelers out for Compton and any sight of him and a woman. It had gone two days, and we had nothing, nothing except a call from Pam, which was most welcome in my time of extreme panic.

“What the fuck do you mean, he just took her? Eric?!”

“I know.” I sighed as I explained everything as far as I knew it. “I know, we’re looking, no one in town that we talked to saw anything, so he clearly didn’t come back there… people know her, they’d have noticed. I’ve spent most of the day on the telephone trying to get some information from the detectives, and so far we’ve got nothing. I know they can’t have vanished out of thin air, Pam.” future

“I’m back in London, come, stay with me, you could maybe do more good here? Isn’t here the logical place for him to go? Didn’t you say he was staying in the city before? Where she’d seen him at least. And then there was the business with John Quinn.”

“Who is also mysteriously missing in action.”

“Come here, if you find nothing soon, I’ll ask around. If he’s involved with Quinn, the business deals and all that other questionable stuff he is up to… My guess is Compton is also involved. Sookie said he was a money grabber.”

It was the most logical idea, and I needed to feel proactive, sitting still in Scotland wasn’t going to do her much good if she had in fact been taken to London.

“If he’s planning on taking her back to America…” My heart tightened at the prospect. “London would be the most logical place …”

She sighed, and I realised she had said just as much minutes before. My mind was distracted, to say the least. Days and nights of stress and very little sleep, and what sleep I did get was haunted with nightmares of what she may be going through.

“I had called with a reason, but suddenly it just doesn’t seem of import.”

I squeezed the bridge of my nose in attempt to calm the tension in my head.

“I’m sorry, Pam. What’s your news?”

“Well… I’m getting married, we’re aiming for December, right before the clause runs out… I was calling to tell Sookie…” She trailed off before I heard her sniffle, Pam never sniffled. “Eric we have to find her.”

“Understatement of the year… oh, and congratulations on your … wedding.” Sombre was the tone for the rest of the conversation, but I agreed that I needed to go to her, I would have more access to Niall’s friends in London from there, and my own guys for that matter. I just hoped that Bill Compton was as predictable as he was psychotic.

Niall took a turn for the worse that afternoon, the doctors worked with him for what seemed like hours, his heart was failing him, but his brain was still very much in the swing of things. By the time he came around that night, as I sat by his bedside, his ashen face was filled with what seemed like regret.

“I am sorry, Eric.” He whispered.

“Everything. I have gotten in such a panicked state over how things will be when I am not here to oversee them, that I lost… I lost track of what would be most important.”

I didn’t answer him, but he reached out for my hand and I was not so cruel as to deny him whatever comfort it was he was seeking.

“You are like a son to me, you know this. You loved my daughter, and she you. She would tell me how you didn’t fit in here, or anywhere, and that she wanted to help you find your place…” He coughed, “I just wanted to help with that too… never once giving thought on whether or not you wanted a place.”

“I do… want a place… I do. I just…”

“Deserve to be happy… and if it is with my housemaid, then so be it.”

“Even though you now know she was born to a well-to-do family of some means, and that it might secure your will a little more tightly?” I smiled, knowing he was relaxed now, only because he knew the truth. Niall was a good man at heart, but he was a real fucking snob at heart too.

“Perhaps. But do you blame me so much for it? When you have daughters, Eric, and you marry them off to who you hope are good men of some means. You remember my stubborn take on things, you might find you have one similar yourself.” He attempted a smile, before he rubbed his chest. “Fuck this body, failing me now.” He sighed.

“You need rest, Niall. I’m stressing you out too much with this, and I’m not much good to anyone stuck up here in the wilderness. I’m going to London, I’ll be staying with Pamela.”

“For how long?”

“Until this Sookie situation is resolved.”

“And you still think she was taken?”

“I do. She’s made of stronger stuff than having someone yell at her and having that drive her out.” I wanted to smile then, because she really was made of steel underneath that unassuming exterior of hers.

He nodded.

“If there is any help you need… I am sorry for how I spoke of her, I am not the world’s most patient man as you know and frustrated with things out of my control led to…”

“It’s fine, Niall. It’s fine. All I really care about now is finding her, and finding her safe and getting her as far away from Compton as possible.”

I left that evening, getting into London late I went straight to Pam’s, and was seen by her new maid Louise, where there was hot tea and a bed waiting for me. Not that I’d sleep much, I pondered as I got in, alone. I wanted to find her, I had to. And if I had to bash Bill Compton’s brains out in the process, well, that would just be the collateral damage I would be willing to put up with. Not that I would take pleasure in it or anything.

Of course not.

Well, maybe a little bit.

Sookie:

“Bill, this is so silly, where am I to go?” I motioned to my dress, or lack thereof. I had been living in my under dress for the majority of my time in the tiny apartment in London. From the views I figured we were somewhere central, but where exactly, I wasn’t sure.

“It is silly, I agree, but until I can trust you, I must keep you secure.” He frowned as he fastened one of my wrists to the iron bed frame.

“There are more books, if you get restless…”

Yes there had been many books, my distractions, my saving grace from sheer insanity.

“Bill, please. Let me go, I can’t very well …” I swallowed my gag reflex as the words came out of my mouth, “take care of my husband like this, now can I?”

He had taken me from Scotland on the twenty-fifth of October, it was now November second, and I’d had enough of being kept in line like a farm animal. I would do as I always had done, whatever I had to do, to survive. Survival was the goal, whatever I had to do in order to survive, I would deal with the repercussions of that if I did indeed survive.

He looked taken aback by my words, as well he should. I had spent the previous week resisting his conversation, advances, and even looking at him was a chore given my anger. It took me two more days of compliments, and puppy eyes to convince him to let me free when he left. Freedom, I thought, but no, instead he put me on a leash – quite literally.

Tied to my waist, the chain that held me to the bed, was now larger, tighter, and tethered to the wall. I sobbed when he left. It was the most humiliating experience of my life, and I was just thankful Eric couldn’t see me like this.

“This is insanity, Bill. You don’t treat someone you love like this!” I cried that first day, when he came back with dinner and wine. “You say you love me, you want me to… to trust you… How can I do so like this?”

And that earned me the first slap of my reunion with Bill. Right across my healing face, opening the cut on the side of my eye, and reawakening the bruise there too. For my insolence, he refused to speak to me, and for another two days, I spent my time in silence.

I was in hell, I knew it then. Hell wasn’t some realm where we went when we died. Hell was here, hell was now. And I began to lose hope of ever escaping.

When he left I would scream, I figured someone, somewhere would hear me eventually. But as the days wore on, and my voice wore out, I lost hope in that too. We were too far up, in a building that otherwise seemed empty. There was never any noise from neighbours, never any anything really beyond the odd dog barking in a distance. We seemed to be in an abandoned street too, I never heard another soul talk or move around. The streets in the distance had activity, that I could hear from so high up, but otherwise it was like I was stuck in the tower, I could see all, but touch nothing.

By the sixth of November, something in Bill shifted, and I was let free of my leash, the door was still locked from the outside, but, it was a small freedom I wasn’t about to take for granted. I decided to go full force with my plan, I needed to gain his stupid trust if I ever wanted to breathe fresh air again. He was a paranoid man, full of delusions it seemed, but he had an ego that much I knew. I also knew the right way to appeal to it. I also knew where he kept his stash of injections, it was in a small box, one he thought I didn’t notice, inside a larger box, inside a travel trunk. There was a pile of neatly folded money, some coins, and something else a power in a small bag. I didn’t care for anything other than the injections, and on that day, as I prepared our dinner, I changed their location. The largest one sat inside my makeshift pocket I created in my undergarment. I could have pushed whatever he’d been injecting me with, into the food, but with Bill’s nature, I was taking no chances that he would suspect anything. By the time he came home at nine that night, my nerves were shot to smithereens.

“Your face is healing well.” He said as he greeted me with a kiss to the cheek, softly. I smiled and tried to sound nonchalant.

“It is, I think soon I shall be able to step out with you, if that’s what you want, of course.”

He studied me for a moment, but instead of making eye contact with him, I just continued to bring the food out of the small cooker that sat in the cramped apartment.

“Is that what you want, Susannah?”

I forced a smile again, before I looked at him.

“Of course it is, Darling. I see now, things can change… It just took me a little time … to think.”

“I had hoped your time alone would help you see sense… that that life wasn’t the one you deserved.”

“It wasn’t. I wasn’t born for hard labour.” I smiled.

Just a hard marriage, apparently.

He smiled only his was genuine, where mine was the furthest thing from that.

“That’s great news, my dear. Great news indeed. I have a few more business meetings and some things to secure this week, and then I think we can start to think where we’re to live. Personally, I’d rather be back home. The English and their weather doesn’t really sit well with me.”

“Perhaps, that is if we have anything to go home to… is the house still ours?” My Grandmother’s house, one that was left to me, but of course it was left to my husband instead since women were still deemed ‘unable’ to own property. The absurd law that really grinded my gears stated as much.

“Sadly no. I had some debts that needed to be paid, so the house was used to… cover them.”

I closed my eyes. All my Grandmother’s things too were no doubt sold too. Her silver, her jewellery, most of my childhood was connected to that house, it made me sad to think someone else now stood in place of my family there.

“Oh…”

“We can always get another house, begin new memories of our family. And I do so want a family with you, Sus. I think this time, we could do it right if you just do what you’re told… we would have to suffer no more loss.”

“So it’s all my fault?” I fought my urge to strangle him from across the table. “Not the fact that you beat me -”

“Susannah, please. Let’s not rehash history.”

“Why not? Would it be displeasing to you to do so? Why can’t we be honest here, Bill. After everything don’t we owe each other at least that much?”

He sighed, before he took a large bite from his chicken. I regretted not spiking it in that moment. He just kept on eating, as calm as you’d like annoying me to no end in the process.

I got up with my plate, no longer able to stomach the food, and threw it in the bin. He sighed from the table.

“It wasn’t my fault you know? At all. Both times the babies came early because of what you were doing. The fact that you can’t even man up and admit -” Before I finished my sentence, I was backed up against the sink, hard and fast, hurting my hip. He held me by the throat and got right up into my face.

“I don’t want to hear it, do you understand?”

“I -”

“I don’t. want . to. hear. it.” He seethed, “I am sick of the whining Susannah. Sick to the teeth of it. Even when we were married it was all you do. Whine. Whine like a child, a spoiled child that needed to learn her damn place.”

My heart was beating so fast I was sure it was about to jump up my throat.

“We’re not discussing the past, not now, not ever, do you understand?”

He held my jaw, tight, so tight I was sure something snapped. His finger marks were left on my face and neck, that much I knew, I could them start to make a bruise already.

“You will stop bringing it up, you will shut up and know your place once and for all.”

When he left me go, I fought the urge to cry, from the pain and the shock, and from the humiliation of it all. What I couldn’t fight the urge with however was my mouth, and I talked back and I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it would cost me, but another larger part of me didn’t really care.

“You’re right, I should be silent on the matter, after all, what man wants to be reminded that he murdered his children before they even had a chance to live, that he beat them out of their mother too soon… I wouldn’t want to be reminded of that, either.”

A second later, I felt his hand in my hair as he dragged me from the sink and I landed with a smack on the hardwood floor. I thought for sure he would force himself on me, and I was prepared for it, he didn’t though, sex was never Bill’s strong point, and sexual dominance was also not something he even knew existed. I don’t think he knew much about touching a woman if I was being honest. It was a fact I lived with, until I fell in love with Eric and realised that there were men that knew what they were doing with their hands… and other parts. The only thing Bill seemed to know what to do with his hands on a woman was to beat her, and beat me he did. I tasted blood, lots of it, I could no longer see out of my left eye, I felt warm blood there too… my hands were burning, held down by his knees on them so I couldn’t move or wriggle free. I just kept thinking of the injection, if I could only get to it, everything would stop. But I couldn’t. It was as if he knew. He beat on me for what felt like an eternity, until I was choking on what I assumed was the blood I was tasting. It was only when his own hands were bloody and shaking that he stopped. His breathing was laboured as he moved off me to wash his hands in the sink.

“Get up.” He ordered, when moving was the last thing on my list of needs. Breathing came first, and even that was proving a struggle. When I didn’t move quickly enough for him, I felt him reach for me, under my arms and slide me toward the bed. My ribs cracked and I cried out in pain. I felt like I was dying.

“Get yourself cleaned up. I’ll be back in a while…”

I must have passed out, because the sun that was setting as I laid on the bed was long down when I opened my eyes again. I still couldn’t see out of both eyes, my ribs hurt, my hands were numb and I couldn’t move some of my fingers without serious pain, but I dragged myself toward the bathroom mirror. If I had any energy I might have screamed at the horror I’d seen in front of me, my face was swollen, bloody, and bruised. My hair was matted with blood, I was unrecognisable.

I sobbed quietly as I attempted to move to wash with a warm cloth, but after a few minutes it was too much and I needed to lay down. When I woke up on the morning of the seventeenth, he was mopping at my forehead with a cloth and some band aids. I recoiled.

“It’s alright, Susannah, it’s alright now.” I moved away further into the corner of the bed, against the wall, the idea of him touching me was enough to make me want to heave.

“Get away from me!”

“I’m sorry, surely you must know how sorry I am?”

I had heard that song on many an occasion, I didn’t want to hear it again.

Instead, I moved from the bottom of the bed onto the floor, where I was able to put a little distance between us.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Susannah.”

“Then don’t!” I begged, sure that he was coming to finish what he’d started, though that may have been the fever talking.

“I’m worried for you. You were screaming in your sleep…and now you’re burning up.”

Worried? That had to be the worst joke I’d heard all year. Then I remembered. The injection. I slid my hand into the makeshift pocket, popped off the small lid, and approached him, slowly, as he sat on the bed.

“Please sit. I want to explain myself…” He asked, and that just wasn’t going to happen.

“I can’t do this anymore… I can’t…” I said as I stood in front of him, my hand on the needle. I couldn’t think, I knew if I did, I’d chicken out. I couldn’t chicken out, not now. My life depended on it. In a split second it was done, I had jammed the needle into his neck and stepped back. It took a second for him to register what I’d done… then he lunged toward me. I stepped back again, but it wasn’t working. He kept moving!

What in the hell!?

I moved so far back that I was in the kitchen part of the apartment, I noticed some noise coming from outside, but ignored it as I had more pressing matters at hand. Like my crazy ex lunging at me, half drugged. He got closer to me, his hands outreached toward me, and I panicked. I reached for the skillet, and I whacked him across the face with it, once, twice, three times just to be sure. He fell to the ground with a loud and heavy slap, and I was sure my heart was stopping in my chest. He groaned as he laid there, and looked around the room, as if someone was suddenly going to burst in and save me. I knew that to be nonsense. The only person a girl can depend on to save her skin, is herself. I learned that lesson a long time ago. There was no white knight. Not in this fairytale.

I stepped over his groaning body, his eyes I noted were rolling in his head, his mouth half moving but no sound was coming out. I searched for the needles, the little hidden box for another. When I found it, I made the choice to inject him again. This time with the full thing, I was taking no chances of him coming after me. When I saw that he was out, I ran to the door. I ran as if he was chasing me, because it felt like he was still chasing me, I felt sick, I felt dizzy, but most of all I felt fear. I needed to escape that fear, and in doing so, it meant getting as far from him as possible. I got out the door, to the dusty abandoned staircase and I ran down them faster than I recalled ever running anywhere. When I got outside, the light, the air, it all hurt my body, and I realised I was right. Whatever street we were on, it was empty, completely desolate, but I could hear sounds. I followed the sounds.

I rounded a corner, then another, all in my bare feet, and underwear, beaten and bloody. I rounded another corner, and it was like re-entering the world. There was a celebration, lots of them in fact. People were happy, so happy and cheering, it looked like a parade.

I looked for a street name, and then I knew where I was, where I had been. I also knew where I needed to go. I began on foot again my blood pumping in my ears, not caring for the looks I received, not caring that my feet were becoming as bloody as the rest of me. I ran until a hand grabbed me, and I screamed, in my head it was Bill I saw. In reality, it was a woman.

“What on earth happened to you, girl?” She asked, I had no clue who she was.

“I was … I need to get to Chelsea. Please.”

She opened her mouth, then closed it again.

“You’re far from there, too far to go… like that.”

“Please, are there buses from here? Is there a street car?”

She looked around, the celebrations continued even on this street, and I had been running for what seemed like forever.

“You won’t get one now, not in this crowd.”

“What are they celebrating?” I asked, holding onto her hand that held onto my arm.

She blinked, confused.

“The war, dear. It’s over.”


Chapter 25: Chapter 25


Chapter 25:

Sookie:

The woman that informed me that World War One had just been announced as over and done, we’d even won she said. Her name was Holly, and she was married store owner, and she thankfully had her own motor car, she even drove! She offered me a ride, one that I would be forever thankful for, for without her, I was sure I’d just drop down dead. I couldn’t move anymore, much less run. I gave her Pam’s address, in the hopes that she’d be back, but if not I knew someone would be around, the house was never left empty. I just needed that safe haven, to figure things out. Holly questioned me, but I gave away nothing, even if I had wanted to, I wasn’t so sure I could have conversed with her on the short car ride to the front of Pam’s home. A home that felt like the gates of heaven in my beaten state. I thanked Holly for her generous offer, and for her kindness, I needed her to know that she probably saved my life, after I’d saved it myself that is.

I waited until she drove away before I knocked on the front door, my knock that was once steadfast and sure, was now weak and pathetic.

My head felt light, my body had all but given up. I vaguely remembered someone opening the door, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in a dimly lit room, with Pam at my side.

“Oh thank God. Thank God!” She cried as she leaned over me, mopping my brow. “Sookie, it’s Pam. Can you hear me?”

I nodded.

“Good, great… Good.” She took a deep breath, “Eric will be back soon, he’s been out all day looking for you, for days even, God what happened to you?”

“No.” I said, my throat dry, “No I don’t want him to see me like this. Please.” I begged.

“But Sookie he’s been here for days and days, looking all over the city, he has everyone looking for you… I don’t understand.”

“I can’t let him see me like this, please.”

“Need I ask who did this to you? I had a doctor check you out, just so you know… you’ve got a broken rib, finger and wrist… so many bruises my love…” She stroked my face, and I could still only see out of one eye.

“How long have I been here?”

“A few hours…”

I looked and saw my hand was bandaged.

“Bill, he’s still… out there. He’s still… Oh God. Oh God! He’ll come after me again, I know he will.” I cried, and she held me tighter, I think I might have scared her but I suddenly started to panic again.

“Where did he have you? Where were you?!”

“I don’t… it was a street there were homes, but all abandoned or something, old, empty… I could hear the clock… I just can’t…” I remembered a street sign near, when I left, but it was blurry to me now. “It had a green door, all broken and old, I… just can’t…”

She ‘shh’d’ me then, easing me back down onto my pillow.

“It’s okay, trust me Sookie, everything is going to be fine, I promise. I need you to rest now, okay? Just rest.”

I laid back down, my body more tired than I think I’d ever felt in my life. But I would rest, I needed to. What other choice did I have when my body was failing me as it was?

Rest. It sounded so nice, so simple, but my brain was still racing when she left the room.

What if he found me again?

Eric:

It had been over a week since my arrival in London, and nothing at all. I had spent my days with Detective Bellefleur in search of either John Quinn or Bill Compton, in the hopes of them leading me to Sookie. I knew him to be annoyed with me, poking my nose into his job, as it were. But the sheer frustration of sitting around and waiting for something to happen was just too much for me. We had found Quinn on the fifteenth and I had let my fists do the talking, he on the other hand swore up and down that he knew nothing about nothing, but did let slip that Bill was staying ‘in town’ though he didn’t know where, and that they’d been doing some business together. Both things sounded shaded and suspicious to me, as well as to Andy Bellefleur, so Quinn took a little trip the police station where I was assured Andy would attempt to ‘get it out of him’. I hadn’t heard back since, so I took to the streets once more, using Niall’s contacts, which were decidedly less above board than my own. Two brothers from the East End who specialized in providing a delicate service to those who needed it. That service varied from person to person, but considering where I met them, what they carried on their person, and just how terrifying they were as men, even to me, it was safe to say that service was an illegal one.

“We find ‘im, we own him, do we agree on that, Mr Northman?” Thomas, the elder of The Brothers Grimm, as I nicknamed them in my head spoke. “Do we agree that if we find the bastard that took your woman, we get to … play.” He smiled.

“I don’t care. Do what you like, I really don’t care. I just want her found, safe.”

“Ex with a grudge, chances are she’s a bit … roughed up at this point, Mate.” Barry, the younger, though much more bald brother spoke. “Not that I know for sure though…”

“Does it happen a lot then? Ex husbands…?”

They shrugged. Before Barry spoke again.

“We tend to steer clear of the more… domestic side of disputes if you know what a’ mean.” He held up his hands, as his East London accent framed his words. “It’s none of our business most of the time what ‘appens between a man and his woman, unless she’s one of our own. But, you’re a friend of Niall… and so… we make the exception.”

I had wondered since I had met them why two gangsters like The Brother’s Grimm were friendly with Niall, but, in all honesty, I was almost too intimidated to ask.

“If you do… end up ending Compton, it won’t be tied back to her, will it?”

They shook their heads in unison, Thomas spoke next.

“Nah, we’ll make it a clean break from your Lady, that’s for sure. We have some contacts in the city, I know you’ve gone the legal route, but there’s just some things that can’t be done the right way and need to be handled the real right way, if you know what I mean.”

“I do, now I do. As far as payment… I can give you -”

“No. Niall contacted us…” Thomas said, “And we own ‘im, so we’re settling a little debt by doin’ this, so your money is ain’t no good to us in this instance, Mr Northman.”

I nodded. I really would need to call Niall when I got back to Pam’s. The Brother’s Grimm had set off that morning, and by the time I was making my way back through the city, on foot I had decided was best to clear my head or tire myself out, I wasn’t sure which motive I had for it. But, by the time I reached the centre of the city, something astounding had happened.

The war on the world, was over.

I caught the bus, the only bus that seemed to be moving at the time through the city of now celebrating people, and instead of going straight to Pamela’s to see if she’d heard the news of the war, I detoured back to Bellefleur, much to his annoyance, again.

“Eric I’ve told you, I have my men on it. We do take missing persons seriously, and I’ve informed you of that too, a million times now.”

“Well, make it a million and one. Andy, he could have her anywhere by now, we’re going on the word of a man who is hardly known for his honesty, and we’re to believe he’s just… kept her here, hidden?”

“He swears by it. They’ve been working deals by the docks taking shifts.”

“What kind of deals?”

“He tells me ‘sales’, but just what exactly he’s been selling, that he won’t budge on. I’ve sent someone to take a look around his place now, see what I can find.”

I nodded.

“Eric, you look like death warmed over, you’ll be no good to your Lady when we find her if you’re dying on your feet now will you?”

I ran my hand over my two week old beard, he was right, I most likely looked like shit, not that I’d bothered with a mirror in a while.

“I’m going for an early dinner at the Horse & Pond, come with me.”

“I can’t. I should be back…”

“Son, we’ve just won the bloody war and I want to celebrate, food and ale and possibly some company. Say you’ll agree, you look like you could use a good meal.”

And so I stayed, I ate though the food had little to no taste, and the ale tasted sour in my mouth. The war was over for the world, but for me, inside my heart it still raged on. I knew I wouldn’t find much peace until I saw her save again.

Sookie:

I woke up, the lamp was lit by my bedside and the curtains drawn, I knew where I was, in one of Pamela’s guest rooms, but I had no idea of the time. I heard voices though, loud arguing voices from downstairs, one in particular I recognised.

Eric.

My heart both soared and broke at the same time. I so desperately wanted to see him, but on the other hand did not wish for him to see me like this, so humiliated and broken.

Apparently Pam was telling him my wish not for him to see me, but apparently I forgot what a stubborn man Eric Northman was, as he came bursting through the door with pale concern on his rather hairy face.

He said nothing, as he stood there, grasping onto the door handle for dear life. And I said nothing either, laying there unsure if I was even alive or simply dreaming.

“Sookie, I’m sorry… he insisted.” Pam said coming up behind him, giving him the stink-eye from behind. He just ignored her, instead stared at me.

“It’s… alright.” I whispered, apparently my thoughts were much louder than my voice at that point. “If he’ll stop staring at me like I’m a ghost, it’ll be alright.” I attempted a smile, but knew just how strange I looked. He finally let go of the door handle, and took some steps softly into the room. He closed the door, with Pam still standing on the other side of it. It actually made me chuckled, I never thought anything would again.

“That was rude,” I said, trying to sit up, but failing. As soon as I took my eyes off him, the next thing I knew, he was by my side, his big blue eyes curious and terrified.

“He… She… She said you… That he…” He reached out to touch my face, but pulled himself back. “He did this to you?”

I looked away from him, the shame that I felt over-taking me. Instead of speaking, I just nodded.

“I told Pam of his whereabouts, though I am unsure of his state.”

“What do you mean?” He asked, sitting gently on the bed below my feet.

“I… had to escape. There was no way he was letting me go, not ever. There were… there was a fight, if you could call it that, I left him rather incapacitated.” I managed to say before I had to rest my head again, I was so tired.

Eric looked at me for a few seconds more. He was studying my face so closely that I wanted nothing more than to hide myself from him, under the covers if I must, just to stop his gaze – his thinking of what I looked like now. I thought how it, how I must have horrified him now. Then he did something I was not expecting, he leaned over the bed and kissed me on the forehead, his thumb brushing my cheek. He simply uttered the word ‘No‘, got up, and left the room.

It wasn’t until Pam came in some minutes later, a ashen look on her face that I knew where he went.

He went to find Bill.


Okay loves. I have more written but this felt like the natural end for this chapter, if I manage to get shit done tonight I might have another update tomorrow night! Hit the little button of love! How else will I know what you’re all thinking otherwise, right?! 😉


Chapter 26: Chapter 26


Hello again! As promised the next chapter in a day, you can’t say I’m not good to you 😉 Reviews are my payment so.. gimme! Haha. xo


Eric:

I had questioned Pam for any and every detail that Sookie might have told her, even in her broken up state, she had to have recalled where she came from. Pam mentioned a street, empty, and something about a green door with no glass,and that she could hear Big Ben from where she was kept. I wasn’t so familiar with London on my own, but I knew two brothers that were.

“When we find him, you want us to … take care of it?”

My head was spinning as we took their motorcar to the area that I could only vaguely describe, though they seemed to know it. Turning corner after corner the regal and upper class areas faded and we entered what seemed like another world. One of streets filled with women, some with babies, some alone, all of them looking for something from the men that passed. More corners were turned and soon houses came into view, streets that I assumed were once littered with people, and families. Now though, it was empty.

“Consumption took over here a few years back, wiped out the whole neighbourhood, and with the war the money just hasn’t been there to clean things up and get people housed here. Such a waste.” Barry spoke as Thomas drove us, and we stopped in front of an abandoned house, what I was later to find was converted into smaller apartments, and it was there that we found the man that had been the bane of my existence. He was laying on the floor, still as the chair next to him.

“Is he dead?” I asked the brothers, one kneeled down, the other kicked him. He didn’t move. I looked around him, there was clearly a struggle, a struggle with Sookie. My heart tightened as I saw where she was being kept. There was chains for heaven’s sakes! I noticed the needles though, and I knew that was how he took her, it had to have been. She never would have went willingly with him.

“He’s dead.” Thomas said standing up. “Notice his coloring?” He added, and I had no clue what I was meant to be noticing.

“I…” I was at a loss, not because he was gone, but because he got to go before I beat the shit out of him.

“Heart attack. Ironic for such a heartless bastard that would do this…” he motioned to around the room, “to a woman.”

They might have been killers, lawbreakers and scoundrels, but they respected women. For that I was thankful.

“Your woman, is she going to be okay?” Barry asked.

“I… think so. I know she suffered, and she clearly fought her way out of here. The bastard.” I nodded at him, seeing him lay there he seemed so unassuming, but what he was was devious and evil. I was happy he was dead. He couldn’t hurt her any more.

“How do I take care of this now?” I asked both of them. Barry just shrugged.

“You don’t. We do.”

“How?”

He shook his head.

“Probably best if you don’t know, Mate. The less you know, the less you can get beat out of you if it comes to it.”

“It won’t come to it either, we can promise you that.” Thomas continued, “We’re very capable at what we do.”

“And what…will you do?”

“Get rid of him, here, the evidence. All of it.”

“He has contacts here, he’s been doing business. What if his co-workers come looking?”

The brother’s looked at each other, then to me.

“Then they’ll find this place burning to the ground, with him in it.”

I paced the room, it would solve everything and give reason for him to be found dead – if anything of him survived.

I nodded.

“There’s no way it will be -”

“No, and trust us when we tell you that John Quinn won’t say a word either, we know too much about him for that to happen.”

“What exactly do you both owe Niall so much that you’d be willing to risk all this for me, for him?” I had to go there, I had to ask.

They looked at each other again, this time Thomas spoke.

“Long time ago, he helped our father with a rather delicate matter… he worked for Niall ‘ere in London and he was accused of murder. Now, did he do it? That don’t really matter does it?” He smiled, “But, Niall believed in him in other ways, knew he had a wife, a family to look after, wasn’t about to let ‘im go down. What he did, saved our family from destitution, it means a lot. It means, this gets to go away for you, for ‘im, and for your Lady. If that’s what you want?”

I looked at the dead man on the floor, and thought of all the pain and suffering he had caused, the results he left on Sookie’s face and body – never mind the effect on her mind.

“Do it. Get rid of him… this…” I looked around. “Just make sure there’s no one else squatting, we don’t need anymore innocent people getting fucked over because of this …” I couldn’t even make myself refer to him as a man, for he wasn’t one, he was a monster.

I got the brothers to drop me off a few streets from Pamela’s home. I stopped by a small florist and picked up a modest selection of roses, small, but beautiful, and spent at least twenty minutes chewing the fat with the owner on the days news of the war. Everyone was smiling, happy, elated even, I could not have cared any less. It felt harsh to admit, but I just didn’t care in the moment. I was sure I would, eventually when my own worries and troubles at the present had passed, but as it stood, it felt like I was standing in a bubble full of worry. I managed a smile and a positive response or two before I left him and made my way back to the house. I found Pam was out, her new fiance was also not there, but I found Sookie in her room sitting on a soft chair by her window. She was cuddled up with a fleece blanket, her feet resting on a stool. She didn’t look up as I entered.

“Is he dead?” She asked a sad tone to her usually bubbly voice.

“Do you… think he is?”

“I hope he is.” She answered after a beat. “It may make me a horrible per-”

“It doesn’t.”

She nodded, still not looking at me.

“He’s dead.” I confirmed.

“Did you kill him? Or was it I that managed to do this time what I failed to do last time?”

Then she looked at me, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. I moved closer, slowly, I didn’t want to scare her. She saw the flowers and for a moment tried to break a smile, it faded as fast as it came.

“They’re beautiful.”

“They’re for you. Not that I expect them to do much other that provide you with something pleasing to look at…” I said leaving them on the windowsill and took a seat beside them.

“Bill is dead.”

“So I did it then. I murdered him.”

“Would it give you more peace of mind to know that I did it?” I asked causing her to look at me sharply.

“I… I don’t know. I had made my peace with it… sort of… once. I think I could deal with it again. Unless of course you did kill him, in which case I would need to thank you.”

“You never need to thank me for anything, ever. I only ask because I long to give you something… all things that you don’t have… but mostly I long to give you peace of mind on this matter. So, I ask again, would it be … better? If I were the one that killed him?”

She sighed, looking out the window again.

“The truth, above all else might set my mind at ease.”

With that statement she looked me dead in the eye. I couldn’t lie to her.

“In that case, I believe neither of us did it.”

“I don’t understand?”

“He died of a heart attack, Sookie. So, what you did to him might have not helped his state of being, but when you left him, he was alive… his heart just disagreed with such a notion.”

She blinked, confused, and for some minutes we were both eerily silent. Then she did something I wasn’t expecting, she chuckled.

“It’s just… rather ironic is it not? A man I deemed so heartless all his life dies of a heart attack…” she laughed, “I mean isn’t that just absurd!” She laughed harder, until her laughter disintegrated into tears, and then she began to sob. I moved to her side and thankfully she allowed my soft embrace, I recalled Pam’s warning of her injuries, and I didn’t want to go all ham-fisted to her and hurt her.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” She said, sobbing into my jacket as I held her, helpless to do much else for her pain.

“Never be sorry, my love, you’ve just been through something… I can’t begin to imagine how awful. Never be sorry.”

And so I held her, my one job for her that afternoon and I intended to do it well, so I held her, stroked her hair, and did my best to comfort her until she sobbed herself to sleep on my chest. I slid into the chair next to her, cramped but unwilling to wake her, and did my best to nap there until she awoke. I just didn’t want to let her go. No matter how much I felt her slipping away.

Sookie:

Bill was dead, and I had killed him. Even if Eric tried to rationalize what had happened to him, his heart gave out, his heart gave out because of what I did to him. The scariest of all things was how not guilty I felt, whereas before when I thought I had done it, the guilt almost consumed me. This time though, there was nothing but relief. I was not sure if it was just a gut reaction to what he had done to me, not just this time around, but in the past too or if I was just becoming a cold woman. I hoped I wasn’t allowing things to affect me in the long term, but as it stood, I really did feel numb. I didn’t really want to be around anyone, I didn’t really want to be around Eric either, he was being … too nice. Too nice, too helpful and too scared to say something out of place – so our conversations were stilted and awkward now. I had gone three days in my sick bed as it were, Pam’s staff were lovely, and she herself was nothing but understanding and welcoming, despite how awkward and ashamed I still felt at my presence in her home as I was. Her housemaid Mary was beyond lovely, and took great care of me while the other’s were out, we swapped horror stories of the job and I felt became friends of sorts. If only things were as simple in the big house in Scotland. Having to be helped in and out of a bathtub was a test of my dignity, thankfully Pam was around for that, making it slightly less awkward than had it been Mary, given our history and my history as her Lady’s Maid, she and I had little to hide from one and other.

“He’s coming back with something for dinner, apparently our kitchen wasn’t apt enough for your healing process.” Pam smirked as I sat in my warm bath, easing my battered body, she was reading a magazine on a cushion on the floor, I still found it funny how at ease I felt around her.

“What?”

“Mmm. Apparently you need lots of red meat and milk and things to – and I quote ‘heal as fast as she can’. He’s just worried.”

I sighed. I really wish he wasn’t so worried, or so sweet, at this stage, I wasn’t so sure what to do with it.

“It’s not my breaks and bruises I’m worried about, in truth.”

She nodded.

“I know that, Sook. I think he does too, he’s just trying to do something. It’s the one thing Eric hates more than most things – feeling helpless. Not being able to help you? Kills him.”

“Did he say that?”

“No, but I know him better than most, it’s who he is.”

I closed my eyes, letting the warm water and bubbled cover me. My ribs still hurt, which was why I needed her help, that and the broken fingers didn’t help much either. My face was healing, slowly, and after the swelling went down, I found I had some vision back in my left eye. I was alive, even if I still felt like I was dying.

“He wants you to go back to Scotland with him, as soon as you’re ready, he’s waiting to ask you.”

I tensed.

“I… No.”

“No?”

“I can’t go back there… not like this.”

“I can see that, I think it’s just with Niall being unwell too, he’s torn. You’d be well taken care of there though…”

“Do you want me to leave?”

“Heavens no, you know I love having you… both of you around as much as possible. I just wish it was under normal circumstances, you know?”

“I can’t go back there, I’m not really sure I can ever go back there.”

She sighed.

“Sook, if this is a speech about how you’re not good enough -”

“It’s not, I just know how difficult it will be if I do, and to be frank, I’m not ready for anymore difficulty just yet.”

“How so?”

“I was one of them, sort of, in name at least. I had my place and I knew it well and I did my job… now I’m neither. I’m not one of you people or one of them, I don’t fit.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“To you, to you and how you run your house maybe, not there, not with those people. If he must go, he must go… in all honesty I wish him to leave, at least for a while. I feel sometimes when we sit together, I can almost hear his over-thinking and it’s smothering me.”

“Oh, Sookie…” She grimaced putting down her magazine. “All I ask is that you consider his feelings here too, as hard as it is with what you’re going through physically and whatever is floating around in your head… but please? He’s been through a lot too, remember that.”

“You think I don’t know that? I know that, Pam.”

“Hey. Don’t you get uppity with me, I’m just trying to help, damnit.” She rolled her eyes, getting up from her cushion. “When you’re done with your mood swing, I’ll be in my room getting ready for dinner.” With that she walked out. I guess I was yanking myself out of the bath tube alone.

Shit.

I got myself out and dried myself off, with one hand and more carefully than I remembered doing anything in awhile. I knew I would be needing more of the pain medications Pam’s doctor left me. One I was in the robe I knew belonged to Pam, I made my way to her room. She was sitting at her vanity, fixing her hair.

“Don’t you have a Ladies Maid to do that?” I opened.

She just looked at me through the mirror.

“I do, but I gave Deana the night off, her child is ill.”

“She new?”

“Yes, the one before you … her husband got a better job in Manchester, so, they moved. I was pissed, good Lady’s Maids are hard to find.” She said with a slight smile, I took that as a welcome sign and walked further into the room, and sat on her bed.

“I’m sorry for snapping, it wasn’t right.”

“I’m not mad at you for snapping, Lord knows what you’ve gone through you’ve the right to be a bit on edge. I just… I care about you Sook, but I care about Eric too. He’s been a good friend to me over the years, and I don’t want to see him get hurt anymore than he already has.”

“The last thing I ever want to do is hurt him, Pam. I love him.”

“Then let him know that, make sure he knows that. He’s a big boy we know that, but his heart and his ego are as fragile as any China.”

“I know…”I whispered, feeling beyond bad about myself and my thoughts. “I love him, and I thank him for doing all he did, all you’re doing too. I’m not blind to it, I just wish we had a little more space, that’s all. I need to wrap my head around a lot of things and having him there, by my side all the time is suffocating me!”

Of course as timing would have it, I turned and saw Eric in the doorway. I closed my eyes at his pained expression as he stood there, books in hand.

He looked to Pam, who simply just excused herself, passing me, and then him, and heading down her staircase. Neither of us spoke, but he did come in and close the door.

I felt cold and terrible and just an all around awful woman in that moment, as he stood there silently.

“Eric I -”

“Is that how you really feel?”

I was silent.

“Well?”

“The last thing I want to do is make you think that I don’t love you, or appreciate what you’ve done for me -”

“But I’m suffocating you…?”

I ran my hand through the free part of my braided hair, hoping that my words sounded how I meant them to sound.

“I’m confused, Eric. Confused about a lot of things, things that I can’t even really wrap my brain around. I know you mean well, with the flowers and the cards and the books… I do love you for it. I just can’t think when all I can think about is if I’m being too quiet for you, or too sad, or too tired. I need to think about me, about my life and what I just survived, to make sense of what comes next, and I cannot really do that worrying if you’re okay in the process.”

No, I was sure those words made me sound like an ungrateful harlot.

He furrowed his brow, leaving the books on her nightstand and taking a seat next to me.

“I was going to ask you to come home with me, to Scotland. I see now what a mistake that would have been.” He added, calmly. He was calm but he sounded sad.

“Eric I’m sorry.”

“I told you before, you don’t have to be. I … in truth am a little hurt.”

I closed my eyes. I didn’t want that.

“Last thing I want is for you to not want me around… Since I love you an all, it kind of puts a damper on that if I’m not wanted.”

“You ARE wanted. I just… need some time, that’s all.”

He nodded.

“I’m a little hurt, but also if I’m totally honest… a little relieved. I don’t know the right things to say, or do, or be. I only know how to be me, and if what you need is time away from that to sort your feelings out, then I agree.”

Now it was my turn to look confused.

“I don’t -”

“I love you, Sookie, Susannah, whatever you want to be called. But I also know that sometimes love can be ill timed, perhaps ours is ill timed.”

I felt the tears spring to my eyes.

“Are you breaking -”

“No!” He said turning to face me then, cupping my face softly. “No. I do love you, and if you love me as you say, then some space will mean nothing to us when we’re at our best together again.”

I breathed a sigh of relief, I never wanted to lose him forever, I just needed to make sense of myself first before I could move forward. I was healing on the outside, but inside I was still a terrified mess. He didn’t deserve a terrified mess, and neither did I.

“You’re a smart woman, Sookie. I like to think I have my wits about me too.” He smiled a sad smile. I took his hands in mine, softly since I was still sporting some rather fresh bandages.

“You do, your wits are one of my favourite things about you.” I smiled.

“Good, I am glad. Though, I hope they are not all you favor of me.” He grinned, making me blush.

“No, certainly not, your inappropriate sense of humour is rather enjoyable too, at times.”

That caused him to laugh, and with that laugh I felt the tensions of the previous days melt away.

“Good, that is good news. Sookie, I will return to Scotland in a few days. Niall is still not himself and I feel he would benefit from my being there.”

I nodded.

“But I will return when I hear word from you.”

“Yes. Please.” I nodded. “I just need -”

He kissed me softly on the nose. It was very sweet.

“Time. I know my love, I know. The good thing about all this now? Time is all we’ve got.”


A/N: Thoughts are more than encouraged! xo


Chapter 27: Chapter 27


Eric:
I left London with a heavy heart and a full mind, as well as a full belly due to the meal that Pam insisted we sit down to, all together, and the pie that Sookie insisted on helping back for my departure. Things between Sookie and I weren’t as strained as they had been in the days after her return, since she had come clean and told me how she was feeling – as much as it hurt – things felt a little lighter, in the air around us both. She was still healing, physically and no doubt mentally would take that much longer, but I knew she was still in there, and eventually when she was ready, she would come back to me.
She walked me to my platform, all wrapped up in a blue coat she had borrowed from Pam.
“I still don’t think you should be outside, it’s too soon -”
“You’re letting me see you off and that’s that.” She smiled, holding my hand as we walked as I held my luggage in my free hand. “Besides, while I do need some space, not just from you, but from it all, it does not mean that I am not sorry to see you go.”
“Women, you are so complicated.” I sighed with a smile, she grinned too.
“Yes, yes we are. And don’t you ever forget it. Or how worth it we are either.”
I was glad it seemed as if her humour was returning, if nothing else.
“I will telephone when I get in.”
“Please do. Or I will worry.”

“I don’t want you worrying about me, not when you have to take this time for yourself.” I added as we reached my platform, the train was boarding but not yet full.

“I still feel so selfish though, pushing you like this…” She sighed.

“I don’t see it as selfish, I see it as you knowing what you need right now, better than I or anyone else ever could. That’s how I see it, Sookie.”
She smiled, leaning up against me on her tip-toes, planting a soft kiss to my lips.

“Thank you, for being you, Eric Northman. Thank you for not thinking I’m some crazy old bat who doesn’t know which way is up.” She smiled making me laugh, even if the topic at hand was a serious one, I liked that she wanted to end our time face to face on a good note.

“You’re not an old bat…” I mumbled.

“Oh but I am crazy? Thank you very much.” She teased as I just put my two small cases on the ground.

“No, but I think everyone has a little crazy in them, I think if we were all to be ‘sane’ we’d just not have lived a life, nor survived it.”
Her smiled faltered then, but she did come closer to hug me.
“I love you.” She said and I saw the pain that still lived in her through her eyes just then. I knew she had a lot of problems to work out within herself, I just hoped that when she did that I was still part of her life. I held her close with both arms as she did the same to me. I inhaled her smell that Sookie smell, now of soap and something floral, and stepped back as the final whistle went for us to board.

“Take care of yourself okay?” I asked.

“I will, you too.”
I nodded squeezing her hand once more for reassurance.

“I’ll telephone, I love you.”

She smiled bright at that as I picked up my things and entered the train.

I missed her already but I hoped that time apart to heal was what she needed and when the time came for her to come back to me, to us, that she would.

Sookie:

After Eric’s departure I felt as if something had been lifted from my shoulders, and when I got back to Pam’s empty home, I realised what that was. I didn’t have to please anyone anymore, I didn’t have to put on the brave face and pretend with him just so he would think I was okay and not worry about me. I could go up to my room, alone and cry if I needed to, I could get angry and annoyed and sob and hate myself and Bill and the whole damn situation – and I didn’t have to pretend. I cried myself to sleep that afternoon, only woken by Pam and a small cup of coffee she held in her hand for me. Apparently she and Claude had reconnected after his few days of visiting friends since Eric had arrived, and he was back now. They had a wedding to plan.

“I am really happy for you, both.” I managed, sipping the hot coffee in the hopes of it giving me life.

“Honey, you know we’re not really in love, right?” She asked hopping on the bed next to me, wrapping the blanket around us both. “We’re just doing this for the money, on both sides. I still can’t thank you enough for putting this on my path.”
“I think it’s I that should be thanking you, Pam. Everything you’ve done for me, since we met… and now here… like this.”
“Think nothing of it. I love both of you, and you know I value my real friendships more than my luggage.”
I snorted my drink for it was true, if Pam loved you more than her luggage it meant the world. I smiled.

“Well, thank you anyway, and I’ll do whatever needs doing so this goes off without a hitch.”
“I was hoping you would say that. I want a big wedding, huge even, with my mother and his footing the bill it’s not like they can’t afford it. And, after the war and all the horrid things we’ve had to witness, I think we all deserve a party, don’t you?” She grinned.

“I’ve seen your parties darling, do we think the mothers will approve such things for a wedding?”
She rolled her eyes.

“We’ll tone down the …sharing then, how’s that?”
“Sounds good. We can focus on that, it might actually help my mood.”
“Ah yes. How did Eric take his basinsihment?”

“I haven’t banished him! He has to check on Niall anyway, and I just need some space, I would never banish him.”
“As long as he knows that.”

“He does, trust me. He’s going to telephone when he gets in, so I don’t worry for him. I hate that journey, it’s always so long and tiresome.”

“Scotland is tiresome, it is a beauty, and the people are wonderful… but the cold is so tiresome.” She sighed.

“Eric says I complain because I was raised in Lousiana, that I’m just not built for the cold.”
“Says him, he was practically raised on an iceberg.” She giggled fixing my hair for me. “Darling I don’t want to see you cry over Bill Compton anymore, he can’t hurt you now, or ever again.”
I nodded.

“I know I do. It’s just hard to forget it all so fast, that’s all.”
“I am not asking that you forget; just do not let it ruin the rest of your life. You deserve to be happy, Sookie, I just want you to remember that.”
“I’ll try. I will.”

Pam and I spent the next couple of days discussing what she wanted her dress to be, what Claude would be wearing, the flowers, and most importantly, where the after party would take place. It was a welcome distraction I must admit, but the fact that Eric kept his word and telephoned when he said he would also helped to put my mind at ease. He was home and Niall was okay, so far, and that he missed me but hoped that I was doing okay. I couldn’t ask for more than that, now could I. I was dealing with my feelings as best as I knew how, and things had been relatively calm. That is until Andy Bellefleur came to the door one Thursday afternoon.

“Susannah Compton?” He asked when Mary had answered the door and let him into the parlour where Pam and I sat, sketching out her dress ideas. I stood to greet him, even if my knees felt weak.

“Uh, who’s asking?” I asked, my eyes jotting to Pam and back to him.

“I’m detective Andy Bellefleur, Ma’am, and I’m here with some news.”
I sat, as did Pam, and eventually so did Andy.

“Ma’am I’m a … well a friend of sorts to Mr Eric Northman.” He began and I took a deep breath, was this good or bad news?

“What that has to do with why I’m here, I’m not entirely sure. Are you Mrs Compton?”
“I… am. In name only, yes.”
“Are you also known as Sookie?”
I nodded.

“Shall I leave you both alone?” Pam offered but I declined her offer, I wanted the moral support if nothing else. I also knew she could keep a secret better than any priest, and whatever was said would go no further, she knew all my secrets as it stood anyway.

“The Sookie I’ve been looking for, for some time now? At Mr Northman’s request…” He sighed. “I found something of yours at a crime scene Ma’am.”
“Oh?” I asked.

“These documents, papers… identifications?”
He held in his hand my birth certificate, and my travelling papers and other things, things I had left behind when I had fled from Bill the first time.
“Ma’am your husband, William Compton… is dead.”
I blinked.

“Though I imagine this doesn’t come as a shock to you… Were you aware of his –”
“Mr Compton and I had a very strained history Mr Belle-”
“Call me Andy, Please.”
“Andy. He and I had been… separated for over a year when he … when he –”

“When he took her against her will from her place of employment, in Scotland,” Pam interjected and Andy nodded.

“I had pieced together as much from what Eric had told me, and then finding this. Susannah, can I ask where you were on the morning of the twelfth of November this year?”

“I can tell you where she was, Sir.” Pam offered and he then looked to her.
“Yes?”
“She was here, beaten within an inch of her life, struggling to even breathe.”
At her confession it suddenly became hard to breathe again, I inhaled slowly as to stop myself from panicking.

“Is that true, Mrs Comp-”
“Sookie, Please.” I offered, “And yes it is true. I escaped from my ex-husbands… custody and made my way here.” I held up my hand as to show him my bandages that were freshly replaced this morning; my rips too were freshly wrapped. “I can show you more of my injuries if it would satisfy your curiosity, Sir, but I do so hope you do not put me through the humiliation of such a thing.”

He pursed his lips together, and nodded.

“No, Sookie, I can see from that…and the bruises you are attempting to hide on your face –”

I touched my face then, the cosmetics Pam had let me borrow clearly weren’t thick enough.

“There are witnesses?” He asked.

“Yes, myself, my maid, and Eric himself though he has gone back to Scotland now to see about a man’s health.” Pam answered for me. “Oh, and my doctor that came to attend to Sookie’s needs.”

“And they were all here, at the time she came and afterward, yes?”
Pam and I looked at each other, and she nodded to him then.

“Yes, we were all too concerned with her well-being to want to leave her anyway, but yes we were all here.”

He nodded again as he jotted things down in his little book that he had pulled out of his breast pocket. I was getting nervous and nauseated at the thought of Eric getting associated with this in anyway.

“Sir may I ask why you need to know that?”

“The circumstances in which your husband, excuse me, ex-husband died are not of the norm.”
“How so?”
I knew exactly how so, but I wasn’t about to incriminate myself, not for Bill Compton.

“He was found in abandoned housing, there had been a fire.”
“What’s so out of the norm about that?” Pam asked, crossing her legs.

“Well Ma’am, the doctors have ran tests of his… remains and it turns out he was dead before the fire took place.”
“I see…” I began. “Do you think that I had something to –”
“Ma’am with all due respect, from what I can tell with what’s left of him… the size of him compared to the size of you… and the fact that there are witnesses that say you were here – If I question them is that what they’ll say?” He aimed at Pam then.

“Of course, telephone Mr Northman if you wish, I’ll fetch my maid…”
“No… No… that won’t be… Sookie I haven’t shown those documents to anyone on my team …yet.”
That surprised me.

“Why not?”
“Because… Eric had hired me off the books to find you, or help find you at least. I just regret that I was not the one that did so, before you went through such pains.”
“And is that why you’re here now?”
“It is, in a way… I know I should turn this in to the team investigating the suspicious death of this man, but at the same time… I think you’d rather stay out of any involvement in this, am I right?”
“Bill Compton ruined my life for a long time, Sir. You are correct in assuming that I do not wish for that to continue even in the wake of his death.”

“I trust Eric, or at least… I did. I just… Sookie this can go one of two ways. I can disregard protocol and hand over your items now, walk out and Bill’s death is ruled an accident. Or I keep these, the information that I know of your time there, and take you in for questioning.”
“Something tells me you have made your choice already, otherwise you wouldn’t have told me of your choices.”
“I’m risking a lot by doing this…for you… for Eric.”
“I assume he paid you handsomely for working off the books though, didn’t he Andy?” Pam asked and it was something that hadn’t even occurred to me.

He said nothing. Instead he just handed me the documents.

“They were inside a tin, inside another tin, we also found drugs and needles. Call on this is that he took a drug… possibly an over dose of it and the fire started from the stove. The small stove in the room, do you remember that?”
I nodded.

“It began from there, or so they’re saying.”
“So are you going to rule this an accident and forget you know about what you handed Sookie?” Pam asked again having more courage to speak up than I did in that moment.

“As you say Ma’am, Mr Northman did pay me handsomely to make this go away. I’m making this go away.”
Pam smiled and stood up.

“Excellent, good choice there, Andy, good choice,” With that she started to lead him out of the room. I stood.

“Sir?”
“Yes?”
I looked to my documents, my real name – my family’s name – my world.
“Thank you, for this. Truly, it means the world to me.”

With that he formed a slight smile on his face, a face that I was sure saw little in the way of smiles.

“You’re welcome, Sookie. I shall be in touch with Mr Northman. I bid you Ladies good day.”

After he left Pam broke out her emergency whiskey, and we got very, very drunk.

Eric:

Upon returning to the Estate, I found a number of things that disturbed me. One was how gravely ill Niall now looked, he had gone from having some colour in his skin, to an ashy grey in its place, his eyes too looked like those of a man long since past and not of the man I knew. The other was the servants and how they reacted around me, strange but more so strange than usual. There was constant whisperings, and Amelia always looked like she wanted to ask me something and yet never worked up the courage to do so. The doctors had departed, their stay now over, they were to be replaced by a new team that would arrive soon to take over the duties of monitoring Niall from his own fire side, rather than in a hospital like a normal person. No, far be it for Niall to make things easy on anyone, I thought. After Sookie’s phone call, telling me of what had transpired between her and Andy, and the documents that she received, it made my mind up for me once and for all. While Niall and I had discussed at length Sookie coming back here, with me, as mine, to be my wife, I had discussed it with no one else. That day changed things for me, and as I made my way below stairs a little while before luncheon was due to start I found myself a little nervous. When I entered they all stood up, shocked to see me there evident by their faces.

“Mr Northman, is there something the matter?” Mrs Fortenberry exclaimed rising from her seat faster than a hare on the run.

“No, no… Please. Everyone take your seats again, please.”
They did, one by one, all but Mrs Fortenberry, Bobby, and Mr Dearborn. Amelia looked pleased if curious, and Dawn, well, Dawn’s face never changed much. The others, the cooks and kitchen staff, I wasn’t too familiar with.

“I wanted to… speak to you all on a few matters, without annoying his Lordship I mean.”
“Of course, Sir, feel free to speak as freely as you must.” Mrs Fortenberry added, standing by her chair.

“I’m sure there has been a lot of talk as to why I took leave to London, I am also sure there has been a lot of talk as to what has happened to Sookie –”
“We were told she was found safe, is that not true, Sir?” Amelia asked, earning her the stink eye from Maxine. I knew she was curious.

“She was found, well, rather she found us. Sookie was taken, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, what I’m not sure you’ve gathered is by whom.”
They all watched me as I debated on whether or not to continue. I decided I had to. If she was to walk into this house as my wife one day, they needed to know some things.

“Sookie was taken by her ex-husband, she was kept hostage with him for days on end, and she was… mistreated by him. Mistreated in ways I do not wish to repeat, and yet somehow she survived, she found her way to Miss Pamela’s home, and from there we were able to get her the care she needed.”
“But she told us she was a bloody widow; I knew she was a lying little pretender the moment I laid my eyes on her.” Dawn broke her silence; Maxine’s eyes went the size of saucepans as she hushed her.

“She did deem to be a widow, did you know of –” Maxine began but I needed to say my piece.

“Yes I knew, I also knew she was separated from him for some time, due to his ill treatment of her. Now I know that some of you may not be fond of Sookie for whatever reasons you may have.” I aimed at Dawn. “But she worked hard here, and she deserves our respect, does she not?”
Mr Dearborn spoke up then.

“Aye she does. Good hard working Lass like that. I am sorry to hear her situation was so unseemly. No woman deserves that.”
“I agree Mr Dearborn, thank you.”
I took a deep breath and went for it. I could live with their disapproval, it didn’t mean that Sookie had to.

“Another matter I wished to discuss, though I probably should not… is the rumours surrounding the relationship I have had with Sookie.”

Maxine pursed her lips slightly, looking to Mr Dearborn.

“Sir? I don’t understand why this is –”
“It’s necessary because I want to stop the rumours, and the whispers and whatever else might be going on down here, about her. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Dawn laughed, but chastised herself by looking to the table.

“The long and short of things is this. I love her, I have loved her for some time now, and once things are settled we plan on marrying.”
There was a rustle at the table, a short intake of breath and a stumble from Maxine.

“Sir?” she asked, “Marry… Sookie?”
I nodded.

“Yes Maxine, marry her.”
Dawn’s face was like thunder, I didn’t like it one bit.

“I don’t understand, what about this husband?” Dawn asked, her rage evident in her voice.

“He’s no longer a factor.”
“So you’re marrying a divorcée? How nice.” She bit.

“I am marrying a widow.”
Maxine blinked then, rapidly.

“I don’t…”
“He’s dead, now, for sure this time.” I said realising how ridiculous it sounded.

“How?” She asked.

“When Sookie escaped, he became careless… a fire broke out hours after she made it to Miss Pamela’s where she was treated by her doctor for the injuries he inflicted upon her, and he passed.”

Maxine blessed herself.

“I am sorry to dump such horrific news on you all, but I felt you needed to know at least some of the story before she returns here…and she will, soon I hope.”
“As your wife,” Dawn clarified, sarcasm dripping from her words.

“Yes, perhaps before we are wed, but soon as my wife, yes.”
“And she is to be … Lady of this Estate, Sir?” Maxine asked, sheer and utter disbelief in her voice.

“Yes Maxine if I am to be Lord, as Niall wishes, then she has of course be my Lady.”
“But Sir, forgive me but titles… they are passed to –”
“People of well to do rank?” I finished for her, hating myself for even uttering the stupid words.

“Well, to be blunt, yes.”

“Susannah Compton was her married name, before that her own family name bares some standing in the upper class community, that won’t be an issue.”
“So she even made up her name?” Dawn asked.

“No. Sookie was name her grandmother used for her, so it is still hers to use… just not her birth name. And Stackhouse was her grandmother’s maiden name, anything else you’d like to nit-pick Dawn? While I’m here I mean, while you’re still here.” I jibbed making her sit back in her seat; the others looked on, shocked. Clearly she hadn’t told them she’d been told of her notice.

“I think this will take a little getting used to, Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so.” Mr Dearborn spoke up, and I glanced at Amelia, she was the only one with a smile on her face. That in itself gave me hope.

“Of course, I just ask that when she does return the respect she is due is shown to her, and that is all I ask.” I nodded to them all in acknowledgement.
“I’ll bid you all good day, thank you for listening.” I added before making my way back upstairs. I didn’t exhale a breath until I had reached the top of the seemingly never ending staircase. It was I thought, the first of many steps in getting Sookie accepted here as my wife, whether or not it worked, only time would tell.


A/N: Happy Weekend everyone. I hope everyone on the East Coast of the states are doing well in the wake of Sandy and her whorish ways! Have a great weekend and hit the little review button if you are so inclined!


Chapter 28: Chapter 28


EPOV:
I was restless, as I had been since I had left London and it was now two weeks later and I still felt no ease in my mood. I was back ‘home’ in a sense but it did not feel like home at all. Niall was still rather ill, confined now to his bed most of the time, and it was a rare occurrence when he made it downstairs for a meal, which left the house very empty and extremely lonely. Thor did his best to keep me occupied, but even a two mile walk every day in the brisk frost did not do much to booster my feelings. The staff had been even more distant than usual, and I wondered if I could really take on this house, and all the responsibilities that came with being ‘Lord of the manor’ in this sense. As things stood, I didn’t think I could at all. I made my business stretch out every day, my letter writing and ensuring things were moving as swiftly as usual in Sweden, that in itself seemed to just flow ahead like water, no need for my interference the majority of the time, run well and wonderful by the staff that my father had hired years before. I wondered if I should sell up many times over the years, but a part of me loved what he built and I did not want to see it in the hands of another, and I was assured the staff there didn’t want that either. They loved the company, and they loved the freedom my father gave them in their roles, and the freedom I continued to give them in the everyday hands on running of the business. The money kept generating, the books kept selling and the business was still relevant and it improved the quality of the area and the people in it. Those were the reasons I wanted to keep it in my family, the reasons to keep it going at all. I wanted to think the same of Niall’s estate, his offer to me, and the inheritance I was to get when he passed. I wanted to take charge of the large grounds and use them for something that would benefit the village. I wanted to help the tenants on the land that Niall owned now more than ever, I wanted to expand their options, because they had options and they needed to know that. I wanted to optimise the agriculture as much as possible, wherever possible. The land was rich for all manner of growth; it was just figuring it all out and how to do it at a low cost and high return.

I sighed. My busy thoughts shooting through my mind giving me headache, I turned then to the mail on my desk, kindly and silently dropped off by Amelia that morning.

I had gotten a letter from Sookie.

My heart may have skipped several beats as I opened the carefully folded pieces of paper that was adorned with her dainty and swirling handwriting.

I was her ‘Dearest Eric’, and she filled me in on the entire goings on in London with Pam and her elaborate wedding plans. She said she was healing nicely, her fingers at least now able to hold a pen to write something legible. She hoped I was doing well, though she could sense, she said, my boredom all the way from there. It made me laugh, as she said that she hoped to be united with me soon, if to nothing else, alleviate my boredom and talk some sense in to me.

I smiled from beginning of her letter to the very end where she signed off as ‘your Sookie’, reminding me that she loved me and again that she hoped to see me soon. Her ending was followed by a reminder that I was expected to be a part of Pam’s wedding party, and thus would be required for a fitting soon. That I was to also expect a telephone call to arrange such details.

I went to Niall when I knew he would be finished his lunch, but before his medications, they made him sleepy and not all that much fun to hold a conversation with.

“To a man?” He asked when I informed him of Pam’s plans to get married.

“Yes, for a number of reasons…”
“None of them love or attraction I assume, unless she’s changed drastically in the past few months.” He smiled. “I know a lot of people that would be up in arms about her life style, the fact that much of what she indulges in is illegal for one thing…”
“But you, friend of the London crime scene have no such issues?” I grinned making him roll his eyes.

“They aren’t bad people, just a little… misguided. And, besides all that, they helped you did they not?”
I nodded, we had discussed this upon my return, but it was still something we brought up.

“That they did, and I am thankful, as is Sookie.”
He pursed his lips at a mention of her, while he wasn’t completely convinced on the subject of Sookie, he was coming around to it. And he had offered a huge deal of help in finding her, that assure me he was not as heartless as he wanted to appear to others.

“How is young Sookie… or do we call her Susannah now? I am never so sure.”
“Sookie is fine, she prefers it I think now, and Sookie is who she is now. Susannah is who she was then.”
He nodded.

“Well, how are both of them then?”
I smiled at his dig.

“Wonderful, I got a letter from her this morning in fact. She’s healing, which is the main thing, and she’s helping to plan this madness that Pamela is dubbing a wedding. I am glad she has such distractions.”
“Yes, London is full of distractions, if you look hard enough. After my wife died, I spent many months there, most of them far from sober.”

I hadn’t known that, I suppose he and I coped the same way in that regard. When Sophie and the baby first passed, I misplaced a month, more even, due to being out of my head on whatever alcohol I could find. I spent my time in my room, wallowing, and the mistake with Dawn happened because I was just drunk and lonely and heartbroken. I assumed many mistakes came about in that manner, though I wished she had not been one of them. Dawn was a hard working woman, her emotions got the best of her in certain situations, but if something needed to be done, she did it. I just wish it had been easier to let her down than what it was. I hated the idea of hurting any woman, and I knew by how she looked at me now that that is what I had left her with. Hurt.

“Niall, I wanted to run something by you.”
“Hmm?”
“Yes, Christmas here at the house… I hope Sookie will be able to make it up by then, I was wondering what your plans were.”
He laughed causing himself to cough.

“Eric, other than living to breathe badly through another day, I would say my plans are …not a whole lot else. If you have plans to make, make them.”
“Surely you must have something –”
He looked at me curiously.

“Son, I am in no shape to hold the usual parties. Look at me.”
I did, it was not pleasant to admit that a man once so full of life could be cut down so slowly and in such a way.

“I am looking at you.”
“And do you see the dying man before you?”
I sighed.

“You may be ill, Niall, but you’re not dead.”
“Not yet.” He added bitterly.

“No, not yet which is exactly my point.”
He sighed and I knew the conversation was hopeless, hopeless because he himself had lost hope.

“I’ll leave you be. I have to walk Thor or he gets impatient.”

He just nodded dismissing me. By the time I got outside to where Thor was happily snoozing, I felt like joining him, at least out there I would have a friend.

Sookie:

“This?” I offered as we spent our second day in a row exploring the stores of London, looking for various materials and jewellery for Pam. Her wedding ideals were rapidly getting out of hand, how she thought she and I alone would plan such an event – and that is what it was becoming, not just a wedding, an event! I had no idea how to do it all, or how to quell her spending.

“I think I need more Italian lace, you know if we were in New York right now this would not be a problem.” She sniped knowing full well the sales assistants could over-hear us. I just shook my head.

“Well, we’re not. So can we please choose already, we need to get things underway if you expect –”
“Yes, yes.” She sighed, circling the fabric samples laid out for her, and me my extension, but if I was honest the attention was all on her, and that’s just how I liked it. I said my please’s and my thanks you’s, and minded my manners because while I was to be Eric’s wife one day, I was still just me, and I had a feeling that even as his wife I couldn’t treat women so indifferently. Pam wasn’t indifferent, she was however not her usual polite, wonderful self. Instead now she was fully in bride fever and it was spreading like wildfire!

“This is just so cheap looking… I do not want to look cheap.” I checked the price per yard and almost had to break out a fan to provide myself with some air, cheap? Unless you were a Sultan or something that was most certainly not cheap.

I glared from under my hat.

“Fine.” She sighed. “Let me see this for the main silk, and that for the lace overlay, oh, and some of that Indian import for the bridesmaid dresses.”
We had joked many a time now that it was nothing but fitting for me to end my time in service as her Bridesmaid, since I started off our relationship as a maid of sorts, ending it on such a nicer version of my job was something I found rather humorous. It was I and her cousin Alexia from Texas who was to be her maids on the day, much to her mother’s discontentment, she wanted all the cousins and the second cousins invited to be there in the wedding party. Pam was having none of it, though she was allowing the smaller children to be involved, but I mostly think that was for the benefit of choosing their attire for the day too. Pam did love to shop.

“You could have been a tad nicer you know, those girls were just –”
“Being idiots, you know I have no time for idiots.”
“I was going to say they were just doing their jobs.” I finished as we sat down at one of the smaller cafes not far from shopping central for some tea, not that there was anything wrong with the tea we made at home, but apparently we ‘had’ to stop out.

“Sookie, you know me. I am a staunch feminist when it comes down to certain things, I donate to the movements here, hell, I’m even involved in the States with the damn NWP for heaven sakes and I’m not even living there full time anymore. I support my fellow woman, and why would I not? I do love them so.” She grinned with a sly glint in her eye. “But I have no time for idiots, man or woman.” She finished taking a large bite of her jam scone.

“Fine, just maybe think before you snap next time, I thought that poor girl was going to have a stroke!”

She rolled her eyes.

“Have you heard? Parliament here is apparently moving towards passing a bill of sorts for women, over thirty I heard, but still…” She added before sipping her tea to continue.
“It is movement finally, if nothing else. In the States though I really don’t seem them budging on it fully, the bastards.”
No, as it stood so far it seemed the fight for freedom in America was only realistic if you were a rich, white, and male and that was that. It didn’t stop the rest of us from speaking out though, and I wanted so badly for those women to succeed, they were an inspiration to the rest of us in so many ways. I often read of the suffering they were enduring, the setbacks and the abuse, it churned my stomach to know that something simple as a basic right was being held back. It was as if we were in the dark ages all over again.

“Speaking of succeeding… Heard from Eric lately?” She asked.

“Succeeding as what? A wife or a horrid feminist?”
“Married women can’t be feminists? Well I’ll be damned.” She smiled before poking me in the arm. “Don’t be stupid, you of all people know the struggle we go through, more so than most even. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve some happiness.”
“I sent him the letter a few days ago,” I sipped my tea, “it took me hours to write, my hand is still not fully functional.”
I missed being able to bake most of all, but handling the dough’s and the hot plates just wasn’t on the cards as I healed.

“Have you told him he’s required?”
“I did.” I smiled, she was back in bridal mood again I noticed. “He will come of course he will.”

“Good, my wedding party will be so handsome with you, and my only truly attractive relative and of course Eric by my side. Claude is inviting his third cousin to stand as his best man; he wanted to invite his …friend…” She winked, “But even I thought that to be in bad taste on our wedding day.”

I giggled with her as we spoke more of her plans, and then it came back around to me.

“Do you plan on marrying Eric?”
I blushed as she asked making her roll her eyes.

“Darling really? This is me you’re talking to.”
“I know…” I sighed. “I just don’t know, I mean I don’t count my chickens, Pam.”
“Why not how else do you keep track of the damn things.” She smiled. “Look, you know he loves you, you know all of this because not only is it obvious but it’s been told to you numerous times mostly by moi!”

I smiled.

“I do love him so.” I admitted freely looking out at the early December chill.
“So what’s the holdup then? Is it what you want?”
“To be with him? Of course.”
“Ah, but it all that that entails that is perhaps giving you the pause?”
I nodded.

“I am not sure I can go back there, Pam. Not as…”
“Lady of the manor, so to speak?”

I nodded.

“It’s just rather ridiculous don’t you think?”
“I do think it is, but in the best possible way. You I think is just what that place needs… a little heart.”

I wasn’t so sure.

“Sookie that man is stronger than he realises but he needs a strong woman and you, my lovely, are that woman. You are both forward enough thinkers in your own way, and more importantly he’s not afraid of a woman with a mind or one that speaks it either. I may not bed down with them, but I know men, and I know that one in particular. He’s a catch.”

I knew he was, in so many ways I knew he was wonderful for me and so unlike Bill in every way that mattered, but the idea of returning to that estate with the staff there judging me? It was enough to flip me sideways.

By the time we got home that afternoon, our arms weighted down with bags and boxes, there was a gentleman standing in the drawing room by the fire.

Eric.

Stood there in the warm glow in his well pressed grey suit with a contemplative look on his face as he gazed into the flame, one that quickly dissipated when he saw that we had entered the room.

“Sookie! Pam!” He smiled coming over to greet us in a flurry of excitement, taking our bags and boxes from us, he went to hug Pam first, but kept an eye on me, then he came over more gently to my side, taking my hands in his and kissing my cheeks.

So polite all of a sudden.

I couldn’t help the smile that took over my face in seeing him again, even though it had been a handful of weeks, it had still been too long. I had missed him more than even I had realised.

“Are you well?” He asked Pam, and then looked at me. “Both of you look very well. All rosy cheeked and smiling, it is a sight I do love to behold.”

I laughed looking to Pam, she was grinning too.

“We’re well, all the better for seeing you though.”
Pam stepped forward to kiss Eric on the cheek before glancing at me.

“I’ll catch up with you in a while. I got some new hats, and if there’s one thing I know Claude adores about me is how I wear a new hat. I’ll call for some tea for both of you, please.” She nodded towards the couches before she grabbed a few bags from her side, winked at me, and made her way out of the room shutting the door.

“Pam as subtle as ever, I see,” He smiled before walked the three small steps it took to get right in front of me for a hug. I embraced him as tightly as I could.

“Are you well, really?” He asked as we took our seats beside each other by the fire.
“I am. I am healing nicely… inside and out. I am not so naive to think that I will forget what has happened as quickly as my scars will fade, but it is a start.”
He nodded, his hand sliding to mine.

“I’ve missed you, that house is just not the same without you there. It’s cold.”
“Amelia lights a lousy fire that’s why.” I laughed as did he.
“I do not think that’s the reason.”
“The drafts then? Old houses are full of –”Before I could finish my joke his lips were on mine in a kiss so intense and desperate in its need to find me, that I almost felt a little faint. My hands crept to his neck, enjoying the feel of his short hair there, before I grabbed hold of his face to keep him close. He was warm and familiar and I was so glad he was there.

“I’ve missed you too.” I said when we broke apart, but stayed close and intimate with our whispering.
“I’m hoping I can steal you away to dinner tonight, if that’s possible?” He asked stoking my cheek gently.

“It’s very possible.”

An hour later, I was refreshed and changed and had also discovered that Bobby was with Eric this time, been told his requirements were needed for the suit fitting. I was not looking forward to seeing him when the time came, just as I was not looking forward to seeing any of the staff from back at the Estate. It gave me terrible anxiety to say the least.

I met Eric in the hallway, where he had changed into a dark tux with a bow tie, I was thankful Pam had chosen a slightly more expensive dress for me to wear that night, as I was sure where we were going would frown upon something less so. I was in a dark ruby sleeveless dress that held an embroidered beaded bodice and sash around the drop waist. I felt very lady like and rather dainty in it too. Since it was winter time and I was not a fool, I borrowed the coat that I had been wearing since I had arrived at Pam’s, the black pea coat with gold buttons. He had arranged for the car to take us across town, and when we arrived it was to a part of London I had never been before, and a place that looked stunning inside but it didn’t help me feel anything but out of place – even if I looked the part.

“How have you been coping… for clothing and for money?” He asked as we sipped our drinks awaiting our food. I did not think he would just come out and ask such things and I think he knew by my face that I was thrown.

“Sookie I am concerned for you, that is all.”
“I’ve been doing fine, Pam has been very generous.”
“Yes, I assumed she had been. I just don’t want you to… have want for anything. If you need money –”
“I’m fine!” I smiled.

“You’re proud, I understand that believe me but just know that the offer is there –”
“And it’s very generous of you of course, but I will be fine, I will heal and shortly begin to look for work here.”
“Really?”

That seemed to surprise him, but he must have known that since nothing was set in stone with us, my option to stay with Pam was not a lifelong one, and I would have to find my feet eventually and I told him as much.

He looked bashfully chastised as I told him that I wasn’t one to count my chickens, as I had told Pam the same. And I wasn’t one to take too much advantage of other’s generosity and over stay my welcome.

“I love that about you know? You aren’t just willing to sail along without pitching in.”
“Of course not, that’s just lazy.”
He grinned in agreement as our food arrived and we talked of all things in general as we ate. Everything from the end of the war to the lasting affect it will have and the impact on the world, and then things got around to the Estate and the running of things.

“I think the main thing is to consider the tenants, they’re the ones living with the choices he makes every day. The land is rich; the agriculture could be expanded if you wanted to go down that route.”

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to this stuff, I never knew that.”
“We lived beside sheep farmers back home, I was friends with their daughter growing up, I heard things.” I smiled.

“Is that so? I’ll have to keep that in mind for the future then.” He grasped at my hand softly, “I’ve been thinking of our future an awful lot since I went back there. Not that I had much else to do, or many others to talk to.”

I frowned then, I knew better than anyone what an isolating place that house could be.

“I’m sorry.”
He shook his head.

“It is all right now, I am here, and you are here… and we have many things to discuss and that makes me happy.”
I smiled.

“That is true, I tend to brighten you up like a lamp being turned up, I like that I can do that.” I admitted bashfully.

“I hope I can do the same for you, I hope I can do many things for you Sookie.”

“That’s funny, because I was just hoping I could do the same for you.”
He grinned at my answer and we stopped neglecting our food and finished our meal in peaceful, comfortable silence. A few stolen glances were taken of course, such was just our way.

By the time we had finished, he asked me if I could take a walk with him and that he had in our time apart missed our walks together.

Even though it was freezing, cold enough for snow, how could I have refused such a sweet request? I could not. So, we walked past the closed stores, the other small restaurants with few customers coming in and out, the frost in the air causing smoke to appear as we talked. I loved this kind of weather just as much as I hated it. I loved that crisp air that came with winter, the freshness of all things covered in a light sheen of frost, but I was also a Louisiana girl and the cold never did agree with me fully. I assumed it was just in my bones to love the heat.

We walked for a little while longer before we found a bench that sat in front of a now abandoned park, the green grass covered with the white beginnings of the freeze.

“Can we sit a moment?” He asked, and while I had thought he had lost his mind in the cold, I agreed, sitting closer to him than normal for some form of warmth.

“I know it’s cold but I had something to say, before we got back to the house.”
“Something you can’t say while picking up a brisk pace back to the car?” I smiled, only half serious.

Well, maybe more than half.

He smiled.
“I’ll make it short and sweet, I hope.”
Make what, I wondered.

“Sookie, I no longer want to put things off for tomorrow that can be done today. I think we both know how easily our lives and the things we love in them can be snatched away from us.”
I took a deep breath; it was true we both knew that more than most. By God, by evil men and their crazy ideas, there were many ways our lives could be taken from us so quickly.

“Yes, that is sadly the truth; we never really know what we’re going to meet around each corner.” I agreed.

It was then his turn to take a deep breath as he stood up, towering over me as I sat still on the bench. Then he lowered himself to his knee, and I think my heart skipped several beats. He grinned that boyish grin of his, when he knew that I knew he was up to something.

And he was.

He pulled out a red velvet box from his pocket and I wasn’t sure if I was breathing then or not to be honest.

The ring took my breath away, although I was sure the frost didn’t really help, but I laughed out of nerves as he smiled looking at me and then to the ring.

“I think we know what I’m down here for, don’t you?” He laughed as nervous as I was holding the emerald and gold diamond cluster ring in between his finger and thumb.

“He … the jeweler told me that the green in the emerald was meant to signify a healing love, and when he said that I could think of no other more suited to you than this. You healed me, in ways I did not even know I needed to be healed until you came into my life, Sookie.”

I bit my lip trying my best to not cry all over his lovely speech, but it was useless as my eyes filled with tears anyway.

“Eric…”
“It’s true, and I know that we have many things to work out, many aspects of our lives to face… but I only hope that we… that you… will want to face these things with me by your side. I would be honored if you would say yes and be my wife?”

I laughed my nerves getting the better of me, my tears finally ones of happiness instead of pain and I wrapped my arms around him where he kneeled giving him my answer properly.

“Of course I will, of course I will…” I said over and over as we embraced, I didn’t care who saw us, or even that it had started to snow. I didn’t care about the cold, or about the pains in my hands now, I didn’t care about Bill, or Niall, or the rest of God awful society. All I cared about was this feeling and how he made me feel, and how happy I felt to be loved.

“I am much more eloquent on paper.” He admitted with a laugh as he slipped the ring on my finger with ease and picked me up into his arms, lifting my feet off the ground.

“But I am so very glad you agreed.”
We kissed then, neither of us noticing the people walking past, or the snow fall that was rapidly increasing around us, it was just us inside this little bubble of happiness, one I knew I never wanted to leave.


AN: Happy Sunday folks! Hope all is well and that you enjoyed the update! If you’re reading drop a review, you know you want to 😉 xo


Chapter 29: Chapter 29


Chapter 29, my God we’ve come a long way with this baby haven’t we? I’ve been v sick this week so it may be a slightly more wonky chapter than normal lol, but hopefully it’ll be enjoyable anyway and you’ll forgive me! This chapter should be known as ‘the one where Sookie gets used to things’ … she has a lot to process our poor bb! Review if you’d like! xo

Eric:

After she said yes, it was as if I was floating on a cloud I was so happy. My cheeks hurt from smiling, and from the cold too by the time we got back to Pam’s place. I had wished at that point I had asked the staff in the London house to open it up for us. But, as things stood we crept in quietly albeit rather giddy, and made our way up to Sookie’s room.

The house was in absolute silence, which was unusual for Pam’s night owl personality, but we would respect it all the same. We were in her home after all. Once the bedroom door was closed though, all bets were off. As was Sookie’s coat, then mine, and then my dinner jacket, we had scarcely managed to keep our hands off each other on the way home. Now we didn’t have to try, we never had to try and hide what we were to each other again. I noticed the ring again as she moved her hands to unpin her hair, letting the curls fall softly to her shoulders, it suited her and her graceful fingers, it was as if it had always been there.

She took several steps back from me, allowing me to sit at the bottom of the bed with a squeak of the iron springs below the mattress as I did so. She chewed her lip as she unlaced her boots, kicking them off slowly. I took her lead and did the same; soon I was just standing in my trousers and dress shirt. Tie, socks, boots and watch had been cast-off by the bedside. She then walked up to me, nudging my leg apart to fit her in where she stood, before bending down to kiss me sweetly. Then she slowly started to disrobe, the dress was less of a structure than I was used to seeing her in, this one tied at the side, and came apart much easier. The heavy fabric fell to the floor with a thud, and she stepped out of it and kicked it behind her, leaving her not in the expected corset but something much softer.

“It’s a slip, of sorts. Because it slips on, and slips off.” She whispered, sliding her fingers to the thin straps that held the long cream silk garment on her body, the chill in the air told me had not much else underneath that and my body reacted instinctively, if somewhat embarrassingly.

“Do you like it?” she asked with a smirk, noting the ever increasing bulge in my pants. I think it was safe to say I liked it. Instead of speaking for the fear of saying something stupid, I simply nodded and watched captivated as she popped the straps off her smooth shoulders and the underwear dropped to the ground, leaving Sookie standing in just smaller underwear with garter straps holding up her stockings.

It was a sight I knew I’d never tire of.

I shrugged out of my shirt, and dropped everything else I was wearing on the floor, never once taking my eyes off her. She smiled nervously, but I wanted to calm her nerves, so I took her hands and brought her in closer again, this time carefully running my hands up her sides, ghosting by the side of her breasts, up to her neck and into her hair as I stood before I reached my full height to lean in and kiss her properly.

“Much easier than corsets.” I commented as I guided us back toward the bed so we could get in together, she laughed self consciously tucking her hair behind her ears as we moved to lay down.

I snapped the straps holding up her stockings and slowly pulled them off, casting them aside, soon followed by her smaller underwear.

“So very much easier than corsets,” I mumbled again as I kissed her neck making her giggle.

“We have to mind ourselves; Pam is down the hall…” She said as she moved in to kiss me again, when we broke apart she pulled down my long underwear to touch me where we both knew I needed her most.

“Pam sleeps like the dead, and I don’t care if she hears us. I don’t care if the whole of London hears us!” I whispered in a serious tone, even if the smile on my face said otherwise. She shook her head with a giggle.

“You hush, we’ll mind ourselves and that is that.”

I sighed.

“Well, fine, but you should know I’m not the loud one.”

She gasped as if I had insulted her, but our playful tone in conversation said otherwise.

“Excuse me, I am not the –”

“I had to hold my hand over that pretty mouth of yours last time, remember?”

She rolled her eyes, pushing me flat on my back and climbing atop of me. I was stunned at this continued streak of bravery. Wherever it came from, I approved.

“I have to do things… this way tonight.” She added as if I would somehow have a problem with it. “My ribs are still rather sore, and you weight a lot, even though you don’t look like you do.” She blew some hair from her forehead, tucking the stray bits behind her ear again, the same bashful look on her face. She had no need for such looks, she was my fiancée, and she was straddling me naked, there was no room for modesty at this stage.

“We can do things however you want my love.” I added before kissing her softly again, allowing ourselves to just kiss and enjoy the foreplay of it all. The kissing was once my favourite part of time alone with Sookie, the sex took that spot now but the kissing was still a firm second place. She smelled wonderful, something between soap and linens but also something else, something new – a flower of some kind perhaps, what it was I had no clue, but I liked it. I liked how it felt when she kissed me with all her passion, took me in hand and massaged me with no fear or hesitations, how it felt to touch every part of her body as we made love, over and over the touching was also something I knew I would never tire of. Even when we were old and grey, I was sure her body would still hold the wonder that it did right then.

We began slowly, I asked if I was hurting her because if she was still healing it was the last thing I wanted when we were in the middle of… well… each other. She reassured me as she paced herself, balancing herself using my chest as leverage that she was in fact fine, I still took things slowly, just in case.

She wasn’t to be slowed down however, in between soft but needy kisses she was the one in control now, fully and completely, she could have done whatever she liked and I knew I would never have said no to her. Soft moans escaped us both; it was unavoidable given how intense it felt when we fucked as we were, unavoidable but amazing – even if we were ‘minding ourselves’.

She felt amazing, everything felt amazing when I was with her like this. It was as if my senses were more, I was more, and I felt like we could do anything together. Of course I was also sure it was the sex and the amazing naked woman writhing above me that made me feel such things, but still it was a feeling I loved and yearned to hold on to just like I wanted to hold on to her.

Her grip on my shoulders tightened, as did the rest of her, and I felt her tense as she bit her lip in an attempt to silence herself. I hated that she was censoring herself in such ways, I longed for us to have our own space where she would and could be as free as she liked to be as loud and as sexual as she liked.

I really had to organize my life better now. Not that having loud obnoxious sex with my soon-to-be-wife was my only reason for realising how messy my life was, but it was a large incentive at least to get things straightened out.

We were both somewhat of a breathless mess by the time we finished, but in the best possible way. I knew we’d have to get ourselves cleaned up, but it was so comfortable and warm, and amazing in her arms that I really did not want to move.

Possibly ever.

“We’re all … messy.” She said in a voice that told me she was almost asleep as she laid under my arm, her head on my chest.

“Sex is always messy…”

“If done right.” She countered with a giggle. “I need to clean up otherwise I’ll just sleep here and we’ll regret it in the morning.”

She was right, we would, but the thought of moving was still not appealing. I groaned in protest, holding her tighter making her laughed all the more.

“Come on; if you’re nice I may even run us a bath.”

Now that sounded like heaven.

“No, you stay here and I’ll do it.”

She sighed.

“No.”

“Yes.” I laughed.

“No… do you know where Pam keeps her best salts? I think not. I’ll do it.” She moved away and moved out of the bed silently. She found her robe lying on the chair by the window and slipped into it.

“Come in in a minute.” She smiled before she left the room, her hair down and still curled but now messed up because of our bedtime activities. I loved it.

When I did reach the bathroom, she was already in the large copper bath, I could only see her head for it was so deep and she was fully engulfed in the warm water.

“I love that they have changed so much that we no longer have to fill these things with jugs of warm water just to bathe.”

I was sure she did, at the house in Scotland the plumbing had been like that for ever and had only recently changed.

“I’ll bet. It was always cold by the time it was anywhere near filled.” I agreed. I slid off my underwear again, having worn it across the house in case someone was out of bed. The last thing I needed was an awkward interlude.

“And more so a pain in the backside to run up and down stairs filling, you could never fill it fast enough for some people. And of course you were dying by the time the ladies got to slip into the water and relax… not that I’m bitter or anything.” She smiled closing her eyes. She opened them again after a few seconds. “Are you just going to stand there all night?”

I took her invite and got into the tube as gently and as quietly as I could. The water was so warm and with Sookie’s feet in my lap, I fit around her just fine.

“You’re not built for tiny tubs.” She laughed throwing the soap at me; it landed with a large splash in the water.

“Really not.” I shifted and finally found my comfort zone enough to relax.

“How are your ribs? We didn’t hurt –”

“No, no. They’re okay, I mean it hurts to lift heavy things still, and I can’t really bake like I want to with my hand yet, but hopefully it’ll be fine soon enough.”

“I hope so too.”

We looked at each other for a moment, just letting everything that had happened sink in as we soaked our pains away. She smirked at me when her feet would move lower and lower, teasing me only to return above the surface of the water again.

“When would you like to have our wedding?” I asked breaking the silence and soaping up her legs in the process.

She smiled.

“I’ve been admiring my ring since you put it on, it’s huge.”

“That’s because you have small fingers.”

“And that emerald is still rather large…”

She admired it again for a few seconds, and I had to admit that it did look stunning on her hand, much more so than I first thought when I bought it the minute I arrived in London that morning. I had been travelling from the night before, and even though I was tired it was all worth it to see it rightfully where it belonged.

“Maybe in the summertime?” She answered suddenly making eye contact.

“Summertime could be nice; in truth I’d marry you anytime you wanted.” That made her smile again.

“In truth I’ve seen what planning a wedding is this last few weeks…? I would marry you too anytime, but maybe we don’t let Pam plan it?”

I laughed, knowing my friend as I did even her false pretences wedding was always going to be a huge affair.

“What? You mean you don’t want the most obnoxious day a human can produce?” I asked giggling as she moved to stand up, and I noticed in the brighter lights the bruises on her body that were almost faded fully.

Almost but not completely.

I hated him so much for doing that to her, my rage almost took over our conversation as she caught me looking.

“I’m fine, love.” She said as she stepped out wrapping a towel around herself, taking a seat on the large chair by the window as I got out.

“I know, I just…” I shook my head. “He’s not worth talking about, not anymore.”

With that she nodded.

“I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s go to bed, shall we?”

I took a deep breath as I let out the water, and took her outstretched hand.

“Second best question I’ve heard anyone asked tonight.”

Sookie:

I woke up fairly early to find Eric still sleeping by my side; it was a sight that I was still not used to when it happened. Here he was with me, wanting to be with me too – so much so he bought a ring and asked a very important question to boot! I think I was having a bit of a hard time accepting that as fact, that there was this great man who was kind and loyal and wonderful but with flaws I knew how to handle, who seemingly wanted to handle mine too, forever. With Bill I knew I was so young when we were paired off, that now even if I had not been through all I had, he wasn’t the kind of man I would have wanted. Now, I had more sense, more life experience – even if not all of it was good experience, it made me who I was meant to be.

But was I meant to be a Lady, wife of an actual honest to God Lord?

That was still up for debate.

Did I even know what it meant to be ‘in’ high society anymore? It had been a long time since I had been considered anything other than a skivvy. And having been repeatedly told that for some time now, I think it was just a rather large adjustment going from that to… Lady Northman.

I loved him, I knew that more than I knew anything, I loved and wanted to be with him. I wanted to make a life with him, and hopefully at some point soon children too. It was sadly just everything that came with his life that would take a lot of getting used to. I knew he would understand if I voiced my fears to him, but as things stood I did not really want to put a damper on our mood as things stood. We had so little reason for happiness in the recent times, that this, us, it was a reason for happiness, a real reason to celebrate!

I didn’t want to take away from that at all with my worries. Instead I would enjoy our time for what it was now, and that was our own. After Niall passed and things changed, I had a feeling everything around us as it stood would change too, and I would just have to deal with that when it happened.

That morning and the morning after though, I spent it inside that little bubble again. Eric and I spent late mornings in bed, just enjoying each other as much as possible before we both knew he had to return to Scotland. Our days filled with fittings and wedding preparations, Pam and Claude were so busy themselves I don’t think we saw them for more than five minutes in two days. When we did finally all catch our breath and meet for dinner on Eric’s final night in London, we were finally able to break the news to the other ‘couple’.

Needless to say they were thrilled.

“Finally!” Pam exclaimed as she stood up in the restaurant and stunned the other customers by embracing us both in a hug at once. Claude was a little more reserved, settling for a kiss on both my cheeks and a manly handshake to Eric as he wished us the best. The other diners were still staring as we sat down. Pam huffed.

“God damn English, you’d think I fucked you both in the middle of the room the way they’re looking at us right now.” She said and her Texan accent never more apparent than when she was angry. I looked to Eric and he looked to me, and we both fought the urge to giggle.

“Yes, I mean it’s not like you haven’t fucked us both, just not here.” Eric confessed with a low laugh, one that set Claude off on a set of giggles himself.

“If they only knew that I’m sure they’d all faint of the shock of it all!”

By the time our first course arrived we’d finished off the first of many bottles of wine that night and we’d laughed more by the end of the dinner than I had remembered laughing in a long, long, time.

We discussed our wedding of course, reassuring Pam we would in no way steal her spotlight, not that it was at all possible to even do that give the sun sized lights that she was ensuring would be all on her that day. I knew more than anything I wanted a smaller, much more intimate affair. I wasn’t sure if a Lord could even have a small wedding, but if it was possible it would happen.

We broke off as we exited the restaurant, Pam wanting to get home to telephone her mother and finalise the travel arrangements for the week after next, for the wedding, and generally count the final numbers. Eric and I had no such worries for now; instead we took a walk through the city, even in the soft falling snow. We walked for a while, just talking and observing and generally just enjoying each other’s company, before the snow started to fall heavier, forcing us into a taxi. We ended up in the centre of the city, at a late night bar, a kind of bar I had never been to before much to Eric’s amusement.

“It opened recently, I’ve heard whisperings.” He said as we went into the darkened bar, one that was filled with men and women dancing. Women with short curled hair with feathers and jewels seen from the door all of them drinking, most of them kissing. The men seemed of good standing, though their behaviour said otherwise.

“Eric…”

“Do you want to leave?” He asked me with a smile, as if he knew he was making me uncomfortable. I wanted to challenge that thought if it was what he was thinking.

I took a seat at a smaller table near the side of the large dance floor.

“No. I’ll have a drink first thank you very much.” I said with an air of defiance in my voice. This made him grin before he kissed my hand and made his way to the bar. I used my time alone to get my wits about me. This kind of place had Pam written all over it, she would have been in heaven here, and I was quite sure she would be furious we came to such a secret place without her!

Yes indeed, the hedonistic aspect of this place really did have Pam in the middle of it, I was sure once I told her she would come here, she’d probably drag me with her too. Everything from the darkened corners, the smooth saxophone playing teamed with the copious amounts of alcohol and God only knows what else told me that I didn’t belong there, but maybe I did.

Eric returned a few moments later with a large bottle of champagne on ice with two glasses.

“Do you like it here?” He asked, still grinning like a fool.

“I feel like you’re testing me.”

“Oh?” He asked trying to look innocent.

“Yes.” I replied sharply, on to his game and more than a little willing to play it. “I think you forget yourself, Northman.”

I could practically see his eyes sparkling with mischief.

“Is that so?”

“Yes, it is so. You forget that I am a far more experienced woman than you seem to give me credit for.”

He nodded.

“I give all the credit where it is due my love. All the credit in the world.”

“I am as worldly as you are.” I pouted a little as he filled my glass. “I may not flaunt it as much as Pam and her other friends do, but I have done things… and sneaking into a … place such as this… is low on the list of …bad arse things I have accomplished.”

“Of course,” He smiled. It annoyed me so I threw my napkin at him making him bust out laughing.

“You’re being a jackass tonight!” I exclaimed not sure where this was all coming from. But before I could let my panic set in as to what got into Eric. He had slid his seat to my side, grabbed my face, and was giving me the kissing of my life before I could say boo.

It felt amazingly naughty doing such a thing in public.

“Ah, so this is why you brought me here.” I laughed as we pulled apart, the taste of champagne still evident from his kiss.

“Might have been one of the reasons…” He smirked. “That and I’ve booked us a room at the Savoy; I felt maybe we could be doing with a night away from the wedding whack jobs.”

I giggled at his wording as I took another swig of my drink, how a civilized evening took such a turn I wasn’t sure, but what was sure of was how much I liked it. After all we were free here, we didn’t have to hide anything from anyone and we didn’t have to answer to anyone either. I suppose I was still getting used to that too.

We danced then, fitting in rather seamlessly with all the other couples, not one person batting an eyelid at us as we did so either. No one knew I was an ex-wife, ex maid, murderer. No one knew of Eric’s pain and heartbreak and loss, they knew nothing other than we were just another couple in love dancing a slow dance and staring into each other’s eyes.

“The other reason I brought us here.” He admitted as we danced faster to the more upbeat music the band began to play, I was breathless within minutes.

“To dance me off my feet?” I replied somewhat breathlessly as we did around spin outward and then back into his strong, firm arms.

“To start our life together as I mean for us to go on, happy, and yes… to dance with you often.” He grinned spinning me out again.

“I think that could be arranged, Mr Northman.” I smiled soon matching his, big and wide and maybe a little tipsy.

“So glad to hear that soon-to-be-Mrs-Northman!”


Chapter 30: Chapter 30


Sookie:

I woke up groggy, having spent the rest of the night before dancing and drinking with Eric well into the wee hours of that morning. I checked my watch and it was just before noon, I felt lazy, but I also felt like death so that feeling won out.

“Morning sleepy girl,” Eric called from across the room; he sat at the same table for two, pot of what smelled like coffee in front of him, newspaper in hand.

“How long have you been up?” I asked grabbing my slip and sliding it on to join him at the table.

“About an hour, maybe less, I ordered us breakfast,” he nodded, to the silver hooded tray that sat in the middle of the small table, I opened it to find two places of bacon, eggs, toast and grilled tomato. Just what I needed, that and the aroma of the coffee were serving well in bringing me back to life.

“I don’t drink a lot…” I groaned as he poured me the hot black stuff, adding a little sugar, and a little cream.

He laughed.

“I know, you kept saying it last night after every drink, it was rather funny.”

“But I don’t. I never did, so this feeling –”

“A good old fashioned hangover?” He smiled, taking his plate closer to start eating.

“Yes, I don’t like it.”

“No one likes it, but, good times were had last night right?” With that, he cocked a brow at me, knowing fine well that good times were had. Twice.

I moved from my seat to where he sat, and perched myself right on his lap, a place I’d spent most of the night when we weren’t dancing. He leaned up and kissed me.

“Hello.” He said as we pulled back.

“Hello yourself, and yes many good times were had. Unexpected good times, I feel unexpected good times about sums you up, Eric Northman.”

“Is that so?”

“Mm, I never imagined that brooding, reclusive man I first met was hiding such a fun side.”

“I have many sides, most of them fun.”

“I’m beginning to see that, love.”

“Your sides are fun too… this side for example…” He whispered peeking down my slip, eying up my breasts, again. “That side is very fun.”

I poked him, making him laugh again.

“Men.” I huffed getting off him but going nowhere as he yanked me back in place.

“Women.” He imitated. “This woman in particular,” he huffed matching my tone again, this time kissing me on the cheek. “All your sides are good sides, Sookie, you know that’s what I think.”

“Hmm. Just the sides with breasts to ogle.”

“You have to admit the breasts are fun to –”

I poked him again, knowing that this was our playful mood but still letting him know I wasn’t so into being just his boob woman.

“Okay, okay…” He smiled rocking me from side to side, humming for a second as if he was deep in thought. “All your sides, that side of the woman I first met, scared but stubborn, that was a good side to see. The side of the woman who came into my life when I least expected to take notice of anyone, or anything thing and who pulled me out of this seemingly endless cycle of self-pity, that was a good side. The side of the woman who stood up for herself to everyone who would look down on her, who worked hard for her living, and who genuinely cared about people she wasn’t even sure liked her back. That side was also a great side. The side to the woman who opened up my life again, opened up my heart…”

I stopped him then with a kiss, our playfulness long forgotten, taken over now by just sheer appreciation. I liked that he noticed those things, I liked that he remembered all of those changes we’d gone through.

“Good answer.” I smiled when I pulled back.

“I do that sometimes.” He shrugged bashfully.

“You do it a lot more than I think you realise. And just so we’re on the record here… you opened my heart again too. In the non-literal sense, of course,” I nodded.

“Of course.”

I hopped off his knee and returned to my chair, and my bacon.

By the middle of that afternoon, we had both been through our final measurements for our attire for Pamela’s wedding, all of us thankful that the fussy couple with the measuring tape were now but a distant memory.

“She kept complimenting on my chest… no not complimenting, complaining!” I laughed as we got back to Pam’s place, Eric’s bags were waiting in the hallway, and I knew that meant Bobby was nearby. I had somehow managed to avoid him since they had arrived. I knew I would not be able to much longer.

As Eric disappeared upstairs I took a seat in the drawing room, contemplating if I should call for tea or just go down and make it myself. I was still not at all comfortable having Mary do the serving when just weeks ago I was in her job.

As I suspected Bobby had been lurking around, and he saw that I was sitting alone and used that as an excuse to say hello. Never one to be pointedly rude, I of course reciprocated.

“You look so different.” He stated, taking me all in.

“How so?” I asked.

“Just… out of the uniform, without the tray in your hand. You’d never have thought to look at you before that you were such a Lady in the making.” He smirked, I hated him in that moment.

“Well a uniform like a Valent’s outfit is just clothes after all.”

“But don’t they say that clothes make the man?” He countered pointedly.

“Perhaps they make the man, but in my case they did not make the woman.” I bit back and he seemed to like that he was seemingly getting under my skin.

“If Mrs Fortenberry could see you now, eh? Surrounded by the rich, one of them even, in the parlour waiting to be waited on, hand and foot… You’ve rose quickly that’s for sure.”

“Is it?”

I sighed wishing that Eric would hurry up.

He nodded coming further into the room from the doorway where he had stood.

“Yes, and as you well know, people … they talk. There has been a lot of talk, back home, of just how you’ve gone from house maid to …” he spied my ring, and for a tiny second I felt the urge to hide it from him. “Fiancée of a man soon to be a Lord, my, my you have done very well for yourself.”

I felt beyond uncomfortable under his judgmental gaze and yet he continued to stand there knowing it and making it worse.

“They can talk all they like, it won’t change anything.” I stood then, anything to shift the focus.

“I am sure that’s true, Mr Northman was very concerned for you when your… husband… took you here, that’s for sure. So it comes as no real surprise that something was going on between you secretly, I am just surprised you’ve convinced him so quickly to make it all official.”

I just glared at him, and he continued.

“There must be something so special about you, Sookie. Something a lot more special than that polyester uniform and apron let on.”

I clenched my jaw in order to stop myself from telling him where he and his creepy commenting could go, but just at that Pam sauntered in, letters in hand.

“Sookie, great you’re back, I have some other things I need to discuss with you about the wedding, my mother’s arrival for one thing.” She sighed, not really even acknowledging Bobby until she sat down.

“Oh, you’re here too. Hello.” She said and he nodded respectfully, yes, respectfully to her!

“Eric is upstairs getting the last of his things for his hand luggage.” I admitted as Bobby finally excused himself and I finally took a deep breath. Fuck.

“You look tense, what’s wrong? There was nothing wrong at the fittings I hope?”

“Oh, no, no that all went swimmingly.”

“Good, great.” She smiled big and wide, handing me a letter with several pages to it. “My mother is coming in a few days. I have given her a list of hotels that she would like in the hopes that she chooses one, but knowing her, she may want to stay here. She’s bringing my aunt and cousins too, they will most definitely be staying elsewhere.” She sighed. “I never knew these things were so stressful to plan! I always just showed up and had a good time; I assumed everyone else did too.”

I knew we would figure something out for her soon enough, but as things stood I wanted to talk to Eric before he left, as he was insisting that I say inside because of the heavy snow that was falling again.

I excused myself and made my way to our room, I found him under the bed, or at least half way under it.

“Are you okay?”

He slid out, a sheepish smile on his face.

“I lost my cufflink, and it went all the way under.”

“Ah.”

He popped it in a little bag, which he then put it in a bigger bag that he closed up tight.

We both took a seat on the bed.

“I wish I could stay, but Niall really does need me and I feel guilty just –”

“I know, I know, it’s completely understandable.”

He took my hand and kissed it sweetly.

“You could always come with me…”

That made my bones tense up and he sensed it.

“But I’m guessing you want to put of that reality for as long as possible huh?” He asked looking me right in the eye.

“No, I mean, yes… no. I want us to be together to start … the rest of our lives you know that. However, with Pam… and the wedding… it just does not make much sense for me to leave her now when she needs my help. She’s been so good to me, to us…”

“I know…” He nodded slowly. “I know, I think I just want to be selfish… wanting you to myself.” He smiled, and it was as always infectious.

“It’s not selfish, Eric. It is a lovely thing… a normal thing to want.”

“But?”

“But… I have promised Pam.”

He looked sad, but he nodded in agreement anyway.

“But after… we’ll have all the time in the world for all manner of things.” I promised allowing him to take me under his arm and pull me in for a side hug of sorts.

“That is rather true.”

“Rather true indeed.” I smiled leaning up to kiss him on the cheek. “Your train leaves soon.” I stated noting the time. He would not get into the Estate until very late; there was talk of them just staying over in Glasgow ’til morning, I liked that idea better. The road from there to the Estate was a rocky one at the best of times and if it was snowing in London, I could only imagine what Scotland looked like.

We parted a few minutes later, with kisses and promises of a telephone call the next day, I wished him a safe trip, kissed him yet again, and watched him and Bobby take the taxi to the train station.

I missed him that night, and the night after that until the third day of what Pam called ‘unnecessary moping’ when she handed me a train ticket and a bottle of scotch and told me to go find my wits.

Apparently, my wits were in Scotland.

Eric:

Bobby was mostly silent on the train, neither of us really initiating any kind of real conversation outside of sports and politics; as usual with him all things personal were kept to a minimum. The man saw me naked every day, and yet I knew very little, of who he really was when he was not on the job. I respected his need for privacy for sure, but I always just found that barrier between the staff in big houses such as Niall’s a very strange way of being. We were all just people, after all.

Then he surprised me, as soon we reached Glasgow at almost midnight, we then decided to stay at one of the bed and breakfast’s close to the station, the B&B came with a bar downstairs both of us taking the opportunity to stretch our legs and unwind with several drinks before bed. It was then he became Mr Chatty.

“Grew up in south Yorkshire, family of seven originally,” he spoke with his third beer in hand.

“Originally?”

“Hmm, my mother had nine of us in total, two didn’ make it beyond their third birthday.”

“Oh. I am sorry.”

He shrugged.

“Probably for the best, she couldn’t really feed what she had anyway.”

I drank, he drank, and the conversation continued.

“My mother had two before me; one never took a breath – a girl, and a boy who lived until he was two. He died in his crib for no reason.” I admitted, sad suddenly though I could not have possibly had any memory of my siblings, as it was long before I was even born.

“Ah so you were the one that survived, I bet she doted on you.”

The memories made me smile. She did dote, they all did. I was very lucky.

“I think it’s all a mother wants, is to be able to dote on her children.” I added and he nodded.

“Do you want children, Bobby?”

He looked surprised.

“Are you offering?” He smirked.

“Hmmm perhaps not,” I laughed. “I don’t have the hips for birthing for one thing.” I rolled my eyes at his laughter then.

“But Sookie does.”

That stopped my laughter.

He took my silence and looked considerably silently chastised.

“I’m sorry, that was inappropriate.”

“Just a touch,” I said sharply. “I can understand there will be some… friction with the downstairs crew when we wed, Bobby.”

“I –”

“No, I can understand that there will be, but I won’t have her disrespected. No matter what you may think, personally.”

“So you are set on marrying her then?” He asked and I wasn’t so sure I liked the tone in which he asked.

“I am. Yes.”

He shook his head.

“Problem?”

“No. None at all, she’s a nice girl…”

“The tone and the headshaking tell me you think otherwise.”

“It is a matter of personal option, Sir. One you’ve made clear doesn’t matter.” He finished off his drink, leaving notes on the bar in payment before standing to take his leave.

“I’ve got these.” I stated handing him back his money, and he thought for a second before he accepted them back.

“Thank you.. I’ll bid you goodnight then, we’ll get the ten train back, yes?”

“Yes, at ten. Thank you.”

We both nodded, both ignored the unfinished conversation, both ignored his own personal opinions on my wife-to-be, ones I knew were not so positive in their nature. We both ignored it, and each other for two days afterward when we returned home too, since I wasn’t due anywhere, I made it known his service wasn’t needed. In truth, I worried for any man now that needed another man to help him dress. Things were changing, and fashionable garments were just one of the things that the world was trying to simplify, soon the idea of Valet’s and Ladies Maid’s would be outdated.

“Come on Thor, come on!” I said as we were about a half a mile from the house. We had taken our walks twice a day since I’d been back, I had missed him and knew as much as Mr Dearborn kept an eye, he wasn’t in the shape needed to give Thor his proper walks. We both happily trudged through the snow, even if I was slower than normal thanks to my five layers of clothing. I was beyond tired, and knew that Niall wanted to go over the workings of the Estate – again- with me that night. It was something he had been doing happily too since I got back, teaching me how to run things, even though having lived and watched him for years now, I knew what to do – I also knew what I wouldn’t be doing, though I knew better than to tell him that. His health wasn’t improving, the doctors had informed me that they were surprised his heart had held on as long as it had in his condition, but he was nothing if not a stubborn old mule, and I for one was glad of his stubbornness. I also understood his bond to me now, without her brother, without his wife, and me, without Sophie he was left alone. Alone on the Estate was never a happy time, it was so big and empty most of the time, and when you felt alone it just felt all the more big, all the more empty. Never a good thing at all really, it was a place that almost cried out to be filled with people, with laughter and chatter. Without it, the walls simply echoed off each other.

I got back, shrugging off a few layers as I reached the sitting room, having left my boots and my coat in the mud room below stairs where Thor happily fell into his bed near the hot burning range for heat.

“Mr Northman would you like some soup?” Millie asked, she was the new girl apparently. Niall sent Mrs Fortenberry on the hunt for another maid, even though it was silly to have so much staff for just two people, but my ways were not his ways either. She was young, maybe about seventeen, very green at the job, but sweet and kind natured from what I had seen. However, with Amelia on a few days leave a kind face around the place was not one that went unappreciated.

“I would Millie thank you,” I smiled, I wanted to befriend her but I did not want nor need another situation like the Dawn situation, so I kept my distance and then some. “And some tea if it’s not much trouble?”

“Of course, Sir. I’ll bring it up to your library if that’s –”

“That’s perfect thank you.”

She smiled and did her little curtsey before leaving the room. I hoped she was being welcomed more warmly downstairs than they had welcomed Sookie.

I took the steps two at a time ’til I got to my room, my socks were wet, and there really wasn’t much worse a feeling in the world than cold wet feet. When I got to my room however, I damn near jumped out of my skin.

“Sookie?!”

“Oh, good it’s you!” She said, slightly unsteady on her feet, she was flushed pink and her hair was out of place. She looked and sounded like she just woke up.

Had I fallen and hit my head? Was I imagining this?

“Sookie… what are you… how are you…” She pulled me inside the room and closed the door silently.

“No one else knows I’m here.” She stated putting a chair up to the door handle to keep it from being opened.

“Uh… I did not even know you were here. How are you here?”

She swayed again. My God, she was drunk!

“Sook… are you?”

“A little tipsy? Yeah… you could say that.” She held her head before she made her way over to the bed to sit down. “I got scared and so I had a few drinks before I left for the train and then on the trains there were lots of drinks and I drank those too and then I didn’t eat anything and now I just feel wretched.”

“You got … Okay…”

“I got scared. I wanted to come be with you but being with you … means being here and I hate here. Well I don’t hate it but the people… they hate me and I just ugh it’s just awful I’m sorry.” She expelled without taking so much as a breath to pause, no wonder she felt lightheaded.

“How did you get from the train to here?”

“I got a lift with Gordon Andrew’s wife Anya. They live –”

“What was she doing there?”

“She drives her own motor car now imagine that. She drives and she was dropping her son off, I lied and said the driver must have forgotten about me…and so she dropped me off outside the gates. I sneaked inside.” She shrugged as if it was no huge thing at all.

“You sneaked all the way inside…” I noticed her bags by the foot of my bed. She was certainly resourceful I will give her that, thought at this point in our history I do not know why I was even surprised anymore.

But, I was surprised and happy and confused and all other good things upon seeing her. I just knew though that her nerves and her fear would only get worse until we nipped it in the bud together. Easier said than done though when she could barely stand up straight!

Never a dull moment with Sookie Stackhouse, that is for sure!


New chapter as promised on my blog this afternoon. As always thank you muchly for the reviews on here and on the blog, and even on my tumblr too! Let me know what you think! Reviews are of course appreciated!


Chapter 31: Chapter 31


Eric:

She sat on the bed; her feet curled up under her skirt a sad, sorry look on her face.

“I didn’t really mean to get drunk. I just….had a few at Pam’s insistence before we left for the train, she said it would give me courage to actually get on the train – which it did…”
“And then?”
“Well, then there was drink on the train… a thing I like about first class they give you stuff.” She smiled. “But I was too nervous to eat anything so I just kept sipping and sipping more and more drinks… and well this is the result. I was scared out of my wits okay?”
“But why? They’re just people, they just have opinions like everyone else, and you know their opinions don’t matter to me not where you’re concerned.”

She smiled a small smile then.

“You’re far too sensible you know? I am just very un…sensible lately. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

With that, a knock came to the door a second or so later.

“Mr Northman, I left your soup and bread on the desk is that okay?” Came the voice behind the door and Sookie went three shades of white and her eyes widened. I walked to the door and poked my head out, just my head so she could not see inside.

“That’s so wonderful thank you, Millie. I was wondering if I could trouble you for something else?”
She was smiling big and wide at me, I knew she would not refuse me.

“Anything!”
“Okay could I have maybe a couple of sandwiches? Whatever is downstairs is fine, just a couple of them and maybe some milk?”
She nodded.

“All that walking has made you hungry, Sir.”
She had no idea what was going on, I thanked whatever Gods were listening for that fact.

“It has, would it be –”
“Oh, more than okay, I’ll bring them right up for you.”
I thanked her again, and waited until I knew she was around the corner and on her way down the stairwell before I went back inside, I locked the door before I crossed the room.

Sookie was now lying on the bed.

“You shouldn’t want to marry me, I’m a mess.” She whined her hand to her head in a very dramatic and still very drunk manner. It made me chuckle.

“Really? Is that why I shouldn’t want to marry you?”

“No, I’m awful!” She cried dramatically then slapped her hands over her mouth. “And loud. And drunk.” She sighed again. “I’ll make a disaster of a wife and an even worse lady.” She sang out lady so it went on longer than usual, she really was drunk, but now I knew why.

She was scared of what was to come.

I joined her on the bed and kissed her quickly.

“You’re not any of those things you lush.” I smiled. “But I understand what you’re feeling.”
“You do?” She asked quietly.

“I do. And I don’t know if I can reassure you the way you may need right now, but what I am going to do is go to my library, bring us our food – you need something solid and maybe some milk to line your stomach.”
She smiled for a second.

“You need to eat, and then you’re going to take a nice nap before dinner tonight and we’ll sort this all out properly so we can be … proactive about how you’re feeling.”

“You’re too good to me.” She whispered and I pushed her hair a little, her curls were now covering her shoulders.

“There’s no such thing as too good, but I want to take care of you, Sookie. You take care of me so much that you don’t even realise…” I kissed her again but pulled back quickly before we got too involved.

“Stay there, I’ll be right back.”

I went as quietly as I could from my room down the long hallway on the upper floor to reach my library, thankfully, Millie had left the sandwiches without comment this time, and the soup had a lid on it so it would still be warm. I grabbed them all and made my way back to my room, sneaking around like a child, I thought.

I came back and she was sitting upright, and I handed her the tray carefully with the soup on it, and then gave her the sandwich too. She thanked me and dug in right away. I was glad she did, in the hopes of bringing her back to herself again and getting the silly feelings of inadequacy dealt with or at least begin to deal with them.

We sat and ate in relative silence, glances toward one another would happen of course, but for the most part it was comfortable silence which I liked, I liked that we could do that and not feel the need to fill every pause.

I looked at her two bags still sitting at the bottom of the bed, this meant she was not staying for long, and I knew that it was a thing of surprise to even have her there at all. Pam’s wedding was in a week; another surprise was Pam even letting her out of her sight, never mind to come all the way here.

“Pam’s mother arrive?”
She shook her head.

“She’s arriving tomorrow morning by boat; Pam is stressed beyond all stress about her clueing in that she and Claude are a fraud.”

With her rhyme, Sookie let out a little giggle, setting me off too because it was rather funny.

“I don’t understand how Maggie doesn’t know by now that Pam prefers women.”
“Me either, but she did say there were not very close, that she was closer to her father…so maybe it is not so far-fetched. I fear though, once she meets Claude she may realise he isn’t exactly the one keeping her daughter’s bed warm at night, or much else warm for that matter.”

I chuckled at that, because it was entirely true.

When we had finished I made sure to leave the tray outside the door and locked it again before I did anything else. The maid’s worked hard in this house and they were all amazingly prompt housekeepers.

“What do we do now?” She asked sleepily as I joined her on the bed.

“We are going to just lay here for a bit until you take a nap, I might sleep too actually, Thor has been keeping me busy these past few days, catching up on all his much needed exercise.” She smiled at that, she once feared Thor but now I think she knew he was just a big ole softie. After we laid down, Sookie was out in minutes, breathing softly but deeply. Finding herself snuggled under my blankets and looking very comfortable there too. I loved that she came, I loved that she fought through her fear long enough to even consider coming to see me like this, I knew how hard it was for her and how hard it was going to be but I also knew she could do it. She could do anything, I believed she could do anything she put her mind to, and the fact she put her mind to being with me? Well, it was just the icing on the already wonderful cake.

I must have dozed off because I woke up and it was starting to get dark, well, darker than the day had been thus far which in itself was not very bright to begin with. She looked so peaceful that I did not have the mind to wake her. Instead, I changed quickly and grabbed the car keys; I would take the car out for a bit in the rouse of picking her up at the station and then come back and park out front. That way I thought it would be properly done than her sneaking in, three sheets to the wind like some drunken hapless cat burglar.

No. That would just allow for more mindless chatter about her below stairs and I knew she did not want that.

Sookie:

I woke up to a dark room, and for a moment as it had been at Pam’s my mind wandered back to when Bill took me, those late nights and very early mornings of just lying awake wondering if I’d survive the day.

I wondered when those feelings would leave me, I wondered if they would ever leave me.

I also wondered where Eric was, but as I got up to wash and change, I heard his familiar sound fill the bedroom from where I stood in his en-suite bathroom.

“I took the car out for a bit, so if anyone asks anyone I went to collect you, you’re getting ready for dinner and we can just act normal from here on out.” He said opening the door slightly, on seeing I was decent he came all the way in, as I dried my face. I was fully awake and painfully sober now.

“Right, yes, that sounds…. Good.”

“You don’t believe that it sounds good though?” He asked looking at me through the mirror in front of us both.

“I want it to be good; I want all things where we’re concerned to be good. I just hope you’re right.”

“I am right, you’ll see. They might be a bit prickly at first, but these things pass I’m sure of it.”
I was not so sure at all, but for appearances sake, I smiled. I did not want him to worry any longer, and I knew he worried so much already.

We both were changed when the bell rang to announce that dinner would be coming up soon, my stomach flip-flopped all the way down to the dining room. Niall was already seated.

“You made it down for dinner, that’s a good sign, Niall.” Eric said as soon as we walked in, a smile on his face on seeing his friend make it out of bed for the first time in weeks.

“Yes, I thought tonight would as good as any to try and give the stairs another go. I made it down in ten minutes, shameful, utterly shameful.” He shook his head, clearly annoyed with himself before he addressed me.

“Sookie, it is very good to see you again. I am so glad you are well.” He almost smiled but it did not quite get there.

“Thank you, Ma’lord.”

“It’s Niall, please.” Then he did smile as we took our seats by his side of the table.

“Eric tells me you’re well or at least on the way to being well? I am glad, after all that has happened I am glad you are in one piece.”

I looked to Eric and then to Niall, wondering just how much the old man knew exactly.

“Yes, it has been … trying times to say the least, but there is always a silver lining in life and I like to think I’ve… we’ve found that.”
Eric smiled, he was proud, he was happy and he was like a kid on Christmas showing off his new toy. He really wanted Niall to like what he was showing him, I could tell. I could also tell that there was something restrained in Lord Niall before dinner came up, but after it did, he was really the least of my worries.

Dawn was serving with Trey and Remy. She had a face like thunder, Remy was simply stoic and Trey was beaming at me. I was frozen in my place with nerves, or fear, or both. I could not really tell which.

As they served Dawn all but shoved the serving dishes at me, but I ignored it and thanked her anyway.

Remy gave me a wink as he served my mashed potatoes, and Trey was still beaming by the time he finished with Eric. I could tell they all wanted to say something, but could not, it was not allowed.

On Dawn’s part, I was glad it was the case. I really did not want to hear what she had to say, I had no doubt it would only be hate filled and pointless.

Once they left and Eric had made it his business to keep me in conversation all throughout dinner, I began to relax a lot more. I soon found out that even though Niall was ill and in a considerable amount of pain, he was still an interesting man to hold conversation. He talked of his mother a lot, and soon his behaviour toward me began to make sense, he talked of her struggle to fit in here and in the circles, she travelled in with his father, and he talked of never wanting to put another woman through that. I felt it was a dig of sorts at Eric, but in truth, our time was nothing like his parents time, and I was not his mother. We could hold our own, I knew that much of myself, and I was sure Eric was as strong a man as he had proved himself to be to me in the past months. I reassured Niall that no ‘circles’ were going to keep us apart, and I meant it, even if the ‘circle’ downstairs still gave me anxiety like nobody’s business. There was much talk of the war, its losses and of course the armistice. My nerves were something I was trying to keep to myself; I hated being this way, being so afraid.

However, I was working on that.

By the time, we left the dining room, and Eric took over the nurse’s job to take Niall upstairs, it left me in the parlour alone for a little while. Of course, that is when Dawn decided to come up, as we always did after dinner here, to offer the ‘guest’ a nightcap.

She came in with the small silver cart that was used to store the drinks; it would be brought in and out to various rooms based on the needs of the guests. I never understood why they did not just have a bar there in one place, but that was just me.

She did not say anything, and neither did I. For a good few seconds we just looked at each other.

“Whiskey, Brandy or Port, Ma’am?” She asked with her mouth tight, her tone even tighter.

The idea of her addressing me so formally didn’t sit well with her, and in all honesty, it didn’t sit well with me either.

“Dawn…”
She glanced at my hand and I could almost see her face drop with the emotion of spotting the ring. I didn’t hide it though, it wasn’t something I was ashamed of and I had to remember that. This whole thing was nothing to be ashamed of, I had to stop feeling such things. I knew Eric was right, I knew I had to live my life for myself, but it did still bother me because all I had ever wanted was their approval. I never got it when I was employed there, and I knew for certain now I wouldn’t get it as long as they thought me some gold digger yank itching to get my hands on the fortunes of their men.

I sighed.

“Can we speak freely?” I asked her and she looked away.

“Other than your choice of drink, Ma’am, I don’t much think we have a lot else to discuss.”
“I think differently.”
She quirked a brow at me, and I knew in her head she had probably killed me five times since she had entered the room.

“Eric tells me you’re leaving.”
She scoffed.

“I wouldn’t exactly call it that, but yes, I am. In a few weeks as a matter of fact, not sure where yet, but my number’s up here and now I really know why don’t I?”

I did not like her, she did not like me but I also did not like the idea of her out there without a job and a home. I had hoped Eric would sort something, if he did not, maybe Pam could.

“You know he’ll make sure you’re taken care of…”
She nodded.

“He used to really make sure I was taken care of.” She jibbed and her insult did not go a miss on me. “But now, I suppose he has someone else in mind for that position.”

I stood up, utterly exasperated with her.

“You know, I do not know why I even bother to try with you.”
She stood emotionless but for that defiant look in her eyes, and I for one had had about enough. I was either going to drag her by her hair all around that room, or scream so hard I hurt my throat. It seemed neither very sensible nor very sane to me and certainly not at a time like this.

The tension between us the hate or the anger, or whatever it was, was truly palpable. I did not have the energy for it then, so I decided to defuse the situation.

“I don’t want a drink; I’m going to bed now, with my fiancé. I won’t be needing the drink to keep me warm tonight, perhaps you should have one instead.” With that, I turned and left the room.

If she was going to be wicked and insulting, she had best prepare herself. I was tiring of restraining myself, and it ended. Now.

“You’re angry; I can almost feel the tension from here.” Eric said as he undressed at one side of the bed, and I on the other. I was angry, beyond angry – but more at myself than anyone.

“She’s so damn insufferable.”
“Dawn?”
“Yes. I tried to talk to her, to sort of attempt in some way to clear the air, but no. She was not having any of that, no sir she was just going to stand there and wind me up and just … ugh!” I threw one of my stocking down, not that it made much of an impact being as light as a feather, but I just needed to throw things.

Namely Dawn, out a window.

“You shouldn’t let them get to you, her particularly. She will be gone in a few weeks, I have a friend in Yorkshire who runs a large haulage farm, he is always’ in need of new staff. They have nine children.”

I smirked then, the idea of her surrounded by nine children every day.

I felt sorry for the children.

“I am glad she has somewhere to go… if she chooses to go there that is.”
“Well, she cannot stay here. She has proven to be… unstable at best. She knew the situation between her and me and just how non-existent it was besides that one time, and yet she continued to –”
“Yes okay, I know… can we please not go over all that again?” I stopped him quickly putting my hand to his mouth; I really did not want to relive those details again. Once was more than enough.

He smiled, kissing me on the cheek as we got in at our respective sides properly, snuggling under the layers of blankets, glad to be out of the cold. Even with a fire, roaring in the corner the room was like ice!

I never missed home more than I did when it hit winter in the United Kingdom.

He pulled me in close, pushing my hair from my eyes sweetly.

“She’s leaving, and after that things will settle down eventually. I know they will.”
“I wish I had your faith.”
“It’s only faith in you that I have, everything else can go to hell, but my faith in you is something I know for sure will keep me going.”
I smiled.

“Those few drinks at dinner talking?”
He shook his head.

“You know I don’t need drink to ramble on like the sap I can be.”

With that, I kissed him, he was not the typical man of his time, and he needed to know I loved him for his uniqueness. The fact that he showed no fear in laying bare his emotions was one of the many things I loved about him.

“I’m freezing!” I said in between kisses, making him chuckle.

“Let’s see what I can do about that then, huh?”

Before I knew it we were kissing still, more feverishly, more wanton as the seconds turned into minutes and time ticked on. Soon my nightgown was undone, his underwear was around his ankles and we were finding many ways in which to keep the other warm that night.

I secretly hoped Dawn heard us, just to be spiteful!


Happy weekend lovelies! Have at chapter 31! As always I love hearing what you’re thinking of this mess!


Chapter 32: Chapter 32


Hi guys! This is a little late as I was gone all weekend (Mumford&Sons VIP was amazeballs!) But here we be! 😀 Enjoy, and as always the reviews are more than appreciated.


Sookie:

I woke up the next morning to a warm bedroom and a cold bed. Eric was gone, but the fire was lit and roaring, heating up the room nicely too. One of the windows had the shutters opened and I saw that a fresh blanket of soft snow had fell overnight, I was thankful to whoever it was that lit the fire. I looked around for something to wear, emptying my bags to find my layers for the day. I’d had chosen some decently thick thermals for under my skirt and blouse, I would be adding an indoor jacket too, I never thought I would ever get ‘used’ to the cold as Eric always insisted I would.

Just before I started to undress, he came through the door with a tray in hand.

“Good morning!” He smiled, coming right over leaving it down and leaning back to kiss me on the cheek he was beaming.

“Good morning, someone is happy?”

“You know what? I think I am. Things are good, a lot better than they’ve been lately, and I don’t know maybe I am just getting into the Christmas spirit or something.”

Christmas was not for another two weeks, but whatever floated his boat.

“The tree arrived today, for downstairs, I love decorating that thing, and I’ve done it every year since I got here.”

“You’re a fan of the holidays then?”

“A little,” He smiled wide again, before popping a slice of toast in his mouth. “There is breakfast here for you too, scrambled egg, toast, tea. I hope that is okay, Millie asked what you’d like and I guessed.”

I nodded, grabbing some toast myself before I took a seat in the middle of the bed.

“Technically, we should be eating this downstairs, but since Niall gets a tray to his room, I’ve been doing the same lately, it’s not like when I was depressed and wouldn’t go down though…” he talked as he took a seat on the bed too, me in my nightgown and him fully dressed in the dimly lit room.

“I lit the fire this morning, I thought you’d rather I do it than have Dawn in here, since she’s in fires this week.”

“You didn’t have to –”

“You’d rather her in here?” He asked his eyes wide.

“Well… no…but…”

“No, exactly, oh and I telephoned my friend again this morning, he can definitely employ her and will take her after Christmas if she’s willing to go, if she’s willing to stay that’s another thing. She won’t be their nanny, but those children run while… from what I heard.”

“It’s a pity of those kids…” I rolled my eyes, “The idea of her attempting compassion? I don’t think she could even if she tried.”

Then I remembered that she must have been able to at one point to get Eric in a place where he would even consider taking her to bed, never mind actually doing it. I decided to shut up and just eat then.

“I was hoping you’d come into town with me for lunch, perhaps? I have a few things I want to get and I thought it would be nice to go out for a while, maybe we could even eat out if you would like? I know Niall naps a lot these days, so it’s usually just me, but if we tell them we’re going out they won’t need to make a fuss?”

He asked opening up the remaining two shutters, then taking a seat on the windowsill.

“That might be nice, some fresh…freezing air, a nice lunch, sounds good.”

“Good, I know it’s your last day here for a bit, and I want it to be nice. Oh and I thought you should know Amelia is back today.”

That caught my interest right away.

“She is?”

He smiled at my excited reaction.

“She is… would you like her to come up?”

I nodded enthusiastically; I desperately wanted to talk with her. I got dressed quicker than even I thought possible, even if my hand still hurt a little. Eric very sweetly buttoned up the line of buttons on the back of my heavy wool skirt.

“Or you could go down there…” He offered and I knew what he was doing. I knew I would have to brave the cold winds coming off their icy exteriors at some point, but I would much rather that be later rather than sooner.

“Um…” I fidgeted with my braid before fixing it up in the mirror a little bit.

“I’ll go get her, its fine Sweetheart.” He said looked at me through the mirror before planting a kiss on my temple and heading downstairs.

I made myself useful, adding coal to the fire and making the bed, and opening the window for some fresh, admittedly freezing air.

Five or so minutes later, the door knocked and I ran to it in excitement.

She smiled at the other side, and I was sure I was beaming just as much. Wordlessly we threw our arms around each other and hugged before the jumping started, and then the squeezing.

“It is SO good to see you, Sookie!”

“You too! You too!” I said still squeezing before we parted, still smiling.

I dragged her by the hand inside and shut the door from any prying ears. We had a lot to catch up on!

“You look wonderful, really.” She said as we took a seat on the bed, both of us still smiling.

“I’m healing, that’s the main thing I think. You look wonderful too, new do?” She’d cut her hair a little shorter, and it was pin tucked up and under to keep it out of her way, the familiar uniform and cap in place, but I could still see.

“New do… new lots of things.” She said pushing her cap off with her left hand. There was a ring.

“Oh holy Jesus… Is that a wedding ring, Amelia?” I gasped and she giggled.

“Is it, it’s why I took a few days off… Sam and I got married.”

We hugged and I congratulated her, and we gushed a little on how lovely it was, that his dad came for the wedding since her family could not make it, and that they had their eye on a little house nearer the village.

I was in awe of how simple she made it sound.

It made me question if I was simply over complicating my situation because I was scared of if it was in fact that complicated.

“I spy a ring too, Sookie. Or should I say Mrs Northman.”

“Not yet…”

“Soon though, if the stars in his eyes are anything to go by.” Her description of him made me smile. I didn’t see it, but I hoped it was as happy as he made me.

“I knew there was something about you, when you came here. I knew there would be so many changes but I just was not sure what. Now I know, you were meant to come here, to bring him back to the land of the living.”

“You sure it wasn’t a money grabbing, digging for gold yank that you saw? Everyone else seems to think that’s what this is.”

She ‘tutted’ to herself.

“Sod them and their stupid ideas. We know the truth and they do too, even if they don’t want to admit it.”

“Enough about them tell me everything. How did he ask you? Where was it? Everything!”

I decided to focus on her, and he happiness for now, we had such little occasion for happy thoughts as friends, I was glad this was one of them. I hoped they’d be the first of many.

“And do you plan on quitting now that you’re married?”

I had hoped she wouldn’t but I understood fully if it was something she and Sam wanted now that they were wed, they had other things to concentrate on, and if it meant Ames leaving here,, I would just have to visit her instead.

“Well that was the plan.” She sighed. “But in truth, Sam is a driver for an Estate that requires very little of him these days. With his Lordship bedridden and Eric in charge of his own driving now with his own motorcar, there has been very little actual need for Sam’s skills. So he has taken a job on at the Tavern in town to make up a semi decent wage, but as it stands we just can’t afford to have only one income. So we decided that we’d hold on trying to have a family for now, but if it happens and it very well may happen…” she blushed and it was adorable. I wanted to pinch her little cheeks.

“But until then I suppose I’m lucky to have this job.”

“How would you feel about a promotion?” I tendered.

“A … what?”

“Well…” I sighed since this was more Eric’s idea than mine, but if it had to be anyone I’d rather it be her. “Eric has insisted that for the more ‘busy days’ I might be in need of a Ladies Maid. I mean, honestly, the absurdity of it all.” I laughed at my own words, because the irony was not lost on me.

“Wow…” She said a little stunned, I suppose the irony was not lost on her, either.

“I know it is beyond ridiculous… but if it has to be someone I’d rather be paying and spending my time with you than anyone else here.” I admitted with a smile and she smiled back.

“I’ll have to talk it over with Sam of course; apparently we have to talk all kinds of things over with each other now.”

The joys of a ring.

“But?”

She smiled.

“But, I would love to. You know that I adore you, and the extra money could come in handy and I adore you…” she repeated with a grin, and then we hugged. Just at that Eric popped his head around the door.

“Oh…sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“It’s fine, what’s wrong?” I asked pulled away from Ames to go to the door.

“Nothing, I just wanted you to know that I was taking Thor for his walk, we might be a while… and hello Amelia.”

“Hello, Sir.” She answered back with a blush.

“That’s good; I mean you have your layers don’t you? Last thing any of us need is you catching a cold. Pam would kill you if you show up looking like the red nosed reindeer.” I laughed; it was funny because it was probably true. Her wedding portrait was very important to Pam, more so that it be ‘stunning’ than anything behind it.

“I have many layers and a thick coat. I was hoping to steal you away this afternoon for town?” He reminded me, and I nodded. “Okay, excellent…” He left, closing the door behind him, but a second later, he reappeared. He walked into the room, kissed me on the cheek and smiled. “I forgot we can do that now when people are around.

I blushed as Amelia giggled. I could do not much else other than shake my head at him as he left again.

“Fool…” I smiled to the closed door.

“A fool is love is a fool indeed.” Ames rhymed off with a grin. “You are both just adorable it is just sweet.”

I rolled my eyes playfully at her before I shut the door again.

Fools indeed.

Eric:

With lunch over with, Sookie and I left the pub, and took to the streets. She had a hankering for the dinners that were served there and the talk of it all put me in the mood too. We had had a few glasses of wine too, and by the time we took our walk about town, we were feeling more than a little relaxed and happy. Of course, I was stopped a few times, the townspeople knew that Niall was ill, and wished to pass on their best thoughts to him via me, I obliged them of course, because it was a nice thing to know that he was well thought of in the town. I knew he would like to know as well, and I thought that it might have helped to booster his spirits if he knew people were hoping for his recovery. I knew in the previous weeks, his spirits had dampened considerable, and once the doctors started stopping by on the regular basis, to the point of having rooms made up for them, I knew he had lost what little hope he had in making a fully recovery. What I knew of his condition was that his heart was failing him, everything else was where it should be for someone his age, but his heart just was not cooperating. It was a shame, for when he was completely himself; Niall was a good man to be around. He made me feel welcome in his home, even before I had met Sophie and all that had even begun to happen, he was good to those he liked, and if he didn’t like you he just didn’t try. I knew for a time I filled the space of the son he lost, and maybe I still filled that space for him, if I was honest with myself, he filled the place my parents left too, at least for a time. We could never replace those we lost, but I knew there was no harm in form an attachment with another parental figure, nor was there harm in him seeing me as family, we could all use more family.

Sookie was not filling any space, she had created one all of her own, and as we reached the town center, where the Christmas stalls were all set up and the fair was well underway, I watched her browse, and then converse with those she met so easily with such grace. I only hope that she knew that she had created her own space in my life, because I also knew her insecurities of becoming a fully blown ‘lady’ was nagging at her mind constantly. I only wished to put all to rest, but how, I had no real idea.

“This is nice, I think I … we should get Amelia and Sam a wedding gift.” It was a porcelain set.

“I can’t believe they got married, I think there might be something in the air.” I smiled as she linked her arm with mine again, we got various looks of course, and the loud whispers, but I did not care, and it seemed, at least on the surface, that Sookie did not notice.

“I know there must be!” she smiled. “She said they’re hoping to rent the place by Boyle’s?”

“Next to the cobbler’s place?”

She nodded. I knew that little place, Niall owned it, and the previous tenant had left for America a few months before. It had been empty since.

“It needs a lot of work, and I think new furniture.”

“Oh.” Her face fell a little as we continued browsing the stalls. “I don’t think they want to spend a lot right now, or they can’t, at least not yet.”

“What if that was our present to them then?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I can get someone in to fix up what needs fixing for them and we could rent it to them with a healthy discount.”

She smiled. I would have said free, but I knew that Niall would kill me, and that was terrible business. I could not risk either, no matter how nice a couple they were.

“You would do that?”

I nodded.

“I’ll run it by Niall of course, but since he’s been pushing for me to take over more responsibility here, it could be the first of many.”

She leaned up and kissed me on the cheek, ignoring the many onlookers from the village that were obviously watching us with much interest. I overheard one saying that ‘the maid had certainly worked her way up quickly’, I chose to ignore it, even if it made my blood boil.

We reached the part of the fair with the games, and at Sookie’s insistence we took up the shooting range, if we hit the cork off the balancing balls, we won a prize. She went first, her bravery matching her smile, big and wide for everyone to see.

She hit the balls but they did not move, so she handed the toy gun to me with a disgruntled sigh.

I won her a small plush today, shaped like a rabbit.

“He’s cute, look at him.” She said holding the very small toy up to me, waving him at me almost comically. I could not help but laugh, as did she. I was glad our spirits were this high, after everything, small moments like this made it all worth it. I hoped we would have many moments like this in times to come. I was tired of drama, tired of pain and hurt, I just wanted us to get on with our lives and continue to be good people. Growing up my mother always said that good things happen to good people, I know now that was just simply optimism on her part.

However, I decided to try to adopt some of that optimism, I wanted good things for us from now on. I did not think there was much wrong with that.

“Dance with me.” I asked her, after we had stood watching the dancing that was happening on the makeshift dance floor under the tented roof, it was freezing but they were making their own heat through their enthusiastic ceilidh dancing and swapping partners.

“What? No! I don’t know how to do…that.” She pointed at the fast paced spinning and complicated looking steps.

“Neither do I, come on, we’ll make it up as we go along, no one will notice.”

I took her hand and took my winnings off her, laying it on the seats outside. Her hat almost flew off her head as we walked fast into the tent. I took her hands in mine, and we went for it.

We were awful, shameful even, but it was the most fun we would have outside of the bedroom since she had here.

We could not stop laughing, her face was pink with the cold and then with the spinning, we switched partners a few times. I ended up with Margaret Mullen first, she ran the bakery in town, then her sister Ellen, and finally a woman I didn’t know but who’s friendly smile and hearty laugh put me right at ease before I got back to Sookie, both of us breathless and happy.

It was a good day.

“Let’s get married soon?” She asked when we finally stopped laughing long enough to collect ourselves and compose ourselves a little better than we had been.

“Really? I thought you wanted to wait –”

“No.” She shook her head, smiling. “I thought I did but… I don’t anymore. I just want us to be… I do not want to wait to start our lives any more than we have. I want this…” she looked around, then back to me. “I want it all with you, and as soon as possible. Look how easy it was for Ames and Sam… they just snuck off and no one knew! I love that.”

She was beaming and I can honestly say I would never see anything more beautiful than her standing there, in the soft snow surrounding us, the town tinted with that sort of blue colouring the cold brought with it in winter, her rosy cheeks and bright smile.

“When?” I asked.

“I don’t know… as soon as we’re allowed to?” She giggled. “I’d marry you right now if I could.”

As we rounded the corner to where we had parked the car, I had an idea.

We drove out of the village, and about five minutes into the drive I took a unexpected turn.

I turned into the church grounds.

She looked at me shocked.

“Let’s just see how soon is as soon as possible, eh?” I asked as we stopped and she started laughing. “We can always ask.”

She looked to the church, and then to me.

“Are we seriously going to do this without even an appointment?”

“You want to see?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

I guess we were asking!


Chapter 33: Chapter 33


Hi guys! Hope you all had a Merry Christmas / Happy Holiday this year and got and gave some lovely stuff! I come bearing some gifts too, this is the first of two updates. One day, and one tomorrow of War at Heart. If you’re still with this story don’t forget to tell me what you think, you know it’s always appreciated!

Sookie:
The priest was wonderfully polite, and very surprised to see Mr Northman show up at his door asking to marry the girl he knew to be the maid of the Estate, but nonetheless he was sweet, but ultimately unhelpful.

We needed a license, and witnesses, and more time.

Nevertheless, with a wink and a nudge, literally in Eric’s direction as we mentioned our need to be in London the next day, he suggested Gretna Green. He also

heavily suggested how once there, we could do what we liked if we could manage to find two people to witness it.

We sat in the car, outside the church in silence then for a few minutes, both of us clearly thinking things over.

“Maybe it’s a sign we should wait.” I said exasperated. I was somewhat annoyed at myself for being so spontaneous only to have it halted.

“Or… maybe it’s a sign to go to that village in the morning before we head off for London, and do it.”

“You think so?”

He shrugged.

“I don’t know, but I know I want to do it our way, and your idea of just…doing it like that… is very appealing to me.”

I nodded.

“Because… we’ve both done the big white perfect wedding, and look where that got us.”

I married a basket case liar and Eric ended up a widow before he was thirty.

I hoped this time would be different.

“So we just… go… before we go?” I probably was not making any sense, but he nodded anyway.

“Only if it’s what you really want, Sookie. If you want the whole,” he gestured with his hands, “big white wedding all over again, I’ll do it, if you want to get

married somewhere else, some other time, I’ll do that too. It doesn’t matter much to me where we do it, as long as I’m doing it with you.”

I grinned I could not help myself. I had keep reminding myself that it really was okay to feel this happy, it was okay to let it in to let him in.

“I just want to make sure that you are sure…” I added making him look at me a little funny.

“Love, if I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t have asked, you know me by now enough to know that I rarely do what I do not want to.”

“I know, but just in case…”

“Just in case nothing, unless you are not sure.”

I shook my head. If I was sure of anything it was that I wanted us to be together, everything else I would simply take as it came to me.

“No, let’s do it like this, let’s just go there tomorrow and make it all official.” I decided leaning over to kiss him excitedly. That was it, we had decided.

That time tomorrow, we would be husband and wife. I could not wait!

“And you’re just going, just like that?” Ames asked as we travelled down one of the hallways together. I had asked Eric if there was anything we could give

them for their new home, he suggested we look in the attic. So we were on our way to root through to see what treasure we could find.

“You inspired us, what can I say.” I smiled as I stuck the large key in the large lock that unlocked the door to the attic. There were thirty-seven steps before we

got to the space, and I for one really did not fancy being the person that had to haul anything up here.

“Wow…” Amelia said looking around, and I had to agree with her reaction. It was as if time had stood still up there. That and I now knew where all Lady

Sophie’s things had gone.

I sighed.

“Is it just me or is this all incredibly eerie?” She asked as we took in our surroundings. “I mean these are Lord Niall’s wife’s things too, look… it’s like a shrine up

here. A shine to two dead women…and a lot of old coats.”

There were a lot of clothes, paintings, tables, chairs, all manner of things hidden underneath dustsheets; some if I had to guess had to have been hundreds of

years old at this point.

“Um, Amelia?”

“Hmm?”

“Could you… I mean if it is okay, could you go and ask Eric to come up here? Just for a little bit?”

She looked at me, probably either sensing or seeing my discomfort at all of Sophie’s things just slapping the reality back into my life.

She nodded.

“Of course.”

“Thank you.”

Everything was now up here. Her clothes, her jewellery, pictures, portraits, and her whole life just hidden away like that, it made me rather uncomfortable to

say the least. I tried not to touch her things but in a weird way, it was as if I could not help myself from looking. There was a picture of her and Eric and they

both looked so young, even though by my estimation it would not have been any more than five years before now. It was before they were married for there

were no rings, so I assumed it was just before he shipped out to war. She was beautiful, I knew that much from seeing the things in the locked room some

time ago now, but to see her up close like that in such clear quality, she still had that mischievous look in her eye; she looked like she would have been

pleasurable to be around.

I heard his footsteps before I saw him, and seeing me up there must have stunned him for he said only one word.

“Oh.”

I did not face him; instead, I sat where I was, on the seat by her old dressing table, the photo still in my hands.

“What was she like?”

“I forgot this is where they put her things; I thought they would have moved them to storage.” He said standing behind me, and then I faced him.

“No, it’s all here.”

“I see that.” He sighed, taking a seat one a discarded chair next to me. “I didn’t know, if I had I wouldn’t have sent you –”

“I’m not assuming you sent me here to see her things, I asked you for ideas remember?” I was not angry at him, but I was still curious about her.

We sat in silence for a few seconds before he answered.

“She was kind, but she longed to break the monotony of life here as much as she could. When I came here, she was full of ideas, plans, for what she wanted

out of life. And living a secluded life on the Estate to please her father wasn’t one of them.” He sighed, taking the photo from my hands and looking over it,

encased in a small silver framed that had a lid to protect it. “She wanted to really live her life. I think when she died, that fact hurt me more than any other, her

personality was so filled with life in general, so much excitement and wonder. To see her in her coffin like that for the last time… it wasn’t how I wanted to

remember her but it was all I could see when I closed my eyes, for a long time.”

He put the photo back on the desk, and took my hands.

“You aren’t replacing her, I hope you know that.”

I nodded. I might not have known much of the nature of their relationship, but I knew that. If I was replacing her, it was a sign for me to run and not look back,

I refused to fill a void for anyone that was not cut out for me and me alone.

“I know that. At least, I hoped that that was the case.”

“I’ve just tried to ignore all this, you know? In the hopes, it would all just disappear, but, it hasn’t and it won’t until I do something about it. The furniture, it’s in

the other room by the way.” He said standing up, taking me by the hand to the next room through another door. The attics of the house were huge, and

several rooms large. There must have been decades or more of items up there, many things looked a lot older, and given how old the house was, that was no

surprise.

He found some end tables, some chairs, and some artwork too. He stacked them neatly by one of the doors before he turned to me again; I had sat and

watched him put it all together.

“You can talk about her you know? And you can remember her, and love her, and still love me and us.” I said as gently as I could. “You loved her once; she was

a huge part of your life, and this house.” I looked around. “This was her home, Eric; the idea of her being erased is just unthinkable really.”

“You don’t think that strange?”

I shrugged.

“I’m not saying we hang her picture in our bedroom once we wed or anything.” I smiled. “But, it would be wrong, I think, to try and forget her entirely just

because you grieve for her.”

He took a second, just looking at me before his face broke into a small smile, and it reached his eyes, so I knew it was genuine.

“Why are you so amazing?” he asked quietly.

I just smiled deciding to do my best to keep the conversation lighter than it had started.

“Oh, you know, just born with it I think.” I rolled my eyes before I reached over and gave him a much-needed hug, which one of us needed it more though, was

difficult to say.

“I’ll have Bobby and Trey help Sam and Amelia tomorrow, since we’ll be gone.”

“I was hoping they could come with us, since we need witnesses and everything, and if we take the car, they can drop us off at the train station and drive it

back here for you for when you… when we come back.”

We. We were coming back, this time as a married couple.

My heart leapt at the thought of such a reality.

“Oh, that is a better idea. Amazing and smart and beautiful, I really hit the jackpot with you didn’t I?” He commented before kissing my temple.

“Sure, if you ignore the less than stellar occupation, and crazy cakes ex-husband… I’m a catch.”

He just hugged me tighter.

“I wouldn’t have you any other way, Sookie.”

We stood like that, just us, together in a unplanned intimate moment in a dusty old attic that held the ghosts of his past, and I let it just wash over me.

The past was what it was for both of us, and as much as I fought it, there was no changing it, not now. It didn’t matter how far you ran, it was always there

and I realised then I couldn’t change where I came from not for myself or for these people I was so afraid of.

However, I could, would, and was going to change my future starting with finding my wits as Pam had suggested and facing my fears head on.

I was going downstairs.

I had summoned up all the nerve that I had left in me as I descended the long and seemingly never ending staircases that led to the downstairs living areas.

I took one last deep breath and walked down the common hallway that led to the kitchen, dining and bedrooms. My first left, the dining room, where I knew at

this time they would all be.

I opened the double doors and every face at the table stopped what they were doing to look directly at me.

Trey, Sam, and Amelia stood up, the others looked on for a second.

Mrs Fortenberry stood, and then Mr Dearborn.

I could feel the sweat start to form at the back of my neck, my cheeks were surely as red as cherries and my heart was going a mile a minute.

“Sookie, dear. Look at you.” Mrs Fortenberry said as she left her seat and came to my side, a friendly smile on her face. “After all that has happened to you…

being taken an all things…” she smiled again before patting me on the shoulder. “Well, you’re looking wonderful for having been through such wars, isn’t she

Mr Dearborn?” She looked to the usually crotchety old man and he nodded, still crabby looking though.

“Yes, you are looking well I see, and it is good news that you are well and you know… not dead.” He said his voice low, his accent as thick as ever.

“Thank you Mr Dearborn.”

“And we hear that yourself and Mr Northman are to be married…” Mrs Fortenberry stated uneasily, the rest of the table now seated sat enthralled.

“I… Yes. Yes we are to be married, and it is that that I have come to –”

“Come to invite us to the weddin’ then Sookie?” Trey asked with a smile, Maxine just shh’d in his direction chastising him right away. I found it funny; we were

all so scared of this little white haired woman.

“Um, well, no. Not exactly… I just came to… thank you all.”

“Thank us for what exactly?” Mr Dearborn asked still no real expression on his face so I had no way of knowing if he was mad, happy, sad or just Mr Dearborn.

“Well, Mr Nor… Eric tells me that when I was taken there was much… well there was concern from here and that you were worried for me.”

“We were.” Maxine nodded. “Such a horrid thing for anyone to go through, I mean, kidnapping!”

I nodded.

“Yes… it’s not something I would wish on anyone, and I was also informed that he… Eric I mean, told you of my circumstance?”

She nodded again and I decided to focus in on her, one face was less intimidating than a dozen.

“He did.”

“Good. I’m sure there has been much talk, and realistically there isn’t much I can do to correct any wrongs being said at this stage, but I can just thank you for

your concern and worry and for whatever help you all might have provided for Eric while I was… gone.”

I smiled, forced as it was.

“Well, Lass you’re welcome. You were a valued part of the house before and I see from that ring on yer finger that you’re about to be an even more valued

part now.” Mr Dearborn added and it was more words than he’d said to me since I had actually first arrived.

“Oh, well… I… thank you.”

“From Housemaid to Lady of the House,” Dawn added and I knew she would. I knew she could not go one conversation without getting her piece said. I just

held my tongue.

“You’re an inspiration to us all, Miss.” Dawn said even if everyone at the table were giving her evil eyes to shut her mouth, she, I realised, just could not help

herself.

“Dawn, you know how I have really tried with you, even when I worked here. But you are an impossible woman and I for one will be glad when you’ve moved

on, you’re a toxic person and I think this house has had enough of that for one lifetime.”

Everyone looked at her, then back to me.

I was past caring about her, and frankly the sooner she left, the better for everyone.

“Well look, I just wanted to show my face and say thank you to you all for everything. We’re heading back to London in the morning, and Mrs Fortenberry I was

hoping I could speak to you and Amelia alone, if that is okay?”

She nodded and nodded to Amelia to come with her, I said my goodbyes and we headed out the hall and up the stairs where I knew we would be alone.

I asked if Eric and I could borrow Amelia and Sam the next day for a while, and she was suspicious but she said nothing on the subject other than to agree to

it. When she left, I told Amelia the plan and she couldn’t stop smiling at me.

“I can’t believe this! I am so honoured Sookie that you would want us there.”

“Well you did inspire us after all, and we do need witnesses and I can’t think of anyone nicer to come with us tomorrow than you both, besides it’ll give you

both the afternoon off too, and I’m all for that.”

She giggled.

“You won’t be saying that when you’re the Mistress of the house and it needs running!”

“Perhaps not, but for now that’s not my concern, it might be later, but for now, let’s just have a good day and a nice meal out before we leave for London

huh?”

“I wouldn’t nor couldn’t agree to this faster if it were possible!”

That was that sorted, the morning could not come quick enough!

Eric:

“I think this is silly, Sookie we aren’t some virginal –”

“Indulge me then, hmm?”

“Really? You really would rather spend the night in the room down the hall; cold and alone instead of all … snuggled up warm next to me?”

Okay so I was pushing it with the guilt trip, but her sudden announcement that we weren’t to ‘be together’ until after the wedding threw me a little, it seemed

a silly notion considering how many time we had in fact ‘been together’ that week alone.

“It’s not that I would rather that at all, I simply would like to at least pretend tradition a tiny bit.”

“Yes, because you and I truly are the poster children for tradition.” I added laughing as she packed up a smaller bag to move to down the hall for the night.

She chuckled.

“I know that too, but humour me, it will make tomorrow night in London that little bit sweeter then.”

I conceded. She had a point.

“Fine, fine.” I sing-songed. “Leave me all alone in this big old bed if you must, but when it comes time for the fire to die out and you’re cold toes are even more

icy than normal don’t think you can sneak back in here… oh no. My shop is closed!”

She just laughed to straighten her face. She failed.

“I’ll have one of the girls make up the room.”

“It’s already made up.”

“Who made it up?”

She looked guilty.

“Sookie, you know you don’t have to do that anymore… in fact it’s frowned upon.”

“Making a bed and adding fresh linens? Please.” She dismissed.

“As Lady of the –”

“As Lady of nothing, not yet, and even then, what is to become of us, of you even once these titles are fannied about? Will you suddenly lose all power of your

senses and brains and be unable to do a tap for yourself? I sincerely hope not!”

“All I mean to say is that there are people here that, that is their job.”

“Don’t I know it, I was one of them until very recently.” She added her tempter not getting any kinder as we conversed.

“Sookie… I don’t mean to –”

“All I did was make a bed and air out a room, let’s not make a fuss. Besides the others worked hard today and I didn’t want to bother them, what is the harm?”

I walked over to her and wrapped my arms around her tightly hugging her to my chest.

“There is no harm at all; I just don’t want you thinking that because it’s what you did before that it’s something that is still expected off you. Because, you

know, it’s not.”

She said nothing, instead tilted her head up to kiss my chin then smiled wide.

“I know that my love, I do. However, you are a kind man to point it out, but really; it’s not a big deal. What is though? We’re saying some rather important

things to each other tomorrow aren’t we?”

“We are indeed… what are those things again?”

She huffed and slapped my shoulder playfully as she pulled away from me.

“Well if you have to ask, Mr Northman perhaps we’re not –”

“Don’t you dare!” I laughed, stopping her mid-sentence.

“Right, well, you think on what you’re to say and I’ll do the same. See? My little experiment does have a larger purpose. Method to the madness and all that.”

She kissed me once, quickly but sweetly before she pulled back with a wink.

“Goodnight Mr Northman, I shall see you in the morning then?”

I smiled again, unable to help myself.

“You shall, Miss Stackhouse.”

With that, she grabbed her bag and sashayed out of the room.

The bed seemed so big and lonely without her, and I found I was not tired either. Therefore, I decided to check on Niall before I would turn in.

Our conversations usually lasted longer than we meant them to, and tonight I would tell him of our plans. I felt I owed him a little notice, at the very least.

“Tomorrow? That seems rather hasty; I mean I was sure you’d want to do it properly.”

“We are doing it properly, there will be witnesses and everything, and we’ll take care of the paperwork in London then, perhaps after Christmas even.”

“Oh. I see. Still… a proper wedding…”

“It’s not what either of us wants. We have both done the traditional wedding before and well, we have never really toed the line in that regard now have we?

It would seem somewhat hypocritical really, and Sookie agrees.”

“Is she pregnant? Is that why the haste?”

“No. She’s not.”

At least not to my knowledge, she was not.

“I see. Well then, congratulations from me. I’ll have time to find a suitable wedding gift before you return for Christmas. I mean, you are still –”

“Oh yes. I do like Christmas here, even if you aren’t feeling up the usual hoopla.”

“I think we should have something though, to mark the occasion, for the staff too, with gifts and music.”

They did gifts every year, it was usually clothing or money or both, you could not really go wrong with nice leather gloves or some expensive scarves or extra

money, right?

Maybe this year Sookie would know what they would want more than I would, I was awful at shopping for people.

“I think so too, it might lift your spirits a little too no?”

“It’s not my spirits that need lifting, it’s this damn heart of mine, failing me when my body is just fine.”

That was the long and short of it really, his heart was giving out on him when the rest of him was more than willing to fight on. It was an awful situation all

around, and one I tried my best to push out of my mind, as I was sure he did too.

I went to bed that night full of hope and excitement and a healthy dose of fear. I knew the road ahead would not be smooth, but I also knew I wanted to drive

down it at an unhealthy speed, and I wanted Sookie by my side as I did so. She was the constant, in all my visions of the future, whatever was to come, if we

stayed here, if we moved, if we left altogether, she was always there with me.

I put down my latest book and switched off my lights at a little past one, and I must have fallen asleep fairly quickly, or at the very least I wasn’t tossing and

turning but I was awoken sometime later by some weight on the bed, and some cold skinned person crawling in next to me.

Her lips were on my neck instantly and without opening my eyes in the dark, I smiled.

“I knew you couldn’t resist, I knew you’d get all cold and lonely in that bed and come around. I thought I told you I was closed for the night?” I said chuckling

as her lips moved from my neck to my chest.

She said nothing.

“Someone certainly is eager!”

It was when my hand went to her naked body that I realised why.

It wasn’t Sookie.


Chapter 34: Chapter 34


‘Ello again. Well as promised here is the next chapter, I hope it has a better resolve for you all than the end of the last chapter.

On the subject of angst-filled period dramas, who is all caught up with Downton? The Christmas Special? No. I think I’m considering breaking up with this show professionally, even the cute heartbroken Irish boy might not hold me there for season 4 at this rate!

Anyway, enjoy! xo

Eric:

It wasn’t Sookie.

It registered in my brain and I threw the blankets back and jumped out of bed, switching on the light to confirm my suspicion.

“Are you fucking joking right now, Dawn? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND?”

I was losing mine that is for sure.

“Please don’t be angry, please.” She said holding the sheet around herself; I noticed her discarded robe on the bed too. My blood was boiling as I shuffled into my trousers, trying to distance myself from her as much as possible, because how I felt in that moment was pure anger.

“Get out.”

“Please I just wanted to –”

“To what exactly? WHAT EXACTLY DID YOU WANT?!”

She closed her eyes as if to stop herself from crying.

“I knew she wouldn’t be here, I just wanted to talk with you.”

“Naked? In the dark? Give me a break. Get out.”

I ran my hand through my hair and attempted a few deep breaths.

“Eric I think you’re making a huge mistake here, with her… she’s…She’s not good enough for you!”

I scoffed at her thick-headedness. Could she really be this stupid?

“I need you to STOP.” I said crossing the room to her side of my bed, and reaching for her arm. I yanked her out of the bed and threw her, she stumbled toward the door and I threw her robe at her.

“Please just stop, stop it all, and stop it now before I do or say something I cannot take back.”

“I just want you to want me, where is the harm in that!”

“There is no harm in it, not really, but this? THIS? This is wrong, Dawn. I do not want you. I never wanted you and I do not know HOW MANY OTHER WAYS TO SAY IT OUT LOUD. Are you listening? DO you even really hear me say it? Tell me you hear me say it!”

“What on earth is going on…?” I heard from behind my bedroom door I opened it to find Niall standing there in his robe, a second later, Sookie appeared too. She looked shocked; she looked beyond shocked if I was being honest.

“Eric? What is going…? Dawn?”

She looked from me to her and back to me again.

“I could hear you all the way down the hall, I thought…” she looked at Niall and I knew what she thought. She thought someone had died or something.

“Dawn has to go. She has to leave, now.” I spat in anger at Niall. I looked back at the girl in the room holding her robe in front herself, but not moving to put it on.

“She has had one too many chances and I am just fucking done. Coming up here in the middle of the night, crawling into bed with me, all of it entirely unwanted!”

“Speak up girl, is this true?” Niall asked in her direction.

She just nodded slowly, tears in her eyes ready to fall.

Niall then looked to Sookie and back to me.

“You need to deal with this Eric. You.”

I knew that much.

“I want you gone. I have given you more than enough opportunities to see sense Dawn, more than enough and this is the shit you pull? No. No more.”

Then she started to full on sob.

Sookie sighed.

“Sir how about I escort you back to your room and leave them to this… whatever this is.” She said in a whisper to Niall, a whisper so unlike all the shouting I had been doing.

Niall agreed and they walked slowly down the hallway and around the corner together. I knew I must have been loud for him to hear me at the other end of the house.

Christ.

“You have to go now.”

“Right now?” She asked struggling to tie her robe back together.

“Yes now! Do you really think that this is something I can overlook?” I scoffed in anger. “No, fuck no. I am done with this trying to get through to you. I want you out of this house now, I do not care where you go but you must go. You know I could have you arrested for this?”

That scared her.

“Please don’t!”

“Then GO. I want you out of the house before the morning do you hear me now?”

She was full on sobbing but I found the last of my patience with her had dissipated I no longer cared. She was not right in the head, it was clear now and I could not do anything or say anything more to try to bring her around to sanity.

She looked at me, her eyes red now from the tears and as much as I still hated to see any woman in pain, this was self-inflicted and I found I would not allow myself to be sucked back into her web of crazy just because I felt somewhat sorry for her. I had made my position clear many times, too many fucking times in truth, and I was just over it. She left the room slowly and when I was sure, she was down the stairs I emerged, I heard Sookie’s bedroom door close, and I hoped she was back in there, and not that Dawn had decided to take a detour to annoy her now as much as she had annoyed me.

I walked into Sookie’s room to find her just sitting on the bed a faraway look in her eye.

“Darling, I am so sorry –”

“Did you invite her into your bed?” She asked.

“No.”

“Then what are you sorry about? It wasn’t your doing and I know that much, she’s insane, she’s actually in fucking sane.” She was livid, and I could not blame her, as I felt the same way.

“Yes, and she’s also downstairs packing her things, at sunrise I’ll ring for a car to collect her and take her where she needs to go, because she needs to not be here.”

“I agree. I never thought I would agree to such cold actions, but this is just too much. It is harassment is what it is.”

She was right, it was and it had gone on too long.

She sighed heavily as she scooted herself into the oversized bed and put the blankets around herself for warmth, the fire had died out by now and there was chill in the room.

She patted the space next to her with a small smile, and I did not have to be asked twice before I walked over and got in beside her, she came into my arms right away.

“I’m tired. We should just try and get some rest before the morning.”

“Don’t you want to discuss…”

“The crazy girl with her serious delusions? No, I would rather not now; I do not want to look like walking death on my wedding day, and not because of her particularly. Let’s just try and sleep, hmm?”

I agreed and kissed her gently on the temple before I shut out the light and attempted to sleep.

It never came.

I got up at sunrise, rang the taxi firm and had them come and pick Dawn up. She left through the back door and I made sure she went too. I had paid her her monthly wage and while a professional recommendation would come from Mrs Fortenberry eventually, a personal one may not come from me. Niall might do it, but I would not, not now. The rest of the early morning staff knew, of course they knew how could they not. Nevertheless, we did not say anything to each other as she got into the car and left, nor when I walked through the kitchen to go back upstairs, there was nothing to say. It was for the best, for me, for Sookie, for the house and hopefully one day, even for Dawn and her sanity.

And for ours.

The day was going to be a good day, and Dawn or anyone else was not going to spoil it.

I was getting married today

Sookie:

“Up or down?” Amelia asked as we curled my hair.

“Up I think, I don’t want it to fall flat on the driver over, and I have os much of it, it very well may fall flat. I want to look nice…”

“Of course you do, and you will.”

I had chosen a pale pink blush toned dress, so light it almost looked white, but given our circumstance it would have been highly hypocritical of me to even dare think of wearing white to my wedding. Either way, the drop waist intricately beaded dress was sweet and light and just the right tone for such an occasion, I opted for very little makeup, as I had very little with me, instead using some cover up to hide my sleepless night eye bags, and some rouge and lipstick in a flattering natural shade for my own lips. I looked like me, just a more polished version of myself, and I thought that good enough. With my hair up in a chic finger wave, Amelia added a jewelled clip to the side of my hair, she had found it in a store in town that morning, and decided that that would be my ‘something new’. It was sweet of her, and it really did tie the outfit together. I hoped Eric would like me in this.

I knew for certain he liked me out of it already.

The drive down was nerve wracking, even if it was silly to be nervous. Eric was dressed dapper as always, this time in a charcoal suit and dark tie, he parted his hair and even used some product in it, for him that was a huge effort and I smiled at him wanting to look as nice for me as I did for him.

Amelia and Sam chatted away in the backseat, as Eric drove and I sat next to him, the drive went by in no time at all, journeys tended to do that when your mind was on other things, I realised.

When we got there, we found the necessary people and we were greeted with a warm Scottish welcome, and some hot whiskeys too. Usually for that time of the morning, I would have refused, but, it was freezing cold, and my nerves were getting the better of me. That or I was shaking because of the cold, I was not sure which! We had a drink and a toast to our wedding and then it was happening before I knew it. Over the anvil in the Blacksmith’s shop, we said our vows and were blessed and married just like that. I could scarcely believe it.

He smiled big and wide, as he had done since he took my hands in front of Amelia and Sam and our hand fasting Blacksmith priest of sorts, Andrew. We promised to love each other as much as we did now, we promised to allow our love to grow as we grew, and we promised to honour each other with our bodies and our thoughts, we vowed to be kind, and have patience, and most of all to respect each other every day.

Andrew slammed his hammer down on the anvil and it rang out so loud I thought my ears would fall off. It signified our marriage ceremony being complete, and we were allowed to kiss, our first kiss as a married couple.

It felt fantastic.

Everyone in the shop cheered, Ames and Sam, and Andrew and his wife Mira, and a few other couples who were waiting and watching to see what was what.

We were offered some photographs, and Eric and I enthusiastically agreed, since we had secretly wanted a little something to remember the day by. We stood and posed for two shots, and we were assured they would be done for us by the afternoon, with that we made our way to the nearest eatery for a big bite to eat and more than a few drinks! By the time we got to the train after four, we were just a little bit tipsy. The trip to London would be interesting, that is for sure!

Eric:

Marrying her in that short but sweet ceremony was just what we needed, neither she nor I were really big fanfare people, and the idea of another ‘society’ wedding just wasn’t what either of us needed never mind what we wanted.

No.

It was us, it was small and intimate and wonderful and while we didn’t have rings officially – she used her engagement ring and I used my father’s ring that I wore usually on my right hand to complete the vows. I was sure to choose her a ring as beautiful as she was, once we got to London.

She looked so beautiful and shy, nervous but happy, and I felt that she mirrored how I was feeling inside too. My nerves were jumping but in the best way possible.

Afterward we went for a celebratory drink and something to eat, sharing it with Sam and Amelia was lovely, I didn’t know Sam well, but the girls knew each other as well as sisters at this point, and their laughing and whispering kept us both amused as we all got a touch drunk. Shameful behaviour really considering it had not yet gone noon!

Once we reached the train and took our seats in our private cart, I realised that my newly wedded wife was more than a little drunk. I realised it because she kept telling me.

“No really, this is bad I really should have ate something, but I was too excited and happy and this underwear pinches a little as it is so I just…”

I took a bottle of water off the tray that the shop woman passed by with and paid her for it, snatching two glasses as well.

“Shouldn’t that be champagne?” she asked as I handed it to her.

“Probably, but for now let’s just freshen up?” I was on my way to drunk as well, and honestly knowing we were about to travel for hours on end the idea of a same-day hangover just wasn’t appealing, so water it was.

“I wish we could have stayed the night, just to… celebrate properly.” She said as she leaned her head on my shoulder as we passed through a tunnel.

“Hmm me too, but then there is the wrath of Pamela.”

She smirked.

“Yes, the wrath of a pre-wedding Pamela, I feel that is more wrathful than usual somehow.”

“I agree.” I smiled.

“Besides I think there was crafty method to her madness in making her Ladies Maid as her Bridesmaid, I know how to make her look amazing and can you image what some other poor soul would have to listen to if the lace wasn’t draped properly or God forbid her veil sat wrong!”

“Unthinkable!” I joked but wondered if she really was that much of a monster bride. “We will get some time alone tonight though, since we have our own space now that you aren’t staying with Pam.”

“That is true.” She smiled before kissing me on the cheek.

“If she asks you to stay though…”
“I promise I’ll make my excuses, I’m a married woman now, we have responsibilities and all that, don’t we?”

“Married men do too, so I’ll be making my own excuses. Consummating my marriage is much more important than wondering if my bow tie matches Claude’s.” I laughed and then she slipped her bottom lip between her teeth in thought.

“Hm.”

“Hmm?” I asked.

“Who says we have to wait until tonight to…consummate anything.”

I was confused, and I suppose I looked it too. That was until she got up and pulled down the blinds on the glass windows of our doors and side windows of the carriage.

“Oh… Oh!”

She smiled.

“Well? What do you say, Mr Northman, fancy being adventurous?”

With her, it was not really a question.

“But what if someone walks in?” I asked and she just shrugged.

“I don’t really care, we’re married, just married, and it’s allowed.”

We were in public, it really wasn’t, but I wasn’t about to say no to her, not like this.

She came over to me then and grabbed the newspaper from my hands and put it down on the seat, she leaned over and kissed me then, but pulled back to begin unbuttoning her coat, shrugging it off and then she started in on her blouse.

We were really doing this. In public.

My heart started to race, not only at the sight in front of me but also at the idea that at any moment, anyone could walk in.

“Do you want to?” She asked even closer now as she says this, her full lips ghosting over mine ever so slightly, her fingers curling around the back of my neck

I simply nodded; unable to really find the words for much I wanted what she was offering me. Still, the idea of being caught was exciting, but also so dangerous.

“Are you sure you –”
“I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t sure. Surely you know that by now.” She grinned pushing me back, further into the seat before straddling my waist. Before hiking up her skirt so, it fell around us, covering us up for the most part.

She directed my head to her neck, moving her head to one side to allow me to nip and suck at the delicate skin. Her fingers pick up speed in undoing a few buttons of my shirt, and then starting in on my trousers. I was taking deep breaths to calm myself as best I could, not that anything could work with her above me like this, her breasts peeking out from her half opened blouse, nipples hard and visible through her silk camisole.

I relished her passion, it was one of the most intriguing things about her, and like this, she was truly in her element. I moaned in surprise, her aggressive kisses were wonderful, even more so when she snaked her hand into my underwear, pushing it all down to get a better grip, and when she did, she did so with such gusto that I was left just a little breathless.

I tugged her underwear aside then, trying not to get too lost in my own feelings of pleasure.

Her breath hitches as I slowly stroke two of my fingers inside her, her own fingers then grasping onto the material of my shirt as I plough further inside her, pulling back, pushing in, all in the aims of readying her for what was to come. I never liked the idea of her being uncomfortable during something so wonderful, this helped her every time to adjust and relax more than when we just went for it without any sort of foreplay at all.

“You seem eager, my wife.” I said as she slowly grinded her lower half against mine, repeatedly, causing the most amazing friction between us. She just laughed and grabbed hold of my sex again, causing me to moan louder than I meant to.

“Just a tad eager, husband, now hurry up before someone comes in!” She said in a hurried whisper that made me a laugh.

“I never thought we’d resort to a ‘quickie’ on our wedding day, my love.”

She grinned.

“Me either, but needs must.”

“And you must need me rather badly to do this here.”

She just rolled her eyes as she moved forward to allow me to push inside of her.

Heaven.

All I could do was try to contain my moans, as she buried her face in my neck too to try to do the same. Her panting and sweet words, and the way she would say my name in such a way… it was almost too much.

Burying my face in her sweet smelling neck once more and then to her breasts is when things started to go a touch blurry for me. It was mostly feelings, of her skin on mine, the heat of being inside her, the warmth of her breath as we broke between kisses to breathe in the hopes of not passing out from the excitement of it all. All kinds of feelings passed though me though as we quickly brought each other to our much wound up climax. It felt like love. It felt so real, and it was now, real and true and not something, we had to hide from anyone ever again.

She was my wife, and I was her husband.

Amazing the difference a few hours could make, wasn’t it?

When we had finished she looked at me from the same position, her face and cheeks pink, her hair no longer pristine, she had that sleepy satisfied look too, one I was sure I mirrored.

She just giggled as we awkwardly pulled away from each other, trying to put ourselves back together.

“I need to use the rest room… to clean up.” She said as she stood, with no mirror either, she could not really put her hair to rights. I would need to clean up too, but, ladies first.

I stood up and tucked some stray hair behind her ear before I leaned to kiss her.

“Hurry back.”

She smiled, and with that she was out the door with that naughty grin plastered all over her face.

We just had sex.

We just had married sex, in public, on a train.

I think I was still chuckling to myself by the time she got back. If this was to be any indication as to what our married life would be like, I could not wait!


Chapter 35: Chapter 35


A/N: Happy Friday guys! It’s snowing like crazy here, and our delayed freeze has come, sadly! Anyways I have a chappy of WAH done and dusted, so enjoy and let me know what you think if you’d like! Reviews / messages are appreciated as always and if there are any questions you know I’ll do my best to answer! 🙂


Sookie:

When we got off the train both of us were a little too giddy, everything was funny including the funny looks the majority of the people we passed were giving us. We didn’t care though, I was floating on a cloud I was so content and he looked to be feeling the same things. Life was rarely kind and in this instance I think we were both simply just making the most of the kindness we had finally been dealt.

Eric had the London house opened up for us, there was staff there that I hadn’t met before, and there was no Sam or Amelia to soften the blow of this new set up. Eric assured me they were new for a reason, and while it took me a second, I finally figured out why.

The old ones knew me as Sookie the maid, these ones were to know me as Mrs Northman.

That in itself would take a lot of getting used to, but I was thankful for the reprieve from the stress of Scotland.

“We’re home.” He sighed happily as he flopped himself down on the freshly made bed that would be now ‘our room’ while we were here. I took the time to look out the window, it was snowing still, but less heavy than when we reached the station. Thankfully, the fire in the room was heating up the space nicely. I sat on the windowsill and smiled at him, as he looked at me upside down, from where he laid.

“You happy to be here?” He asked.

“I am. I’m nervous… about where we go from here though.”

He smiled before he got up and came over to sit next to me. It was a tight fit so I almost ended up on his lap. Perhaps that was his intention.

“My love, that’s normal. I am a little nervous too, but I know you can do this, that I can do this with you. We’re strong apart, as individual people, but together…” he blew some air between his lips, “I think we could rule the world if we wanted to.”

I laughed.

“This is what sex does to you, Eric. It makes you think you’re king of the world or something.”

He gasped.

“You mean… I am not? Well, damn.”

I rolled my eyes but before I had the chance to speak again I was hoisted up and thrown rather unceremoniously on the bed.

“What the hell…”

He was on top of me in seconds, that same goofy smile on his face.

“I’m the king of your world, right?”

“Psh…”

With that, he tickled me and I squirmed.

No! Don’t. Do not.” I said trying to wriggle away, but to no avail. There was a six four Swede on top of me after all.

“Okay fine, you win! You win!” I said laughing as he finally moved off me.

We both sighed happily, just lying there for a bit.

“I still can’t believe Pam is doing this. Marrying Claude for money.”

With that, I scoffed.

“Eric, seriously? She is really not the first woman to marry a man for his or her own money, and he’s not the first man. I mean, at the very least they are being honest about it. And it’s their own money; they just have to jump through stupid hoops to get it.”

Parents.

If I had kids and had money, they would earn it sure, but not by putting a ring on someone else’s finger by a deadline.

“I know you’re right, I do. I just suppose…”

“That you’re a hopeless romantic deep down and want to believe people only marry out of love?”

He shrugged.

“There are so few of us left.” He grinned and I was glad we were keeping things playful. I checked the clock on the mantel, before pulling myself away.

“We must change if we want to make it there for dinner.”

He groaned.

“No let’s just stay here and consummate some more.”

“Are you going to keep calling it that? You’ve been calling it that since the train.” I slapped his hand away sitting up straight.

He wriggled his brows.

“We don’t have time!” I laughed as he tried to get handsy again. We really did not have the time for it right then.

“Screw Pam…”

I moved then, holding his chin, making him face me as I got in close.

“I. Already. Have.” I said pointedly before I kissed him quickly, he pulled back with a laugh.

“Well, that’s more than Claude will ever be able to say.”

With that, we took our silly mood to get changed to meet the woman that half created Pam.

Can you say ‘gulp?’.

Meeting Pam’s mother was an experience to say the least. She was in love with Eric and asked him three times before we even sat down why ‘he wasn’t the one’ marrying her daughter. She stood tall and proud and had that elegance about her that very few women processed naturally. Now I knew where Pam got it. I wanted to like her, but after her third attempt at getting Eric to ‘change Pam’s mind’ I was somewhat annoyed at her brashness. Excuse me, lady but he’s taken, is what I wanted to say. Of course, I did not say it but I did scoot her the evil eye every now and again as she gushed over my husband with glee. Eric being Eric though, he tried to keep her in place, holding my hand through the entire conversation was something I appreciated but not really something she seemed to notice. Shortly after we arrived, Pam then came to our rescue or at the very least my rescue and dragged me upstairs to try on my dress for a final time. She assured Eric that Claude would be along soon and he would have his final fitting.

“My mother loves Eric, in fact if she could have adopted him at eighteen I think she would have.” Pam said with a sigh. “Then we took off around the world, and she became even more annoyed at me, I stopped trying to understand her a long time ago.”

“Does she understand you though?” I asked admiring my dress on the hanger in her dressing room.

“To an extent. Though I wager most parents do not understand their children, it is certainly vice versa for me.”

“Does she understand why you’re marrying Claude is what I want to ask.”

“Oh, well…” She sighed again, picking at the dress and smoothing it down. “I think she does. She’s not the kind of woman to talk about sexuality, sex or even kissing out loud. So, if she does know, she won’t say a thing either way. It takes you a few minutes after meeting Claude with his defenses down to know where his choice in bed mates lies.” She shrugged. “But, she’ll never say. I don’t care either way, I’m marrying him so we can both secure our lives, and that’s what matters.”

I nodded.

“How are things with you and Eric? Like I really need to ask, the look on your faces when you came in, all rosey cheeked and smiling.”

“Pam, it is winter, and there is snow falling, no wonder our cheeks were red.”

“Well, in my head that’s not the reason.” She pouted playfully and I just finished trying on my dress. It fit perfectly but she still had to inspect it.

“Oh, please.”

With that, Eric poked his head around the door.

“Pam, your mother wants to sit down for dinner… so… I’ve been sent to fetch you.” He smiled, clearly enjoying her discomfort.

“Jesus help us.” She said letting down the lace at the back of my dress, allowing me to step out of it with ease. Eric just grinned again before he disappeared.

Dinner was a bit of a disaster.

Eric:

Dinner was a calamity. I knew Vivian could be sharp as a whip when she wanted to be, but it was clear she smelled a rat where this marriage to Claude thing was concerned. No matter how many times Pam assured her that had his own money, in buckets; she was convinced there was something ‘off’ about it.

How she did not know that the off smell she smelt was both of them lying to everyone, I’ll never know. That was not the half of it though, when she turned her attentions to Sookie and I, well that is when things got intense.

“So, Sookie, how does one go from being my daughter’s maid to on the arm of Eric Northman?

Sookie looked to me, her cheeks pink.

“Actually Viv…” I began but she cut me off.

“I was talking to Sookie.”

I forgot Vivian could also be a first class bitch when it suited her.

“I wish I could tell you, Ma’am…”

“Vivian, please.” She corrected her.

“Vivian.” Sookie corrected herself. “But we just clicked, I suppose you could say, and being without each other was too difficult.”

“Despite your status?”

Sookie smiled, it was the same nervous fake smile she used around Dawn.

“Despite that.” She chewed her meat discreetly before continuing. “My circumstance changed a great deal in a short period of time, some of which I’m sure Pam has told you?”

Viv then looked to her daughter with a sigh.

“No, my daughter doesn’t tell me much of anything, ever.”

“Oh…” Sookie added awkwardly. “Well, I come… originally from a well-to-do family I guess you could say, Ma…Vivian, in Louisiana, my Grandfather was a well-respected man who even became Mayor of our little town back home before he passed, and my Grandmother on my Father’s side was very involved with the town and the church.”

That peaked her interest.

“Continue.”

Sookie took a deep breath.

“And my parents, while they came from a little money, wanted to invest and grow the town too… in business. My mother and father opened a modest, but very popular bakery in Bon Temps for a time, before they too passed on.”

“Interesting… very interesting. Pam did tell me for a time you had fancied the idea of baking.”

She nodded.

“I did, I still do… but I’ve had some problems with my hands for some months now, it makes it a little more difficult to do it all myself. But, while we were in Paris I was earning from it and experimenting with flavours, which I loved to do.”

“And now? Now you marry Eric and give that all up?”

I bristled in my seat. She really was stirring the pot, wasn’t she?

“I don’t really know, perhaps.” She looked to me and I had to step in then, Vivian was being too hard on her and I did not like it, not one little bit.

“And do you two plan on being wed soon?” She asked and I took this one.

“Sooner than you may think.”

“Well, you’d need to get a move on, if this nonsense with Pamela has taught me anything it is that these things take so much time to plan these days. When I wed her father it was two weeks tops and everything was very simple but elegant, not this over the top nonsense that Pam insists upon.”

Pam rolled her eyes.

“I only plan on having one wedding, why shouldn’t I make it fantastic?” She argued and they got into then, leaving Sookie and I out of it.

Thankfully.

Taking the motorcar back to Niall’s London house that night, just the two of us, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief. Sookie had noticed the tension but had remained patient and graceful even under the fiery breath of Vivian.

SPOV:

When we got back to the privacy of our own place, we took to our bedroom where our nightcap of lemon tea was delivered by Mary.

She asked if I wanted her to help me undress, to which Eric promptly answered making her and I blush.

“No, Mary, she has me for that tonight.”

Mary left the room promptly. I tried my best to chastise him, but as always, I could not stay too mad at him for long at all.

He kissed my neck as I took off my necklace, undoing my dress from behind.

“Someone’s eager.” I said with a giggle.

“Mmm.” He whispered in to my neck. “For you, always.”

By the time we were both down to our under clothes, he had a curious look on his face just as we got into bed.

“Something wrong?” I asked, propping myself up on my hand facing his side of the bed as he got in too.

“I don’t know, I sort of regret the train sex.”

That surprised me.

“Why?”

“Well, for your wedding night, I should have been more. It should have been more… romantic or something, shouldn’t I have planned something –”

“Love, we’ve both done the big wedding, and we’ve both done the big leading up to sex wedding night. Sure, there might have been roses last time and romantic lighting, but the end result was a lot less pleasurable than any encounter I ever had with you, with ring or without.”

With that, he tried to contain his grin, but failed, he failed hard.

“Stop laughing.” I said, slapping him playfully.

“I’m sorry I can’t help it, it’s just good to know that’s all.”

“Men, I swear to God, it’s not a competition!” I sighed.

“No, of course it’s not, because I am clearly not only the saner of your two husbands thus far in life, but I am arguably the more attractive, more attentive, more a… something that starts with ‘a’ that makes me an awesome lover.”

I couldn’t help but giggle at his way with words, I liked that we could be this relaxed and real with each other, another vast difference from my ‘first’ marriage.

“It was awful truth be told, horrid really.”

“It’s wrong and I shouldn’t want to pry…”

“But you’re a nosy so and so and really want to?” I asked as he moved the blankets around us a little more.

“You don’t have to talk about it.”

I just shook my head; thankfully, I was detached enough from that other life now that it really did in a way, feel like it happened to someone else.

“Bill wasn’t a huge fan of touching, violently he sure knew all the spots to hit where the bruising would be minimal, but sexually, intimately, he was clueless. My first time ever was obviously with him, and I was as green as the grass on the hill.” I sighed. “I was that naïve. My Grandmother never spoke of sex, and my friends knew as little as I did, so the wedding night for all that I was imagining, it was nothing of the sort really. He was a little drunk, I was not drunk enough. He tore at my dress and my underwear so harshly that he cut me before we even got naked. When we did, he sort of examined me, like you’d do a horse you just bought at a sale.” I sighed again, remembering it so clearly it almost made me angry at how stupid and uninformed I was. I was barely eighteen; I should give my former self a break.

“Needless to say when we got ‘down to business’, it wasn’t pleasant and it certainly didn’t last any longer than ten minutes at most, I was left sore and messy, and so beyond confused about it all.”

“Sookie…” He began with a sympathetic look on his face. It was not necessary really, but sweet all the same.

“Not much changed in our lives when it came to sex, for the first few years I was just ‘there’ but not really there, you know?”

He nodded.

I broke myself out of memory lane; it was not healthy to go back there, not at all.

“Anyway, that was the past and I certainly don’t intend on repeating any of it, so trust me, our train sex was wonderful for what it was. Fun, sexy, spontaneous, against everyone’s rules…”

“A little like us in general then.”

“A little like us indeed.”

We did not consummate that night, instead choosing to just talk and plan and cuddle with nothing lighting the room around us except for the glow of the fireplace across the room.

The next morning however, it was only right to consummate some more. I made him promise then to stop calling it that once and for all!

“You know, you two really should be more careful.” Pam advised.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean all this fucking that you’re obviously partaking in, I mean I know you both aren’t exactly traditionalists and that’s fine, but the scandal of a bump in the wedding pictures might be harder to live down than your secret past.”

“I’m not pregnant.”

Yet.”

I didn’t make eye contact, but I knew she was right.

“Well, I’m not.”

“You sound somewhat bitter about that fact or am I picking it up wrong?”

“No, I’m not bitter…” I was scared though.

“But you are … apprehensive?”

“What if it doesn’t happen?”

“Oh, psh, Sookie…”

“No, seriously Pam. He and I have been… sexing it up right nice for a while now and nothing, not so much as a missed… monthly.”

She pursed her lips as our car came to a halt, her driver helping us both out to the snowy streets of London. We were shopping and picking up the last of the wedding items.

“My darling, it will happen when it’s meant to.”

“But that’s my point, after everything what if it’s not meant to. I’m an ex liar who murdered her husband and he’s a widow and you know, maybe God is just sitting up there and saying ‘well none for you, you horrible woman you!’ What if that!” I whispered harshly, more mad at myself than anything.

She sighed.

“Honey, it’ll happen, and with the rate you two have been going at it, I’d wager soon.”

We walked up Oxford Street and the flurry of people never ceased to amaze me, in and out of stores, boxes, bags, Ladies and Gents just about everywhere you looked. As much as I didn’t feel like I had earned the right to spend his money, his insistence teamed with Pam’s, as well as the reality that I did indeed need to dress for the part I now played helped me give in. We hit Selfridges with a bang and of course Pam was greeted like their lifelong friend, most of the staff in face were on first name basis with her. I shuddered to think how much of her fortune she had sunk into places like this. If her wardrobe and shoe collection were anything go by, it was an awful lot.

“I like these, and these. Red suits you ever so much, and Eric likes red.” She said as I browsed.

“Well, he’s not the one wearing it is he; he’d look awfully funny in a drop waist silk dress.” I giggled as picked up some sweet necklaces. In two hours I had bought six items, to Pam this ‘wasn’t near enough’. Apparently, I needed a new coat, but nothing jumped out at me. I would be needing something extra warm, my first Winter in England taught me that, my first in Scotland more so.

“What about some lingerie?” She wriggled her brows at me with a whisper in her voice.

“Oh I don’t…”

“Okay so not for you, for me, for my wedding night.” She commented as we browsed that section, imported French this, Italian that. It was underwear, barely there underwear; it baffled me that it cost more than a full dress!

“Pam you do realise…”

“That my husband won’t be the one warming my bed on our wedding night, yes, Darling, I know.” She smirked and I just shook my head. “It doesn’t mean either of us will be going to bed alone, however.”

I just grinned at her, I loved how she just did not care what others thought of her, it still amazed me even after all this time.

“I had to laugh at Eric though; I mean no man has ever had to force me to take their money before. And you’re his fiancée, you really should realise it’s your right, now.”

We were having lunch, and the money subject was still a touchy one for me, even though everyone was official and done, and I was his wife – more than a fiancée, and I was ‘entitled’ to it, it was still a long road from housemaid to Lady with endless funds. It would take a lot of getting used to, and even then I was not so sure I would ever be so used to having access to all that money again.

“Having to ask you to buy him new winter items just to get you to the shops… You would never have to ask me twice. Hell, you’d never have to ask me period, I love to spend.”

“Yes, as proof of your dwindling trust fund, the one you told me would last you years without getting married? What happened to that?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Oh, it’s still there, some of it at least. I was to be damned however if I let that other money just slip through my fingers, darling. A woman in this day and age can never be too thin or too rich, and luckily for me, I’m both.” She cooed and I laughed. There was no shame whatsoever, and I loved it.

“You are bad.”

“To the bone.” She quirked her perfectly shaped brow at me.

“Now, what do we get Eric? What does he want? Besides you in his bed every night.”

I blushed hoping the women at the next table had not heard, I wish I had her scruples when it came to things like this! Or maybe her lack of them would be more precise.

“I think some new scarves and gloves perhaps, and some sweaters… and maybe that lingerie that we were looking at…”

She grinned big and wide.

“That’s my girl!

In between trying on new frocks, and giving the ladies Eric’s measurements for suits and picking up some new ties into the bargain, I managed to slip away from Pam to the jewellery department, I wanted to buy him a wedding band as a surprise. We hadn’t really gotten around to picking out rings, but my engagement ring was really enough, and whatever band he chose to go with that I had no doubt I would love. I was just paying for the purchase when Pam appeared behind me.

“Oh, what did we buy? A new necklace? Some baubles perhaps?” She had a coy look on her face, and I crumbled. I did not know how it was so, but I never really could lie to her.

“I… I… no… It’s just a thing…a small thing it’s really not –”

“Here’s your purchase, Madam.” The girl behind the counter said so sweetly as it was all wrapped up in its box and then in a bag.

“Sookie why are you in the wedding ring section?”

“Am I?” Horrible person.

“Yes.” She sounded out. “Something I should know? You said you both hadn’t planned a wedding yet…Why would you need to be the one picking out the bands alone?”

“I … ” I had nothing.

“Becausewe’realreadymarried. Okay maybe we should head home.”

“Wait, what?”

We stopped short, as she grabbed my arm to still me and make me face my cowardly ways.

“We… sort of eloped before we came to London.”

Her eyes widened with shock. Uh-oh.

“What?! You both got married?!”

“I … well yes we did, but you know… We didn’t want to make it about us, not this week…”

“Sookie…”

“Really, we were going to tell you after, this is your wedding time and we know that, we just didn’t a big fuss.”

She frowned then.

“Sookie, I’m so happy for both of you. Now, tomorrow, whenever you both chose to get married I was and am going to be nothing but thrilled.”

I smiled relieved.

“Really?”

“Yes, silly! Sook, you and Eric, you’re both my family, more so than my biological family you know that by now. I mean, I won’t lie.” She said as she linked her arm with mine as our free hands held our purchases. The rest followed by shop workers taking them to the car for us, I was not so sure I’d get used to that either. “I am more than a little miffed I wasn’t invited.” She sighed but I nudged her.

“We knew you’d make a fuss, it’s your way. And, I say that with love.”

She giggled.

“Oh I know, I make such a fuss over things but it’s just because I care and I don’t care for a lot of people but those I do care about I fuss over, I don’t see it as a bad thing.”

“It’s not. Really. However, it is just now how we wanted things to be. We’d both done the big white wedding and this wasn’t really like that.”

She nodded turning to hug me quickly before we reached her car.

“Well, I am thrilled for both of you, truly.”

I knew she was.

“Now, let’s talk about my big white wedding some more!”

And with that the weight was off my shoulders and it was preparing to hold the weight of her outrageously expensive bride’s maid dress.

Big white wedding indeed I realised as the snow began to fall heavier and heavier!


Chapter 36: Chapter 36


A/N: A new chapter from your insomnia-riddled writer friend. I wonder if we can get this baby to 1000reviews here on FF before it ends. It would be nice, but it’s not essential! All that is essential to me is that you guys are still enjoying this! Thanks for the support, it means a lot, trust me! xo


Sookie:

Sookie! This is insane, we can’t go out in this, and I’ll freeze to death!” Pam bellowed from her bedroom window, she was not entirely wrong either; the snow was covering every flat surface outside.

“I know we’re working on it!” I screamed back, I had been on and off the telephone since eight am trying to find some form of transport that could come and maybe clear the street or something. She had said that money was no object, and so I made sure to let these men know that right off the bat. It wasn’t my money, so I didn’t mind if she over-paid.

Thirty minutes of her mother pacing the floor, dripping practically in every diamond known to man – at least in my opinion that’s what it looked like, then listening to Pam bitch and moan, and I already had had enough of this day. I knew Eric was right when he said we’d regret getting out of our nice warm bed to socialize.

He was off with Claude at Claude’s ‘friend’s’ home not far from where Pam’s was, the plan was they would go to the church first, greet the guests and everything and myself, Pam, her cousins and her mother would follow. It was traditional for the bride to be late, but as late as we already were might have been pushing it.

The cousins that had managed to make it from Texas were ones I hadn’t heard about, Maggie who was eighteen, and Ethel-Anne who had just turned twenty, and was on the lookout for a British husband. I wondered then if Claude even had any straight friends.

I hoped for the girl’s sake there would be some handsome men to swoon over, otherwise what was the point of wedding at all if not to pair off yet more people.

They both swooned over Eric though, that much was abundantly clear, when he dropped me off that morning, they were both practically falling over themselves to talk to him. It made him blush, that’s how obvious they were being. As such their crush on him rendered me the enemy.

I found it hilarious.

They had been staying the week with friends, catching up with girls they went to boarding school with who had subsequently married and moved here. I guess even snotty girls like Pam’s cousins needed a break from their ‘Aunt Viv’ too at times, I knew I for one would be needing a rather large, life-timed, sized break from her after this.

The woman was exasperating.

An hour and a half later, we made it to the elaborately decorated church ‘on time’. The snow in London had been a record fall, people were panicking, stores were starting to shut, the roads were a nightmare, but no Pam’s over the top wedding would go ahead, she claimed if she had to walk there, she would. When I saw her in her dress and sparkling jewellery, I knew why, she was stunning. She was the quintessential modern bride, so far ahead of her time she had her dress and head-wear in styles that had just come from Paris and New York, she was swinging into the 1920s well ahead of everyone else. Of course she was, it was Pam.

Eric, Claude, and his friend who’s name escaped me looked so dapper in their suits and top hats, and I had to admit a hell of a lot warmer than the rest of us in our silk and lace. Thankfully, our fur coats, borrowed from Pam for the occasion were permitted until we got to the church, I never knew one woman to own so many, let alone so many white furs. I cringed to think what poor animal I was wearing for the occasion.

The wedding went off without a hitch, of course they were both up there lying their asses off, but I was sure now that they weren’t the first couple to enter into marriage telling a false story, and I knew they certainly wouldn’t be the last.

The reception was held at the luxurious and high society filled Langham hotel, I had been told that Royalty for all over the world had dined and stayed there, so of course it would have to do for our Pam. It was intimidating and awe inspiriting all at once, needless to say no expense was spared for them, after all they were footing the bill themselves and wanted the best party in the best place available. For them this was it and I couldn’t argue with their choice, everything down to the high hung chandeliers, to the dinning cloths, to the very chairs, it was all first class. If there was thing better than first class even, I imaged this would fit that grade.

By dinner, the majority of the higher-class guests had smoozed and boozed their way around, Pam and Claude had painted such a dramatically attentive picture of what they were like as a couple that Eric commented that Pam was lost to being a society girl, her true talent lay with acting. I had to agree with him, both of them really, were selling it to everyone and everyone was just lapping it up. Eric and I kept lower key than our couple of the hour, preferring to dine at our table with a handful of Claude’s friends, most of whom did not speak any English, and so they too just kept to themselves. We liked it this way, no real attention was drew to us, other than the odd person spotting Eric and just pushing themselves in to talk to us. I was introduced as his wife for the first time to strangers that night, and it made my heart beat a little faster when he would take my hand so gently and say that this, Sookie Stackhouse was his wife.

He received many strange looks of course, before they found their game faces a second or two later, and before when I was a nobody just at his table, they didn’t give me a second glance. Now though, that I was a ‘somebody’ to them, they were tripping all over themselves to kiss my hand and tell me how beautiful I looked and what a great job the girls did with Pam at the wedding. All of them had one thing in common though, besides the air of pompousness that reeked from them. They all looked me up and down and each and every one of them rubbed in that I was ‘a lucky girl’ or a ‘lucky one’ to have ‘nabbed Northman’ like I had ‘somehow managed to do in tying him down’. They all put in their little digs on how I just was not up to snuff for their Mr Northman. At first, I cared, at first, Eric could see it in my face and would counteract with something sweet and funny, like he was the lucky one really and how he had courted me and practically had to beg me to marry him. It didn’t matter to them, I knew they were looking at me like I wasn’t one of them, that or they were looking for a baby bump to see if we had resorted to a shot-gun wedding like I knew they also assumed. However, as the night wore on, my husband danced me off my feet, and we downed some of the best and presumably the most expensive champagne known to man, I found the more I drank the less I cared. A motto once adopted by my crazy Aunt Linda, before she succumbed to alcohol poisoning when she was in her thirties.

Probably not the best motto to adopt then, in that case, I thought.

I was sure that Pam’s mother was judging us from afar, but neither of us cared, even if it was not just Vivian who cast a judgemental eye on us that evening; I figured I might as well get used to it. The whispering would start about my past, both the real one and the made up one. I imagined there would be a game of Chinese whispers almost in the origins of the stories about the new Mrs Northman – the woman with a closet full of skeletons, who would one day become Lady of the manor, so to speak.

And yet as my anxiety levels rose at the idea of this happening, as I left the wedding that night with my husband, happy and content, I found that it mattered very little to me what the snobbish contingent of London thought of me. It only really mattered what he thought, and what the people I loved thought of me, and as far as that went, I was secure in the knowledge that they loved me for who I had become, what I had been through, and how I had come out the other end in one piece.

The rest of them could take a long walk off several short cliffs for all I cared!

By the time we got to the London house that night, neither of us had energy for much else other than sleep, and for once I was glad. I was exhausted, and I knew he felt the same. Strangers really did suck the energy out of you, I realised. You spent so much of your time ‘up’ and being the best you possible, always polite and always sweet, it was tiring. As we all but fell into bed that night I was thankful for the changes that my life had too, ones that I had never expected and some that I wasn’t sure, even now, how I dealt with them. However, thankful I remained all the same. The changes had brought me here, had brought me to him.

And for that how could I be anything but thankful, really?

Eric:

When Sookie and I got back to Scotland it was the morning before Christmas Eve, and the roads were just about manageable with the heavy snowfall. The towns we passed were in the festive mood, more so this year than others, I had noticed. It was probably because of the ending of the war and the huge steps all counties involved were taking in ensuring peace stayed peaceful, but in my head, everyone was happier because I was happier. It was funny, it was as if I had gone through my own personal war during those years, not just the physical one to ensure our freedoms, but a war in my head, a war in my heart, as I slowly found myself that angry reclusive man I had become before Sookie.

I sighed just thinking about it brought back a swell of feelings I had no use for, not anymore. Pam and Claude were off on their fraud honeymoon, both happy as pigs in shit with the outcome of everything, and by everything I mean all the money they would soon fall into. We left safe in the knowledge that she was happy, and for her at least that was the main thing.

“And there used to be a Christmas gathering here?” She asked as we reached our bedroom, I still smiled at the idea of it being ‘our’ bedroom now.

“Yes, there used to be, but for the past couple of years we sort of avoided it at all costs. It was Sophie’s…”

Sookie nodded.

“Go on.”

I shed my jacket and loosened my tie before I sat on the bed.

“It was her favourite thing to do, she lived for it. All the employees would come from town, and from the farms and land, and the staff from downstairs… we’d supply a big dinner for everyone up here in the guest dining room, and then when they left we’d do presents for the staff of the house.”

She smiled.

“That’s sounds lovely, very sweet of her.” Sookie smiled, genuinely as she changed from her boots into something more house friendly.

“It was.” I remembered fondly my first ‘Sophie Christmas’; it was an experience that is for sure.

“And you don’t want to continue that?”

I shrugged.

“We were all a little lost after… everything. Neither of us felt much up to all of it without her.”

“That’s understandable I suppose.”

“You think we should?” I asked her as she came and sat next to me, the train had tired us both out, and not from train sex, this time.

“Perhaps. But I’m not going to butt in on this subject, not when we’ve been married five minutes, it’s not my place.”

“How is it not your place? Five minutes or not, you are still my wife and have every right to change things if you want. I wouldn’t stop you.”

She kissed me sweetly then, on the cheek.

“That’s nice of you to say, but after all this is still Niall’s home and while he has warmed to me a little, I am certainly not going to push things.”

She was so logical and cute when she thought like this, her mouth all twisted and her hands flailing.

“I would like our first Christmas together to be a happy one, Sookie. I know it will be regardless, but if this is something you’d like to do…”

“Not really for me, more so for everyone else, I heard Mrs Fortenberry talk about it once, I got the end of the conversation so I wasn’t so sure of the details, but apparently it was something everyone looked forward to.”

“How about I talk it over with Niall, see what he thinks, and if he’s not against it, we’ll throw something together?”

She smiled.

“I know it would mean a lot to them, that’s all.”

I knew that too, and in truth, we had things to celebrate this year unlike the other years, I felt like it would be the perfect way to cement how things would go from now on. I wanted to be involved in the community, with the employees that I needed to get to know better, and it might even lift Niall’s spirits too.

I hoped they would in the very least.

I found him in his library, deep in thought with his paper in hand, his gaze fixed firmly out his window.

“Niall?”

It snapped him out of it.

“Eric, my boy, you’re back then!” He said attempting to stand, but thinking better of it and sitting back down again.

“You’ll have to excuse me; I am ever so tired these days.” He spoke softly. It was strange, in just a few days I had noticed his deterioration.

“Never worry about that, it’s only me, and you know you don’t need any airs or graces when I am around.” I laughed, patting him on the shoulder so he would not feel bad. I hoped he did not.

“How was London? How was Pam’s elaborate lavender marriage?” He smirked.

“Read all about it then?”

With that he laughed. “Oh Eric, it’s in every paper from here to China I would imagine. They do make a handsome couple I will give them that. Such a waste of a pretty woman however, to a man that will never touch her like she deserves.”

I shook my head.

“And you know as well as I do Niall, if Pam wanted a man, she’d have one, hell, she’d have us all if she wanted.”

He nodded then.

“This is true.” With a sigh, he put his paper down. “Well, whomever she chooses to fill her bed, better be worthy of her, is all I can say. That woman is a riot.”

We talked a little then on London and the changes. Of how all his old friends sent their well wishes to him through me, and they longed to have him back down there, raising hell with them. I knew and he knew he probably was not up for that again, the journey alone would be too harsh on him.

Still, the hope lived.

“And you and Sookie?”

I smiled then giving myself away.

“My God, you look like a kid who got all his Christmases at once. Is she really that amazing a woman?”

“She is, and I hope you’ll get to know her as I do… since we’re married an all.”

He did a double take at me then, before he pierced his lips together.

“So you went ahead with it. This is where I say congratulations then?”

“Only if you mean it, if you don’t mean it, don’t say it. I will not be offended if you are not happy for me, for us. I’m happy enough for everyone involved, but if you are and you mean it, by all means…”

He stood then, slowly, but surely, he stood up. I followed his lead, and for the first time since I had met him, he moved in to hug me. It was tentative and guarded of course, manly above all else, but the gesture was there, and it was not something lost on me by a long shot.

Then he smiled.

“I say congratulations then because I do mean it. I knew my Sophie made you happy and you made her as happy, but it like her it was too short lived. You did, and you do deserve someone who will make a life with you. I am glad, though I may have a hard time admitting it… I am glad you’ve found someone kind and smart… not bad looking either.” He grinned. “Not that I was eyeing up your wife or anything, Eric.”

I smiled back. Twenty years ago though, it might have been another story.

“That means a lot coming from you.”

He nodded solemnly and sat back down with a ‘huff’ sound, his chest was in trouble now too it seemed.

Before I left the room we talked about Christmas, and he agreed eventually, siting it to a ‘we need to make the girl feel welcome now don’t we?’, and finishing off with ‘let her do what she wants, she’s a woman she will in the end anyhow.’ I took it as a win, for both of us and went off in search of Sookie. Unsurprisingly I found her in the study downstairs, by the fire with Thor at her feet and a book in her lap, she looked so at home there, so much more so than she ever did in that uniform.

“Christmas is a go.” I confessed sitting down next to her, the glow from the fire hitting my face nicely.

Her eyes widened.

“Really?”

“He seems more than fine with it, he even said he’d try and pick himself up to attend whatever we want to plan.”

She seemed excited at this prospect.

“Oh that is good news, Eric. It might lift his spirits to see everyone from town that knows him, that has worked for him for so long too.

I agreed with her and told her all the things that needed to be done before we invited people. It was usually Christmas Eve, so we were really cutting things fine in terms of ordering in the food, drinks, and everything we normally did from Glasgow for the occasion. I knew in order to get it all here in time someone would have to go and bring everything back.

Sookie looked shocked at the amount of stuff that needed to be done, but never one to back down from a challenge she stood right up and literally rolled up her sleeves.

“This means I get to see the locked ballroom, doesn’t it?”

She was right, that had been locked from view since Sophie had died. It was in there we had our wedding dance, in there we had every Christmas dance. I was not even sure where the key was.

“That it does, it’ll need cleaned too, I think… I think Mr Dearborn has the key.”

“Of course, right of course. And the guest dining room too will be needing aired out. Oh, finally something to do!” She said putting down her book, and walking to the window before she stopped.

“Not that I am bored or anything…” she backpedalled but I found it only adorable that she thought to do so for me. I knew she was bored, even being back mere hours, Sookie was a woman that liked to keep busy, and going for a hundred miles an hour as one of the staff to barely moving as my wife, well it was more than understandable to say the least.

“It’s okay if you are you know, I understand that this is a …an adjustment too for you.”

She sighed.

“I am used now, just so used to being useful.”

“I know, but I want you to relax… but now there is this to organise, I mean I can send the order for the refreshments and everything now, send someone to pick it up, but everything else that needs to be done here…”
“I’ll do it. Or I’ll rope everyone in downstairs to help. You, go telephone whoever needs to be telephoned and I!” She sing-songed her ‘I’. “Will run downstairs and get everyone on board.”

I just laughed at her enthusiasm, and for a second it brought me back to Sophie, they shared the same big hearted nature and now it seemed they shared a love for celebrating others. My father always said I had questionable tastes in women, but I liked to think that now I had more than proved him wrong.

I had married two women that were the most unselfish I could find. It inspired me to check myself in terms of my own self involvement too, since our first meeting that was sure of Sookie and I. she had forced me to look at myself and my choices even when I clearly didn’t think I could. She forced me to come back to the land of the living.

Thank God for her, I thought. Moreover, I would thank God for her, every day I woke up beside her.

I went with her, downstairs for moral support more than anything. Well that and to ask if I could have some apple tart for dessert that evening, the one made here almost rivalled Sookie’s.

It was funny, being able to walk down there with her, being able to hold her hand as we took the stairs as steep as they were. I still did not know how everyone had the energy to fly up and down there all day at the speed they did, and with the amount of items they had to bring up and down too.

It was luncheon time for them which meant ours would be soon after, we both felt bad as they one by one noticed us standing there.

Mrs Fortenberry was the first to stand, then Mr Dearborn, then the cooks whose names escaped me but I wanted to make sure they knew that I of all people enjoyed their work. Next, there was Remy, Millie and then Sam who was next to Amelia, she beamed as she saw Sookie, and Sookie beamed right back.

One was missing.

Trey. He had been helping himself to more stew, walking in with his plateful when he saw us. His face changed colour slightly.

It was funny.

I really wished things were a lot less formal here than they were, I felt our lives in general would be a lot more relaxed if they didn’t look like they were about to tip over every time they saw one of us somewhere weren’t ‘allowed’.

“We’re so sorry for interrupting you all again, please take your seats.” I said as Sookie looked up to me with a smile, then back to Ames. The one friendly face in the crowd, I imagined.

“We just came to tell you something… Sookie?”

With that, she looked shocked back at me; I guess she figured I was not going to let her tell them. I just nudged her playfully and they all noticed.

“Oh, right, well. Here is the thing… Christmas … the Christmas thing. The dinner…thing.”

She was losing her nerve, I put my hand on her back to try to give her some non-verbal reassurance. She could do this.

“Basically,” she began again, “Lord Niall has expressed his desire to have the Christmas Eve gathering this year, again.”

With that the table began ruffling with looks to each other, nods and eyebrow quirks.

“We’ll be needing Sam and Remy to go to Glasgow in the morning to fetch the foods, and I’ll need Amelia and Millie upstairs to get everything sorted if that’s okay?” She asked looking to Mrs Fortenberry. Who in all honesty looked a tad taken aback by her bravery.

She delivered that strong and natural, only I noticed that her hand was shaking and that is only because I was still holding it. Signs of affection were not something I was willing to stop just because Sookie’s former co-workers may judge us for it, we were married we could do what we liked where we liked from now on.

“Well, Ms Stackhouse –”
“Mrs Northman. Mrs Fortenberry, if you don’t mind.”

Now even that surprised me, she said it with such confidence; I think I even saw her straighten up her posture.

I beamed as big as Amelia was from the other side of the table. It was clear from everyone’s faces that she hadn’t spilled the beans, that too surprised me.

They talked logistics for a few minutes more before all parties decided that ‘it was sorted’. Sookie was happy; there was pep in her step. She liked making people happy, and every formerly grumpy face at that table now had a smile.

Job done.

We left the kitchen happier, but quickly none the less. Just before Sookie called back.

“Oh, just for the record, he hasn’t married me because I’m pregnant, so let’s stop that little rumour from spreading before it starts.”

With that she hightailed it up the stone steps when we got to the top of the stairs she started laughing.

“She probably things I’m a stuck up little Madam now, I can almost hear her say it…” She chortled. “But God that felt good to say out loud.”

“It felt good to hear, Mrs Northman.”

She grinned as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss me.

“Yes Sir, Mr Northman, it does.”


Chapter 37: Chapter 37


Hey guys! So, does anyone still remember this? I can’t believe it was last updated in December! Shame on me, really! But I’m aiming to wrap this up in three chapters so hopefully now that the goal is set I can find the inspiration from somewhere to give it a good enough ending for the story itself and for you guys reading it! If you’re still with me on this, bless you! It turns out for Sookie being married comes with it’s own set of issues! xo


Sookie:

My first Christmas at the Estate wasn’t the one I had imagined enduring when I first shuffled my way up the seemingly never ending entry path, past the gardens, past the endless trees. It was not the one I could have even dreamed of either, for when I arrived a mere lowly maid, the idea of being Lady of the Manor, quite literally, never once crossed my mind.

Yet, that is exactly what happened.

The day of the gathering was utter chaos, I do not think either Eric or myself, or in fact, the entire household staff had so much as a moment to ourselves until the evening. Everyone had a task, or ten, to take care of and no one was in the mood for dilly-dallying, there was no time even if we’d been in a playful mood. Food was being prepared in every corner of the kitchen; I had been baking up a storm since five am. There was every kind of pie I could think of, including a few Amelia dreamed up. We had cakes, and buns we had muffins and breads. The cooks were dreaming up ways of presenting their food to what basically boiled down to the majority of the village for dinner, sixteen chickens, stacks of trays of beef, game and turkey all graced the pans for frying, roasting and grilling. Utter chaos.

But fantastical chaos.

There were decorations, candles, and well placed lamps in corners so that almost every inch of the grand home could be shown off, apparently it was still one of many things Lord Niall held his pride over, that and his appearance. He had insisted on full dinner garb, even if Eric and I told him it was more casual than formal, he still came down in a three piece suit and his best shoes. He was ill, some might even have said he was on his deathbed, but a man with his pride was a man, in my humble opinion, still full of life.

Seven of the main farmers of the land and their wives arrived, the bar keep, and the tailor and Niall’s GP and their wives too. All the ladies and gents in their Sunday best, looking rather nervous, but I did my best to put them at ease. Even if they looked at me funny and whispered about me behind my back, I had expected that of course. To them I was still Sookie the Maid. Adjusting to being Mrs Northman wasn’t just something that would take me time to do, it was an adjustment for everyone that new me before. However, with Eric by my side, things felt and went a lot smoother. And, by the time we had everyone fed, the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed as the men discussed business and the ladies chattered amongst themselves on all matter of things, from the house to my dress, to Eric and to of course, our wedding.

“Well I think it’s just the most romantic thing, Earl and I, we eloped too.” Sally Watson, Earl Watson’s wife and over all lovely round woman in her late fifties announced. “Family was causing too much of a fuss for us, so off we went.”

“And look at you now, still happy after all these years.” Eric agreed. Earl was a grump, but he was sweet to his wife, holding her hand even at the table, but underneath so we couldn’t see. Nevertheless, I saw, and I thought it was adorable. I gave him extra potatoes for that.

“We just didn’t want a fuss, much like yourselves. And things being as they were, well it seemed like the most peaceful option.”

“I’m sure a big society wedding would have been preferred, much like when Eric married Miss Sophie.”

With that, I internally clenched. Of course she would come up at dinner, with basic strangers who all knew and adored her as the real Lady of the house. Eric clasped my hand gently at the mention of her.

“Not at all, Earl I never did buy into the hysteria of big weddings. Besides, we knew Pamela would provide everyone with a lavish winter wedding that would keep them all in gossip for a least a year.” Eric said with such ease and charm, I tried my best to calm myself. I knew these people had immense respect for the family, and of course, for the girl who was the only daughter of the Lord for which they worked. But, much like the looks they gave me when Eric touched me, I would assume their thoughts on me being her replacement – at least to them – would also be something I would have to get used to.

After dinner and drinks there was dancing, so much dancing that my feet ached but it was wonderful and fun, and everyone seemed to have a jolly old time doing Highland flings, and set dancing and all manner of dances I hadn’t seen before. The household staff mixed with the outdoor staff, and the rest of the workers from town, the famers and their wives. Eric was gentleman enough to dance all the ladies from below stairs, being his ever funny, ever charming self and making every last one of them blush and giggle. It really was a sight to behold. Eric attempting to show me how to Highland Fling however was probably a much more comical sight than it should have been. I really was convinced I had two left feet! But attempts were made, and we danced well into the night, all of us, even Mrs Fortenberry wore a smile, and a red cheek as we used up whatever energy we possessed.

When I went for a much-needed breather, I found Niall standing in the hallway, just gazing up at the portrait that hung there, one of his entire family from when his children were small and he stood a tall and proud man in uniform.

“Your Lordship?”

“Oh Sookie dear, I think that time for such address are long past, don’t you?”

I smiled awkwardly, because while they should have been, old habits were hard to break.

“Niall, are you alright?” I said as the music and laughter continued inside the other rooms, we were alone in the large hallway, our stillness such contrast to the life and party going on in the other rooms.

“I was just thinking, this time of year is terrible for such things really.” He sighed. “I miss my wife most this time of year, and now my children too. But do not let me keep you out here with my ghosts, you are doing a wonderful job tonight, Sookie. I’ve never seen Eric smile so much.”

That made me smile, I was glad.

“I was wondering, Sir, if I might have a waltz?” I asked as the recognisable tune to waltz to started up.

“I would never refuse a woman a dance, my dear but I’m afraid in there with all eyes –”

“Out here then? I asked boldly, taking his hand in mine, he took my other and placed it on his shoulder, and we took off gingerly, around in a tiny circle we waltzed.

“I am sorry I was so cold in the beginning my dear, I assumed like most you were after him for the money.”

I frowned.

“I can see why, but I’m glad you now see the truth.”

He nodded.

“I know I have said this before but I really never wanted him unhappy, after Sophie, he was so terribly lost. I’m glad with you he seems to have found his reason for being again.”

“I’m glad too, for he’s my reason now too, for living as I do. I want so badly to make him happy.”

“And he of you, don’t forget that.”

“I just worry… my history… the things that I have gone through I worry for our ability to have children if I am honest.” I didn’t know why I was telling him, but something about that empty echoing hallway somehow made it seem okay to tell him my secrets.

He frowned then.

“Never worry girl, if it is meant to be it will be, if all my years on this questionable earth taught me anything it’s that.”

“I know, I just also know how much he wants it.”

“And do you?”

I did, but the fear of losing again made me unsure.

“I want children, I want Eric’s children more than anything, I just wish there was a guarantee.”

“There are no guarantees in life, Sookie. Not even life itself.” He said quietly as our dance slowed and he took a deep breath. “Thank you for the dance, my dear, and for … all of that tonight. It has truly lifted my spirits.”

“I’m glad, Sir.”

He smiled, softly and quickly, but it was still something that made me proud. Months before I could not nor wouldn’t have gotten as much as a frown from him.

“If you don’t mind I must really take my leave, I am so very tired.”

“I will see everyone out at the end and make sure things are spick and span.”

“I’m sure you will dear, I am sure you will. Bid Eric goodnight for me too, will you?”

I promised I would, and I watched as he slowly made his way up the large staircase alone.

I didn’t know it then, but in a week, Niall would be dead.

EPOV:

“It was a good night, wasn’t it? I think it went well.” I smiled as I hopped into bed with my wife, shutting out the world for the night with her was my idea of heaven.

“It was, tiring but very good. I’m glad everyone had a good time. Even if the ‘yank maid thought much of herself’.” Sookie said rolling her eyes.

“They’ll soon get used to you.”

“They may, to my face, but it’s what they’ll say behind closed doors that annoys me.”

“Does it really?”

“A little. I mean it should not, I know that, but…” she shrugged, “I’ll get used to it.”

I saw her admiring her engagement rings then and it reminded me. So I got out of bed and searched around in my travel bag that still sat on my chair. The box that held her wedding ring was there, so I pulled it out and brought it back to bed with me.

“Merry Christmas, Sookie.” I said with a grin before I planted a soft kiss on her cheek. She looked slightly taken aback but soon smiled to match mine when she opened the box.

“Oh, Eric! I love it.”

“I just wish I had had the forethought of having it before our wedding.”

“That’s what happens when we’re spontaneous my darling. I thought we agreed we weren’t exchanging Christmas presents.”

I huffed out air then, as if she really believed I would agree to such nonsense!

She just rolled her eyes and moved to her bed side table, and opened the drawer.

“Well, it’s just a good job I know you so well isn’t it, husband?” She said with a grin, a sly grin, as she handed me a similar box. A similar box that held my wedding ring, the same shade of yellow gold with a sweet trim pressed into the gold. It was a beauty of a ring for a man.

“I love it.” I kissed her again, this time we let it grow and linger longer than before.

We both pulled apart to admire our new rings, like the fools we were. Sookie let out a slight giggle then.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

I poked her in the side, making her giggle even further.

“It’s nothing, I just… a year ago… I mean my life was the polar opposite of this… I was living in fear. I was living in poverty, and I was tired and feeling so old beyond my years.”

I stroked her cheek then, I hated that faraway look in her eye that meant sad thoughts.

“And now?”

With that she smiled briefly, “Now I’m happier than I ever thought possible, I know I’m loved and I no longer fear the world.”

The world was a kinder place when you had people in your corner that is for sure.

She touched my cheek then, brushing my hair from my eyes, grazing my neck.

“And I know most of that has to do with you”

“I’m glad, really I am, but some of it might be because of me, but most of it – most of it was you and your wit, and strength and fight. Important things and just some of the things that made me fall for you. I just hope those stick with you… I just hope you know that everything else … there’s no pressure.”

I knew her well; we might not have known each other dozens of years like the couples we had spent the evening with, but I felt like I knew her well enough by now to know her worried face.

“Only from myself.” She said with a sigh as we snuggled beneath the blankets finally, I reached over and switched off the light, washing us with darkness.

“Never mind the whispers, Sookie. People talk, it’s what they do, it’s how we pass our time, it never really means anything.”

“I know, I know I should know that by now but still. I can’t help but wanting people to like me for who I am, I’ve always been that way. Now they don’t like me because I was a maid or they don’t like me because I was a maid who became a so-called Lady, or they don’t like me because –”

“Because they’re idiots, idiots we don’t concern ourselves with.” I said giving her a quick reassuring squeeze.

“Yes, you’re right. We must live our lives for ourselves after all.”

I wanted us to take things a day at a time and just live life, live it and do with the flow. It was how I lived before I moved here and met Sophie and became so involved in a ‘society approved’ life. Now, I was old enough to know what I really wanted, and that was on my terms with the people I loved the most. Everything else was just details.

One important detail however came a week later, when I was awakened by a very startled looking Amelia.

“He’s… not… he’s not moving or breathing, Eric. I think he’s –”

And he was. Still wrapped up in his blankets, his hands clasped and looking as peaceful as any person could, but he was indeed dead. Niall’s wake and funeral was one of the largest the area had ever seen, and according to Eric just about everyone alive that knew Niall managed to show up to show their respects, even in the snow and sharp winds, the people showed up in force to give Lord Niall Brigant the biggest farewell they could. While the high society ladies and gents tattled behind our backs, and the towns folk did the same

Flowers came by messenger almost every day while the wake was going on, then after the overtly large funeral there came more, each wreath and bouquet bigger than the other did. The house smelled wonderful for a couple of weeks, but after that, the flowers like the occasion they represented, died and the smell of life died with them. The staffs downstairs were in a daze for a long time afterward, each of them not really ‘themselves’, particularly those who had been working for Lord Niall for the majority of their lives. I barely knew the man compared to them and I was grieving, I could only really imagine what they were going through. I was grieving however, and I was smart enough this time to acknowledge those feelings. Unlike with Sophie and the baby, where I didn’t know what I was experiencing and sort of dug myself my own little hole in the world and stayed there unhappily for much too long. Now though I had the one person who had dragged me all but kicking and screaming from that hole in the world, and she was the bright light of my life, whether she knew it or not.

By Spring Sookie had really come into her own as far as running the house was concerned, she had even decided that twice a week the staff would take off days, it meant they got to have their one day off, but now another that meant she and I were left largely to fend for ourselves on another as well. It meant that she got to teach me about breakfast foods she learned to cook from her parents, I watched her bake, I helped her bake – though I was more a hindrance than a help – but still it was fun and something I loved doing with her. We got adventurous with our cooking then, and she soon was letting me ‘do breakfast’ all by myself, the trust was there, because my Sookie loved her breakfast foods more than life it seemed. The shock on everyone’s face though that one morning they all came back from town, or awoke from their sleep in, and found me balancing a tray of food and tea as I stood there in nothing but my pyjama pants was priceless. It gave me a good giggle watching Mrs Fortenberry avert her eyes while the others simply stared on. I knew internally Sookie’s struggle was still on going, she never brought up the subject but I knew just by how she was, and more importantly how she was when guests would come to stay, particularly ones with children.

By April of that year, after a visit from the Lord Bron Worthington, his wife Marie and their two children for three days to discuss my title exchange and what it all meant for me. It meant the gain of a title, lands and more money than anyone could spend in a lifetime, it was lovely, but unnecessary, as I had sold the factory and business in Sweden. I was now minority shareholder, for the sake of the family name, but I allowed my employees to buy me out and run the printing business as they saw fit. It seemed only fair, I was never there and when I was, I was more of a distraction than a help – much like to Sookie in the kitchen. But there visit left my wife melancholy, and I knew why. The son and daughter of the Lord and Lady had filled the house with life and noise and play. For that weekend Sookie was so involved with Marie and the children, to see them go left her at a bit of a loose end and the pressure she was putting on herself to get pregnant reared its ugly head again.

After working on the facts and figures of the take over with the lawyers for a day. I was weary and beyond ready for something – anything else – to take my mind off of land and business and general responsibilities of that nature when I found her by the stables having a very sweet conversation with Thor and one of the horse, Marbella.

“It’s really not her fault, Thor look how big her feet are. If you were that tall and had that big of feet on you, you’d step on things too. Besides you shouldn’t have been in there with your nose or your poor tail.”

I looked and sure enough, she was inspecting his tail, seemed to be okay from where I was standing but what I gathered was the horse had stood on him.

Not so good.

What was good was Sookie’s connection to my dog, and his to her. Ever since Thor realised the change in relationship with Sookie he had as I had, become rather protective of my wife. She talked to him like she would anyone else, and I think he appreciated that, well, that and the bacon scraps I knew she sneaked to him when she thought I was not looking. However, I figured every dog should have his treats, and if they were helping them to bond who was I to stand in the way.

“Hey?”

She looked at me then and smiled.

A sad smile but an attempt at a happy one.

“There you are, meeting all finished?”

“All finished. I was hoping since it’s a nice evening we might take one of our walks?”

The weather had been typical for Scotland in April for a couple of weeks before, which meant rain and lots of it. It confined us to the house or the car when moving and I knew her love for walking, and I knew I loved to walk with her, so now that the sun was actually shining – setting as it was – it seemed like the time to get back out there.

Thankfully, she agreed and she linked my arm, with Thor following us both as we took off out of the yard and into the grounds. After initially conversing about the weather, the land and my meetings I got around to what I wanted to ask.

“Sookie, are you lonely here?”

She looked at me quickly but then looked away. That was a yes then.

“No … I … I mean… I’m…”

“You are.” I sighed, having hoped this wouldn’t happen but wasn’t all that surprised that it had. Of course she was lonely, her best friend was in another county, her friend was her lady’s maid but married and off with her own husband when not at work, and then there was me. I was filling Niall’s shoes a little too well to start and it all revolved around the estate and land and not my wife. I felt horrible.

“I am. I mean don’t get me wrong I love it here…to an extent, but yes, if this past weekend taught me anything it’s that I’m at a crossroads in my life and I’m lonely in the process.”

I knew the crossroads metaphor was motherhood. It was one road – babies, or another road – no babies.

“Sweetheart –”

“I love you Eric this has really nothing to do with –”
“I know that, I just wish I was… not enough, I don’t want you to just have ‘enough’ I want you to have … well… it all really? Does that make sense?”

She smiled, genuinely then.

“It does and I love you all the more for it.”

“Perhaps if Pam came and stayed a while?”

She sighed.

“Perhaps, but at this point I don’t really think it’s Pam I crave the company of. I want to be pregnant, Eric and I’m not and I think we need to start… I don’t know… fixing that problem.”

“It’s not a problem, not from where I’m standing.”

She sighed again letting go of our linked arms then.

“But it is a problem from where I’m standing. I will be thirty this coming year and that is just… I feel like we are wasting time not knowing. I just want to know at this point. One way or another, can I have your children or not. Waiting each month to see is killing me and the feeling of the stab of loss whenever I take my monthly meaning there is no pregnancy… God you have no idea how frustrating it is.”

I nodded hearing that frustration and pain in her voice was like a knife to the heart. So I did the one thing I could do, I reassured her.

“Okay… Okay.” I took her hands in mine once more. “We’ll give it ’till June, I’ll get everything settled here… and we’ll go to London and find the best doctors we can and we’ll… fix this. How does that sound?”

She nodded squeezing my hands then.

“I just think I’m…”

“It might be me, so do not whatever you do take this as blame and certainly don’t take it alone. I could be… what is the phrase? Firing blanks?” I quirked my brows at that and made her laugh, before she reached out for a hug. We probably looked a sight, standing in the middle of an empty field hugging, but I didn’t care. I lived for her hugs, and her kisses, her all really.

“Until June then.” She stated with a heavy sadness to her voice, it killed me.

“Until June.”

Until June, we tried, repeatedly, often and in various places and positions, and while it was fun and amazing having my wife jump me on a daily basis I know it was all trying to make a baby for her. But June would arrive and the only one that was pregnant around us was Amelia.

Which sent Sookie over the emotional edge.


Chapter 38: Chapter 38


Two in as many days? Clearly it’s the end of the world! Thank you guys so much for the love on the last chapter, it really means a lot in the home stretch! It’s so appreciated you have noo idea! xo


Sookie:

I woke up that morning in the middle of June and just knew that I had reached my limit, I was tired of waiting, tired of wondering and just generally just tired of the whole thing. I wanted to know, and needed to know if I would be having a baby or not, I needed medical evidence to prove that I would or the news to let me down and tell me that I would not. Eric knew by my face that morning that I was done waiting, and his first thing to say to me before we even told each other ‘good morning’ was that he would make the calls. I nodded in agreement, and snuggled with my husband late into that morning, just enjoying our time together, I had plans that day with Ames, we were going into town to get material for some new dresses, and perhaps a new hat for her, as she had a cousin’s wedding that August and wanted to look nice.

“Pam is back in London, so we’ll have time with her next week if that’s what you want? If not I can explain…” Eric suggested after getting off the phone with Doctor Wilson, one of the top fertility doctors in London, apparently. We were booked in, both of us at Eric’s assistance – even though we both knew fine well who the problem was with – me.

“No that’s great. I miss Pam, no matter the circumstance she’s always one to cheer me up.” I nodded folding the bigger blankets for our bed, and putting them on the chair by the window.

“Great. She wants to do dinner and possibly the theatre one of the nights, and apparently there’s a jazz club newly opened that she’s obsessed with and think’s we’d like.” I did like Jazz, I loved it in fact, I also loved that London seemed to offer so many more distractions from my internal emotional battle than Scotland currently did. Maybe that is what we needed, if the news from the doctors was bad, many distractions.

“Fine by me, she’s due to telephone tonight, so I’m sure I’ll hear all of her plans first hand then.”

Eric was busy tying up his riding boots, he was taking the horses out for a decent exercise, Thor would be by his side too I imagined. He looked so dashing in his riding gear, I thought. It took all the resolve I had not to strip us both down to our skin and dive back into bed, but plans were plans, and I didn’t want to let Amelia down on her day off, for once it was about her needs. Not mine.

A concept that continued to be strange to me, my former co-worker was now my employee, my ladies maid and I was the lady. I thought it would be something I would always find strange now, I was glad I found it strange, I figured it would keep me honest, and help me to remember the journey I had taken to get to where I was, to earn a ladies maid of my own, having been one myself.

“I haven’t told her why we’re going to London now, it’s not really her business unless you want to tell her.” He continued as he watched me clean up the room with a somewhat amused look on his face. “Darling you know we have people that do this… right?”

I glared.

“Of course I know. I used to be one of those people.” I sassed making him roll his eyes as he walked toward me.

“Of course. I’m just saying, you can relax, someone will take care of it.”

Someone would always take care of things, if you had enough money there was always someone in the world willing to take care of just about anything for you, for the right price. Just like this doctor in London, I thought.

He grasped onto my chin gently.

“You alright?”

I snapped out of my thought-filled daze with a nod.

“I will be. Sam and Amelia want us over for dinner at six, so as mucky as you’re going to get today… try and show up looking respectable.”

He grinned.

“Of course, you too. I do know how shopping works you ladies up into a tizzy.”

“In town? Hardly. It’s not as if we’re in the city or anything, fabric and food is what we’re shopping for, hardly silver and gold.”

“Well, whatever you bring home I hope you have fun finding it.” With that, he kissed me sweetly, tapping me slightly on the ass with his riding crop making me laugh.

“Oh you like that? Interesting…” He said with a jolly laugh before I all but pushed him out of the room, both of us running into Mrs Fortenberry, who wore, as always, a disapproving look on her face.

“Ahem, good morning.” She said with a scowl.

“Good Morning Mrs Fortenberry, lovely morning for it, eh?” Eric said with the same happy tone, it was almost mocking her grimace; I had to stop myself from getting the giggles.

“Uh, yes… indeed Sir. Sook…Mrs Northman, Amelia is waiting in the kitchen, said you both have… plans?”

Disapproving wasn’t the word. I laughed then.

“We do indeed; tell her I’ll be right out.”

“Amelia is driving, right?” Eric asked, knowing of my lack of co-ordination in that department. I would have to remedy it eventually I knew, but as things stood, Sam or Eric were my drivers and I took full advantage.

By the time, Ames and I got to town it was lunchtime and we were both admittedly starving, so a pub lunch was called for, where I ordered wine and she ordered water. That should have been my first clue.

“I think the blue fitted one in Stevenson’s would be nice on you.” I added on the subjected of dresses for her cousin’s wedding.

“I like it but it might be a bit too fitted.”

“Fitted is good, I mean I’m thankful the fashions are changing and we don’t have rely on those god awful corsets regularly, but still… for such an occasion a little extra security couldn’t hurt.”

She grinned then, her cheeks pinking.

“Sookie I have news, and I’m really excited about it but I’m also really nervous of telling you because I know how much you want … this and I just don’t want to be the insensitive bitch that rubs it in. But I’m excited and I don’t know how to be unexcited.”

I knew instantly then, she was pregnant, of course, she was.

Of course.

“You’re pregnant.” I said, forcing a smile.

“I am!” She said with a slight shout, she was so excited God love her, she was so happy. I couldn’t be grudge her happiness at all and I decided not to be the bitter old bitch that sucked the happiness out of my friend. I plastered on the biggest smile I could think of and I hugged my friend tightly before congratulating her.

“I am so happy for you and Sam of course. This is wonderful news, and I don’t want you nervous because of my… situation.”

She had tears in her eyes, happy tears. I had tears in my eyes that I hoped appeared happy. I really was happy for her, I was just more unhappy for me.

Selfishly of course.

“He’s so excited. Of course he wants a boy and he’s convinced it’s a boy, but I just don’t care either way, I just want a happy baby, and I pray it’s healthy, that’s all I want.”

I nodded before hugging her again; the hug I hoped distracted her from seeing the pain on my face.

“Eric will be thrilled to hear it; he thinks you’re a fantastic couple and was just waiting for the day when he’d get to be a sort of uncle.”

I did view Amelia like a sister, not that Sam and Eric were that close but the men both knew that she and I had been through a lot together too. Unlike my bond with Pam that is steeped in so much pain and suffering from my past, Amelia and my friendship was always one that reminded me of ones I had with girls at boarding school it was innocent and lovely, and based on just being silly together. Even back when we would clean the house together, we spent half the morning messing and dancing like idiots before any work got done. Now, I was late for almost every dinner Eric had hosted because of our chitter chatter, and I would not change it for the world.

“I’m so happy that you’re happy for us, not that I thought you wouldn’t be, but you know what I mean. With everything you’re going through I was unsure if –”

“Never be unsure, Ames. This is a great thing, and something that of course, I wish for Eric and I but that doesn’t mean I don’t wish it for you and Sam! I’m so pleased I’ll get to spoil this little one rotten, because his or her parents are cherished friends.” Amelia was beaming from ear to ear from then on out, and of course, our shopping trip broke down from scattered conversation to baby talk for the rest of the day. By the time I had helped her choose a loose enough dress, hat and shoes for this wedding it was just after four and I was physically and more so emotionally exhausted. She dropped me off out the side of the house, I waved, and smiled as she drove back out to go home, I on the other hand barely made it through the side entrance and into the library before I broke down in sobs against the shelves of leather bound books. I sat in utter self-pitying cries, I was sure I looked a complete fright when Eric came in and found me there, rumpled up on the floor like a wounded animal.

“Hey…hey…” He said coming to my side instantly on his knees in front of me; his newspaper threw to the side. “What happened? Are you hurt?” His worried eyes searching me from top to bottom as if to look for some physically signs of injury, the only hurt was internal and having endured a lot of physical pain in my time, this was almost worse. At least a wound or cut I could bandage and heal this I could not. Instead I said nothing only sobbed harder and hugged him for all I was worth, he grasped me into his arms as I weighed nothing at all and he carried me ever so gently up all those stairs and into our bedroom. He removed my shoes and my coat, loosened my blouse and unpinned my hair, all without so much a word. He knew that it was not the time for words, not that I was able to form any even if I tried. I had cried myself into such a state, I had even shocked myself at how utterly tired of it all I was. Tired of my own thoughts, and I just wanted to sleep them away, wake up fresh and new and stop the worrying I was doing. Because deep down I knew Eric wanted a family, and I knew I wanted to be the one to give it to us. Nevertheless, I also knew how much of an empathetic man he was and that one way or another we would have a family. It was trying to connect that rational part of my brain with the so very irrational part that had me sobbing like a child for what seemed like hours until my poor husband had to carry me to bed and watch over me until I slept.

Who knew it would be such a hard thing to do.

When I woke up it was dark outside, and I felt his weight in bed next to me, I turned to face him and sure enough, there he was, reading. He looked to me when I turned and put his book down. My heat felt like it had been split in two and put back together again.

“Welcome back.” He said with a slight sympathetic smile before scooting down to my level. “Want to tell me what happened this afternoon to leave you in such a state? I think I can guess…but…”

“Amelia’s pregnant and I’m a horrible person.”

He sighed.

“I thought as much, and no you’re not so stop that right now.”

“I just… lost it.”

He nodded.

“Eric I don’t want to feel like this. I want to be really happy for them but when she told me all I could think was ‘why not us?! Why them?’ and that is so utterly selfish of me, because it’s not an either or situation. I just…I wanted it to be us.”

“Sookie, it’s understandable.”

“No it’s not, it is for you because you’re lovely and understanding and my God why don’t you think your wife is a complete basket case by now? I would think it if I were you!” I said loud and frustrated.

He just shook his head.

“Because my lovely basket case, I know what you’ve been through, at least in part and I hold no judgments on how your brain chooses to deal with everything after that. This is not good news for you, not when we are heading to London to become test bunnies for some doctors and Amelia is just pregnant like that with no trouble at all. I see that, and I understand that feeling of why, believe me I see it. So if you want to cry and sob about it, go right ahead, I’ll be here when you’re ready to stop and I’ll help you in any way I can.”

I was silent then, I just took his hand and kissed it, words failing me yet again.

“I’ve cancelled dinner there tonight; I’m guessing it’s the last place you want to be. I lied, a little and said I had a work problem come up and that you were annoyed with me and would organise another night. They seemed to buy it.”

I just shook my head at him then.

“Taking the blame for my complete mental break down, such a good husband,” I half sassed but was half-serious also. “When you’re checking me into the crazy hospital I hope I can come up with as believable lies to save face for you.”

He chuckled then, pushing some stray hair behind my ear.

“Of course, Dear.” He mocked before kissing my forehead.

“You’re too good to me, you know that?”

He shrugged.

“You’re good to me too, more than you know; you see the good in other people so often but never in yourself. Believe me, it is there and it is there every day, I see it, I feel it. So me being good to you is only me trying to keep up with you, that’s all.”

That made me smile and I moved closer to cuddle with him some more, we had London the next day, and the tests the day after that. After that, I at least would know where I stood and at least then could brace myself, one way or another. With Eric there, it felt like it was possible, and that is the feeling I knew I had to hold on to, as long as I held onto him.

Eric:

The journey to London was a tense one, as was the wait and the testing. Everything felt so heavy, real, and serious and ever so daunting. I insisted on getting tested with Sookie, I didn’t want her getting poked and prodded by more doctors, not alone if I could help it. While I suspected that, it was not I had that the issue with fertility, it was still something I wanted us to rule or in completely before, we moved on. Sookie’s tests took considerably longer than mine did, they were as I imagined internal and probably painful for her too. I hated the idea of her in any pain, but I knew she was strong enough to go through it and come out the other side. Pam was none the wiser and just assumed we were getting a head start on the summer season by leaving to come to London as she was. She was busy hosting parties as usual, and living a life with Claude that seemed to suit them both very well. Debauchery and dining were there specialities and neither saw the need to change. The night after the tests we both claimed to have other plans, to which Pam accused us of neglecting her, I set her straight with a wink and nod and kept things light, letting her assume that our ‘early night’ would be a lot more exciting than what we really had planned which was sleep – and lots of it.

The weeklong wait for the results was the longest of our lives it seemed. Sookie was on eggshells practically, so nervous and just not herself. Pam noticed it of course and the day before we were due to receive the results, Sookie told her all of what we had been going through at dinner that night. Sookie cried, Claude cried and hell, even Pam – who never cried – cried. It was a sight to behold alright. Pam was never the maternal type, not even when she still imagined she would one day marry a man who would want her to have his children, but she saw as I saw, the strong maternal instinct in Sookie and it broke her heart to think that it would go wasted. We all drank too much that night, Sookie more than all of us, and getting to bed was my mission because the morning awaited and so did the results.

Results I wish I had never gotten.

We sat in the cold and dank waiting room, one that with what this doctor was charging was a surprise. Usually London doctors put on the show with airs and graces, particularly when it came to their waiting rooms.

“Mr and Mrs Northman?” The nurse came out with an awkward smile, Sookie took a deep breath and latched onto my hand for dear life, I was sure she bruised a bone by the time we took our seats. There was a lot of white noise at first, a lot of x-rays this, blood tests that, and basically what it boiled down to was Sookie’s grip on my hand loosening as it dropped to her side.

I was fine, apparently my ‘swimmers were fantastic for a man your age’ and while I took that as a slight insult considering I was barely into my mid-thirties, the real tragedy was my wife’s face when he told her, her news.

Blunt force trauma was the apparent cause, one that earned me the evil eye from the good doctor, before Sookie stepped in to tell him the truth.

“No … No it’s not my husband he would never have… it was my former… ex-husband there was a lot of …issues there.” She choked out, the tears unshed in her sad eyes. “He… it was bad.”

“I see.” Said the doctor. “Well, there is considerable internal damage, but it’s not all bad.”

“It’s not?” She asked a spark of hope in her broken voice.

“Not entirely, I mean, it’s risky, extremely risky. This type of procedure…”

“But if it means there’s a chance of us having a child then it’s worth it, right?” she looked to me and she knew my answer. It had been my answer since before we even married; I wasn’t willing to risk her life for anyone’s not even our hypothetical child.

“Mrs Northman, it’s not an easy task, it’s rare, and so rare we don’t even do it here in England.”

“Well where do you do it then?”

“America, New York specifically. There is a doctor there; she is a one off in her field, Ludwig. She specialises in female reproductive… issues.”

“So she’s good then? Eric? What do you think?”

I squirmed in my seat, I didn’t really want to have this conversation here.

“I think we have to assess the risk.”

“But if there’s a chance –”

“And there’s also a chance of it failing and risking your life in the process. We’ll need to discuss it.” I said to her and the doctor who nodded.

“There are other avenues open to a couple of your standing. Adoption for one, I know for sure you would be approved, and since a war has just ended, there are – sadly- too many children in need of a loving home. It’s a safer option.”

“And one I’m sure we’ll consider once we’ve exhausted every other possibility. I want my own children, Eric.”

I wasn’t going to argue with her, not there at least. I knew she was reeling from the news, so her harsh behaviour could be forgiven.

“We’ll look into this… option and we’ll see then shall we?” The doctor added pulling out his letter paper I assumed ready to make the initial arrangements.

“Yes. Please as soon as you can.” Sookie spoke before I could, and stood up. I guess we were leaving then. We both exited the room and the building without saying a word. We got into the car, without saying a word and we made it to the front of the London town house – without saying a word.

“Say something.” She begged.

“What else is there to say, Sookie? You have made it clear where you stand on this problem. You know not that we can talk about it rationally after the initial emotional reaction dies down. No, you have lit the fire and we are apparently going to America so you can be hacked open by some doctor. Excellent.” I got out of the car with an angry force in my movements, I was angry and I was not sure at whom. Her, the doctor, the damn situation, or myself.

She sat in the car for a few minutes more, just staring out the window, and I just left her there because I wasn’t sure I had the energy for an argument. Not right then. Instead, I did what my time in the UK taught me to do in times of crisis. I made a cup of tea.

It didn’t help.

When she came in I handed her her cup and we took a silent seat next to each other in the living room, nothing but the sound of the clock echoing through the room.

“He’s taken so much from me, Eric. I refuse to let him take this from me, from us too.”

I closed my eyes then, of course this is what it boiled down to. That bastard.

“Sookie I don’t … want to risk your life for the sake of a hypothetical child. I have you, you have me, and that should be enough. I’m putting no pressure on you to have a child, have I put pressure?”

“No you haven’t you’ve been wonderful, really. However, this is not about you, it is about me and my need to be a mother, Eric. I thought it was something I could not do, something I would be okay without that part of my life opened up. Nevertheless, that was when I was alone and scared and poor and a possible murderer. Now I’m just… you know, a secret murderer.” She shrugged and it was almost comical. “But it was before you, and our love and how much I can see that a child would benefit from having you as a father, wondering what I would be like as a mother now, with you as my partner… it’s a whole new world for me and one I want to embrace if I can.”

I understood where she was coming from. Of course, I wanted children with her, more than anything I wanted a part of us both out there in the world but if meant risking her, I would gladly give that dream up. She was more stubborn than I was however, and she had her heart set on this option.

“If we go…”

She smiled then, big and wide and damn it she had me wrapped around her little fingers it seemed because I caved like a umbrella in the wind. “IF I said IF.”

“Yes, if… of course. If we go…?” She was smiling then, she had hopped closer to me and I was a complete sucker for that smile. “I want use to know everything, every part of what you’ll go through before we sign off on anything, but I mean it Sookie if I think it’s too dangerous, we’re not doing it. We have to agree on that. The risk is too great and too real –”

“I understand, I do. I promise. I just think that it might help if we do this, I mean she’s an expert, and who knows this time next year it might be us planning for our baby.”

We wouldn’t be.

We left for New York two weeks later, I left the Estate in the hands of the lawyers and co-workers, all keeping me abreast by telephone and letters, but we simply packed our bags and left England. Much to Pam’s irritation, her playmates upping and leaving without much noticed didn’t sit well with our pampered Pammy.

We rented a two-floor apartment in the city, we did the tourist thing for a few days before we settled, and got down to business with the doctors, and it was overall a tiring experience for me, so I could only imagine how Sookie felt. There were more tests and consolations and she came out looking like death warmed up a few times, and like she had been shooting needles in her arms, because in fact they had been! I hated every second of it and I knew it quickly took its toll on Sookie too. My once bright eyed, rosy-cheeked wife soon became tired, haggard, and just so done with it all. I hated seeing the affect it was having on her, but there was very little I could do about it. She was still steely determined to go through with the treatments and the operation, even if we argued about it just about every day.

We’d been there a month when her date for the operation came up, we were both terrified to be sure, but she was again so determined it made my heart sing to know she was doing this ultimately for us, for our future, and to give me – to give us – a child. One that even though I talked a big talk about not minding one way or another, I did want in the end. However, to me, it didn’t matter really how we achieved that goal. To Sookie however, she wanted what she wanted, and considering how much she had gone through in her life, if I could give her this, I could give her the world.

I just hoped for her sanity’s sake, it worked.


Chapter 39: Chapter 39


Second last chapter of this one peeps! I know, we’ve been on the go a loooooooong time with these two and I will be both sad and relieved to see them go. For those of you that have stuck with me, I thank you forever, and even more to those who had the courage to review! This is a long one, so settle down and get comfy! Check out my blog Myfictionalmusings . WordPress . com for early chapters xo


Sookie.

It did not work, or at least they said it did not. They said ‘it would happen when it was meant to’ and I think it just was not meant to. The treatment, the injections, the pain, the operation, the risks, all of it was for nothing and all it served to do was send me into a spiral of what I now know was depression. I could not face everything that had happened to me, the much prayed for baby, motherhood, it was the one happy untainted thing I was grasping onto with all my hope, and when that was taken away from me it was like the veil was lifted. Lifted to expose all the feelings I had pushed so far down I thought I would never see them again, only to have them all come spewing up all at once.

We had agreed to give it six months, in the states, to just be there and live. To live, breathe, and dive into life in America, and the treatments of course. Eric found once we were there he loved it and did not really want to leave, and I had to admit I felt the same way, at least for the first few months. The months when there was still the little glimmer of hope, that I would one day wake up and be with child, that I would complete our little family. However, as the weeks turned into months, that then one day turned into a year, and there was still nothing, he and I both knew that it just was not going to happen. I had battled with the depression and sadness after the operation, and it had faded a little then, but after that, it became a cloud that hung over us and we both did whatever we could to block it out. Eric and I became a staple in the New York City social scene, living in the city gave us fantastic advantages, we partied too much, we drank too much and there was some kind of social event just about every night, one that American’s like myself just loved the idea of having a ‘Lord and Lady’ attend. They didn’t know my history, nor would they until someone told them, but no one had. So to our new friends I was a Lord’s wife, a Lord who was sweet, charming and danced you off your feet if you were in such a mood. A husband who loved his wife as she loved him and who had the patience of a saint most of the time.

Pam came to visit when we had been there about six months or so, annoyed that we had left her ‘high and dry’ in England, and she stayed with us for about a month, which in itself offered a reprieve from the constant strain that was then building between Eric and I. I used Pam as a distraction in that time, and we partied constantly, with and without Eric, mostly without. He had sunk some money into a small restaurant, in the hopes of getting me interested in the practical side of things like cooking or baking, but I did not care – not then. His work with the Estate from afar kept him busy most days, as did his consultation role for his family’s business, the days that Pam and I used to sleep off our hang-overs in order to come back to life at night to do it all over again. We lived like vampires, she and I for that month, we just did not live life in the day at all. Claude came then, and he and Pam left together. They had planned a cruise around the world and invited us both to come along, but we were not the same bubbly couple they had seen off from England months before, now there was stress and pain and such strain that it felt like both of us would snap in two at any given moment.

It wasn’t his fault, and looking back it wasn’t really mine either, it was just how it was because of everything I had been through, it was how I subconsciously chose to deal with my pain, as wrong as it was for both of us. For six months after she left, we stayed in contact as we always had, by phone and by letter – she even took over at the Estate for us for a few months, captaining the ship from afar as it were when she grew tired of the London scene. Eric was glad to have someone there, to make sure on that end that things were running as smoothly as his partners swore it was. If anyone could captain a ship, even metaphorically, it was Pam.

Eric and I had made love constantly, after I got the all clear, that I was healed up and ready to go as it were, it is what we did because we wanted to get pregnant. But it became less and less about sex, about the meaning and the emotions behind making love to my husband, and more about getting me pregnant. It was no longer spontaneous or romantic, at times, it was not even enjoyable, and thinking back on it now, I was being stupid and selfish and I was in all honesty using him to meet the end of an obsession I had in my mind. The obsession of beating Bill, of winning at life while he rotted in death. That if, somehow Eric and I had a family, that everything else I was feeling – the pain, the fear, and the flashbacks to what had happened. That somehow, that would all just disappear.

I was an idiot.

Soon though even that stopped, soon we didn’t touch each other at all beyond a good morning kiss, and even that stopped at a peck on the cheek as he made his excuses to go work on something and I made my excuses to meet up with new friends. Margery and Stella, two of my ‘party girls’ as Eric would call them, they were trophy wives of much older men, and it in all for the money. They laughed when I told them of my want for children; they themselves had taken great lengths to not get pregnant by their husbands, and so really could not understand my fight. We were not close, like Pam and I or even Amelia and I were, they were my party friends and nothing more, and party we did. Amelia had her baby, a boy named Samuel, after his father and grandfather – not very original – but a sweet gesture on her part. We of course send our best wishes and several packages of presents for the boy to welcome him into the world, even if when we talked I faked my smile through the conversation even though she was on the other end of the ocean and on the telephone. My bitterness was not my friend’s fault, nor was it Eric’s either, but after a while my husband, with the patience of a saint that he had, even his patience with me ran out. Therefore, that is when it happened. One morning after I woke up on our couch in our Manhattan apartment, and saw him standing there, suitcase in hand.

“What’s this?” I asked, hung over and clouded as I squinted at him as he stood there his arms crossed.

“I’m leaving.”

That shocked me to sitting up straight.

“What?”

“Sookie… I can’t… do this.” He gestured to me. “Anymore.”

I stood up then, my hair was probably a mess, I had been wearing it in the new style now, a faux bob pinned and tucked, and now it was definitely un-tucked and ratty, I was sure my makeup was a mess too. A bit like my life in that respect.

“You’re… leaving me?!”

He shook his head before stammering out his response.

“N-no. Not … not you I just need to not be here right now.”

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Eric I’m really hung-over, and I’m not getting what you’re saying here. You’re leaving me but you’re not leaving me?”

“I’m going back to Scotland this afternoon, Pam called me last night and there are some issues with the Estate and town businesses that I need to be there to take care of, and to be frank I’ve had enough of this mess that we’re calling our lives here.”

“WHAT?! Are you joking? You are just … hopping on a damn boat and leaving? Oh, that is great that is. That’s just great.” I spat stamping my way to our little kitchen, anxiety building up inside like nothing else.

“Sookie… listen to me for a second. We’re not talking, we don’t talk anymore and we avoid it all and I can’t do that anymore, I just can’t.”

“I don’t know –”

“Yes, you do. You do and you know you do. At first… I was okay with this, to go along with whatever you wanted to do, whatever you needed to do to … get over this baby thing.”

“Baby thing… thanks.” I snapped and he just sighed.

“You know what I mean don’t do that, don’t turn this around on me.”

“How can I not, excuse me but my husband is leaving me, excuse me for not being bright and shiny.”

“Sookie, you know I love you. I love you more than I have ever loved anything in my life but I love the Sookie I married, and you’re not her anymore, you’re a stranger who stays out all night and drinks and doesn’t talk to me or walk with me or anything that we used to do.”

He was right, he was completely and utterly right, but I just couldn’t see it. Not then.

“If you loved me you’d stay.” I said trying to push the bitterness out of my voice. Was I trying to manipulate him, I wasn’t sure but I probably was.

“And if you loved yourself you’d see that I do love you, and that it’s because I love you that I’m doing this.” He came to me then, grabbing my arms and rubbing them warm. “I love you, you’re my wife and I would do anything for you, but if I stay here and things are like this? Sookie I don’t know if our sanity would survive it.” He whispered and it made me want to cry, because I knew, once again, he was so fucking right. “I’m going this afternoon after I square work away with Jack, and I’m staying in Scotland for as long as I’m needed there. You … you don’t need me, not here, not anymore.”

“Eric I –”

“We both know it’s true. Nevertheless, I want you to want me again, to need me again, for something other than getting you pregnant, Sookie. I need to know that I am enough for you, that our life as we started was enough for you. That, now, without a child of our own we’d still be enough for you.”

“It is… it –”

Right then, it was not and I would have been lying, the obsession of beating Bill had taken me over, and I didn’t know who I was anymore, so it was unsurprising that my Eric didn’t recognise me anymore either. I cried. I cried when he kissed me so sweetly on the forehead, and I cried as I watched him go.

“One telephone call is all it would take to get me back here, know that. But, for now, I have to go.”

His words played out in my head, over and over again. He was right, of course, he was, I was not the woman he married, but I liked the Sookie he married. She was funny and happy with her lot in life, it was so much more than she ever expected to get – a home, a man who loved her to bits, friends and a lifestyle she would not nor could not have dreamed of before. He was gone three days when it hit me that in order to do what I had to do, my past had to be well and truly left behind me, I had to bury it for good this time and to do that, I knew I had only one place to go.

Home.

EPOV:

I wanted to turn back, with every stupid step I was pulling against my instinct to just go back, hug her, and tell her that, despite my dwindling sanity over our mess, I would stay. But I knew if I did, nothing would change and she would continue on the road to ruin and our marriage would be in tatters in no time at all. So I went, I hated myself for it, but I went, and I telephoned her from the ship twice a day just to hear her voice. She assured me she was fine and once she got over her anger and a rather massive hangover, she realised that we did indeed need a little time apart for us both to realise some home truths. If I stayed I wasn’t sure we’d have made it, at least by giving us both space, there was still a chance we could get back what we somehow lost along the way.

It took me days to get back to Scotland, almost a week of travel, and by the time I got back home, I was exhausted. Too exhausted to argue with Pam, Pam who was bored and looking for said argument, particularly when she discovered I had left my wife in New York City.

“The fuck, Eric? Seriously? What kind of arse move is this?”

“Don’t say arse with your Southern twang, it sounds odd, Pamela.”

She simply threw a cushion at me from where I stood in my living room. My living room that she had moved around entirely and I looked around, confused.

“What? It is nicer this way, you catch the light in the afternoon it is better. Do not distract me Eric. Why the fuck did you walk out on your wife exactly?”

“I didn’t just ‘walk out’ okay, I left because if I didn’t we might not have been a couple much longer. Pam you haven’t seen her in a long time, the Sookie we knew, she got lost somewhere in her grief and I couldn’t find her, I couldn’t keep finding her if she had no interest in finding herself.”

Her face softened then.

“It’s just Bill, that bastard, and all he’s done to her, it took its toll.” She said and I agreed.

“I know that, but she shut me out, whether she knew it or not, she shut me out and I can’t help her if I’m not allowed to. So… I left and with the hope that when she needs me and realises what she has with us that I’ll get a call and we can start again.”

“And if she doesn’t call?”

I wasn’t even considering that as a possibility, it was simply too heart breaking to even think about.

“She’ll call.” I said sternly, not allowing the doubt to creep in no matter how hard it tried. She’d call, she’d come back to me, or want me back, there was simply no other option.

Right?

Sookie:

I left New York a week after Eric left me in it. I had to go back before I could go forward and I knew that then. Therefore, I hopped on a train, and then another, and then another, all the way to Louisiana. Travelling alone was not something I was used to anymore, not without my Eric all the way, and it was something I knew I did not want to get used to either. However, I was now travelling in a lot more comfortable surroundings than before, money helped a lot and anyone who said different was a liar. A complete and utter liar.

By the time I got to my home state, and my hometown, I had been travelling non-stop for days, my last call to Eric was to him on the boat, and I was sure he was angsting at home at the thought of me not answering or not telephoning him back. But, I had to do this without anyone knowing, without anyone trying to stop me, and so when I got to Bon Temps and checked into a sweet little B&B, I took my rest for the night and spent the entire next day exploring. The first place I went was to visit my family at the graveyard.

There they were all lined up in a row, my parents, and my grandparents buried next to each other in a large family plotted grave, one that had not seen flowers in a very long time. I put the two bunches of roses I had purchased at either grave, and sat a while and had a little talk – if they could hear me or not I would never be sure, but I liked to hope they did.

“It’s been a while, I know… but I’m here. I’m still in one piece…just about.” I began, sitting on the side of the grave frame, built with grey stone the whole way around. The sun was shining and there was the sweetest of breezes in the cherry blossom trees overhead, it was the most peaceful place I had been in a long time. “A lot has changed since I was last here, I killed my first husband, right before he killed me, then my new husband – though he wasn’t at the time – wanted to take the rap for it, but we somehow got away with it because there was a war ending and people were busy, and Eric has money and that talks…” I sighed. “I found love, in the most unexpected of places, I was his maid of all things… yes, Gran, a maid, I was the one scrubbing the floors and making the beds, and I got damn good at it too. Not that they taught us to do any of that in that fancy pants school you insisted on sending me too…” I smiled. “But he’s the love of my life, with his own set of issues which is just as well because between us…phew. It hasn’t been easy, not at all, but then daddy always did say that the things in life with having and holding on to were the hardest to win, like when he won mamma’s hand… he would tell me that all the time. That her father did not approve… I think you would approve of Eric, Daddy. He is kind, and sweet, and he can dismantle a shotgun in no time, I am sure you’d both have lots to talk about. He reads like no one else I have ever met – even you gran, he has you beat. I think you would be in love with him and his library, both are very impressive.” I smiled as I remembered our first tentative conversations in that room in Scotland. How afraid I was of him, of the way he looked at me and what that meant for me then. It was a delicious kind of fear really. Unlike the fear, I felt with Bill. I went on to explain it all to them, in the hopes they heard me from wherever they were now.

“And because of that… Eric and I… we have been having a lot of trouble getting pregnant. I know gran would disapprove of me speaking of such things in public…” I looked around the abandoned graveyard. “But I think we’re safe enough.” I sighed again, hating this part of our tale. “I don’t know what to do, I know how badly he wants a family, and I do too, more than anything… But I just don’t know how to do it right.”

It was not that he was one of those men that pressured their wives for sons and lots of them, in fact, he was the opposite of all of that, and yet I knew the silent yearning was still there.

“We tried a lot, to the point where we tried too much I think, and then the stress of it took us both over and soon we didn’t even kiss. How crazy is that? I love kissing him, it’s my second favourite thing to do with him…well, third after our walks – which we stopped also and … you know that other thing.”

I could not say the word sex; even to my dead family I was clearly cowardly.

“So he left, not that I blame him, in fact I was kind of happy he took the stand before I did something stupid like… leave him for good or fall into that black pit that I had been threatening to jump into for a year with my behaviour. God…” I sighed looking up at the cloudless sky. “I want to fix us so badly, but I don’t know how to let go of the notion of being a mother… I just … do not know what to do, and times like these I could really use you all being here. I know for sure you all would know what to tell me to set me right, but life means death and that means you can’t be here, so I hope to figure things out on my own, somehow.”

I took a stroll then that afternoon into the town centre of Bon Temps itself, it had been so long since I had been back, everything now seemed so much smaller, so different. I took a left on hummingbird lane, and found myself outside my old home, my grandmother’s home – the one Bill took it upon himself to sell from beneath me to settle his debts. The home that I had resigned myself to never again seeing the day I left it having thought I had killed Bill. I stood for a long time, just staring up at what was my old bedroom window, the porch, the swing, the door, all bringing back endless memories in an instant. It brought tears to my eyes. I must have garnered the attention of those now living in the house, because a woman in a pink dress came to the door, a confused look on her face.

“Excuse me, miss? Can I help you?”

I snapped out of my daydream state and stammered out an apology.

“N-no, sorry for bothering you I was just… looking.” I went to walk away, but she called out.

“Miss? I’m sorry, but do I know you?”

I turned to look at the woman, who was no more than twenty, soft red hair twirled into a bun on top of her head, freckled scattered across her nose and forehead, she had bright green eyes and an easy smile. No, I did not know her, but she knew my home well.

“No I’m sorry… it’s just that this… well…” I felt silly. “This used to be my home, I was visiting from England and –”

“You’re Susannah, aren’t you?”

That shocked me.

“I am. How did you –”

“Will you come in? My husband isn’t home and I don’t get a lot of visitors, and I have some things that I think belong to you.”

I stepped into the familiar hallway, and attempted to control my emotions. The house was completely different to the naked eye, but I still could find my way around blind if I had to. The owner was Anne, and her husband Charles now lived in my grandmother’s home, having bought it from Bill at a knock down price.

“This may sound silly, Susannah, but I recognise your face you see? There are paintings in the loft, we never threw them out because they seemed cherished at one time, and I think I’m just a sentimental woman at heart.” Anne said as we climbed the steps to the old loft, and sure enough among their things was some of mine, some of my family’s things.

I shed tears then, just another set of items I swore I would never set eyes on.

Paintings of me as a little girl, with my parents, and one when I turned eighteen with my grandmother, both of us standing proud and tall and so unaware what the next few years would throw at us both.

“You can have them if you’d like, we have no use for them and I’m sure you’d like to have your things back?”

“Thank you, Anne; you have no idea how much this means to me.”

She patted me on the shoulder and suggested some tea; she would have her maid box up my things and send them to my hotel, I was eternally grateful to this stranger all so suddenly.

By the end of the afternoon I had heard Anne’s life story, and it was a welcome break from my own head and own tale of woe, I felt better than I had in years as I left her home in a cab, with my things wrapped up. I had a piece of home now, something to prove my family was real and not just in my head, it meant the world to me and really gave me a pep in my step as I got back to my little hotel.

I had not been in touch with Eric since New York, nor had I really told him my plans – to trail half way across the country alone on my little mission. But at the time I left I was still mad at him for leaving, even if I fully knew why he did what he did. My anger had faded and it was time to call, I was sure he would now be the one mad at me, but there wasn’t much he could do in Scotland.

“Eric?”

“Sookie! Jesus Christ I was so worried about you!”
“You were worried about Jesus Christ?”

He huffed air, clearly not impressed with my comedy skills.

“Sorry, sorry.” I said. “I’m… I’m in Louisiana, which is why I haven’t been in touch for a few days…or week.”

He sighed again.

“I think you’re trying to kill me.” He said softly, clearly relived that I was okay.

“Well, I do have a habit of doing that to my husbands…” I joked, poorly even if it made him chuckle.

“Are you alright?” He asked.

“I am. I really am. I needed to just…” I looked around the empty lobby, still aware I was in public though. “I just needed to put some things to bed. Say some goodbyes to home, properly. I think it will help me to move on.”

I could almost hear him thinking on the other end of the line.

“Are you okay? The Estate still standing?”

“I am okay, only okay though… I miss you too much to be anything else.”

That made me happy.

“I’m glad you realise what a fool you were just leaving.”

“Believe me I realised that as soon as I closed the front door, but I think we –”

“We did need the space, I don’t hate you for leaving … I mean I did for about an hour… but then you know… the common sense I’ve been lacking this past year somehow found its way back to me… I get it I do.”

“I’m glad. So very glad.”

“Doesn’t mean I’m still not pissed at how you chose to teach me this lesson though, gentler ways are encouraged.” I sassed making him laugh.

“I am sorry for that but I just …”

“Didn’t know what else to do. I understand.” I sighed hating how far I had let myself fall in the past year, I had succumbed to self-pity and that just wasn’t me, even at my lowest and poorest I never let myself wallow. I guess maybe I needed to wallow to come out the other end.

I hoped this was the light at the end of that tunnel.

“Eric, I think…I needed some time here, and after that I hope we can move on… however that goes I don’t know yet but I’m not going to try and push anything anymore, I think we just need to be… for a while just be and live and go with the flow as Pam says.”

“God you know we’re in trouble when Pam is sounding like the voice of reason.” I heard him smile on the other end and my heart ached for him, I missed him in that second more than ever.

“I have to go now, Eric but we’ll talk soon, yes?”

“Of course, I’m here… now I know you’re save I can relax… when I didn’t hear from you I started to think the worst… that…”
“Don’t… I’m okay….we’re going to be okay, right?”

“Right.”

“I love you.” I said quietly.

“And I so love you, I miss you…”

When we hung up I decided to go to the hotel bar, I wasn’t going to have alcohol as that would only fuel my bad mood, in fact I was cutting myself off completely from drink. This was to be my fresh start, and I was determined to embrace it. Instead, I asked for a hot tea, like a square, but it was my new nightcap. The bar man that took my order smiled at me, and pointed me to a table, as I waited I went to the ladies room, on the way out I bumped into an old friend, literally.

“I’m sorry.” I said running into the tall black man in a kitchen uniform.

“No Ma’…Sookie?”

“Lafayette?!” I said excited on seeing an old face again, I did not care if the women passing me looked at us funny, I didn’t care at all. I hugged my old friend so relieved to see him again.

“Oh my Goodness what are you doing here?” I asked him as we broke apart with a laugh.

“My mamma kicked the bucket, wanted to be buried here… so I sunk my savings and brought us bother here, so here I be.” He hugged me again. “What are you doing here? Where is that fine husband of yours?” He looked out to the bar expecting to see Eric.

“That’s a longer story… when do you finish up?”

“In twenty, you stayin’ here?”

“I am room 245.” I nodded with a smile. “If you have time come see me when you’re through?”

“Why Miss Sookie you is the first white woman to ask me to her room since I got here. You saucy minx.”

I just rolled my eyes.

“Nice to see things haven’t changed. Talk to you soon.”

I decided to skip my tea then, Lafayette being all the tonic anyone could need.

EPOV:

I had spent two weeks in meetings, almost daily, with the famers and the townsfolk, and everyone and anyone that had any real connection to the Estate and now me, and that I was responsible for keeping their livelihoods alive. I wanted to move forward, move with the times, purchase machines and hire more labourers, expand the export from the town so we could work on improving the income that came from it. However, I was met with brick walls almost everywhere I looked. People didn’t like change, I knew that more than most, but this could and would benefit them over time, and the majority of the older farmers were, well, not getting any younger, and were set in their ways. Trying to get through to them in a way they understood was not easy, but I knew for their wealth and mine, things had to change and us with it, otherwise the world would move on and leave us all behind. Sookie and I had mapped out a plan when we first move to America, that we would use all modern advancements to our advantage, and that it would help the farmers and their families make three or four times their crop, and help to rear their animals on a yearly basis. To help with milking and breeding and ultimately the slaughter and sell, but the plan like most things always seemed easier on paper than in reality. My reality was work, I had threw myself into it when I got back as a way of distracting myself from the fact that my wife hadn’t been in touch in over a week. Moreover, Pam had left because my ‘sour face and mood was killing her’, and so I was alone – except for the staff – most of whom barely spoke to me as per ‘the rules’. It was ridiculous, but it was what it was, and I was alone. When Sookie finally did get in touch it was much to my relief, and surprise to find she was in her home town. I was happy that she had been facing some of her long buried demons, but there was still no real talk of her coming home, and she had not asked me to return either. After her call it was another few days before I would hear from her again, this time she sounded a lot happier, a lot lighter and a hell of a lot like the Sookie I used to know. It gave me hope where before I had none. But, that had been almost a week before, and now there was nothing still. My anxiety levels were getting close to killing me, and the distraction of work was now no longer enough to keep my thoughts from wandering to that place. The place where I asked myself repeatedly, if leaving New York was the smartest move on my end. I knew we needed it but now that Sookie was alone, and as always more than capable of taking care of herself, what if she decided she no longer needed me in her life, no longer loved me as she once did. After all, I was the husband that left her in her time of emotional need.

The Friday at the end of May, I decided to try to take my mind off everything and take one of the horses out for some exercise and Thor too. We spent the day hunting but not killing, mostly because I saw little point in the kill, and it still seemed cruel to me. To kill to live, sure, but to kill for sport was a whole other matter. Clearly, this is one area of being a Lord in which I was sure to fail; they all lived for this rubbish. We had been out there hours and I was done, as was Thor just as the sun was starting to set on our day out, I was sure we were all starving too, and I had hoped Mrs Fortenberry had something ready for dinner, not that I dared ask her before they were ready, they took their schedule very seriously. I hopped off the horse giving her a good rub down for her good behaviour before I slapped her on the ass and she went running back toward the stables. She was taught well. Thor on the other hand had gotten bored a half hour before and left, I now imagined he was back in his favourite spot by the fire. I looked up from the ground then that is when I saw her, just standing in the middle of the field, by ‘our’ tree, and I thought that for a split second she was a figment of my imagination. That perhaps I had fallen off the horse and knocked myself unconscious. But no, then she moved and she smiled, and I soon found myself drawn to her as she was moving toward me, I took big strides, my riding boots covered in mud, my heavy steps sinking further into the grass as I moved to her.

Neither of us said anything we just grabbed for the other in a way that meant we needed this before we needed any words. She got me by the collar of my coat, and I got her by her waist, each of us pulling the other closer until we kissed and what a kiss that was.

I was instantaneously anxious and excited as her lips lingered over mine, soft and so timid before giving in and providing indulgent, sweet kisses in between suckling my lip before adding an edge with a harmless bite. We remained frozen in place, our hands still on each other but almost unwilling to move, our mouths exploring each other as if it were the first time all over again. I loved her, I missed her, and I didn’t want to go through this ‘break’ ever again. I told her so, then. Repeatedly, as we kissed and moved under the shade of our tree, using the bark as our leverage where I covered her body with mine against the wood, revelling in what warmth I could feel from her. I cradled her face softly, as she shockingly began working my belt. When I pulled back and looked her in the eye, that mischievous glint that I also never realised I missed so much was back, and one that told me we were doing this and that was that.

I was never going to argue this. I had gone so long without her touch, even when we were together, we had not been ‘together’ in a long time, a lifetime for us really. So this new development was more than welcomed, she could have me anyway she wanted me, and from the look in her eye and the way she was kissing me, it seemed the feeling was mutual.

I fisted my hand in her hair, pulling it out of its pin so it fell around her shoulders, her hat she was wearing now long forgotten on the ground. Next went her coat, then mine, then her blouse, then my shirt. She giggled then, standing there in the brisk summer breeze with her bra on show and not caring who saw us… not that anyone would, and even if they did, I didn’t care. She made short work of my riding trousers, yanking them and my underwear down to my knees in one sharp pull.

The kisses deepened, floating between soft and sweet to aggressive and full of unresolved craving. Craving each other.

“I’ve missed you… so –”I didn’t get a chance to finish before her lips were on mine again, before she yanked me even closer still until I used one leg to separate both of hers apart. Allowing me to hike up her dress to her waist and do to her underwear there what she did to mine, get it out of the way in one swoop. I fit perfectly against her then, our height differences suddenly non-existent, as my fingers slipped inside of her and I watched her writhe.

God I missed that too.

She let out several moans, all music to my ears after so long apart, so long since we had been intimate in anyway, to suddenly have her like this again, I felt like all my Christmas’s had come at once. She growled against my ear as I pushed deeper and deeper with my fingers, her hot breath on my ear sending shivers down my spine. She let me continue for a few moments more, before she took charge as she often did, hiked her skirt further, and pushed herself against the bark of the tree for balance before she wrapped her legs around my waist.

“Now… Eric I need you … Now.” She whispered soft, but still assertive.

Her fingers touched lightly down my naked chest; I pulled the straps of her brassiere down softly, exposing her ample breasts, as my chest touched hers I felt a shiver run through her as we made eye contact before I pushed myself inside of her for the first time in what felt like a small lifetime apart. She moaned against my ear once more, as I hummed with pleasure against hers, and we stood there in the empty field and we fucked as if it were the end of the world, because for a time without her it felt like just that. She cried out as she got close, and I did my best to hold my own, to not blow it too early, and get her there first. I was nothing after all, if not a Gentleman. Even if I felt that sheen of sweat on my brow, even if it felt like my legs were about to buckle from underneath me, we still rode out our needs on each other and nothing was going to stop us until we were done. I felt her grasp at my neck, her nails digging in until it hurt, her legs clasped tighter and I swore I could hear her heartbeat – through it was probably my owns through my ears, as I felt her come. Tight and fast around me, allowing me to let go too and spill into her, hot and messy but with sheer abandon. She unhooked her legs and slid down my body with a girlish giggle, both of us then unable to stand, slid the ground together where we laid for a few seconds in spent silence.

“Well, that was certainly a welcome home one could get used to.” She giggled against me, fixing her skirt and buttoning her blouse, as I yanked up my trousers but left everything else. Too tired to care, too blissed out to care, in the arms of my wife after that, nothing else mattered.

I stoked her leg, as I just hummed in agreement, as we laid there, in the dirt.

“Eric did we just have sex in a field?”

That made me giggle, seems her senses were coming back to her as mine where when we realised we were laying in the mud.

“Hmm, seems like we are… Oops?”

“Oops indeed, can you just imagine Mrs Fortenberry’s face when she sees us walk in and tread mud on ‘her’ floor like this?” She laughed again, this time rolling over to pick herself up. She held out her hand to me, a sweet look on her face before I grasped on and pulled her back down on top of me.

“Not yet, five more minutes.”

Nooo.” She wined. “Cold dirt doesn’t have the same allure after the orgasm, let’s go get cleaned up… so we can get all kinds of dirty again.” She wriggled her brows at me playfully. “Metaphorically speaking this time though, because…” she looked at her hands, and her, well, everything. “Ew.”

We sneaked back in to our own house, up our own stairs and into our room without being seen, it was not an easy feat considering Sookie was giggling the entire time like a terrible cat burglar. We washed together, we washed each other, being rather prim about the whole thing, but sneaking a sly feel here and there, followed by a much-needed laugh. By the time we both fell into bed beside the other, it was safe to say we were done for the evening.

“I’m so glad you came home, you should have telephoned. I would have gone to London to pick you up… the idea of you travelling all alone… I really hate myself for leaving, Sookie.”

She shook her head.

“It’s more than fine; I needed the time, Eric. It’s given me a lot of much needed perspective.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, I feel like I have a new outlook… and well… Who has to say I travelled alone? I am told I am an attractive woman… I might not go long without company, particularly on a ship.”

The idea of some man hitting on my wife instantly made me stiffen with rage.

“Easy there cowboy, the man that was entertaining me had no interest in getting into my panties… unless it was to try ’em on.” She smiled. I was confused. “Oh, and he’s also here now too…”

“Sookie…?”

She grinned.

“I bumped into an old friend at home…”

“And that old friend is now in our house?” I was getting annoyed at her coyness. “Sookie?”

“Lafayette! He…. got stuck in the states for various reasons,” she flipped her hand back and forth as she explained. “I’ll explain that later, but basically he didn’t want to be there, and so…well… we always need people on the land or here in the house, right? And he’s good people, he’s an amazing cook and very clean and neat… much neater than Diane!”

So now, Lafayette was working in the house. How nice of them to ask me.

“Besides, he’s a friend, and he was in need and if you can help a friend in need who can you help, eh?”

She had a point there.

“I just almost wish I still worked in the kitchen, if only to see the look on Mrs Fortenberry’s face when he walked in.” She giggled. “She thinks she’s the cat’s pyjamas, but really she’s rather prejudiced. She believes the Irish like being lorded over by the English for example and their fight for freedom is simply a ‘misunderstanding’.” Sookie sighed again, rolling to her side to face me again. Running her finger down my neck, chest and resting her hand on my hip as I faced her too.

“Are you mad at me for this?”

“I’m surprised… this evening has been one very … very big surprise. You know I hate surprises.”

“I know, I just didn’t want to have another uncomfortable conversation with an operator listening in. I wanted to be… home.” She looked around the room for a second before looking back at me. “I never thought I would consider this home, you know? Nevertheless, going back to what I thought was my real home only served to teach me that I was wrong. Home really is where the heart is, and you sir, have my heart.”

That made me smile wider than I thought possible.

“I’m glad that’s still true, I don’t think anyone else has ever had mine the way you do, Sookie.”

“Good to know, because if we’re going to adopt children, I’m going to be needing a man that can handle the pressure, and I know you can. We’ve seen each other at our lowest points in life, Eric. I want the rest of our lives to be on the way up, you game?”

Again, she surprised me, she had never stopped surprising me from the minute I met her, something I never thought possible anymore, but she achieved it repeatedly. This time was no different.

I was definitely game!


Chapter 40: Chapter 40


So this is it folks! After more than a year on the go, War at Heart is all but done. I’m a little sad, and a little relieved to be honest. It’s been a long road with this one and for those of you that have been with me on it from day one, it has been an even longer one for you waiting!

Here it be, the final chapter of War at Heart. Reviews are encouraged and adored as always! xo


Sookie:

“And he just left, just like that?” Lafayette asked as we tucked into our roast beef sandwiches he nipped from the kitchen for our midnight feast in my room. We were discussing life, and everything in between.

“I thought it was just like that, but really it wasn’t. Hell I do not know any man that would have put up with what he did for as long as he did. I was a mess, truly.”

“And now?”

“Still messed up, but at least I know it.” I laughed awkwardly. “I want to go back, to Scotland, to England or wherever he is now, I just want us to get back on track… or try.”

“Sounds like the love is still there, just maybe a little less patience.”

He was right on that one. Dead right.

“And what about you, huh? What are you doing here of all places?”

“Was the last resort really, I spent all I had in savings to bring my mother here for her proper burial, and well, I got stuck. No money meant no way back to Paris, and so I tried for every job in every establishment from here to New Orleans, practically. This was the best they could offer me; I’m basically their kitchen bitch.” He sighed. “I do not get to cook as I wish, but I make amazing dainty sandwiches… my arrangements can get creative.”

“Well that’s not good enough, Lafayette.”

He looked at me sharply then, as if, I insulted him. I just smiled.

“It’s not good enough for you; we’ll have to find you something better.”

“Ugh, please. If you know anyone in need of a full time cook, put in a good word, several, hell, give them a whole book of words on me if you can.”

I smiled again.

“Lafayette? Ever been to Scotland?”

And that was that, three days later we were both on a ship back to England, and then on a train to Scotland. It was really a good thing Lafayette and I got along so well, being stuck with just each other for that length of time, there were very few people in the world I could stand it with, and luckily, he was one of them. We received so many judging looks as we spent our time together, lots of whispers from the ladies at lunch, but I paid them no mind and I urged Lafayette to do the same. Instead, we came up with an elaborate fantasy to pass the time, he was my painfully homosexual bodyguard, and I was a temptress who robbed banks for fun.

Well, there was only so much reading one could do when they travelled, right?

When we got off the train to a grey and misty Scotland summer’s day, his face was a picture.

“This is summer?”

“Indeed. Wait until your first winter. Christ.” I sighed. I did love it, but at the same time, whatever this country did to Mother Nature to piss her off, I would have liked to know. The sun barely came to visit. However, even the grey weather could not dampen my excitement of seeing Eric again, so much, so that when we finally reached the Estate, I left Lafayette to shock Mrs Fortenberry all on his own, after hearing that Eric was out with the animals, and I knew exactly where he would be too.

When I did see him, out there alone riding on the horse looking so at ease and handsome, it shocked me somewhat when it took my breath away for a moment or two. I had missed him sorely, and I hoped he felt the same about me, even though he was the one to leave. When he saw me, his face said it all, the shock, the relief, the happiness. The relief it sent through me was unlike any other, I was home now, and he was my home. The love we made there, right in the dirt, was something unexpected and wonderfully liberating to the life we had lived before our leave from both that country, and each other, that when we came back together it seemed nothing else mattered but our need for each other. It was overwhelming and wonderful and all the things we had been missing for a long time in our absence from those grounds, but find my way back to where Eric and I started, meant finding my way back to him, and to myself. Something in those weeks before I would have deemed impossible, vowing that he and I were too far-gone to find out way back, but we did. It was not easy, but then again life was not meant to be easy, it was meant to be hard and painful for it made us enjoy the happy joyful parts all the more when they did come along. It was like the Scottish weather, grey, dull wet and windy, but then when the sun did come out, it came out to play and show off the wonderful countryside she kept hidden, like her secret. Happiness was our secret, one we kept hidden for just us, and I wanted to revel in it now, to be happy with my life as it was, because in my obsession to beat Bill at life by having a baby, I forgot the most important thing. I was alive, I was living and he was dead.

I had already beaten him, as he laid six feet under and I my face to the sun and with breath in my lungs.

I had won, I had Eric, and I had a life to lead all my own. A family would come one way or another; it just meant unconventional ways for us, which should not have surprised me in the slightest, for Eric and I were nothing if not unconventional.

“Adopting?” He asked me as we laid in bed after our reunion and sneaking around adventures. He seemed surprised.

“I think so. I mean, I have thought a lot about it and if it is an option then, I say we should explore it. I do not mind when, now, five years from now, as I said, I just want us to live. Whatever that means.

“Then, I think we need to look in to it then.” He said with a smile before he pulled me into his big embrace, close to his warm body, where I would lay happily. “But tomorrow, tonight, we concentrate on us.” He wriggled his brows at me. “And dinner isn’t for another hour.”

After we had finally managed to tear ourselves away from the other, I was able to dress and fix myself up as best I could, and made my way downstairs. I needed to make sure Lafayette had not been fed to the wolves in my absence. I knew first-hand what a judgmental and unwelcoming bunch they could be there, particularly at first.

I walked into the kitchen unnoticed at first; they were all sitting around the dining table, all starting at and no doubt questioning the unknown man.

“Hello everyone.” I said to announce myself. They all stood instantly, it was strange but still after all this time that still took getting used to.

“My lady, you’re home then.” Mrs Fortenberry spoke for the crew now, as I greeted them with a nod and a smile to try to soften their faces.

“I am indeed Mrs Fortenberry, and I’ve brought a new addition to the household. I hope you’re all being as kind and as welcoming to Lafayette as I know you all to be.” Sure, there was an edge of sarcasm in my voice, and the look I gave Lafayette told him how much I just did not mean it, but I had briefed him before we got there, so he knew all about them.

“Of course, we are just…confused Ma’am.”

“Why’s that then?” I asked cheerfully, walking over to stand by Lafayette.

“Well…we…uh we already have a cook. We have Liam and Malcolm still since Diane left for London. We have been doing just fine –”

“You’ve been doing just fine, Maxine, because Eric and I have been gone over a year and there has been very little to do here beyond cleaning and fending for yourselves. You forget now that we’re back, things… the house will come back to life again.”

Everyone stared at her, I pushed down that feeling that I got when I spoke up to her, that one that sneaked in even though I did not want it to. The feeling as if I was still the new girl, the house maid and she my superior. I was not and she certainly was not any longer, I needed to grow out of that feeling, and fast. This was my home now.

“Lafayette is a fine cook, and an even better baker, he worked for Ms Pamela as I’m sure his references have shown,” I nodded to him and he nodded back. “And more than that, he’s a friend, and a wonderful man, and we could use a few more of those around here.”

They all seemed dumbfounded, not that I was surprised.

“Lafayette, breakfast here begins at five am, not six like I’m sure someone or other has told you.” A lesson I learned the hard way on my first day there. “And the menus are set out at the start of each week, though that might soon be changing. I plan to run a much more informal household to the one that Lord Niall let me run for him.” I hinted strongly at the arm of the law that was Mrs Fortenberry. She pinched her lips together, clearly hating this new me.

When she did not speak then, I nodded to everyone else.

“I hope you make my friend welcome, and soon you’ll come to wonder what we all did without him, or his cookies.”

“What are cookies?” Millie whispered to Mr Dearborn who merely smiled.

“Lafayette? Let me show you around, hmm?” I offered and he smiled at me then, putting out his arm for me to take it, I could swear I heard Maxine’s head explode when we left the kitchen. Both of us contain our laughter when we got above stairs, as Laf mimicked my accent.

“OH honey child, someone does not like the Maid becoming the Mistress!”

“You’re telling me!” I said as I dragged him from the libraries to the dining room, to the empty and unused rooms that I never knew what they were for exactly.

“Sookie? You… own this now right?”

I shrugged.

“In a way, I mean it’s in Eric’s name, but since we’re married… I kind of do.”

“Well that means you get to redecorate right? Because, honey…” He looked around and his face was a picture. It was true though, the house had been caught in a time warp of sorts, and everything was very … Victorian. The new era had not travelled as far as the Estate yet, but Lafayette planted the seed of change in me, and in turn planted it with Eric.

Well, we both did, daily for about a week before he held his hands up to both of us one afternoon after we had yet again cornered him with ideas.

“I give in, please it all sounds wonderful and I trust you Sookie completely… no Arabian night themes thank you, Lafayette.” He kissed my forehead and went to his office, he had been in his spare time looking into the road to adoption for us. Apparently, the list of people that Eric knew that owed him a favour did not just extent to law enforcement, but child services too. We got all the papers necessary, filled in all our details, and sent it off, just like that, one of many processes involved in an adoption, but given Eric’s status, we were assured we would be bumped to the top of the list in no time. That was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

In between meetings with our decorator and bringing the house into the new century, Eric and I had fallen back into life in the country much quicker than I thought we would. Compared to the stress and strain we felt constantly in New York, being back in the wilderness really forced us both to relax, and to spend that quality time with each other. We resumed our daily walks, I even started horse riding with him on the sunnier afternoons, we would pack a picnic and escape the house of judgement for hours on end, just revelling in the surprisingly hot summer Scotland gave us, and the peace and quiet and privacy to just be ourselves.

“And you’ve seen Amelia then? I know her boy is sick…”

“He is, he’s also adorable, even with the cold. We talked, and I told her that she could take as much time off as she needed for baby Sam, as not so baby Sam is working full time in the pub now, she needs to be there, I think she will quit eventually… I hope she does not but I think she will. I apologised for not being around when she was pregnant and we talked all things babies, and I did not even feel jealous. Improvement I think, on my end.” I said with a smile, it was amazing what time did for one’s perspective.

“I’m proud of you, Sookie. I really am. For everything you have been through you is still this amazing woman with a huge heart… I’m glad to be married to you.”

That made my heart sing, almost, if it could, it would.

“You’re too sweet.”

“I’m serious.”

“That’s what makes you sweet.” I purred giving him a peck on the cheek before we resumed our cuddle position on the blanket.

“How’s work?” I asked knowing he was spending most of his days in that office of his in meetings or on the telephone.

“Well… they’ve finally agreed to let us test out some of the machinery on the farms, we’ve assured them it will only help improve things, but people … they hate change. It hasn’t been easy but hopefully with this it will see the yearly turn over double at least.” We talked town business, and everyone that was tethered to the Estate was now connected to Eric, he really did have a lot on his plate work wise, but he seemed to handle it, and them, with relative ease. I assured him it was his charm, he told me it was possibly his manners, that, and he was a lot more open to ideas than Niall had been in the past. Much like the house, Niall’s way of running his business was stuck in the dark ages.

“I was also talking it over with Sean, the idea of opening up a dance hall, a proper large one, maybe with a movie theatre too. We’ve been talking of expanding businesses.”

That surprised me, though it should not have, we attended the pictures regularly in New York and he loved it.

“Entertainment is lacking here.” I commented nudging him but he just laughed.

“Horrific isn’t it, being made to make our own entertainment.”

“We do seem to do okay…” I moved to kiss him and he maneuverer us so that I was suddenly underneath him.

“Yes, we do seem to do okay, don’t we? Out here, all alone, with no one to see or hear us….” His mouth met my neck in a hot, soft, kiss, a kiss that only he could give me.

“I’m sure I do not know what you’re suggesting, Mr Northman.”

“I’m suggesting we spend the rest of our afternoon making like nature intended and getting a little naked…”

“Oh, I would …but the bugs…”

“Psh. They don’t care.” He mumbled as his hands began to wander under my dress. It was probably quite worrying how easily he could get me naked, or at the very least without my underwear.

“God, you have no idea how much I love that women’s fashion has moved past the corsets. They were sexy for five minutes, but the thirty you’d spend undoing them was decidedly less so.” He mumbled again, into my neck as he slid my decidedly less complicated underwear down my legs.

“What if someone sees?”

“Sod them, this is our land and we’ll arrest them.”

“Even if we’re breaking the law…?”

“No one will see!”

With him nuzzling on my neck as he was, it was rather difficult to say no to him, so I did not and for the second time since I had been home, we went all the way to heaven and back under our tree and hopefully out of sight. It was rather glorious to say the least, so freeing and primal, I knew due to the Scottish weather it was not something I could get used to, but for the summer, I knew we would take full advantage when the weather allowed… I knew as well as I knew anything that this was now a kink of Eric’s one he completely passed on to me.

EPOV:

Having Sookie back was like having air in my lungs again, everything seemed better, brighter and more vivid again. She just had that way, of just being in a room and making it so much more than just a room. Of course now she was literally in those rooms making them into so much more with her ideas and teaming with Lafayette to redo the house and as they kept saying ‘bring it into the new century’, I had no objections, I knew Sookie would not steer our home wrong, and she would rein Lafayette’s ideas in too. His were far too exotic for rainy Scotland. He had however settled in, his first week and he was on a first name basis with everyone from Mrs Fortenberry to the Gardener, Joe. Everyone was weary of him, he told me. Of course they were, he said. Sheltered and unworldly all of them the opposite of him, but that they had not been unkind, and for him that was enough for the time being. I had hopes that he would be happy with us, as part of our mixed up little family, but I struggled to see how he could get what he needed in such a small close-minded place. It was one of the reasons Pam preferred cities, people were more opened minded there, or at the very least willing to indulge in the parts of themselves they kept hidden from view – even if they never admitted it to anyone.

For the time being, Sookie and I accepted that he was happy to be where he was and with some people at least, that he liked. He swore it was more than he had in the States, and that he was happy, so we’d let him be. We would, of course Pam would not when she would no doubt come to stay at some point. But, it was not our business, not really, and so we kept silent on the subject. The subject we had been far more preoccupied with was the adoption process. Sookie had been back a week when we filed the forms, and then with a little cheeky phone call or three, we were assured our process would be significantly faster given my quote unquote status.

Finally, that stupid thing had some uses, I thought.

After several meetings with the children’s services, when we were questioned right down almost to what kind of underwear we wore, it was deemed ‘appropriate’ for us to visit the orphanage to … have a look. We got as far as the gates and it instantly made Sookie and I uncomfortable, she deemed it shopping for a baby – in the most literal sense, and we ended up putting off for almost three weeks. But eventually we both decided that it was what we wanted, and putting it off was just avoiding what would have to be done, we weren’t shopping for a child, we were going to expand our family, it was all a matter of perspective.

When the day arrived in late summer, she and I were both up before the sun, both of us jittery with nerves. It had been an exciting time to say the least, and the day had come for us to go and meet the babies, to see how we got on.

“Do I look okay?” she asked me for what must have been the millionth time since we left the house, she tucked her curled and pinned hair behind her ears again, she fussed with her dress, she checked her shoes, her lipstick, all for imperfections.

“As I said before love, you look lovely, relax.” I squeezed her hand for a show of support, who the support was for, her or I, was hard to tell.

“Yes but what if they…. Don’t like us?”

“They’re babies, babies don’t care what we’re wearing… trust me.”

“Not just the babies, but the people.”

“Sookie they run an overstuffed orphanage, I’m sure they’re just happy to be off loading some of their cargo.”

“Oh god, don’t talk about them like that.” She gently slapped me as we reached the front door of the large and intimidating building.

“Sorry, I detach when I get nervous.”

“And I obsess. Aren’t we a pair?” She smiled nervously.

We were led by the harsh and unfriendly looking woman, Margo, into an office where Sookie smoothed down the front of her dress a few more times and I reminded us both to breathe. There was another meeting about how this was a life long responsibility, and not to be taken lightly, all things we knew but I guessed it was their protocol. We were then asked if we would like to meet some of the babies, since on our form we had stipulated a newborn or infant at the oldest, there was a special room for those of that age. I broke away for a second, my nervousness getting the better of me, and I asked them to go ahead without me as I went to pee. Sookie refused, and so I rushed.

Of course, in a building so large and dank, I got myself turned around and found myself in another corridor full of doors, none of which led to the bathroom

That is when I met him.

I looked in the little window and saw him, this small child who could not have been more than five. However, he was reading, his nose in the book ignoring all the other kids wreaking havoc around him. For some reason he caught my eye, so I went in.

There did not seem to be anyone supervising the room, which I found odd since they were not exactly toddlers and were running amuck. I took a seat at the table and instantly recognised the book he was reading.

The Secret Garden.

I not so secretly loved that book, even if it was mainly aimed at children.

“Do you think Mary is just too nosy for her own good then?” I asked the little brown-haired boy who had yet to look up. Then he did, with a slight smile.

He had big green eyes and a scattering of freckles on his little nose, he was also very young. Younger than I imagined being able for a large book like the one in his hands.

“She is, but in a good way. Her being nosy helps everyone.”

Smart kid, I thought to myself.

“I’m Eric by the way.”
“Henry, and that’s my brother back there, he’s called Jack.” I looked to the corner where he nodded. Sure enough, there was a boy, much bigger than Henry, but he was just sitting facing the wall.

“Is he okay?”

Henry shrugged.

“He don’t talk much, but he’s okay.” The boy was not a Scottish native, he had what I guessed to be a London accent.

With that, the boy sized me up.

“You’re tall.”

“I am…”

“Are you here to see the babies? All the other couples are here for the babies.” He said matter of factly, and I agreed that I was.

“What you doing in here then? We’re not babies.”

“Well, I got a little lost on my way… and I saw you reading and wanted to see what it was.”

He held up the book with an expectant look on his face, he was a little smartarse this one, it was funny.

“You seem a little young for that book, how old are you?”

“Six, I’ll be seven in seven months is what Jack says. How old are you?”

“I’m old compared to you, I’m thirty six.”

His eyes widened.

“That IS old.” He laughed.

“It really is, especially when you’re six.”

“Is your wife with the babies? All the wives love the babies.”

The fact that this little guy was only six but knew so well that what the couples wanted were tiny babies made me a little sad for him, we weren’t even shown into this part of the building, just right to the new-borns and toddlers.

“She is for right now she’s probably wondering where I am.” I looked toward the door to signify I might leave, but as I looked at his cute little face so resigned to disappointment at such a young age, something pulled me to stay there.

“But… how about we play a game of snap before I go?” I said spotting the playing cards on the table, he put down his book and took the cards from me.

“I deal.”

I smirked. Smart kid.

Three games of snap later and Sookie’s hand appeared softly on my shoulder.

“There you are we thought you must have gotten lost.”

I looked and there she stood with a curious look on her face, the orphanage manager behind her.

“Oh, I suppose I did in a way.”

I noticed Henry looking at Sookie with big wide eyes.

“Hi there,” She said extending her hand and he looked to me before he stuck out his own to shake it.

“Hello.”

“Sookie this is Henry, he’s six and he’s beating me at every game of snap we’ve played.”

That made Sookie smile again.

“Is that so? Well good for you, Henry. Someone has to keep him in his place.”

Henry giggled but then stopped himself, noticing the manager behind her. My heart ached.

I found myself thinking of him and what his life was like long after we left there that day, and every time I did, I worked myself into an unhappy funk of moods that I could not shift out of easily. By the third day, Sookie had noticed to the point where she was forced to say something.

In bed, that next night she put her book aside and took mine, then took my hand.

“You’re lost inside your head again, Love. I’m going to need you to talk to me.”

“I’m fine really; it’s just too many thoughts sometimes.”

She nodded.

“Unload a few of them at me then.” She smiled a goofy smile into my face before she pecked my lips with hers.

“Hmm? I think that trip wore more on your mind than you would like to admit. I know it was over-whelming…”

“It was, and it did… but… I know we said we wanted a baby…” We had met the babies that day too, all of them lovely and cute and all things little babies were meant to be. Still my mind went back to the two lonely boys and I could not help it.

She nodded as if the pieces of the puzzle had been matched up.

“That little boy.”

I sighed.

“He has a brother there too, he’s a little older.”

“Two boys…” Sookie said before shifting to my side and under my arm for a cuddle. This was her go-to move when we talked in bed and I loved it.

“It’s insane, I know it is. Boys come with issues and baggage and as first time parents maybe a baby is a safer bet… I know all this, which is what is causing the conflict inside of me. I can’t stop thinking about them.”

She was silent then for a while before she spoke.

“If there is a reason why they haunt your thoughts, maybe the reason is for us to get to know them better then?”

I didn’t expect that from her.

“But you have your heart set on a ba-”

“I know, I thought we both did.”
“I do want a baby with you, Sookie. You know that.”

She nodded.

“The way I see it is this, you’re right. The boys come with more issues than we may be equipped to deal with. Then again, every child does eventually. Whether it’s a baby we’ve made or found, they’re people and as people we’re all pretty screwed up in the end.”

I listened to her ramble carefully. They were often full of wisdom if I listened right.

“He was cute, and he liked to read for such a young kid… you’d have that in common. I don’t know about the other older boy yet, but, if anyone can get him to come around it’s you.”

“And you. You’re very persuasive when you want to be, Sookie.”

With that, she giggled.

“Oh I know it.” She sighed. “Let’s go back there in a couple of days, organise something perhaps, maybe we can take them for a day out, see if they warm to us?”

I could not contain my smile. Not because it was what I really wanted, but because it was something, she was willing to try for me, for my happiness. She really was an amazingly unselfish woman.

Two days later we were back where we started, having been granted a day pass of sorts with the boys. We had decided to take them for a drive and for lunch and maybe dinner before we had to bring the back. I loaded up the car with board games and books, just in case they got restless. I remembered being a boy; I got restless a lot if I was not doing anything.

SPOV:

Eric was more excited than any child I had ever witnessed, it was beyond comical really, but, they agreed to let us see the boys for the day, and while I was nervous, I was also excited. The idea of having a baby was still there of course, but this too was new and an option for us, and for these boys. There was no harm is just seeing, I told myself. Maybe they would not like us, or us them and that would be that. If we did end up liking each other, well then that made things all the easier in the end. The first day we went for a drive and something to eat, then to the swings in the park in town for an hour or so, it was nice but both boys were reserved and obviously nervous too. Neither said much but both were polite and sweet, even with each other, which was nice to see. The second day, a week later was a different story.

Henry was a ball of energy, he talked nonstop almost, about this or that or his books, Jack on the other hand was the older boy and as such he was the more silent of the two. Beyond please and thank you, he never spoke, not even to Henry. It was odd, but then we just let them be and tried to have as natural a day as possible with them. We took them to town for food, and then back to the house where Eric had decided they were going to play outside since it was such a nice day. Thor was curious and the boys took to him instantly and him to them, he was like a pup again he was so playful with them. Jack again though, was the more reserved of the two. Opting to stay by my side, though we were both silent as we watched Eric and Henry play golf, both missing the ball more often than not. He did not speak and neither did I, not for a long while.

“You want another piece of cake?”

He shook his head.

“I made it myself you know, you should have the last piece because otherwise I will and I’ll probably feel sick…” I smiled. “I like cake too much.”

He gave me a short smile before reaching tentatively for the last piece and munching away.

“It’s good.” First words, there was a God!

“Thank you. I wanted to make you boys some things you might like, I figured everyone likes cake.”

He nodded.

“But you’re a Lady don’t you ‘ave a cook?”

“We do… but I like to bake a lot myself when we have special guests like you boys.”

He nodded, still looking unsure of himself.

“You know, I know this place… and us… it can be a little overwhelming. I remember how scared I was when I first got here.”

“Was that when you married Mr Northman?”

“Nope, that was when I got off the carriage from the station, walked all the way up to the side door, and knocked. I used to work here, you know? I was a maid.”

His little eyes widened then.

“Really?”

“Really. And, I remember how scary it was, how big and intimidating, and the people were all new and so sure of themselves, and I was just the outsider.”

He nodded then, taking another bite of his cake.

“That is scary. But… you was a maid? Really?” He looked surprised but not judging which in turn surprised me. People always judged that little nugget of information, but not him.

“Yes, that’s how Mr Northman and I met.

“Was you….meant to do that?”

I smiled and shook my head.

“No, we weren’t but we did and we fell in love and … here we are I suppose.” I decided to save the boy the horrid tale of our history in all its detail, choosing to focus on the positives.

“That’s …”

“Unusual?” I helped him and he nodded scooting closer to me on the bench where we sat, watching my husband and his brother make fools of themselves over a small ball, it was a sight.

A wonderful one. I had never recalled seeing Eric so alive.

“Miss Sookie?”

“Hmm?”

“Why does you both not have children on your own then? You aren’t as old as the other couples who saw us, and you’re a lot nicer.”

And nice young people had their own babies, I thought that too once.

“We just … tried and it didn’t happen, so we decided to try something else.”
“And you want to adopt the babies?”

“We thought we did…” I shrugged before I looked him in the eye. “But meeting you and your brother sort of made us realise we’d like to see how you liked us before we made any solid plans.”

He nodded as we heard Henry giggling from where we sat, he had whacked Eric on the leg with his bat and he was rolling around on the ground pretending to be in pain, making the boy laugh so hard he took the hiccups. It was clear as day Eric was smitten, and if I was being honest, I was too. They were sweet boys, who if raised right had a lot of potential to be great men.

“You said other couples met with you? How many others?”

He sighed, the weight of the world on his little shoulders.

“Three. One was too old really, he ‘ad a beard and she ‘ad grey hair… they wanted us but the people at the orphanage said no… we don’t know why. The second ones were taking us in, we had our stuff packed and everything but…”

“But what?”

The lady she got pregnant they said, and so… they didn’t want us no more.”

My heart broke for them then and there. Jesus how awful to be rejected in such ways.

“And the third?”

He pursed his lips then looking at his brother.

“The man, he hit Henry, beat him… and me, but mostly him, because we wasn’t strong enough to work the farm with him, so after a week or so… we ran. The orphanage found us and took us back, we don’t know what happened to them but we didn’t have to go back.”

With that, I did not stop myself when I felt the urge to hug the boy, I did stop the tears in my eyes from falling but not my heart from aching for those poor children. He hugged me back, not tightly or with any real effort but he embraced the hug, one I noticed Eric saw, he raised his brow at me and I just shook my head.

“Jack if you and your brother decide that you like Eric and I enough, you could come and live with us if you’d like to. You do not have to decide today or tomorrow even… but if you do decide, I can promise you none of those things would happen to you here. Eric is a big man, I know, but he is not an angry one, and I should know he has the patience of a Saint with me. He’s nice, and kind and I like to think I am that too. I have little patience for snobs or people who chew with their mouths open, or people who don’t appreciate what they have in life when they have it.” I smiled making him smile too, “but for the most part I think I’m not so bad?”

“You’re not so bad, Miss Sookie. I will talk with Henry… and we will say.”

I nodded, as did he and it was like an already agreed deal between us, they were coming to stay and that was that. Of course, as I said it, at the time I did not know or even realise… I was already pregnant.


AN: There will be an epilogue 😉 xox


Chapter 41: Chapter 41


Here it is peeps, the very final chapter, the Epilogue of War at Heart! It’s been a hell of a run and saying thank you for all the support and encouragement and whatnot over the past year and half has been utterly fantastic and amazing. I hope that one day if I start using this writing obsession for my ‘own’ stuff, the support will half as great! Enjoy & as always, love to hear what you think!

Sookie:

“There?”

“Hmm a little higher I think.”

“Here?”

“Perfect.” I nodded as the decorator was putting the final touches to our living room, our new much more comfortable and liveable living room, that did not look so much like a museum as before and more like a home. A home that held a family or would soon hold a family. The renovations had taken months, the paperwork for the boys, had taken months, and well, something else was taking a few more months to be done too, but that I would get to later.

The first few days we spent with the boys were wonderful, after the initial awkwardness, we grew to be a little team of sorts but literally as Eric decided he wanted to play all sports known to man with the brothers, to figuratively as we got to know each other. Then we saw them, once a week for a month, and each time it got harder and harder to bring them back to that place, to watch them disappear behind those big old doors to a place where no one loved them.

We loved them.

All it took was a few days, and tentative like and curiosity turned to love, just like that. I worried for them, about them, I wanted them to be clean and fed and taken care of, just like that. I surprised even myself with just how quickly it happened too. Eric did not need those few days, I think he loved them from the minute he talked to them, not that Jack said much to him, but Henry had taken to Eric like a duck to water, they got along famously, and not one part of me didn’t think it was the most adorable thing ever, either.

“Sookie, come see this! Come see this!” Eric came in from the grounds covered in mud, wearing his riding boots and looking like he had just ran a race, but the great big smile on his face told me worry wasn’t what I should be feeling. Instead, I let him take me by the hand and all but run us outside, to the side of the larger gardens, through the trees, to the big oak that sat in the middle.

“You didn’t…”

He smiled at my disbelief.

“All boys should have a tree house, it’s only right.”

All the noise and the disappearing act, he and Joe, the carpenter that was adding some things to the house, had been out of my hair all day every day for a week, then I saw why.

“You built them a tree house? Eric…”

“I know, I know, nothing’s final yet, I know. But you’re just as bad.”

“It’s a bedroom, and beds, all of which we had already I haven’t been building things!” I waved my hand at the giant tree house starting about six feet up the giant and ageless tree.

“It’s amazing, you want to come see?”

The climb seemed a bit much for how I was feeling, how I had been feeling for a couple of weeks. I declined, but admired it from afar anyway.

“We’re collecting them at ten on Saturday, this is the weekend they get to sleep over, remember?” I said knowing that he did, of course, he did we hadn’t stopped talking about it since we were allowed the pervious Saturday.

“I know, I think we should get them to make the boys something nice, simple, less… fancy. Kids don’t really like fancy food, kids who spend most of their time in an orphanage even less so I would imagine.”

I nodded.

“Sook?” He asked, concerned as he cupped my face in his hands. “You still feeling unwell?”

“A little… I can’t shake this bug. I blame all the sports you have been making me play. I’m not built for sports.”

“A little tennis never killed anyone.” He smiled.

“No, but the tennis, the cricket, and the ‘let’s show them the grounds’ hike almost did, in the one day.” I sighed, not angry at all, but pretending to be, he just grinned at me like a fool.

“They had a good time though, I think… maybe we should slow things down though, maybe it’s too much?”

I took his hand then, as we made our way back to the house.

“No, you’re excited and it’s great, I love seeing it, unless they don’t want to, I say keep on keeping on, I just … I just hate it.”
“It?”

“Sending them back there, to that place every time.”

He nodded then as we stopped at the bench under another tree, one facing the rest of the land.

“I know, but soon the process will be over and they’ll get to stay here always and we can finally relax… it won’t be so long I don’t think.”

We sat in silence then, and I started to feel tired, so tired, I had been feeling this way on and off for a few weeks. I blamed it on the new stress, I blamed the new germs from the boys and the orphanage, I blamed what I ate, I blamed just about everything except for that one thing I wouldn’t allow myself to blame.

The next day, Eric all but ordered me to see the doctor in town. I obliged and even drove myself, his disbelieve in my driving skills aside, but I thought I was a great driver. We bickered about it constantly but it was the kind of bickering I knew we both secretly enjoyed.

Bloods were taken, chats were had, and I was to go back in a week and see what it was all about. I was still convinced it was a bug. I had the boys distracting me, the house was in chaos top to bottom, and everything was in a spin, but it was the best kind of crazy that I could remember having.

“Sookie?” Jack began when I found him in the stables with the horses, having left the three of us in the garden a half hour before, we let him have his space – we weren’t there to smother the boy – or to force him into feeling relaxed with us. With Henry it was a little easier, he was younger and it didn’t take much to get him on side, Jack was another ball game entirely though, and that was okay.

“There you are, we’ve been wondering where you got to. Dinner’s ready, if you’re hungry, then we have to get you boys back before they get annoyed at us.” This was how it was, for weeks, every weekend they had to be left back and I hated it, they hated it, but it had to be done.

For the time being.

“It’s chicken and stuffing.” I added and his face lit up. “And roast potatoes and gravy, Henry said it was your favourite.”

Yeah, we were sneaky.

He nodded enthusiastically and even took my hand on the way back inside, it made my heart swell, and it made Eric smile when he saw us enter the dining room in such a manner. We left them back washed and dressed in new clothes we’d taken them shopping for that afternoon, and well fed. It was almost enough to keep us content for another week as we promised we’d call at the same time as usual.

Almost.

“Mrs Northman, good to see you again.” My doctor greeted me as I walked in and sat down almost a week later, the results of my bloods were in and it was time to find out exactly what I was dealing with.

I wasn’t prepared at all for what came out of his mouth.

“Sookie, you’re pregnant.”

I blinked and I swore I could hear my blood in my ears. I felt dizzy and a little sick.

“No.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No… that’s not what it is, it’s something else.”

“It’s really not, Sookie. You are pre-”

“No I’m not! You know how I know? Because they told me it was slim to none even with the operations and I still held on to hope, and it didn’t happen and we tried for a year… Doctor I’m not pregnant. I’m just… sick or something. It’s a bug.”

“It is a little bug that will go away in about seven months give or take.” He smiled at his joke.

Seven months?!

“What?”

“Sookie you’re about seven weeks pregnant, give or take.”

I blinked and I inhaled, I still did not buy it.

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Doctor… no.”

“Sookie, yes. See here? Your bloods clearly indicate it and if you would like I can examine you again, I knew on our last visit but I wanted to make completely sure before telling you. I know your history…”

“So then you know, all the pain and the operation and the trying and the waiting and nothing and now just when I’d fully let go for the idea of having my own baby… this… this…” I was having a panic attack, I was sure of it. I had to calm myself down.

They gave me some water and opened the window where I sat, and for twenty minutes, I just sat there trying to take in my news, tried to allow myself to believe it was real. After that, I had another appointment booked for two weeks’ time, and I was to go home and celebrate. The drive home, on the all but empty road, with views of the lakes and the mountains, trees and nature, the ultimate claim hid my internal anxiety. Why now? Why after all this time of worry and waiting? Why now when I had forced myself to let go of the idea of a biological child… was fate just cruel or was she on another schedule to us entirely? I walked into the house in somewhat of a daze, no one was around and I had no idea where Eric was. Therefore, I went to some familiar faces, finding Amelia and Lafayette in the kitchen alone was a godsend.

“Well Mrs Northman you sure are looking….sullen and pale today.” Lafayette began with sass but ended in concern. “What’s wrong? Did the doctors not go well?”

“W-where is everyone else?” I was in a true daze.

“Oh, Mr Northman decided they got the morning off since no one was going to be home and he’s at that meeting and you were in town, so they’re all scattered to the winds until lunch.”

“Oh.” I said taking a seat at their table, Ames handed me a cup of tea without so much as asking. I took it without a word.

“You okay?” She began.

“No I’m fine, why didn’t you both take the morning off?”

“Well…” she said. “Sam and Sam are at home, with flu so they’re staying in their flu bubble without me for as long as possible. And besides, I had work to do here, even if as a Lady’s maid I’ve been less and less use to you lately.” She rolled her eyes playfully.

“Best thing about the new fashions, we can dress ourselves now and not take a day to do it.” I muttered before sipping my tea. “I um, I have to talk to Eric, he said he’d be back around now, right?”

“Yes Ma’am, said if we were still here that he’d like something small around twelve, we have soup and sandwiches, for you too if you’re hungry?”

I could not face food, not right then.

“No, thank you. He’ll love that though, I…” I was distracted and confused so I was sure I wasn’t the best company to be in that morning. “I’m going to go upstairs, I have a few letters to write, one to Pam that’s beyond overdue…” I figured if I wrote down what I was, it would make it more real, if I told Pam, by the time she got the letter Eric would know and maybe then I would feel like it was a reality. As it stood then, it still felt like dream.

I hadn’t been sick, morning sickness at least, I felt like I had gained weight but that was a fact I chalked up to all the huge meals and sweet stuffs Lafayette was experimenting with on us. Maybe they were right, at the hospital, maybe all it took was time. In our case a whole lot of time.

I heard Eric then, shuffling up the stairs and into his library, I got to him before he managed to close the door. He looked surprised.

“Hello you. You are home early; I thought you were going into town after… Sookie are you okay? You seem …pale. God, it wasn’t bad news was it?” He took my hands and led me inside, we sat on his leather couch that took pride of place across from his desk, where he would sleep off his hangovers before I started working at the Estate, he would tell me.

“I … no it … it was good news… great news actually I’m just having a hard time accepting it because hey, it’s us and let’s be honest we don’t really get great news all that often… do we? So really, I think I’m just panicking because I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop and the boom to lower and for us to realise that this is terrible and awful and something bad is going to –”

“Sookie, Sookie! Hey!” He said, cupping my face in his hands, making me face him. “You’re rambling and you’re scaring me. What did the doctor say, Sweetheart?”

I looked at him then, and squeezed his hands as I told him our news, only to watch his eyes light up and the rest of his face to follow. It was beyond beautiful.

“Seriously?!”

“No I would make this up, of course seriously!” I said getting a little excited then, he stood us up before squeezing the life out of me in a giant Eric sized hug where my feet were lifted off the ground. I could do nothing but laugh, and his laugh followed.

“We’re seriously having a baby?!”

“Seven weeks and counting.” I said after he set me down, both of us still grinning like fools.

“My God Sookie… what are the odds?!”

“Slim to none, very slim… we knew that… we knew that’s why we agreed to adopt.”

“The boys… God… does this even happen? How do we tell them? When do we tell them?”

“Not yet…”

“But …”

“We have to; I know that, but not yet. They’ve had a bad history with being wanted then unwanted when the woman got pregnant, remember?”

“Of course, but we would never do that, we’re their parents now…. We just need to make it official, they know that.”

“They do, but I want it to be further along, on both counts, with this little one,” I said touching my stomach, for the first time since finding out, it was as if I was scared to before. “And with the adoption process. Please?”

He nodded and embraced me in a hug once more, pulling back to look at me as we embraced together, both of us grinning still.

“I can’t believe it…,” he said shaking his head.

“Me either, my god, me either.” I was only now starting to let it sink in, the shock of it all subsiding somewhat.

“Do you think it was all the fresh air and country living that did it?” he said with a grin and a glint in his eyes.

“No, I think it was all our fucking in the fresh air and countryside that did it, but we won’t tell people that little detail.” He kissed me then, powerful and passionate as always, this one almost making me see stars.

“I can’t believe we’re going to have three children in less than a year…” he laughed. “The ultimate of be careful what you wish for I suppose?”

“I suppose so.” I beamed.

“I couldn’t wish for anything better though, truly. It will be manic and crazy but…I think we can deal with manic and crazy.”

I think if anyone could, we could.

EPOV:

She was pregnant; I could not really wrap my head around it as I was sure she couldn’t. We were in a daze for a few days after the news, but we soon got used to the idea, and Sookie began realising her slight weight gain hadn’t been down to Lafayette and his over-use of butter in just about everything he cooked. Nope, there was a baby, and it was on its way for us – the boys and us.

It took us another three weeks of weekend visits with the boys before we were deemed safe enough that they could come live with us, while the paperwork was being finalised and everything was viewed as above board. We had the most fun picking out paint for their new bedroom, bed linen they might have liked, and even more clothes, hell; even Pam sent things over with a note saying she herself would be there soon to follow. I knew that made Sookie as pleased as it made me, Pam was a fantastic friend and an even better guest to have around, and I knew the boys would love her oddball sense of humour.

Henry and I quickly became two peas in a pod, while Jack, the older boy, seemed to take much more quickly to Sookie. Where Henry liked to play outside with all manner of toys and wooden swords and seemed to love to climb and be around nature and the animals, Jack was the more silent one who liked to watch those around him, or read. I understood Jack more than I understood Henry, our personalities were more similar, but we did not connect instantly as Henry and I had. I knew it was something that weighed on Sookie as the months passed, and soon there was no denying she was with child, as she grew round and swollen and wonderful – even if she thought she looked horrific, I thought she looked beautiful and full of life. We were overly careful the first couple of months after we got her news, she dared not get on the horses, she rarely walked further than the grounds allowed, carrying heavy items was entirely out of the question as far as I was concerned, and basically she was all but wrapped in cotton wool by my standards. And our sex life went from exciting to very safe, just in case we got too rough or too… us. At least for the first few months, then there was less stress as she grew, and we realised she liked sex a lot more while pregnant, even if she felt ‘ugly as sin’.

The boys took the news well, Sookie and I sat them down, just as she was starting to really show and explained to them what was going on. We saw the fear in Jack’s eyes in those moments, and it broke my heart and made me more protective over him, and his brother, more than ever before. She explained away their fears though, there was cake and tea, and cuddles and they seemed more at ease afterward for which I was thankful. Sookie was big on cuddles, even when they protested, they got at least one a day. I knew Henry at least secretly loved having a mother that cuddled, having been in care for so long as a very young boy.

“Boys?!” Came Sookie’s voice from the side of the house, we had taken over the grass to the left of the house for our activities, Jack was reading under a tree not far from us, Henry was covered in mud from his ankles to his knees.

Sookie pursed her lips when she saw the state of him; she folded her arms just about her prominent six month along bump before she spoke.

“Eric, really?”

“Nothing a little soap and water won’t fix.” I defended making him laugh. Jack looked to Sookie from his book, and then looked back to his reading.

“Dinner will be ready in about a half hour, I was going to suggest you come in and clean up, now I think I must demand it.”

“I have to walk Thor.”

“Good, that’s good. Jack can go with you, that sound good, Jack?” She offered but I could see Jack really didn’t want to.

“Sook… if he doesn’t want to he doesn’t –”

“I think you both need a little walk…” her tone was firm as the boy approached her. I pretended I couldn’t hear and that I was merely collecting the junk we’d spread over the grass in our playtime. But he was nervous around me, still.

“Sookie… I don’t think I can, not… now. Maybe… Henry would like to go instead.” He whispered to her and I felt a pang of what felt like guilt in my chest, but I did not know why I felt guilty really. I had tried to get the boy to warm to me, but I was not going to force him.

“Henry needs to come inside and get washed up for dinner, and I think you and Eric could do with a little time alone, to talk…”

“About what?” he asked almost in a panic.

Sookie shrugged.

“Whatever you feel like talking about. He won’t bite, I promise. He’s just a big tall kid underneath that scowl.” She nudged him toward me, and I wanted to protest at her description of me, but then that would have given my listening away.

I whistled for Thor and off the three of us went, in silence for the first ten or so minutes, before I bit the bullet and spoke.

“Sookie is great you know, she’s really relaxed about a lot of things, but my God when that woman gets a bee in her bonnet about something, no one escapes.”

He laughed looking at the ground as we walked but still didn’t make eye contact.

“You know it’s okay if you don’t want to talk, Sookie is big on talking, and before I met her I wasn’t so big on talking. I used to actually spend a lot of my time alone, sort of locked up in my office, just reading or… mostly reading.” The boy didn’t need to know about my debilitating drinking habit. “But she’s American, so I give her a pass.”

He smiled again. Progress.

I knew why he was weary; we had gotten their backstory from the manager of the orphanage. Their home life had not been the easiest of times, their father was a soldier but he was messed up after the war as so many of them were, and he took it out on his wife and his boy. Henry escaped the brunt of it because it was just a baby, but we all knew that Jack was the one that remembered. Their mother died, and they were left with him for a year before he drank himself to death, then they were shipped here to Scotland from London to live with their grandmother, only for her to pass not six months later. To say they had it rough was an understatement, and to say that Jack feared men, was another.

“She’s a nice lady, she’s kind and funny…and her cakes are …well they’re great like her.”

I agreed with him.

“You know she’ll be needing your help, when the new baby comes, we’ve never really got a chance to be around babies, so we might not know what to do.” I offered. “But you have, right?”

He nodded.

“I was only wee when Henry came but I remember some things. They cry a lot, babies.”

“That they do.”

“And pee… they pee just about everywhere… its funny.”

I suppose it was. The clean up probably less so.

“But I think any baby Sookie has might be a nice baby… your … your baby too… I mean you’re nice… you’re both nice not that she is and you’re not.” He was nervous, poor thing. I stopped walking then and halted Thor, and took a seat in the grass.

“Its’ okay you know? If you don’t like me as much as her? She amazing so I get it, I really do. But just know okay? That I’m here for you both as well, and I would never let anything bad happen to you, either of you.”

He nodded and I hoped he understood that I never meant him any harm.

“She’s also insisting on a tutor to come for you both, a few hours a day, so that when time comes to start school you’ll be all caught up, it won’t be so bad, we’ll get someone nice.”

He nodded.

“That’s okay, the school at the orphanage was easy, they didn’t teach us much, but ’cause I knew how to read I taught Henry early, our Grandmother insisted we knew at least that much, said no one gets on in life without it.”

“She was right.”

“Sookie said her parents died, and she went to live with her grandmother, just like us, that’s funny isn’t it. Funny strange, not funny ha-ha.” He blushed.

“It is funny strange, but that just means she knows what it’s like to be scared like that.”

“I’m not scared!”

“No I just mean… I just mean of all the change. Change is a scary thing sometimes, going from place to place, then to the orphanage …then to here. It can’t be easy, just know you have all the time in the world to get used to it, and to us… to me.”

“Is it true that Sookie was your maid?” He asked curiously, and I knew she had told him.

“She wasn’t my maid, she was the house maid… but yes. That’s how we met.”

“So she was poor, like us?”

I nodded. It wasn’t something Sookie was ashamed of, not any more.

“And she had no one and you had no one even though you lived here with Lord Niall?”

I nodded again.

“And she helped you…”

“Helped me?”

He nodded then.

“Miss Amelia said… she said Sookie helped you come back to life. Where you dying, Eric?”

I smiled then, Amelia wasn’t half wrong in her assessment of Sookie and but I could see why the boy was confused.

“I was very sad, for a long time, and I wasn’t much for company… much like you now, I sort of … well I liked to keep myself to myself as much as I could.”

“I like the quiet.” He admitted. “Sometimes with Henry there’s so much noise and so many questions and at the orphanage, there’s never silence. I like it here, here has silence when I want it to.”

I understood that completely.

“Well, hey, any time you think you might need,” I looked out