I was late.
I was so fantastically late!
And instead of moving at the required warp speed, my roommate Preston was daintily picking his way through the traffic like a goddamned belle of the ball! I stared at him in disbelief.
He gave two cars the space to merge in front of us before glancing at me.
“What are you doing?”
“Driving you to the BART station, Sook.”
I rolled my eyes and made the supreme effort to keep calm, lest I shake his delicate sensibilities. A bicycle overtook us and the rider gave us a look before moving in front of us in order to take a left turn.
“Sweetie, can you maybe… speed up a little? Like, go faster than the bicycles? I need to be on my train in five minutes and the station is ten minutes away.”
“How can we get there in less than five minutes? It is a statistical impossibility.”
“PRESTON!” I yell in exasperation.
“Now, Sook! Yelling will not improve our chances of getting you on the train.” He cut in calmly.
“I…You… Just…” I sputtered, unable to form a coherent response, in the midst of mentally swatting his head with my laptop.
So, that is how I missed my train. And I missed the one that ran five minutes after that, too. Which resulted in me missing my subsequent Trans Bay bus to Los Altos Hills. The next one would be coming in fifteen minutes. I’d reach work a half hour late…
… My boss was going to kill me!
I couldn’t wait for the week to be over, so I would get my pay and finally be able to buy a car to get myself around. Preston and his lily ass wouldn’t have to “escort” me anywhere for a long time coming!
I bounced on my heels as I waited for my bus, going through my awesome stash of late coming excuses and discreetly ticking one after the other on my fingers, on account of being used to death, too paltry or plainly non-creative. I needed a new stash.
My desperate musing suddenly came to a halt, the reason being a loud screech from a motorbike at the intersection across from my stop. The light had turned yellow and most responsible citizens were already breaking. But the biker zigzagged through the slowing cars and took a sharp U-turn to my side of the street, just as the lights turned red. From being at the back of most cars to crossing all of them – four hundred feet – it took him a mere three seconds.
Belle of the ball, this one was not!
I was still staring at the bike when it abruptly came to stop a few feet from me. That’s when I noticed there was a pillion rider, a girl with mile-long legs, currently encased in almost see through black leggings, smart cotton shorts and cropped boots. I didn’t even have to look at her face. I knew she would be gorgeous. So I concentrated on the blonde who just took off his helmet.
That face… that body… the sheer physicality of his presence a few feet from me, hit me like a wrecking ball: in my guts.
Oh sweet baby Jesus!
Golden hair, disheveled, unruly, streaked with dark wet copper. Tanned skin, again golden and sun-kissed. A pierced lip with a glint of something silver there… A line of a dark tattoo peaking out from the deep V-neck of his slightly crumpled black T-shirt; the V that showed more smooth, golden skin, and a thin silver chain with an anchor pendant. A black leather jacket; fitted black jeans; black boots, laces untied. He looked like he just got out of bed, maybe in a hurry.
He shoved his dark sunglasses over his head and gave me a cursory glance before turning to the woman with him. That one look was enough for me to look at his eyes. Blue eyes. Clear, sparkling with mischief, beautiful, blue eyes… The kind of eyes that got good girls like me in trouble.
I blinked. And I stared. And I knew I was staring… But I stared nonetheless. Thing is, what do you actually do when you see that perfect kind of specimen of male beauty right in front of you, practically forcing your eyes to get hooked? So, hooked I was. I knew I was going down, hook, line and sinker. Why even try to look away?
The woman with him kissed his cheek and handed him her helmet, before giving him a small shove to get going. He pouted at the shove, the lip ring glinting with the movement, and playfully looked at her like a small, cuddly puppy. That small kiss and the pout was the second time I was gutted in my fifteen-second-long relationship with the hot, blond biker.
Oh yeah! He was already my imaginary boyfriend and my foolish, love-struck brain was mentally banging the modelesque female’s head on the pavement for bringing her lips anywhere near HIM that was mine.
Pathetic? I know. Sue me!
Although I didn’t mind the resultant pout, I’d be imagining those curled lips a lot in the foreseeable future.
He kick started the bike and rode off, went away, vanished in the traffic, like a ghost rider. My bus came up and I boarded it, still in a daze. Wouldn’t be lying if I said I looked for him on the roads right up to my stop near my work place.
I also wouldn’t be lying in saying that I was sorely, cripplingly tempted to miss two trains and a bus everyday for the whole ensuing week afterwards, just for another chance to look at Mr. Hot Shot Biker again.
But I held on and held my baser instincts in. I mean, having looked him over again and again in hindsight, I began to see how foolish I was being. With the dark tattoo, piercing (I am pretty sure I didn’t like piercings on guys before I saw him), crumpled clothes and eyes of the devil incarnate, he looked like the bad boy of wet dreamland. I on the other hand – in my straight-laced, button-down, cotton shirt and unflattering pants, flat, ballerina shoes, hair in a prim pony tale at the base of my neck, without a stitch of makeup to do some charity to my stark features – would not have caught the eye of someone like him on my best day. Just the thought of getting anywhere near a tattoo needle would have me running to the nearest toilet to hurl; this was the level of adventurous pain that I could take. Hot Biker was melted chocolate fudge in my boring vanilla life: good for escape dreaming, not so much for reality.
So I resisted my stupid, primal urges to be late enough to miss those two trains and a bus for a week. At the end of the week, I got my pay and had enough money to buy myself a second-hand, silver Honda Civic; thus eliminating my need to travel through public transport and put my temptations firmly behind me. I was proud of myself at that achievement. I told myself to suck it and be happy.
“Sookie, sweetheart? Come in my office, please.”
I had to roll my eyes at the oily sugar dripping in my boss’s request/command. He never quit it.
I picked up a notepad and trudged to his room. A knock later, I entered. Bill Compton – lawyer and my boss, leaning in front of his desk with arms crossed – looked at me as if he owned my ass in addition to the business.
“There you are. We have a new case. We leave for a meeting with the client in half an hour.”
“I have emailed you the papers we need. Print and file them for the meeting.”
Ughhh! I wished to death he would stop calling me that! He said it was just his English roots talking and to think nothing of it, but I’d be damned if I believed that bullshit.
Bill took two steps towards me and I took a step back to maintain decent distance between us. He looked at me from head to toe, taking in my fitted, white, cotton button-down, black pants and black kitten heels, and creeping the fuck out of me. But I stood my ground and glared at him. At the end of the blatant perusal, his mouth turned down in a small frown.
“Do you have something more… uh, client appropriate in your car trunk? Like, a skirt or something?”
Someday, I would bludgeon Bill Compton to death.
I gritted my teeth and forced out a smile.
“Oh, I think my outfit is completely professional for my job. You should call your partner, Lorena, if you want arm candy.”
Bill straightened his body as well as his face, at the mention of his girlfriend and business partner, Lorena Ball. He cleared his throat and gestured towards the door.
“Oh, yes. Yes, of course. Go, then. And see about those papers.”
“Alright.” I nodded and left the room, sighing in relief as soon as I left. I swore he was getting more fresh with me with each passing day. If this went on, I would have to look for another job.
I printed the papers and hurriedly ate my lunch sandwich side by side.
Half an hour later, Bill and I left for the meeting. If being in his office with him was uncomfortable, sitting so close to Bill in a car was giving me ‘Compton cooties.’ I sat as far from him as possible, my hands firmly folded in my lap. It didn’t help that Bill seemed to be driving away from the city and the commercial district. Forty minutes worth of freak-out later, we started passing huge houses on our way. I shouldn’t have called them houses though. They were more like estates, prim and proper, with big grounds, wrought iron gates and meandering driveways whose ends I could not see. If Bill had landed a case here, then he was going to earn a commission as huge as the estates. Maybe he was onto something about my outfit.
We slowed down near one of the gates, the one where I couldn’t see the house because the driveway was climbing a hill. Bill pressed a button near the gate and stated his name and purpose. Two cameras automatically turned towards us in silent scrutiny. Five seconds later, the gate started to swing open.
I was sure I had reached Bruce Wayne’s mansion. Good thing, too; because I might have needed some superhero rescuing from my creepy boss if he decided to take advantage of me in the solitude.
Bill parked the car at one of the spaces designated for this purpose at the end of the driveway. Neither of us moved to get out, though. Bill turned to me, his eyes speculative. He smiled and gently nudged my taut shoulders, sending a warning shiver down my spine.
“Relax, Sookie. It’s just work.”
I guess he was trying to smirk and look sexy. To me, he looked constipated. Ah well, looking constipated was just his daily condition and not exactly a crime for which I could sue him. I just sighed and opened up the door at my side to get out. I noticed a black bike parked two spaces away from Bill’s car and, against all better judgment, my heart skipped a couple beats and my thoughts jumped to a certain hot blonde I saw a few days back on a similar black bike. I had been fighting delicious dreams of that blonde for a few days now. Seemed like even the sight of a black bike would now send me in a tizzy.
I sighed at my foolish hopes. I knew this couldn’t be his bike and yet my mind had jumped to that possibility in a millisecond. After all, what were the bloody chances? But timely or not, high jumping was something my mind did all the time.
“This way, Sookie.” Bill called out.
I pulled my eyes off the bike and my mind off its impossible daydream and followed Bill inside for the meeting.
We were there to meet Mr. Appius Livius Ocella – a shipping industry tycoon, billionaire, philanthropist and widower – in order to work with another set of his lawyers on a pending lawsuit some environmental organization had slapped on Mr. Ocella for malpractices concerning industrial waste. They had a whole room full of complaint letters, medical records, insurance and other claims and paperwork needing to be perused and checked out for legitimacy (backbreaking work for an executive assistant like me, who would be doing most of Bill’s work and getting paid peanuts for it). The very volume of the stacks of paper made me want to cry. To top it all, we had to work in the mansion, for security and privacy considerations, for as long as it took. It could go on for months.
Years, in my eyes.
Cursory introductions out of the way, a box of medical records to be checked out, was thrust in my hands and I was shown a small desk in the corner to get started. But of course the places near the windows would be already taken. I saw Bill with his own file of papers to look through, arguing with another lawyer’s assistant for a place by a wall and overlooking the window. I sighed and started with my box.
Late in the afternoon, I stood up from my designated desk and stretched my arms and back.
“I need to use the restroom.”
“Sure…” Bill murmured without raising his eyes from the file he was reading.
“Well? Do you know where it is?”
“Oh, yes. Three doors down the hallway.” Bill waved me off and resumed reading.
I picked up my bag and went out of the “war-room,” where we were working.
Only, when I reached the hallway, I realized there were just two doors, not three. The hallway entered a circular foyer, complete with a central, over-the-top, marble table decked with a vase and a huge flower arrangement. There was a spiral stairway to the right of the foyer. To the left and in front, there were more hallways with more doors.
I tried the two doors in the hall; both were locked. Fate couldn’t have picked a better time to toy with my bursting bladder and me. Without any other options, I crossed the foyer and went to the other passage in the front. On instinct I went to the door in the middle, at the end of the passage and twisted the knob. The door clicked open to reveal what was decidedly not a restroom. Actually, I forgot all about the restroom the moment I opened the door and dazedly stepped inside.
‘He,’ with the lovely hair and tattoos and piercing, was standing by an indoor pool. In short, blue swimming trunks.
He was tall, much taller than I’d guessed. His hair was dripping in waves. He was wet, fresh from a swim. He wasn’t wearing the lip ring today. I didn’t even think about looking at his beautiful fallen angel tattoo, as my eyes drifted and got stuck on the flat muscles of his stomach, tapering to the ‘V’ that lead to places I shouldn’t be thinking about.
Someone cleared his throat.
“My eyes are up here, you know. A little higher” he said, in a voice that sounded like melting chocolate to me. I mean, sure! By all means! Make the hot guy even hotter with that ‘come-fuck-me’ voice.
Not that his helpful directions were helping me, or anything! Because going higher only brought me to his tattoo and it was magnificently intricate on the graceful arch of his side.
“Beautiful.” I whispered and the word rang across the empty, indoor-pool room. I raised my eyes to his face. Yep! Ocean blue eyes and a whole bag full of sin… Beautiful indeed.
He raised an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I know. Don’t mind me asking but, who are you?”
A girl currently making a fool of herself!
“Oh, I am sorry for intruding. I was just… I am with the legal team in the other room across the hall. I was looking for a restroom. Apparently, this ain’t it.” I twisted my hands nervously and tried to talk myself lightly out of my embarrassment.
“Apparently.” He nodded. One word, choking with derision.
The derision snapped me out of it.
“Well… Can you point me in the right direction, then?”
“Sure. As soon as you are done staring.” He smirked.
Heat traced a path across my cheeks and spread to my neck. I couldn’t tell whether it was from staring at his mostly naked glory or from getting called out on it.
“Oh. I didn’t mean to… stare at your chest… uhh, your tattoo… I mean your tattoo really caught my eye… I, uh… love tattoos.”
“I’m sure you do.”
I knew he saw through my lies. He was trying to smother a grin and I was trying to plot ways to drown myself in the nearby swimming pool.
“You have any? Tattoos, I mean.”
What? Was this his idea of small talk or was he trying to dig a deeper hole for me?
“Me? Get a tattoo?” I snorted. “No. I am too chicken-shit to get any of my own. I just like to watch hot guys… uhh, hot tattoos… uh, you know what I mean!”
Shiyit! Did I just say how I creepily liked to watch tattoos on hot guys?!
Shut the fuck up, Sookie!
“I mean… I didn’t mean it that way… I…”
He wrapped a towel around his waist and started moving towards me and I did all I could to keep my eyes anywhere but on him while continuing to ramble in a nervous fit.
He was in front of me now.
“Too chicken-shit?” He smirked again as he walked past me and opened the door at my back. “It’s alright. They are kind of painful.” He smiled politely, thankfully ignoring my verbal diarrhea, and gestured with his head towards the closed door at our right. “That would be the restroom.” He held the door to the pool room open for me. I followed him out.
“Thanks. I really didn’t mean to intrude.” I said as politely as possible.
“No worries. I don’t mind being stared at. Especially if it’s someone like you doing the staring.” And the smug smirk was back.
“I wasn’t staring!”
He gave me the raised eyebrow.
“I look good. In a pool… or on a bike… Don’t I?”
He was already walking away, towards the spiral stairway in the foyer, chuckling softly.
“Good day, lawyer.” He called out and took the stairs, disappearing from my line of sight.
I lightly leaned my forehead against the door to the restroom and slowly exhaled the air stuck in my lungs, wandering about the merits of humans who are blessed with the power of speech.
Two weeks later
I didn’t see him, or his bike, for the rest of the week after ‘Poolsgate.’ A part of me was thankful, another part a little disappointed. That little disappointed part wanted to see him again, maybe talk to him again, maybe show him that I was not stupid and could string two intelligent sentences together.
I took numerous bathroom breaks, though. I even totally by mistake entered the indoor-pool room again. I got nothing.
Meanwhile, work was tedious. The company: noxious. The other lawyers were prissy at best. Everyone just treated me like their universal slave assistant and, in his efforts to curry favor with the other, hot-shot team, Bill did nothing to stop them. It came to the point where one lawyer, an obnoxious Mr. Thomas Slater, needed an explanation as to why I needed to go to the “loo” right then instead of looking for an urgent, shitty piece of paper for the team.
Mr. Thomas Slater joined my list of lawyers to bludgeon on a future date.
Ten minutes later, I was hurrying down the hallway and right when I turned around the blinding centerpiece of the foyer, I slammed hard into… Him.
Whose name I still didn’t know.
“Ohhhhh, I am so sorry!” I said and took a step back, only to find that his arms were around me. This close, he was impossibly taller than I and seemed to surround and hog my entire world-view. Not that I was looking anywhere else but in his eyes.
He looked at me and blinked in surprise.
“You again? You have to stop running into me, Madam lawyer. Someone would say you were a stalker.” He smiled. It looked genuine. Oh, and the sexy little lip ring was back.
God! He was a cool drink of water on a hot day! Just what I needed to get through my bad mood.
“I can help you with a restraining order.” I smiled back, “What would be the name of the victim here?”
“Very clever.” He bit his lower lip, unconsciously taking the silver ring in his mouth, and smiled. “The name on the paperwork would be Eric.”
He had yet to let me go. I was acutely aware of his arms around me and of my hands resting lightly on his chest.
“Eric.” I savored the name on my tongue. “I’ll see what I can do.” I said gently, half to him and half to myself.
He grinned and let go, taking a much needed but completely unwanted step back.
“Do that. And get on some research for me, would you? Start with her name. I don’t know her name. Or where she lives. Or her story.”
“Now who’s the stalker?” I grinned and sidestepped him to go to the opposite hallway. I really had to go.
“Her name is Sookie, a lowly executive assistant to one Mr. Bill Compton, and she has a real emergency right now. You can find out the rest yourself.” I called out and ran to the restroom. I could hear his laughter from behind the closed door.
He was gone when I came out.
One Month Later
“That’s not what I ordered.” Bill whined at his turkey sandwich. He ordered a chicken sandwich. Bill hated turkey sandwiches.
“Tough luck! ‘Cuz that’s all you getting.” said Thalia, who had brought in our lunch.
Oh, I loved Thalia, Appius’s lovely Greek housekeeper. She was the only one with free speech in this household, something she blamed on English not being her mother tongue.
She came to my desk and slid a covered Tupperware container towards me before moving on. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t even look at me.
“Umm, Thalia? I don’t think I ordered anything that came in a box like that.” I said after her.
She just shrugged and ignored me. Guess that was all I was getting too. I sighed and pried the lid open. There was a Post-It note stuck on the inner side of the lid, covered with cling film to save it from the contents.
Let me know how the stalking case is coming along 🙂
Until our next run-in…
The box contained fresh, homemade, southern style, fried chicken and greens. Piping hot!
Eric got promoted from imaginary boyfriend to imaginary fiancée that day, the note going into my box of secret treasures under my bed.
Three Months Later
Over the period of a few months at the mansion, which I had come to learn belonged to his stepdad; I would occasionally run into Eric. We would exchange a few jokes at each other’s expense, make parting shots and then go our separate ways. He never mentioned that impromptu home cooked treat, though. I didn’t want to put a constraining label on it, so I didn’t mention it either. He gradually became less and less of my imaginary beau and more of an actual person to me. A friend, tentative and in extra hot packaging.
I looked forward to running into him. Waited everyday, for a chance meeting to talk to him, know him a little more than I already did.
Eric didn’t live at the mansion. Just dropped by once in a while to see Mr. Ocella and squeeze in a workout when he needed to blow off some steam after the meetings. Father and stepson famously agreed to disagree on everything, including Eric’s last name: Northman. That, he took after his mother. Oh, and he wore that lip ring especially to make Appius mad, although it had grown on him eventually and he decided getting an actual piercing, making Appius shit a brick. I couldn’t understand his fascination with getting a rise out of people, myself included. He made me blush as a sport. And my blush shamelessly followed him everywhere he bumped into me.
But I wanted to know more about him. Like, really sit and have a proper conversation with the man who had taken over all of my fantasies. But our run-ins weren’t enough time to have those conversations and time just kept slipping by.
It had been a few weeks since our last encounter and I was desperately waiting to see him again. Part of the reason was I was being dismissed from the paperwork tasks in another week. One more week, and then I wouldn’t have to come to the mansion anymore. I’d just assist Bill from our downtown office, and work on other stuff for him. It was strange how much I felt I would be missing coming here. Missing my chance encounters with Eric Northman. Missing on the friendship we’d been building. I tried telling myself off. I mean, what the hell was I thinking or expecting anyways? It was just a few conversations… eight to be exact. It wasn’t like I was in love with him. I could move on from this. Whatever this was!
All in a day’s work, right?
I just wanted to catch him one last time before my work ended there and probably exchange numbers to continue our “relationship.” It was a foolish fairytale-esque hope. One that got dashed maleficently!
One week later
I couldn’t have known I could miss someone so acutely.
The day I was to resume working from my old office, I got this hollow ache in me the moment I woke up and realized that I couldn’t hope to catch Eric in his hallways that day. Or any other day from then on…
I missed Eric when I got dressed for work and realized no one would tease me about my prim way of dressing up and still sound like it didn’t matter what I chose to wear, he’d still make double meaning passes at me.
I missed Eric when I took bathroom breaks at work. And that was the most fucked-up way of missing him because I drank a lot of sodas, and thus took a lot of bathroom breaks.
‘The sodas would have to go‘, I decided grimly.
Preston noticed there was something wrong with me because I stopped my usual bitch-sessions after work, stopped nagging him to clean up after cooking and even failed to tease him when his boyfriend Lafayette stayed the night and the morning after. I knew things were bad when I started breaking out a few emotional tears as I caught them veg’-ing out in front of the TV, in a cute embrace.
This emo shit was going too far now. I really needed to mentally call off my imaginary engagement to Eric Northman.
My car broke down. Whiner just wouldn’t start. I was too late for the usual bus I’d have to catch to get to work on time. Bill was coming by to the office today, and fate chose today to strike me out and make me late. I was so over this fate bitch shit!
Preston magnanimously offered to drive me to the bus stop. I decided to suck on a lemon – and count to maybe a hundred thousand – for the entire time it took him to get me there, driving like he did. I just bit my tongue, thanked him politely and got off at the stop.
I bounced on my heels as I waited for my bus, going through my severely depleted stash of tardiness excuses, hopelessly ticking one after the other on my fingers, on account of being plain painful. What I would not give for a new stash!
My depressed musing suddenly came to a halt. The reason: a loud screech from a motorbike at the intersection across from the stop. The light had turned yellow and most responsible citizens were already breaking. But the biker zigzagged through the slowing cars and took a sharp U-turn to my side of the street, just as the lights turned red. From being at the back of most cars to crossing all of them – four hundred feet – it took him only two-point-five seconds.
A new record for crazy and suicidal!
I was still staring at the bike when it abruptly came to stop a few feet from me. His face, his body, the sheer physicality of his presence a few feet from me, hit me like a wrecking ball: in my guts. Fucking again.
He removed the helmet and got off the bike. I was too caught up in my shock to decipher the look Eric was giving me. So when he stopped in front of me, still staring, a little too close for a public place and the comfort of my hormones, I couldn’t do anything more than gape at him… Like a landed fish. He put a finger under my chin and gently pushed my open mouth close.
“You left without saying goodbye.”
“And I was a dumb fuck not to think ahead and ask you for your number.”
“But I… You what?”
“I was an even bigger dumb fuck to think you’d never stop coming to that house. I thought I had time to get to know you without any pressure. I was stupid to send you something I cooked instead of actually sitting with you, as you tasted my awesome cooking. I didn’t want to look as crazy as I actually am. I was a coward who couldn’t muster the guts to talk to you outright and let you know. ”
Was he saying what I was hearing?
“Eric, what are you talking about? Let me know what?”
He brought his hands up, as if to touch me but stopped, took a step back and put them in his pockets instead. Wow! I had never seen cocky Eric so flustered.
“To let you know that… that I think you are beautiful.”
“And you are smart. And you don’t put up with my shit. And running into you a few times just isn’t enough for me.”
“Oh” was what I managed to say.
“So… Sookie Stackhouse? Would you maybe like to, you know, go out… with me? For dinner?” He scrunched his eyebrows and watched me nervously as I stood there, gaping.
“Like, a date?” I managed to speak out.
“Ummm, sure? Sure, as a date.”
His ears were coloring up. I started smiling and nodding before I began thinking it over.
Eric took a deep breath and the worry lines vanished from his face, to be replaced with a huge grin: the angelic twin of his devil eyes. He took a step forward again, coming up too close for me to look in his eyes without tipping my head back.
“Yeah. I’d like… I’d like that very much.” I whispered into his chest, trying to tune down my own mad grin before I looked at him. This was not the time for my ‘crazy Sookie’ smile to make its big debut.
Cool fingers grazed my cheek and I tilted my head back up to look at him. Eric bit down on his lip ring and gave me his cockiest, wickedest, crookedest smirk.
“Tonight? As soon as you’re free? ‘Bout ummm… seven would do.” He whispered back.
“Ok” I nodded, smiling like a loon, not once getting worked up by his high headed blunt way of setting up our first date. I knew he didn’t mean to demean me. This was the way he functioned. If I wanted another time, I could just say so and he’d be good with it. I knew that much about him. Knowing this small piece of him made something flutter inside me.
He tucked a stray stand of my wild hair behind my ear.
“It’s a date, then; Sookie Stackhouse.”
I grabbed the sides of his jacket and pulled him closer.
“It’s a date, Eric Northman.”