Chapter 13: Bachelorette, Part 2
Sookie smiled as she looked around the room. She couldn’t deny that she’d had a great time for the past hour and a half. There had been wonderful food, including hors d’oeuvres made from all the foods that Sookie had been craving. And Pam had been right; there were tons of presents, some of them of the blush-inducing lingerie variety.
True to her word, Pam had made sure that the dancers hadn’t done anything to make Sookie uncomfortable. In fact, their antics were quite amusing. Currently, the dancers were grinding around the people who were putting the most dollar bills into their outfits: Lafayette, Doctor Ludwig, Louise, and Mormor, whom Sookie had told to “go have fun” once she felt comfortable.
“You okay?” Claudine asked as she sat down next to her.
“Very,” Sookie answered.
“I wasn’t sure about all this when I realized what Pam’s plans were,” Claudine said in a low voice even as she tilted her head to the side so that she could better see the fireman who was currently shaking his bottom in a way that Sookie would have thought was impossible.
Sookie giggled. “I wasn’t sure either, but it’s okay,” she whispered. “As soon as I realized that I didn’t have to let them touch me, and as soon as I shared my concerns with Elsa and Pam, I felt better.”
Claudine turned her attention from the gorgeous undulating men to Sookie. “I am very proud of you, Sookie.” She chuckled. “A therapist isn’t really supposed to say things like that. We’re supposed to use phrases like, ‘You are making good progress,’ so that our patients never feel compelled to try to please us instead of to heal themselves.” Claudine sighed. “But given your connection to Amelia, I always thought of you more as a friend than a client, and now—of course—it’s even better because you are my cousin! And I wanted you to know how remarkable I think you are doing.”
Still in a low voice, Claudine continued, “In reaction to the kind of abuse you suffered, I have seen people become abusers themselves. I have also seen them hide so thoroughly from the world out of fear that they can never find true happiness. But you didn’t allow your abusers to touch your heart, Sookie. You and Eric are alike in that way. And I am so glad that you two found each other.”
Sookie sniffled a little and took Claudine’s hand. “You helped me so much—you know. I don’t think I would be sitting here if you wouldn’t have handed me your card that day—if you wouldn’t have cared enough to want to help me. For what it’s worth—I’m proud of you too. And proud to call you my friend—and my family.”
Claudine smiled. “It’s worth a lot Sookie.”
After a hug, the two women turned their attention back to the show happening across the room. This time, they both tilted their heads to better appreciate a move that the “doctor” was doing with his stethoscope.
“He has to be double-jointed,” Claudine mused.
“Or do yoga every day,” Sookie posited as they watched the “doctor” do the splits in front of a blushing Elsa.
Sookie and Claudine giggled as the elderly woman placed another dollar bill into the pocket of the “doctor’s” very snug uniform.
“How does she look dignified even doing that?” Sookie asked, which caused her and her cousin to succumb to another laughing fit.
And the smile stayed on Sookie’s face. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Niall is hosting all of these people for me.”
Claudine squeezed Sookie’s hand again. “And I cannot tell you how grateful that all of us are that you are family. It’s like a miracle, and you have given us all so much joy. I know that Niall just wants to give a little back to you.”
Sookie nodded and squeezed her cousin’s hand back. Actually, they were third cousins, once removed, according to Niall, but they weren’t counting. They were just both happy to have more family.
In fact, Sookie felt surrounded by family in that moment. Though not everyone she might have wanted to be there would be able to attend her and Eric’s wedding, Niall had managed to sneak quite a few people in, despite the fact that Sigebert had been seen sniffing around by Sean and Mikey. Mormor had arrived a little over a week before, but her presence could be explained by Eric’s “breakdown,” which continued to be the excuse that Eric was using to stay in the Hamptons, instead of going to Northman Tower to work. The week before, Eric had cancelled his trip to Sweden for the summer, and the official word around the office was that he was spending his annual vacation “in seclusion.”
Pam had called Appius—only a few hours after Eric’s apparent breakdown—and had told him about it. Of course, she had merely recalled a fraction of what Appius would have already seen from his surveillance equipment. The next day—at Northman Tower where Appius could monitor her call—Pam had phoned Elsa, who had already been prepped by Eric about what to expect. Proving what a wonderful actress she could be, Pam had told Elsa about Eric’s breakdown. A week later, Pam had made a second call to Elsa, explaining that Eric was even more despondent and had even cancelled his trip to come see her in Sweden. Elsa had made immediate plans to come to the Hamptons after that phone call.
Claudine and Bobby had both been to Niall’s house several times—since they could do so without arousing suspicion. Pam had also visited a few times; thus, their presence in the house for Sookie and Eric’s wedding would not be suspicious at all. Bringing in the other wedding guests had been a bit more difficult, but nothing too trying for the little band of confederates. Eric had surprised Sookie by flying in Lafayette. Part of Sookie wished that Tara could be there too, but—frankly—neither Sookie nor Eric was able to place too much trust in her.
In addition, Thalia had come to the house with Bobby—again, not suspicious given the fact that they were a couple. Amelia had snuck up with Pam. And Henry and Blake would be snuck in the next day via Niall’s limo.
Sookie and Eric both wished that Ben, Milos, Tony, Doris, Rasul, Tray, Miranda, Jarod, Remy, and Hunter could be there, but they didn’t want to risk the group becoming too large. And, after a discussion, Eric had decided that Gracie was too young to have to keep a secret from their father. The previous Sunday had been the annual Father’s Day brunch—which Eric hadn’t attended, per his agreement with Appius—and Pam had indicated “in private” to Nora that Eric was still getting worse. The hope was that Appius wouldn’t become suspicious even if Sigebert noticed a lot of activity around Niall’s estate.
Meanwhile, Niall was bustling around like a fifty-year-old, enlivened by his “new” company, especially the company of one Elsa Larsson, whom Niall had called a “grand lady.” Sookie could tell that Elsa thought Niall was pretty “grand” as well.
Sookie’s musings were interrupted when the front door opened and Bobby came inside. Immediately, his eyes searched for and landed on Thalia, and the two shared a smile. Sookie knew that Bobby had finally told Thalia how he felt about her, and the couple seemed even more serious now. Sookie had not seen them together much, but she could certainly tell that Thalia returned Bobby’s love.
After taking in his own beloved, Bobby turned his attention toward Sookie and Claudine. He came over and sat on the other side of Sookie. “Hi cousins,” he greeted.
“Here to see the strippers, cuz?” Claudine quipped.
Bobby tilted his head and looked at the “doctor” performing the splits again. “That should be against the law,” he said, cringing a little.
“You’re just saying that because he makes you look bad,” Claudine kidded.
Bobby shrugged. “Hey—I hold my own.”
“TMI,” Claudine said to her cousin.
Sookie giggled, enjoying their banter.
Bobby winked at Sookie. “Actually, I’m here to escort you back to your man when you are ready.”
Sookie smiled. “What have you guys been doing?”
Bobby grinned. “Henry and Blake came a night early, and we have been smoking cigars and testing Niall’s scotches.”
Sookie smiled a little wider. “Henry’s here?”
“And he and Blake didn’t want to come down here and watch this?” Sookie asked as the “fireman” once more shook his bottom as if it were on fire.
Bobby shuddered a little. “Nah—Eric offered, but they opted for the expensive scotch,” he chuckled. “Plus, Niall was in the Navy, and once he and Henry got to talking, that was it.”
Sookie sighed happily. She was glad that Henry was there. In the last year and a half, she’d had many additions to her life—including a long-lost family—but Henry, for some reason, had been the name that had popped into her head when Eric asked whom she would like to stand next to her when she got married. Maybe it was because he “felt” like the brother she’d always wished she’d had. Or maybe it was because—other than Eric—Henry was the person who made her feel the calmest. She’d been thrilled when he’d agreed to be her best man.
As would be expected, Eric had chosen Bobby to stand beside him.
“You about ready?” Bobby asked. “I know that Eric is anxious to have you back with him.”
Sookie looked across the room, where the dancers were still gyrating and the others were still feeding dollar bills into their scant clothing. Dr. Ludwig and Elsa seemed to have convinced the “fireman” that they should do body shots.
“Do you think they’ll even miss me?” Sookie asked Claudine with a laugh.
“Of course,” she responded. “But then they will be distracted when the dancers are freed to work the room,” she added with a wink.
Bobby growled a little as he looked back at Thalia.
Claudine rolled her eyes. “I’m sure that you have nothing to worry about,” she said as she tilted her head once more to follow the movements of the “doctor.” She giggled. “Or maybe you do.”
All three cousins chuckled at that.
“Did you enjoy the show?” Bobby asked, his brown eyes teasing, as he walked Sookie back over to Niall’s house.
“Truthfully?” Sookie asked.
“Sure,” Bobby said.
“Yes. But the real show wasn’t those guys dancing. It was seeing so many people I love enjoying themselves.”
Bobby squeezed Sookie’s arm, which was tucked into his. “I think if I had gone around the wide world looking for the perfect woman for Eric, I would have found you.”
Sookie smiled. “I used to think that I didn’t deserve him,” she confessed, looking up at the lights on in Niall’s house as they approached it.
“He used to think the same about you,” Bobby said quietly.
“And now?” Sookie asked.
Bobby sighed. “Sometimes, I think that he’s still in a state of disbelief. I’ll catch him looking at you when you don’t see, and his expression always looks surprised.”
Sookie squeezed Bobby’s arm. “I know,” she said, holding onto her belly with her free hand. “Part of him still doesn’t think he deserves all this.”
“And you?” Bobby asked astutely.
Sookie sighed. “At my worst times, I still don’t think I’m worthy of Eric. And I’m scared that I won’t make a good mother. But—at my best times—I’m just thankful for what I have. And I think that staying thankful is the most important thing.”
Bobby looked down at her and smiled. “As I said, if I would have looked everywhere in the world, it would have always been you that I would have brought back for him.”
Sookie looked up at Bobby and smiled. “You know that I will always love you for being so willing to go around the world time and time again for him—right?”
Bobby nodded and brought Sookie’s hand up to his lips to kiss before opening the front door for her.
“Come on. Henry and Blake want to say, ‘hi.’ And then there’s a surprise waiting for you in your room, cuz,” he smiled as he closed the door behind them.
The surprise turned out to be Eric dressed in full—though faux—Viking regalia.
The sight left Sookie speechless and immediately wet. She could have blamed pregnancy hormones, but she knew that the real culprit was the one dancing seductively in front of her.
She had a sudden thought that Eric would put Claude’s dancers to shame, even if he couldn’t do the splits or gyrate his butt like a Shake-Weight.
As Eric turned around and slowly swayed his own beyond perfect bottom, Sookie’s breath caught. Yep—definitely the best dancer she’d seen that night!
“I thought you might want your own personal stripper,” Eric purred as he turned back around and crooked his finger for her to come to him.
As it turns out, she did want him. Twice.
A/N: Hello all! Thanks for all the wonderful comments for the last chapter! Many of you have commented that the last couple of chapters have been “lighter.” I felt like Sookie and Eric deserved this—after their months apart. They will have to deal with Appius and his minions soon enough. But I wanted them to have a little time. For my reader who wondered why Eric didn’t immediately go to Appius and tell him about the new shape of the world—well, you make a fair point, and that’s almost how I wrote it. But then I realized that this Eric would prioritize giving Sookie and his son the situation they needed to be healthy. Eric’s going to be very reticent about stirring the hornets’ nest until his son is born and healthy—given the fact that Sookie needs to keep her stress levels (and blood pressure) down given her condition.
I’ll try to get you one more chapter of this story before Thursday—when I switch to Uncharted again.
Next up: Wedding!