Chapter 06: Reframed Corners
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Snow had been falling in the city since the day before, and even though there was not much accumulation on the ground, large flakes still fluttered through the air almost playfully.
“The city is so quiet when it snows,” Sookie mused from her and Eric’s position in the hot tub. Neither of them was ready to get out just yet. The combination of the intermittent flakes and the hot water was intoxicating. Moreover, they were both feeling lazy after their recent love making.
“What is it?” she asked. After six months with him, she knew all of his sighs. And she knew that one had been weighty.
“I don’t want to go into the office today,” he sulked a little.
“Poor baby,” she giggled as she leaned up to kiss him.
“You get to stay here all cozy.”
“And naked,” she grinned.
He groaned. “Now I really want to stay home.”
Sookie giggled. “Sorry—you’ll just have to hurry up and get your meeting over with so that you can get back and resume nakedness with me.”
Eric sighed again, though somewhat less heavily than before. “Why Appius wanted this update about China today is fucking beyond me.”
“Is it?” Sookie asked, eyebrow rising.
“No,” Eric admitted. “I know that Appius just wants to yank me around by bringing me in on what was meant to be a vacation day.”
“Exactly,” Sookie said. “So just go in, have the meeting, listen to his idiocy for an hour or two, and then come home and forget about it.”
“I like the sound of that last part,” he said nuzzling her neck.
“We should probably get out of this tub before I literally turn into a prune,” Sookie sighed, looking at her water-logged fingers.
“Okay,” he agreed, not worrying at all about his nudity as he stood and helped her up. Sookie was nude as well, though she was still not all that comfortable going au naturel outside of their home, even though Eric had convinced her that there was no way anyone would see them in their hot tub unless a helicopter was hovering right next to their terrace.
He chuckled as she quickly covered what she called her “lady bits” with a towel and started drying off even as she hurried into the house. At a much more leisurely pace, he turned off and then covered the hot tub before grabbing his own towel. He didn’t bother to dry off much because he knew that Sookie would be heading to the sauna, and he planned to join her there for a steam—and, if he was lucky, a little steaminess.
When he got inside, Ned was waiting expectantly for him. And if a kitten could pout, theirs was doing just that. “I see you’ve been expelled from the sauna?” Eric chuckled as he bent down to pet the quickly-growing kitten. In the three months that they’d had little Ned, he’d quickly established a routine of following Eric and Sookie to whatever room they were in at the time, though if they were in different rooms, he’d generally trail Sookie, especially if she was headed for the kitchen. However, the one room he wasn’t allowed into was the sauna room, and Ned was not a happy camper about that!
Eric used his long legs to outpace the feline, who glared at him when he slipped into the sauna room to join Sookie.
Eric chuckled. “Ned is displeased.”
She giggled. “He hates it when we’re in here. I think he thinks this is the party room.”
“It is sometimes,” Eric leered as he dropped his towel and sat next to her.
Sookie gasped a little—as she always did—when she saw his quickly growing cock, rising toward his belly.
“I think that I could go for a little party,” she leered back as she climbed up on his lap and reached backwards to stroke him.
He closed his eyes and groaned. “So good, lover. Your hand feels so good.”
“I think I can find something that feels even better,” she said coyly.
He brought his hand between their bodies and did some stroking of his own, dragging his fingers through her folds in long caresses, just as he knew she liked. The evidence of her arousal soon became apparent, as he rubbed little circles around her clit.
She moaned at his touch and then raised her hips and angled his cock so that he would slide into her. Once he was fully sheathed, she whimpered a little as he grabbed her hips to keep her from moving.
“I love feeling you like this—feeling every part of you,” he croaked out, his voice laced with arousal and intense emotions that practically quivered from his body.
She kissed him passionately and sighed with relief as he used his hands to move her rather than to hold her stationary.
“God, you’re big, Mr. Northman,” she muttered.
“And you’re good for my ego, Miss Stackhouse,” he grunted as he increased the pace of their joining.
She dragged her hand between them and began rubbing her own clit, which was a relatively new move on her part, as she sought her own pleasure.
Eric growled at the sight. “You look so fucking erotic when you do that.”
She opened her eyes and looked into his; seeing the passion there, she couldn’t help but to moan. “You do it,” she ordered as she took one of his hands and moved it to her clit.
He obliged, even as he felt her silky walls begin to squeeze him as she purposely contracted her inner muscles.
“Fan!” he yelled out as she moved the hand that wasn’t holding onto him for dear life behind them so that she could cup and play with his balls.
“Fan!” he yelled again as he hurried the movements of his fingers against her clit and began to spill his seed into her. Thanks to his talented fingers, her own orgasm followed his within moments. She arched her back and continued to ride him slowly as the vibrations of their releases lessened.
They were both panting from their exertion in the heated sauna.
“I can’t believe we’ve been together for more than six months,” Eric observed once they’d calmed down a little.
“Getting tired of me?” Sookie asked playfully.
He shook his head as he pulled her body against his. “Never. I can’t believe it because every day just seems to get better—not just the sex but everything,” he said sincerely.
She pulled back so that she could look into his eyes. “I know.”
They heard Ned’s impatient pawing against the door.
“I should probably get a quick shower and head in,” Eric said, though he didn’t seem to want to move anywhere.
She smiled at him. “Go—so that you can come back. I have some work I want to do for Sam anyway.”
He nodded and reluctantly pulled out of her before using the towel she’d brought in to clean her up a little and then grabbing his own towel to wrap around her. He turned off the sauna and led her out of the room where they found Ned waiting with a very displeased and impatient look on his cute face.
Both of them chuckled as they bent down to pet their kitten before Sookie picked up the feline, who immediately began to purr loudly, which signaled that he’d forgiven them for daring to go somewhere without him.
Sookie plugged in her laptop at the small kitchen table and stirred the soup she was making as she waited for her computer to boot up and load the manuscript Sam had wanted her to begin copyediting over her extended holiday time. Smelling the aroma of the beef in the vegetable beef soup had been enough to cause Ned to take up his favored position in the kitchen—the area right under a human’s feet. She giggled as he looked up at her hopefully.
“Sorry little one,” she said as she reached down to pet him. It’s just your daddy that’s naughty enough to sneak you bites.”
Seemingly understanding her words, Ned trotted over to his little bed in the corner of the kitchen and spun around a few times before flopping down sulkily.
Sookie giggled again and then let her eyes stay in the corner of the room for just a second or two before pulling them down to her kitten.
“Your daddy was being very clever—and awesome—when he stationed you there,” Sookie said to the feline.
In fact, Eric did have a reason for putting Ned’s bed where he had. Of all the rooms in their home, Sookie had found herself staring into the corner of the kitchen the most. And when she got “stuck” in the corner like that, it was still challenging for her to “get out.”
Looking into the corner like that seemed to be an automatic fallback for Sookie when she was cooking, especially if she was just mindlessly tending to something. Sookie had tried to use the television or the iPod dock in the room to provide herself with distractions, but neither had worked completely. However, the presence of Ned in the corner always drew her eyes away from the blankness she would find herself moving into.
As always, Eric’s presence and unspoken gestures in her life had worked to change something negative into something positive.
And she was trying to do the same for him—every single day.
To say that they had been growing as a couple since that June day when Eric was waiting for her on the bench he’d arranged to be put right in front of “their” painting in “their” gallery at the MET would have been an understatement.
And to say that they hadn’t each been growing as individuals would have been an even bigger understatement.
Both Eric and Sookie continued to see Claudine every Tuesday night—like clockwork. The only exception to that had been Christmas day and the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. That week, both of their grandmothers had invaded their home for a week, though—thankfully—they’d stayed in Pam’s two guestrooms since Eric and Sookie had only one guestroom, and it was Ned’s domain. However, during the days, the older women had often been at Eric and Sookie’s home. But the couple didn’t complain—not at all! Their grandmothers had insisted upon “playing in the kitchen,” and the results had been delicious. In fact, even Pam had allowed herself to gain five pounds over the holidays.
The day after Thanksgiving, Eric and Sookie had gone out and bought their first Christmas tree. Oh—they’d each been around the festive trees before, but neither of them had ever purchased one before. And since the tree wouldn’t be delivered for a couple of hours, Sookie had insisted that they drive to the closest Target—the one in East Harlem—and pick out decorations for it. Eric knew that they could have afforded much more expensive accouterments for their tree, but Sookie reminded him that Ned would probably break most of the ornaments with his rambunctious play. Plus, neither of them had ever decorated a tree before, so they didn’t really know where else they could go to shop for decorations—especially if they wanted to make only one stop.
To their great credit, both Gran and Mormor had made themselves scarce so that Sookie and Eric could decorate their tree by themselves. The two matriarchs had kept to the kitchen—gossiping, cooking more delicious food, and planning a trip to New Orleans—while Eric and Sookie had learned how to trim a tree together, though they certainly had Ned’s “participation” during the process. The little kitten, of course, thought that the whole operation was just for his benefit. And he became an expert tree climber almost immediately. Eric and Sookie had just shrugged it off and decided to let their kitten have his fun, though they were determined not to let him play with his new “toy” when the lights were turned on—even if that meant rarely turning them on.
But—just in case—one of the tree “accessories” was a nice, new fire extinguisher.
Because their grandmothers were both present, Eric and Sookie had decided to have their family Christmas on the Saturday after Thanksgiving since the two matriarchs were leaving the next day and they would not see them for Christmas since Mormor would be traveling with some friends and Gran would be spending Christmas with Hadley that year.
Eric and Sookie had opted to exchange their main gifts that day too, leaving only stockings for each other on Christmas day. And Sookie had insisted on a maximum dollar amount to keep Eric from filling her stocking with jewels, though he’d been good about not spending excess money on her so far in their relationship.
Sookie smiled as she thought of the festive “family” gathering they’d had on that Saturday after Thanksgiving. Eric and she had invited Henry, Blake, Thalia, her kids, Pam, Amelia, and Bobby. It was just as well that Thalia’s kids were spending the weekend with their paternal grandparents, given Pam’s cringing at the mention of what she called the “teacup humans” attending. And—of course—Mormor and Gran had spent the entire day in the kitchen. Gran had made chicken and dumplings, while Mormor had made köttsoppa med klimp, which was a hearty soup with beef and vegetables and a very different kind of dumplings. The grandmothers had also made an array of desserts and homemade breads, and no one had left hungry.
After dinner and a little visiting, Henry, Blake, and Thalia had said their goodbyes, and the others had exchanged gifts. Sookie smiled at the memory of seeing Eric’s face light up at the sight of five gifts piled in front of him. Of course, Sookie’s five gifts were a record number for her as well.
She’d gotten a pretty dress, which had probably cost way too much, from Pam. And Amelia had given her a gift certificate to a spa. Bobby had given her a pair of boots she could wear in the snow. Gran had gifted her a beautiful pair of gloves and a hat that she’d knitted, while Elsa had brought Sookie an old locket that had belonged to her own mother. When Sookie had tried to insist that Pam should have the locket, Pam had just clucked at the piece and said that she had many things passed on from Mormor already, and since Sookie was to be part of the family, she should have the necklace.
Sookie smiled and lovingly put her hand on the locket hanging around her neck. It was beautiful and unique—shaped like a square—and inside, she had put a picture of Eric; her “secret love” had been living right against her heart ever since she’d received the locket.
Eric had given Sookie a coat, which was a present with which Sookie had immediately fallen in love. The coat was a deep red color, and it was both stylish and warm. She could tell that it had been expensive, but it was also exactly what she’d needed.
By far, the most enjoyable part of their “pre-Christmas” for Sookie had been watching Eric opening and enjoying each of his gifts. Bobby and Eric had exchanged cigars and scotch, which seemed to be the norm for them. From Pam and Amelia, Eric had gotten an Xbox and several games which had immediately found a home in the “man cave,” and Eric had enjoyed many an hour killing a zombie or two since then. Even Sookie had found that she enjoyed playing the Xbox with Eric, especially since the prizes for winning—and the “punishments” for losing—generally included extremely enjoyable things.
Gran had given Eric an afghan that she had crocheted—an afghan which Eric had dubbed the ugliest thing he’d ever seen later that night when he was alone with Sookie. Ugly or not, however, he wrapped it around himself every day when he went out to enjoy his coffee on the terrace. And the afghan had a place of honor in their bedroom.
From Mormor, Eric had gotten a framed blueprint of the lake house, which had been drawn by his morfar. Upon receiving it, he’d squeezed his mormor so tight that Sookie thought the elderly woman would break until—that is—Sookie noticed that Mormor was hugging him back just as tightly.
Sookie’s main gift to Eric had been difficult for her to come up with. After all, what did one get for a man who could buy practically anything he wanted? In the end, she’d gotten him “an experience.” She knew that Eric loved horses from his grade school days when he’d played polo and helped tend to the horses in the stables, and she’d arranged for a three-day vacation for them to upstate New York in the spring. Their lodging would be a cute bed and breakfast, but the best part was that the B&B was on a ranch, which boasted a variety of horses for both beginners and experts. Eric had been—much to Sookie’s relief—over the moon about the gift and had shown his appreciation to her that night.
Several times, in fact.
All in all, the previous months spent with Eric had been better than any heaven Sookie could ever imagine, and their Christmas had been lovely too, despite the fact that Eric had had to spend his requisite time at Appius’s house that day. Not surprisingly, there had been no gifts for him there, except for a bright red scarf from Gracie. Of course, Eric had taken all the “required” gifts—including the same one that he always took for Appius. Eric had told her once about his ancestor’s pen inside the always carefully wrapped box. And she had witnessed it being returned to him by Markus twice now. Beyond that, Sookie had noticed that Eric had taken the time to choose each of his siblings’ gifts very carefully, even Nora’s.
Eric had been both looking forward to and dreading Christmas with his family for more than a month. But mostly, he’d regretted that Sookie hadn’t been able to go along. He couldn’t wait until he could introduce her to all of his younger siblings, just as Sookie couldn’t wait to meet them; however, both Eric and Sookie knew that continued secrecy was for the best.
On Christmas, Eric had spent only four hours at Appius’s home—from 10:00 a.m. to around 2:00 p.m. Most of that time had been passed happily. Eric had gotten to visit with Gracie, and a now-talking A.J. had spent the greater part of the morning crawling all over him and then showing him every one of his gifts before asking Eric to help him construct things out of his new blocks. Eric had delighted in his time with his youngest two siblings. Around noon, Alexei had arrived from the airport, and—though his younger brother had asked him not to speak about his fledgling acting pursuits in front of the rest of the family—Alexei and Eric had an easy, enjoyable conversation during their Christmas dinner.
Unfortunately, the day had also included a “meeting” with Appius—as if the Northman patriarch had seen that Eric was happy and had the compulsion to take that happiness away from him. Eric had told Sookie about the litany of his shortcomings that Appius had spewed out during the half-hour meeting in his office; that “gift” had been followed up by Appius ordering Eric to put together a comprehensive report detailing the progress with China, a report he was required to present for scrutiny. After that, Appius had basically “dismissed” Eric, not just from the office, but from the house. And as Eric was saying his hurried goodbyes to his siblings and giving his apologies for his earlier-than-usual exit, Appius was spouting off about Eric needing to leave because he’d “messed up a deal.”
Sookie sighed as she took out ingredients for a batch of chocolate chip cookies, which were Eric’s favorite. Appius’s need to ruin Eric’s holiday and his vacation was the reason why Eric had spent twelve hours working the day before and the reason that he was gone now. So she felt her man deserved the treat.
As she whipped the butter, she thought about just how much she wanted to kick Appius’s ass. That compulsion in her was growing by the day as she became more and more aware of all the “little things” that Appius did to undermine and torment his eldest son.
However, as Sookie looked at the mostly eaten loaf of banana bread on the counter, she couldn’t help but to smile a little. Despite Appius’s “order” and all the work it would entail for him, Eric had still snuck back to the kitchen to pass along little gifts to Margaret and Markus after Appius had “dismissed” him. Their daughter Olivia, who was spending Christmas with her parents, had been working in Northman Publishing’s accounting office since September, and the four of them had chatted for ten minutes or so before Eric left through the kitchen entrance. And—of course—Eric had come home with a gift of food from Margaret.
Though Eric hadn’t told his father’s cook and butler about his relationship with Sookie, Margaret—using what Eric called her sixth-sense—had pointed out that Eric seemed even happier than he had in June when she’d last seen him.
Sookie smiled a little wider. Knowing that she had added to Eric’s happiness made her happy—very happy.
Of course, it wouldn’t do for Olivia to know about Sookie and Eric either, but Sookie had made a point to seek out the new employee and to befriend her. Holly and Sookie now often had lunch with Olivia and some others from the accounting department. Their company was much better than Arlene, Dawn, and Maudette’s. Sookie had been proud of the fact that she’d succeeded in reaching out to someone and forming a new friendship. And nobody in the circle of friends that she’d made at work or at the MET or at Carmichael Tower looked at her as if she were “odd.”
They all just looked at her as if she were “Sookie.”
Sookie smiled at that thought. So much had changed throughout the previous two years. But it had all started with that little spark of connection she had felt when she saw Eric at her first NP party.
In a strange way, Sookie was glad that she’d not “met” Eric officially the first time she saw him. The additional year had given her some time to move herself forward—to learn that she could be strong on her own and make healing changes in her life. Claudine had been helping her to love and to accept herself even before Eric gave her his love.
Sookie nodded, knowing that everything had happened in the “right” order. Had she not begun loving herself first, then she would have never trusted Eric’s love. And—had she not begun understanding her own worth first, she would have counted on Eric to provide her with self-worth. And that wouldn’t have worked for either of them—not in the long term. She understood well that she still had a long way to go in order to overcome the damage that had been done to her by Michelle, but she also knew that she was well along the path.
And that thought made her proud.
What made her even prouder was that Eric had been making similar progress when it came to Appius.
She grinned as she looked at her and Eric’s stretching kitten. Since Christmas had fallen on a Tuesday that year, most of the employees at Northman Publishing had been allowed to take a very long weekend; in fact, the copy editing department had closed down at noon on December 21, and most employees hadn’t returned to work until the day before, Wednesday, December 26. Sookie and Eric had decided to take even more time off—since Sam continued to hound her about vacation days and Eric’s department truly did run like a well-oiled machine.
Other than his meeting with his father that day, Eric had planned to work from home until Sookie’s own return date, which was January 2. Meanwhile, Sookie had brought home a project she’d been working on—a new and very long novel written by one of the publishing house’s most successful authors. Unfortunately, the writer was notorious for his error-filled manuscripts and for his insistence that his writing was immaculate—even though it clearly wasn’t. However, in truth, Sookie didn’t mind the project, and she was well-ahead of her deadline; thus, she’d spent most of her vacation cooking or reading or playing with Ned. And—when Eric hadn’t been working—she’d enjoyed “play time” with him too.
Sookie smiled as she mixed the cookie dough. Indeed, they’d enjoyed a lot of “play time.”
A/N: Well I hope that you didn’t mind this transitional chapter. Action will pick up in the next chapter as Eric meets with Appius, and—from there—the drama will be ratcheted up. We are getting closer and closer to where we started in chapter one of Comfortably Numb.
This will be the last chapter for this story this week. I’ll move back to this story after I spend a week on Uninvited. Thanks for your patience.