Chapter 31: Dangerous Abuse
“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”—Edmund Burke
Eric glanced at his watch: 2:00 p.m.
Sookie would be safe by now—on her way to wherever Bobby was sending her.
Eric was exhausted, and the charity brunch had been a study in misery for him. Needing to keep Sookie from being at the forefront of his mind, and he had done his best to behave as he always did at such functions. However, it had been difficult for him to keep his emotions in check. Burying his grief so that he could appear to be functioning normally took up so much effort that he could not always completely cover up his disgust at the people around him.
Although the brunch was meant to raise money for the families of the victims of 9-11, a cause that Eric had always supported, most of the people at the event were there to see and be seen—not to help others.
At least they would write checks at the end of the day—as part of their “show” to others—but very few of those in attendance had paid any attention to the 17-year-old girl who had spoken so eloquently about her heroic mother, who had been a security guard at a building near the World Trade Center. The heroine hadn’t run away from the horrible spectacle. No. She had run toward the danger, and she had died even as she was trying to help people get to safety. Sadly, the girl barely remembered her mother, and Eric’s heart went out to her; he could empathize, after all. They’d both lost their mothers when they were only five years old.
The girl, whose name was Caitlyn, spoke about her dream to become a surgeon in the armed forces, and Eric couldn’t help but to see the heroine forming within the young woman; he could tell—almost immediately—that she would match her mother in that respect.
He had passed along Thalia’s phone number to the girl since he knew that his friend could give the girl advice—or maybe even help—as she pursued her goals. In truth, Caitlyn had ended up being his own “saving grace” at the event. By forcing himself to focus on her and the cause that he was there to support, rather than thinking about the pieces that would be missing from his life when he went home, he had been able to hold himself together.
Several nights before, he had realized that for the last nine months he’d actually been constructing a life for himself—rather than a mere existence. It had been a first for him. However, Sookie was the cornerstone to that life, and he could already feel it crumbling without her.
But he couldn’t let himself crumble—not yet. Sookie needed all the time she could get in order to be safe. So—no! He would not crumble. He would keep up the pretense.
“You okay?” Isabel asked, squeezing his arm a little.
Eric nodded and gave his date—his friend—a small, though sincere, smile. She had helped him to get through the event too. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You don’t seem fine,” she whispered.
Eric shrugged off her concern. “You know how much I hate dealing with all these vapid people,” he said, lying about the root of his discomfort.
Isabel nodded. To her credit, she intuited that something else was wrong with Eric—a wound that went deep. But she played along and didn’t question him further.
“Come on. Let’s go say hello to my father. He’s motioning for us,” she said instead.
Eric turned in the direction that Isabel was looking. Russell Edgington was indeed gesturing for them to come over, his ever-present smirk planted firmly onto his face.
“Eric,” Russell exclaimed, not bothering to speak quietly, though the event was rather subdued, “has that bastard of a father of yours let you incorporate those ideas about online book access we were speaking about last October? Or is he still living in the dark ages?”
Eric couldn’t help but to smile a little at the larger-than-life Russell Edgington. Eric had come to appreciate Russell’s unapologetic nature more and more over the years. It was well-known that Russell and Appius didn’t really like each other. They weren’t enemies—not exactly; however, they existed in a kind of détente state at all times—like two great superpowers who had their weapons pointed in each other’s direction, but kept them just out of sight.
“Did I hear my name?” Appius asked gruffly from behind Eric and Isabel.
Eric had to force himself not to cringe at the sound of his father’s voice.
“Ah—Appius,” Russell said, an amused smile tugging at his lips. “I was just asking Eric here if you had decided to join us in the current century.”
“And what did Eric have to say?” Appius asked, his expression untroubled.
“He’d not yet had a chance to answer,” Russell reported, his lingering Irish accent becoming more prominent as his eyes lit with curiosity—and mischief. He sat forward a little, his eyes studying his contemporary. “However, I would very much like to know if you have incorporated Eric’s ideas about NP developing its own version of the iPad for its catalogue of books. Given the size of your academic press alone, it would seem to be an ideal product to market to college students.”
Appius scoffed. “We will lose too much money if we implement the online programs Eric’s suggested. Moreover, things like online textbook renting and hyperlinks in books are going to ruin people’s ability to truly learn a goddamned thing!”
“The young are just different kinds of learners than we,” Russell shrugged, “and one must adapt with the times.”
“But one does not have to follow every goddamned trend,” Appius said, his sneer, which he aimed toward Eric, showing his distaste for both the idea and its originator.
Russell narrowed his eyes as he tried to interpret the look from father and son. Seeing the harshness of Appius’s stare, Russell decided to shift the topic a bit. “And that is why I like the magazine business.” He winked at his daughter. “At Vibrant, we make the trends.”
Appius schooled his own expression as he looked back at Russell. It was true that he didn’t care for Edgington that much, but there had always been a kind of respect flowing under their interactions. It was probably lucky for them both that the two Alpha-males had never been direct competitors in business. Moreover, Appius wasn’t about to have a major philosophical argument about technology at a charity function, especially not since Isabel would likely be his daughter-in-law soon, and Russell’s fortune would come with her.
Russell’s smirk grew a little as he saw Appius biting his tongue in order to avoid a confrontation. Normally, Russell would have antagonized the elder Northman a little, but as he glanced at Eric, he didn’t have the heart to do it. The young man looked stressed out enough as it was.
Russell contemplated the two Northman men. Appius’s son had qualities that went far above and beyond his father’s, for Eric had taken after his mother in both looks and demeanor. In fact, looking into Eric’s eyes was like seeing Stella looking back at him in some ways. However, Stella’s eyes had always been light and happy, even when she was so ill, while Eric’s were often guarded and sad—just as they were at that moment.
Russell’s musings were interrupted by the sound of Appius’s phone buzzing in his suit jacket.
“No rest for the wicked?” Russell joked as Appius pulled out his phone.
“I’ll rest when I’m dead,” Appius replied, exchanging a cliché with a cliché.
Appius answered the phone with a terse greeting and then listened for a moment. The elder Northman glanced at Eric and then back at Russell before speaking. “I have to listen to this. My apologies for running off in the middle of our stimulating conversation.”
Russell dismissed Appius’s apology with a slight wave. “No worry. We likely wouldn’t have been able to solve the dilemma of print versus virtual media anyway—at least not today,” he added with humor in his eyes.
Appius gave Eric one more brief—though pointed—glare before going over to the far corner of the room and putting his phone to his ear. Eric tried to keep an eye on his father without looking like he was doing so. Something about his wording—”I have to listen to this”— had made the hair on the back of Eric’s neck stand up.
“So I take it that Appius didn’t go for your ideas then?” Russell asked, gesturing for Eric and Isabel to sit down at the table with him. After pulling out a chair for Isabel, Eric sat in the chair that would help him to keep a better view of Appius.
“I’ve told you before that Appius doesn’t listen to Eric,” Isabel said quietly. “You’re the one who said that it couldn’t be true.”
“Well, it shouldn’t be,” Russell said half-stubbornly and half-flippantly. “It’s ridiculous if he doesn’t,” he continued, looking at Eric. “After all, most of the good things I hear that relate to NP these days turn out to be your doing. For instance, I’ve heard about your deal with the publisher in China. Hell! Felipe de Castro was practically crying about how he’d made the Chinese a better offer, yet they’d dealt with NP. And the international division is yours, so I know that the deal had to be your doing.”
Eric turned his main focus to Russell even as he watched Appius in his periphery. However, it was difficult for him to keep his cool as he watched his father’s expression changing from annoyance to irritation to cold, hard rage. After hanging up the phone, Appius glanced Eric’s way and then disappeared from his field of vision.
Eric tried to keep his countenance neutral as he responded to Russell. “My father and I have a complicated relationship,” he said cautiously.
Russell contemplated for a moment. “I am beginning to see that. It is a shame though.” He looked at Isabel with pride. “Isabel’s influence has made Vibrant into a world-wide brand; I no longer know what I would do without her. In fact, I think that if I retired tomorrow, she’d be able to step in with no problems.”
Isabel smiled and took her father’s hand. “Better not. I’d miss you too much.”
“I suppose there are a few more years in this old man,” Russell said, winking at his daughter fondly.
Eric tried not to envy the obvious affection between the parent and child in front of him too much. After all, he’d learned a long time before that he’d only make himself miserable if he allowed himself to crave the kinds of interactions many children had with their parents.
“Excuse me,” Appius said, coming suddenly upon the group again. “I need to have a word or two with Eric—if you can spare him for a moment. Business,” he directed at Russell. “I’m sure you understand.”
“Of course,” Russell said with a nod.
“I’ll be back soon,” Eric said to Isabel.
“In case I forget to mention it later, you should join Izzy and me tomorrow night for dinner, Eric,” Russell said as Eric rose. “I’d like to pick your brain about how to increase sales of Vibrant in Asia.”
“Sure,” Eric responded evenly, making sure that he didn’t give away the fact that he was as nervous as hell about what his father wanted.
Silently, he followed Appius, who led them toward the side entryway of the venue. Eric could see Appius’s limo waiting.
“Are we going somewhere?” Eric asked. “If so, I’ll need to go back in and let Isabel know.”
Appius looked over his shoulder at Eric. His eyes held nothing but hate. “No—but you and I need to have a little chat—without an audience.”
“Fine,” Eric said following his father into the limo.
Immediately, Appius poured himself a scotch and then stared at Eric as he took a slow sip of it. Using every bit of strength and will he had left in his body, Eric stared back, trying to keep his expression questioning, but non-combative. He just hoped that he wasn’t failing under the weight of his father’s stare. After witnessing his father’s phone call, he feared that Sookie’s plan to leave the city had been thwarted by Appius. By this time, Sookie should have been safely away, but what if his father had found out? What if Franklin Mott had been cleverer at tracking Bobby than his friend thought? What if Sigebert or Wybert or Mott had taken Sookie? What if there had been a pursuit and an accident? What if Sookie was hurt? What if she was dead?
“What is all this about?” Eric finally asked once the silence became too much for him to bear.
“This is about Miss Stackhouse,” Appius answered enigmatically.
“What about her?” Eric asked, not able to stop his worry from filling his voice. “You haven’t hurt her—have you?”
Appius narrowed a stare at Eric. “Why would I hurt an asset?”
Eric ignored the irony of that statement. “I know you’ve been having her followed.” He took a deep breath and allowed his fear to quash his pride. “And if Sigebert or Wybert did anything to her, so help me God, I will not rest until you are in the ground!”
Appius had dropped his drink onto the limo floor and had Eric by the throat against the vehicle’s side window before Eric could discern that his father was moving.
“Did you just threaten me?” Appius asked with fury as Eric tried to struggle out of the tightening grip of his father’s hand around his neck. The older man had gained the upper hand through his sudden movements and had leverage over Eric.
“I said,” Appius snarled, still limiting his son’s oxygen flow, “did you threaten me?”
“Yes,” the younger Northman choked out stubbornly, even as he felt close to passing out.
Appius laughed bitterly and pushed Eric away before retaking his seat and fixing his suit jacket.
Eric’s hands rose to his throat as he tried to catch his breath. He looked at his father with shock in his eyes. Despite all the years of emotional abuse Appius had been guilty of, this was the first time that Eric had ever suffered physically at his father’s hands.
“I have to admit that you have balls,” Appius said, pouring himself another drink as if nothing had happened. “Clearly you managed to inherit a few of my genes, but you will not make threats against me, boy! Is that understood? I may be older than you are, but I could end you any time I wanted?”
Seeing his father’s almost black eyes, Eric believed that Appius would do just that if he wanted. Once he caught his breath, Eric motioned toward one of the bottles of water in the limo’s wet bar
“Help yourself,” Appius said, almost congenially, as Eric quickly opened and took a drink of the water to soothe his aching throat.
Once it felt like his throat was no longer on fire, Eric spoke in a careful whisper. “What about Sookie?”
Appius’s jaw tightened as he studied Eric carefully. “It appears that she has left you.”
Eric allowed his true sorrow over Sookie’s leaving to spill over, for once not trying to hide his emotions from his father. “Left me?” he asked as tears began to burn his eyes.
“Yes,” Appius responded pitilessly, still staring his son down, no doubt trying to discern whether Eric had known about Sookie’s plans to leave. “Miss Stackhouse seems to have some balls of her own. She left me a little message today—using my own listening device.” Appius seemed almost impressed by Sookie’s audacity for a moment. “I have to say that I was surprised that you’d not destroyed it after our talk last week.”
Eric face held genuine shock. “Sookie left you a message?”
Appius nodded. “Would you like to know what she said?”
Eric couldn’t stop himself from nodding. It hadn’t been in the plan for Sookie to do that. In fact, Eric had hoped that it would be several days before Appius figured out that she was gone.
“She was not very flattering toward you—I’m afraid,” Appius sneered. “She told me that she’s been playing you all along, and now that it is clear that you can’t be manipulated into marrying her—because of my interference, by the way—she is leaving you. Apparently, she plans to take her grifting skills elsewhere.”
“You’re lying,” Eric said, his throat burning even more because of the rise of bile in it.
Appius shrugged nonchalantly. “You should probably check to make sure that she hasn’t stolen anything of value when you get home.”
Eric shook his head in pain. It wasn’t that he believed Appius’s words. On the contrary. However, he began to imagine that Sookie had actually said them as part of a plan cooked up by Bobby. He imagined how much pain it would have given Sookie to say words like the ones Appius was reporting—even though they were lies—and his heart ached a little more than it had already been aching.
“You shouldn’t feel too bad,” Appius said before swallowing the rest of his drink. “I was taken in by her innocent act too. She probably uses her lip-reading trick as a way to weave herself into the lives of gullible men, such as yourself.” He smiled. “Poor little Eric. It seems that even the circus sideshow acts cannot love you.”
Eric felt himself shaking with a mixture of sorrow and anger—and fear. “Fuck you,” he said.
Appius sat back in his seat and crossed his legs. “You really had no idea she was leaving you—did you?” he chuckled. “And you really do love her,” he added in almost disbelief. “But even you must see that I was right; people like your Miss Stackhouse have only one objective when they worm their way into our world: they want what we have.” He smiled sinisterly. “She wanted your money. She wanted the position that marrying you would have gotten her. She did not want you. Who would?”
“Shut the fuck up,” Eric said, each word painfully croaking through his swelling throat.
Appius let out a long-suffering sigh and continued as if speaking to a child. “People like us must stick to marriages with people of our own kind, and even though Russell Edgington is an insufferable, arrogant ass, aligning the Northmans with the Edgingtons would be good for us and for them and for the whole goddamned society we live in.”
Appius looked almost tired for a moment as he ran his hand through his hair. “I’m growing weary of dealing with you, Eric. Why do you push me? You and I both know that I have you by the balls. Why can’t you just accept your role and complete it without complaint or drama?” He sighed. “God knows I wish that you would have been the bastard child of Peder so that I could have washed my hands of you and your mother forever, but I’ve accepted the fact that you are mine,” he added as if drinking castor oil. He poured himself another scotch and downed it all in a large gulp.
Methodically, he poured himself another. “I think it would behoove us both to coexist peacefully,” Appius said after a minute or so a silence.
“How?” Eric whispered.
Appius took a sip of his scotch and sat back in his seat. “I will stop asking that you report all of your operations at NP. And—hell—I may even entertain some of your idiotic notions as Russell seems to think I should.”
“And in return?” Eric asked, his voice still cracking.
Appius sat forward a little. “Get engaged to Isabel. Surely Miss Stackhouse’s leaving has taught you that love is an illusion.” He sighed. “I—more than anyone—had to learn that the hard way.”
“My mother did love you,” Eric said, his voice ragged and defeated.
“Do not speak of things you know nothing about, boy,” Appius warned, his voice once more taking on a dangerous edge.
The two stared at each other for a minute—until finally Eric looked away.
“So—if I get engaged to Isabel, then what? You suddenly leave me alone?” Eric asked, disbelief clear in his tone.
Appius shrugged. “If you do as you should, I will leave you alone.”
“And what should I do?” Eric asked.
“Quit fucking around, and act like a Northman,” Appius growled. “Get married by the end of the year. Operate your division with NP’s profits in mind—rather than by trying to make all parties in a deal happy. And—in a few years—take over the company and run it in the same way. Keep building it up for Appius, Jr. And keep out of my way. I will inform Sophie-Anne that you are no longer to be invited to family functions.” Appius once again looked a little tired. “New York is a large city. And Northman Tower is a big building. Perhaps—if we are very lucky—Andre and Clancy can interact for us. Perhaps we could avoid seeing each other for months at a time.”
“What about my brothers and sisters?” Eric asked.
Appius sighed. “See them if you must. Just make sure I’m not around when you do.”
“Why are you being so charitable?” Eric spit out suspiciously.
Appius’s face slowly morphed into a look that held both sorrow and joy. It was an odd combination and made him look a little insane in that moment.
Appius sat forward as he responded to Eric’s question. “Now you are exactly like me. The look in your eyes right now—I have seen it in my own eyes before: right after I read Stella’s final letter to Peder.” Appius sat back and both men were silent for a moment.
“After hearing Miss Stackhouse’s message, I didn’t know if it was a part of a plan to deceive me or not,” Appius said honestly. “But,” he paused, still studying Eric, “I can tell that your misery is real.” He closed his eyes as if both reveling in his son’s misery and reliving his own. Again, the expression on Appius’s face was so confused that he seemed almost otherworldly. After a moment, he continued, “Yes—I remember that look and that feeling well, and if I could pity you, I would do it now.”
“But you can’t,” Eric said sadly.
Appius opened his eyes and shook his head. “No. Pity has long since left me.”
Eric nodded in resignation.
“I cannot hurt you anymore than your Sookie has done by leaving you. And your misery is my satisfaction.” Appius closed his eyes once more, his expression becoming almost serene. “Now Stella’s child will be forced to live with the kind of pain that I have felt for the last quarter century.”
“That’s want you want? For me to live in a hell?”
“Yes—but not just any hell. A hell made by the women you love more than your own life,” Appius corrected.
“You’re the devil,” Eric squeaked out.
Appius chuckled. “Just yours.” His expression turned thoughtful. “I do not believe in heaven or hell in the traditional sense. However, if they do turn out to be real, I would gladly go to hell in exchange for two wishes.”
“Wishes?” Eric half-said and half-asked in barely a whisper. In that moment, Eric grieved that all of his own wishes had evaporated.
Appius nodded as he took a sip of his scotch.
“What do you wish?”
“If there is an afterlife, my first wish is that I will spend eternity in hell so that I never have to see Stella again—so that I never have to be where she is and know that she is not mine.”
There was a moment of silence between them.
“And the second?”
“That you suffer more than I have had to. That you live a longer life than I do so that you suffer longer. That a day does not go by that you fail to lament what you lost. That you die in misery and alone—even if you are surrounded by others.”
“God—you truly hate me,” Eric said with anguish in his voice, “and my mother.”
Appius got a faraway look in his eyes; it was almost gentle. “No—not Stella. No, Eric, I love your mother with everything I am.”
“Then why?” Eric faltered.
“I wept over Stella’s body when she finally was too weak to fight the cancer any longer. And before that, I stayed by her side for weeks and weeks. I would have done anything to save her. I would have given my own life,” Appius said quietly. “I chose her over Peder too—you know. I could have left her when I found them together. Peder, like me, preferred men, and I could have used that to manipulate him—no matter how much he loved her.” He sighed loudly. “But Stella was different. She was always so much more than my lover. There was something about her,” Appius added before clearing his throat and downing the rest of his drink.
After a moment, he continued, “I would have given her anything—given up anything for her. But she did not give up the one thing I asked her to give up. And—that—I cannot forget or forgive.”
“There was a time when I would have given up anything just for a kind word from you,” Eric said honestly.
Appius shook his head. “But you found something you would not give up for me.”
“Sookie,” Eric whispered.
Appius sighed. “You have always been so much like Stella. I could see that from the moment you were born. It was why I loved you so much. From the very first moment I saw you, my love for you matched my love for your mother. I was so proud of you—so proud to be your father.”
“Father,” Eric said, sitting forward a little, his eyes filling with tears, “I swear that I would never do anything to hurt you or the family. Please.” He begged, “Please. Can’t we just try to be something different than we’ve been?”
Appius shook his head, one side of his mouth edging up in disgust. “You would really forgive me—wouldn’t you? Even now? You would overlook the fact that I stole the Larsson fortune from you. You would overlook the fact that I have done everything I could to make your life as miserable as mine.”
“Yes,” Eric answered without hesitation, even as a sob escaped his sore throat. “Just stop hating me. Please. Father, I love you.”
Appius sighed. “I can’t stop hating you.”
Eric’s shoulders slumped.
Appius squeezed his eyes shut again, as if to try to expel his memories from his mind.
When he opened them, there was a tear falling down his cheek. “As much as I have tried, I cannot hate Stella. I can only love her,” Appius confessed.
“So you can only hate me,” Eric said quietly.
“Yes,” Appius answered quickly. “And now—at long last—my hatred has truly come to fruition. Miss Stackhouse’s leaving has broken you. I can see that as clearly as I once saw it in the mirror.”
Eric closed his own eyes and nodded in agreement.
“Just do as I say, Eric,” Appius sighed. “Marry the Edgington girl. Think of it as a merger—a business deal if you must. You and I will stay away from each other. Hell—after you take over—I will even wave the right to have yearly meetings with you as long as the profits stay up. We would never have to speak again.”
“I would think that you would want to witness my pain firsthand,” Eric said.
An almost haunted look clouded Appius’s face. “Yes—that is what I thought I wanted. But seeing it,” he shook his head a little bit, “is too familiar.”
They were silent for at least a minute.
Eric rubbed his palm along his forehead. “What if Isabel doesn’t agree to the engagement?”
“As progressive as he tries to be, I can tell that Russell would be just as pleased as I would be by the joining of our families. I have a feeling that Isabel would agree to an arrangement as long as certain conditions were met, ensuring her satisfaction in the match. She obviously wants to please her father, after all.”
“Like one of your marriages,” Eric observed.
“Yes,” Appius agreed. “My wives and I have always benefitted from the arrangements we made.”
“I love Sookie,” Eric said honestly, as tears fell from his eyes once more.
“Yes. And if you love her anything like I loved Stella, then you can count on a lifetime of pain,” Appius said with some of the light returning to his eyes, though they were still a darkened, unforgiving blue. His tone turned bitter. “And that pain will not lessen, nor can it be covered by drink or love from others.” He ran his hand through his hair and looked momentarily haggard. “Nothing will take the pain away, Eric. Your Pandora has opened her box of woe and left behind only misery. Your Sookie is gone.”
“Gone,” Eric repeated as he buried his face into his hands and wept.
“I was prepared to use her little parlor trick for years, making you both miserable in the process. Hell. I was even prepared to try to seduce her, but now I realize that this is so much better—her leaving you all on her own.” He sat forward a little. “Tell me—how long did you have with her? How long were you happy?”
“Almost nine months,” Eric said raggedly, his voice muffled by his hands.
“Ah—and having that bliss will make you even more miserable now. Just like me,” Appius said with satisfaction.
Eric could only nod in agreement.
“I will give you nine months to settle things with Isabel—to marry her,” Appius said. “You can have just as many months as you were happy in order to resign yourself to your new existence—just like I had to do.”
“And if I don’t?” Eric asked.
“I will do everything I can to make your existence miserable—even more so than I’ve done in the past,” Appius said. “Live in your suffering, Eric. Maybe knowing you are doing that will allow my own suffering to ebb a little.”
Eric could tell that his father was dismissing him.
“I will stay out of your way for nine months, Eric,” Appius said as his eldest son reached for the door handle. “I will seek no meetings. I will ask for no reports of your business dealings. There will be no interaction between us. And that is how it will stay if you do as I’ve said.”
With a nod of understanding and resignation, Eric left the limo.
A/N: Hello all! Touch the Flame is back. Thanks to all who continue to comment and read! Y’all are wonderful!
This chapter was a hard one for me to write, and I found myself crying quite a bit. I’ve indicated before that my own relationship with my father has informed Appius and Eric’s relationship—in that my father seemed to hurt others because he was so hurt. Having lived through the effects of that firsthand, it has been hard to put Eric there, but his relationship with Appius in the books is such that it was unavoidable. We see in this chapter an Appius who flies off the handle and loses control as he physically attacks Eric. This is a man who cannot handle things not going his way, and he’s only placated when he sees just how Eric is destroyed by Sookie’s leaving. I went back and forth with the line where Eric tells his father that he loves him. I took it out and then put it back in about ten times before I realized that Eric DOES still love his father—just as I will always love mine, no matter what mental abuse he put my mom, brothers, and I through. Appius doesn’t deserve Eric’s love, but that’s not the point. I wanted to show that Eric can—and does—hate and love his father simultaneously, which is why Appius still has the power to hurt him. Sookie is different in this respect. I see her as being so emotionally stunted when she was child that she never developed love for her mother, so she is able to feel less emotionally about her now. I think that Michelle was so bad to Sookie from the beginning that Sookie never had any hope that Michelle would love her. Eric—I think—had hope, both b/c of his personality and because he can vaguely remember a time when he had his father’s love.
Anyway, enough rambling. The following paragraph contains a spoiler, so skip the italics if you don’t want it.
I want to set your mind at ease about one thing because I want to avoid some Isabel “hate.” Some people have even threatened to stop reading if Eric marries Isabel. (One “guest” reviewer has even said he/she will never read another word I write if I let Eric marry Isabel, which seems a bit extreme—but whatever). Anyway, to nip those things in the bud, I will tell you with certainty that—although they will get engaged—Eric and Isabel will not marry. Also, try not to hate on Isabel; she’s not the threat to Eric and Sookie. I quite like her and Russell in this story. Neither of them will turn out to be villains.
That being done, let me once again thank the supporters of this story.
Next time: Eric and Isabel make an arrangement. Two chapters and the epilogue are all we have left of this sequel. Then we will have the continuation following that. I’m going to try to finish up the rest of TtF in the next several days. Then I’ll turn to Uncharted for a week. And then I’ll begin the next installment of the Comfortably Numb universe the following week, so there won’t be huge delays.
Until next time,