So I`m back from outer space (or New York and the Caribbean as it were). I had a great trip and I just want to say thank you for all the reviews, subscription notices and favorites that ticked into my phone each and every day. Some of you apparently went through all my old stories too and it made me smile.
Also thank you to Rascalthemutant at the Alexander Skarsgård Library Forum for reading this through and correcting my mistakes. Thank you for being such a great friend too *hugs*.
Happy New Year!
From the previous chapter:
Eric looked at me.
“I`m asking you to marry me and already you are planning on falling in love with someone else?”
“Come on, Eric. With all your lady friends, it`s more likely to be you than me who wants out of this arranged marriage.”
“Yes, because I fall in love every day. Do you know how many women I`ve asked to marry me?”
I didn`t answer.
“One. And I`m looking at her right now.” And he looked at me. “Sure this won`t be some romantic wedding with a kid on the way, but we are friends and that might just make our marriage a stronger one. I am not planning on falling in love so I suggest that you and I get married for practical reasons and live the way we have lived these last couple of months. I like having you around and unless you have some secret lover stashed away, I suggest we make it permanent.”
“Hmm, there`s always Quinn.” I couldn`t help myself.
“Quinn? The kid manning the phones at Viking Games? What is he … 19 or something?”
Then he saw my teasing smile and launched himself at me and started tickling. I screamed out and tried to get away, but he was stronger than me.
“I`ll give you Quinn.” He laughed.
I never gave Eric an answer to his proposal. It was not said in a way that demanded an immediate response. It wasn`t as if Eric had gone down on one knee and looked at me with loving eyes and asked me with nervousness in his voice. He had asked me to marry him to solve a practical problem.
It wasn`t that I didn`t want the work permit and it wasn`t that being married to Eric would be the worst thing that could happen to me. It wasn`t even that I had dreamt of proposals and weddings since I was a little girl, because I hadn`t. And being with Bill for two years had cured me of any romantic dreams I might have had. He had made it very clear early on that he was not the `marrying kind` and that he wasn`t looking for a family.
I could live with not being married and I could see the sense in marrying Eric for practical reasons, but it still felt wrong. Or maybe not wrong, but at least awkward.
So I did what I always do when I should have talked things through with people. I clammed up.
Marriage did occupy a part of my brain for some time. This was mainly due to my old Louisiana friends Portia and Halleigh who both tweeted that their boyfriends had proposed. And both in a more traditional manner than Eric.
I stopped checking my TweetDeck when three-fourths of the tweets were them, yapping about colors of bridesmaids` dresses or size of diamonds on wedding rings. Either I had too few friends tweeting me or those two girls were obsessed.
Luckily I had other things on my mind. Eric and I were both busy with the launch of the computer program and soon we had another thing to worry about. Well, I worried about it. Eric`s mother had invited us to a family gathering somewhere up in the mountains.
I looked forward to going to the mountains again even if it wasn`t to Pam`s cabin. The memory of what Eric and I had done at Pam`s cabin, made me sigh a little – and blush a lot. That trip had made me love the Norwegian mountains. What I didn`t love was the thought of spending time with, not only Eric`s mother, but more of his family.
I liked Pam and apart from her I had only met Eric`s mother, but I had a feeling that the rest of the Northmans were more like Sophie-Anne Northman-Ravenscroft than like Pam and Eric.
“Why do you want me to go too, Eric?” I had put on my big girl`s pants and asked him after a few days of wondering.
Eric opened his mouth, but Pam was faster. “You are family, Sookie.” End of conversation. Never any explanations as to what made me part of the family – or if Eric agreed. And I didn`t ask. As much as I wanted more answers, I didn`t want to ruin anything. I didn`t really have much family anymore and I would love to have Pam and Eric as my next of kin. In any capacity. So I didn`t rock the boat.
The last week before the launch of the game, I worked 24-hour days. Or so it felt. I was worn out when I came home from work, and so was Eric. We shared easy fun and he cooked me some great meals, but we never talked much. We were just too exhausted.
The hard work paid off, though. The game was sold out in stores all around the world and our website had gazillions of visitors buying it online. Of course the real test was on social communities all over the world. Would bloggers and super-gamers like the game?
The answer came quickly and it was positive. Actually `positive` was too weak a word. Eric and the programmers had apparently taken a couple of giant leaps that impressed even the coolest of the cool.
Everyone wanted a piece of Eric and he went from interview to interview. I organized Skypes and long distance phone calls and arranged for him to be in television studios in Los Angeles and Singapore, while still in Oslo. Cameras and technology from the state television company NRK were usually not rented out for commercial use, but it so happened that NRK had a few computer game geeks who saw Eric as the new messiah and they jumped at the chance to help him.
Being interviewed in all time zones of the world, turned our sleeping pattern from bad to non-existant so when the first buzz was over, I was dead. Happy, but dead. And very proud. I had not made the game, but I had done a pretty great job at making it a household name.
Eric seemed to think the same thing because he hugged me on a regular basis and no one could accuse him of not thanking me.
Pam seemed to agree and if Eric and I were skipping around the subject of marriage, she certainly wasn`t.
“So when are you going to make sure your PR-manager stays in the country and have her wear your ring, oh brother of mine?” she asked one late night over dinner. I immediately blushed and started shoveling the food from my plate into my mouth in an attempt to be done fast so I could leave the table and the room. Gran would have rotated in her grave.
Eric looked less uncomfortable than me, but then he had had years of practice with Pam`s banter.
“You are putting pressure on the wrong person, Pam. The question has been popped, but never answered.”
Pam looked at me.
“Why is it so easy for you to resist my brother?” she asked innocently and I had to work hard at not getting the food down my windpipe. I chewed slowly and thanked my upbringing for making it impossible for me to talk with my mouth full of Eric`s delicious dinner. Of course Gran had also taught me not to stuff my head. `Never bite off more than you can chew` and all that.
I had two sets of eyes on me when I swallowed. I drank a little sip to gain a few more seconds to come up with an answer, but Eric beat me to it.
“She will walk down the aisle with me, won`t you, Sookie?”
If they had looked at me intensely before, they stared now. I couldn`t answer. What could I say?
“Mum is going to love this,” Pam finally stated.
Eric and I both looked at her.
“Mother doesn`t have to know.” Eric`s voice had an edge to it.
“Afraid of what she might say?” Pam teased.
“Pam!” It came out as a guttural sound deep from Eric`s throat. I figured I would come to his rescue.
“If Eric and I are getting married, it won`t change anything so why tell anybody?”
Pam looked at me with a Cheshire cat smile while Eric`s face was impossible to read.
“No, why indeed?” Pam laughed. “Why indeed?”
The day came for us to leave for the mountains. I considered faking illness just to avoid going, but when I saw Eric`s tense shoulders the morning we were leaving, I felt sorry for him. I wanted to give him a hug and comb my fingers through his hair, but I didn`t have the nerve.
So I pulled on my ski jacket, put on my boots and went out the door. I felt like a pig going to the slaughterhouse and I figured I would have to find my inner strength before I met the force of nature that had given birth to my self-appointed fiancée.
The family gathering was to take place at a hotel and I had imagined some white monstrosity built in the 1950s. I had seen plenty of them in the area where Pam had her cabin.
When Eric pulled up in front of the hotel I saw that this was no monstrosity and definitely not built in the 1950s. This was a palace and it was older than most houses in Bon Temps. It was beautiful, really beautiful, and I couldn`t help smiling.
Eric saw my smile and gave my hand a little squeeze.
“My mother likes to impress people,” he said and gave me a small kiss on the cheek. “Don`t worry. She won`t bite you.”
“I`m not so sure about that.” And I wasn`t. So I swallowed back a little fear when I saw Sophie-Anne Northman-Ravenscroft coming down the stairs with her arms open.
“Paaaam, Eeeeeric,” she yelled in a way no actor could have done better. She was acting the part of the perfect mother. After having hugged her children, she looked at me. “And Susan,” she smiled and took my hand to shake it.
“Sookie,” Eric and I said simultaneously.
“Sookie. Yes, how silly of me.”
She tried to take both her children by the arms, but Eric broke free and held my hand instead. We all walked up to the reception of the hotel. Eric`s mother went over to the young receptionist and smiled her signature smile.
“I need the keys for my children`s rooms.” She looked at me. “And for their friend. I believe my children have rooms here in the main building and Miss Stackhouse is in one of the wings.”
“Sookie is staying in my room,” Eric said with a voice loud enough to startle me. I had had no plans on staying in Eric`s room, but I wasn`t about to hand over any aces to his mother, so I said nothing.
Sophie-Anne Northman-Ravenscroft was not pleased, but after trying to freeze me over with her stare, she smiled again and looked back at the receptionist.
“Miss Stackhouse is apparently staying in my son`s room.”
We got our keys and Eric`s mother insisted on walking us to our rooms. When we came to the room Eric and I were supposed to share, Eric`s mother looked at me. The smile was gone.
“Sookie, would you be a darling and check if there are enough towels in the bathroom? They had forgotten towels in our room.”
It wasn`t until I came back from the bathroom to report a satisfying number of towels, I realized that she had just wanted me out of the room. When I opened the door, a heated discussion met me.
“But you don`t even share rooms in your apartment, Eric. Be reasonable. Why force the young girl to sleep with you if she never has before.” Sophie-Anne`s voice was pleading, but with an edge of steel.
“Who I sleep with is none of your damned business, mother, and you know it.” Eric was angry.
“Oh, but it is. Who you sleep with, or rather who you procreate with, is very much my business. Why keep this girl,” I couldn`t see Eric`s mother since I was still standing on the threshold to the bedroom, but I imagined that she pointed at me, “so close to you. You won`t get married with her around.”
“That`s where you are wrong.”
There was a silence and I figured this was my chance to go out and pretend I had heard nothing. Eric pulled me into his body with his strong arms. He might as well have thrown me in his mother`s face and I didn`t like it much. So the minute she was out of the room, I took a step away.
“What the hell was that?”
“I`m sorry. My mother is being her usual unreasonable self.”
“I didn`t mean your mother. What the hell were you doing?”
“What do you mean?”
“Don`t give me that innocent look. You know what I mean. You were two seconds from telling your mother I was marrying you and now you pretend we are old lovers.”
“We are old lovers.” Eric tried his charming smile.
“Yeah, emphasis on `old`. You have given me no indications you wanted me back in your bed, not that I necessarily would have said yes, and now you announce to the world that we are sleeping with each other. What is that?”
“You don`t want to sleep with me again?” Eric was apparently not used to rejection.
“What is this, Eric? I can`t be friends one day and lovers the next.”
“I proposed to you…”
“Yes, you proposed to me. It was very sweet of you, but you were very clear that you proposed as my friend and possibly my employer. It was for me to stay in Norway. You said so yourself.”
Eric opened his mouth, but before he managed to say anything, the door flew open and Pam waltzed in.
“Do I detect a lover`s quarrel so soon,” she smiled. “Come on you two. Get dressed. We are going curling.”
The smile was back on Eric`s lips and his seven-year-old self looked out through his eyes. I almost expected him to jump up and down. I had a vague idea of what curling was, but I was never one to follow Winter Olympics. I didn`t know the rules in half of the sports. Make that nine-tenths of them. Curling was definitely among the nine.
We walked down a few corridors and when we opened a huge door, we were met with the artificial coldness of indoor ice.
The curling rink was like a normal skating rink, but divided in what looked like huge shuffleboards. On each there were eight huge and smooth rocks with a handle on them, four in yellow, four in red.
Eric handed me a pair of shoes, one of them slick under and one with grip.
“It`s so that you can glide on one foot and stand still on the other,” Eric explained. I had no idea where I was supposed to glide or stand.
Eric`s mother was holding a broom and talking to what looked like a family. We joined them.
“Are we playing family against family?” Pam asked.
“Apparently so,” Eric said with a clear distaste in his mouth. “Sookie, this is my uncle Peter Threadgill. He is married to my father`s sister. These are his two children, my cousins, Jade and Flower and this is…” Eric pointed at a large-chested, peroxide blonde.
“She is my secretary,” Peter Threadgill said. Apparently secretaries didn`t have names.
“This is my future fiancée, I hope, Sookie Stackhouse.” I blushed from my neck to my forehead. I was going to get Eric for that introduction, but at least I wasn`t his `secretary`.
“Shall we begin the games, Peter?” Sophie-Anne said with an angelic smile.
“Of course,” he answered.
“I`ll start for our team,” Pam said. “That`ll give Eric a chance to explain the game to Sookie.”
Pam took one of the rocks, went down in a crooked position and sent the rock gliding on the ice towards a circle in the other end. What really caught my attention was Sophie-Anne who used her broom as if there were spiders all over the ice. She brushed frantically and the rock ended up in the front of the circle.
“Nice, sis,” Eric yelled. Then he looked at me. “The whole point of the game is to get as many of our rocks into the house, which is the circle, and to knock out as many of the other team`s from it. The one sending the curling stone away will try to do it at the right speed and with a few curves and the people with the brooms, that would normally be the three others on the team, will brush the stone to the most perfect position. It`s easy as pie and dead fun,” Eric declared.
Jade took her stone and sent it out to knock Pam`s stone out of the circle. Her own stone went in the opposite direction.
“What a lousy shot,” Eric said in a low voice. “Her rock should have stayed in the house.”
Then he handed me a broom. “Now we have to help my mother. Just copy what I do.”
Sophie-Anne sent her rock, or stone, away and Eric and Pam started to broom frantically. I did the same without having any idea of what I was doing or why.
“Great, Sookie. You are a born curler,” Pam patted my back. I felt like a 3-year-old being praised for my sorry attempts at drawing a person.
Now it was Flower`s turn. She sent her rock flying and it knocked Sophie-Anne`s out to the side of the circle and placed itself in the middle.
“Now it`s your turn, Sookie. Just send an easy stone out there and knock Flower`s stone out of the house.”
“Sure, Eric. As soon as you start speaking Swahili fluently. I`ve never done this before.”
“I know, but it`s really easy. Just send it away and you`ll be fine.” Eric smiled his most encouraging smiles.
I tried to copy the way the others had sent their stones away and it really did look doable. What I hadn`t taken into account was having one slippery and one steady foot. Before I knew it, I fell flat on my back and my stone stopped halfway toward the circle in spite of Pam and Eric`s frantic brushing.
Eric sailed over to me on his slippery shoe and landed over me. I was smushed under his big body.
“I`ve got you,” he said.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Protecting you from nasty curling stones.” He was smiling with the joy of the game, and his blue eyes were glittering like sapphires. Eric loved curling.
“I don`t see any stones coming after me,” I said. “It seems the team really needs you now.”
Carried away on a wave of excitement, Eric kissed me long and hard and then he scooped up the last stone for our team.
“It seems it`s our turn, Eric,” Peter Threadgill said. He looked like someone had just given him bad news. And it was certainly not my curling that had given him the sour look. Why did he object to Eric`s behavior towards me?
“Of course, Peter. I wouldn`t dream of stepping in your way.” Eric gave me a hand so I could get up without too much embarrassment and we walked back to the others.
Peter`s secretary was Norwegian, but that didn`t mean she could curl. She sent her stone away and the only thing that saved her from sharing my embarrassment, was the fact that she remained on her feet. Her stone touched mine and sent it beautifully into the circle while taking it`s place in the middle of the sheet.
Peter Threadgill groaned.
“And now it`s my turn,” Eric jumped up. “Go and brush with Pam, Sookie,” he yelled. I took the broom and followed Pam, sliding on one shoe and pushing with the other.
We bent down and Eric scooped up his stone.
“Curling for a wife,” Eric declared happily and flung the stone in my direction. With a war cry like an ancient Viking, Eric jumped up and down while Pam and I brushed for all we were worth.
“Love seeing you with your butt up, sweeping for my brother,” Pam snickered.
Eric`s stone made an elegant screw and placed itself behind the stone from the opposing team and in front of mine.
“Great shot, brother,” Pam yelled. “You are protecting your sweetheart, but can`t be knocked out because of the other stone.” Pam looked at her uncle. “No way, you can win now.”
Apparently Peter Threadgill realized the same thing because instead of sending off the last stone, he rushed towards the doors.
“Don`t be such a sore loser, Peter,” Sophie-Anne yelled at him, pretending to be outraged. But she was enjoying every minute of it.
Peter`s two children and his secretary looked a little forlorn and soon they followed in his footsteps.
“I always love beating those…. those pussies,” Pam smiled.
“Pam, language.” Sophie-Anne looked at her daughter.
“But they are pussies.” Pam declared.
Pam and her mother looked at each other. Then Sophie-Anne smiled. “Yeah. They are pussies. And we beat them.” She looked at Eric. “Are you really planning on marrying her?” She pointed at me.
“If she will have me,” Eric said as if we had never discussed keeping it a secret.
“Then you will be bringing me down.” Sophie-Anne looked very serious.
“Don`t be so melodramatic, mother.”
“Oh, I think you know how much I need to have a grandchild. Peter is threatening to take away his support and since your father and his two sisters owned one third each, he only needs to change his favors from me to…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. You`ve been telling me for years. But as long as Peter has `secretaries`,” Eric made quotation marks with his fingers, “you will have his support. He wouldn`t want my aunt to get the dirty pictures you obviously have of him and various blondes.”
“Yes, but I don`t have any heirs. Your two aunts both have grandchildren and that gives them an edge. You know your grandfather`s will…”
“I know the will, but I am not going to have kids just to satisfy your lust for money and power.” Eric was at the boiling point.
“And with her,” Sophie Anne pointed at me again. I was beginning to dislike her index finger in my direction, “you will never have any.”
“What?” Eric and I said simultaneously. I almost said `jinx` just to loosen up the situation, but stopped myself.
“My private investigators have been asking Bill Compton, her old boyfriend…”
“I know who Bill Compton is,” Eric hissed.
“Of course you do, son. Well, Bill was more than happy to talk about his life with Sookie and he said the most interesting things. Apparently Sookie never wants to have kids and this was one of the reasons Bill broke up with her. He now has a new girlfriend, Selah, I believe her name was, and they are planning on starting a family as soon as possible. Bill was very clear on Sookie`s dislike of children. He suggested I stopped you from marrying her…”
Sophie-Anne kept talking, but I never heard anything else because I ran out of there. I could hear Eric`s footsteps and he was yelling for me to stop, but he didn`t reach me until we were in the hotel room.
I looked at him. I wanted to cry, but I was just too mad.
“Is your mother stopping at nothing?” I yelled.
That Sophie-Anne, huh?
I hope you liked this chapter and that the long break didn`t ruin it all for you *bites nails*.
If you want to have a great insight to Eric`s character and his feelings towards Sookie, I want to recommend Peppermintyrose`s great story “Dossier” . She has achieved something I thought was impossible – for me to like book 9. Yay!