"Would Sookie Stackhouse, Amelia Broadway, and Tara Thornton please go to the principal's office? Sookie Stackhouse, Amelia Broadway, and Tara Thornton to the principal's office."
Now, the voice of Bon Temps High School's office secretary, Arlene Fowler, is screechy enough to wake anyone up during first period Calculus on a bleary Monday morning, but the fact that she was talking about me made me feel like I had just finished downing four espresso shots rapid style. Talk about an OSM moment.
Nervously twisting a long, curly lock of my blonde hair, I tried to remember anything that happened recently that would have called for a trip to the principal's office with my two partners in crime. Was it the John Hughes-worthy house party Amelia hosted Saturday night when her businessman daddy had to wine-and-dine a client in New Orleans? Did someone snitch about the "mandatory" pitstop to McDonalds Tara had talked the bus driver into making after our soccer game on Friday? I wanted to know what I was walking into – no way was I gonna let Principal de Castro get the upper-hand. Maybe Amelia or Tara would know. Maybe.
We've been best friends ever since freshman year of high school, when we were the only froshies to make the varsity soccer team. We bonded by grumbling about the locker posters we had to make for the seniors or how we always had to lug the heavy equipment and water coolers to the field. Misery loves company and all that, I guess. But now we were the big, bad senior captains, and couldn't wait to exercise the power and influence we'd earned. Forget the Three Musketeers – we were like Cher, Dionne, and Tai from my favorite desert-island movie, Clueless.
What would Cher do? She'd strut into the principal's office and probably argue her way out of a detention. I could do that. I scooped up my doodle-covered notebook and jammed it in my backpack, smirking as I listened to the cat-calls and jabs that I had become accustomed to whenever my name was called on the loudspeaker. Nodding to my teacher, Mr. Madden, I strolled out the door and immediately spied Tara's long black braids spilling over her stuffed backpack.
"Tara!" She whipped her head around and smiled when she saw me.
"Hey girl. Any idea on what this crazy-ass meeting's all about?"
I reluctantly shook my head, causing her to swear under her breath. I knew she was hoping that I'd have some clue about why we got pulled out of class. We walked in silence until we saw Amelia perched on the bench outside the office, retouching her makeup in a tiny handheld mirror. Tara and I shared a knowing glance – of course Amelia would be worrying about her lip gloss instead of wondering why we needed to have a meeting with the school principal.
"Yo, beauty queen. Got a mascara or eye shadow or something in that big-ass designer makeup bag of yours that can tell me why I gotta leave my Ancient Civilizations class to sit with you guys in front of our sorry excuse of a principal?" Tara sassed. I giggled – I loved it when Tara got all saucy (which was frequently because the girl had quite the temper).
Amelia shrugged, "Your guess is as good as mine." But before we could make any guesses, the door creaked open to reveal a skinny old lady with what looked like a flaming rats nest of fire engine-red hair stuck on her head. Yep, that'd be Arlene Fowler, who sounded as pretty as she looked.
"Took you guys long enough. Principal de Castro has been waiting for you," she huffed. She turned around before Tara could make a stellar comeback like she was known to do. Guess there was a brain lurking behind the wrinkles and split ends.
"Okey dokey," Amelia laughed, dropping her compact into her canvas tote and following Arlene. Tara and I shuffled behind her, silently guffawing at Amelia's hilarious impersonation of the secretary's feeble attempt at walking normally in her ridiculously out of place high heels. Seriously, this was Bon Temps, where people think that dressing up means jeans and an unstained shirt. We're not in New York City, Toto, and never have been.
"Either she's trying to get a raise, or someone has a thing for Enrique Iglesias wannabes," Tara whispered into my ear. I sniggered, thinking about how Arlene always lingered around Principal de Castro's door and made him coffee about eight times a day. Personally, I thought she was sniffing up the wrong tree, but if it made her happy then good for her.
"Hush up, girls. Here's Principal de Castro's door, although I don't know why he insisted that I lead you here. Goodness knows you've been in the room too many times," Arlene snipped before stumbling back to her desk.
It didn't take long for Tara and Amelia to start joking about the secretary. Normally, I'd join in the conversation, but I was too busy ogling the man – no, god – that was visible through the small window in the door. Not Principal de Castro, of course – the only person that could do that was Arlene – but the guy sitting across from him.
He was so tall and big that he completely blocked de Castro from my view. His shaggy, shoulder-length blonde hair made me feel like I was watching a shampoo commercial – it was all messy and sexy in a natural way that no amount of styling product or willpower could ever create. His hair looked as golden as mine, and I wondered if that was supposed to mean something. His shoulders, although covered by a light-blue collared shirt, were broad and muscular, and I could see the faint outline of a tank top underneath the fabric. "That back is just begging to be scratched," I thought, hungrily licking my lips. I leaned in closer to the window, as if that would somehow bring me closer to this gorgeous man, only to thunk my head against the glass. Shit!
The man whipped his head around – Herbal Essences really needed to call him – to find out what caused the noise. His eyes widened in surprise as he took in my shocked face and the unabashed lust that was probably evident in my eyes. After a few seconds he smirked, causing my heart to pound like I had just sprinted down the soccer field and scored a goal. Never breaking eye contact, he rose out of his seat and strode towards the door. He was even better looking than his hair and back had led me to imagine, standing tall and lean at about 6'4". I never realized that a girl could have to struggle to keep her hands off a man, but here I was pawing at the door like a dog begging to be let in. It was somehow degrading, craving someone so…so…voraciously – SAT word – just because he was physically beautiful. I hadn't thought that was something girls did either. How could de Castro have anything to do with this gorgeous guy?
Before I had time to stop gaping, the door was open and I was hit with this sensuous aroma of freshly clipped grass, mint, and something that I couldn't put a name on but was distinctly masculine. The phrase "Eau du hottie" came to mind, and I unconsciously closed my eyes and inhaled. "Oh perfect stranger," I thought, "When you smell like that, I just want to fuck you and bite you and rub myself all over you." But my x-rated thoughts were interrupted by a collective gasp from behind me and a poke in my upper arm from either Tara or Amelia. Shit, did I say that? Or just think it? Was I talking? Did he hear me?
One long, long glance up – he had to be a model, he was so freakin' tall – answered my last internal question, as his eyebrows looked like the golden arches and he was smirking even more than I would have thought humanly possible. Triple shit!
"Are you all right?" he asked. He was talking to me! That means I have to respond to him! That helped me flounder my way back to sanity through a swamp of lust. He was standing right in front of me, his hands resting on the top of the door frame that I was standing under. I looked up into his hypnotizing blue eyes, now focused on me with concerned amusement. I was right on level where the third button of his shirt was undone, revealing a slice of golden muscle and a necklace that looked like an anchor. Oh gawd oh gawd oh gawd oh gawd oh gawd…
"Excuse me," I said, speaking very softly. It worried me how faint and distant I sounded. He stared at me, waiting for me to continue, but my mouth was open and I couldn't seem to close it.
"Ah, Miss Sookie, Miss Amelia, and Miss Tara," Principal de Castro's nasally voice shook me out of my reverie. "Thanks for taking the time out of what I'm sure to be your extremely busy schedules to come and visit me in my humble office. Please, take a seat. You should know where they are."
The mysterious man shifted to the side of the doorway in order to let us in, and as I walked past him my shoulder brushed his firm, muscular torso. I heard a slight groan from somewhere, but couldn't tell where it came from. Was it me? Probably, given what had happened moments before. After taking a few steps I faltered – there were three armchairs in front of Principal de Castro's desk, but there were four people that were standing in the room. Shit, what do I do?
As if he could read my mind, the beautiful man walked past us to lean against the desk, so Amelia, Tara, and I would have to sit in the chairs. Blushing like a madwoman at the thought of sitting directly in front of this man and his legs and his lower body, I chose the chair farthest away from him. I didn't think it'd be possible to embarrass myself even more today, but I didn't want to take any chances.
"What did you want to talk to us about, Principal de Castro?" Tara innocently asked after a long, awkward pause. She always knew when to talk, even though she didn't always say the right things. I loved her.
"Ah yes, in a rare turn of events, I asked you into my office today not because of your actions or grades, but because of your extracurricular activities," he smoothly replied.
Say what? The only "extracurricular activity" that we did was soccer. Sure, it might not look the best on the college applications that we were filling out, but it was the only activity that we could truly get in to.
My mind flashbacked to the movie we watched at out last team sleepover, She's The Man. Yeah, it was a soccer movie. But anyways, Amanda Bynes's character is a really talented soccer player who comes back to school to find that the soccer program was cut. But we were three games into our season, led by a coach who had coached the team since before I was even on it. Of course life wouldn't imitate art…right?
"I'm sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Coach Bill has quit the soccer program at Bon Temps. He's now the assistant coach at Mississippi State University. Apparently he and the head coach, Lorena something-or-other, used to coach together before he came to Bon Temps, and, well, he just couldn't refuse her offer. Sent me an email last week saying that his coaching salary could be given to you three; I guess he thought that you teenagers could coach yourselves, but the school handbook specifically states that students cannot do that. So, I did some 'googling,' I think the phrase is, and I found you guys a new coach," Principal de Castro explained.
I still didn't understand. Coach Bill left us? Coach Bill left me during my senior year? For this Lorena chick and her team? And now we have to start playing with a new coach with new tactics during the middle of our season?
I thought my jaw was going to fall off because all of the gaping I had done in the past five minutes.
After giving us a moment to think about the heavy news he had just dropped on us, Principal de Castro continued, "So your new coach is going to be Eric Northman."
That's when the golden god, who had been serenely leaning against the desk watching our worlds come crashing down, straightened and ran his long fingers through his hair. He looked each of us in the eye, one at a time – and I could have sworn his eyes lingered on me the longest – before murmuring in a low, husky voice, "I can't wait to get to know you guys. We're going to have a lot of fun together, I can tell."
Oh. My. God.