Title: Finding John Wayne
Eric & Sookie: Cowboy Up! One shot contest
Characters: Eric, Sookie, Amelia, Bill, Pam, Sam, Terry, Hoyt, Quinn, Lafayette, Felipe
A/H, A/U, OOC
Disclaimer: I don't own the Southern Vampires characters or stories. All copyright belongs to Charlaine Harris.
HUGE PROPS to S. Meadows for being my beta for this story! She is a goddess and I'm so glad she was available the help me out!

Ooo000ooo000ooo000

She woke and stretched. Her body felt like she'd been rode hard and put away wet. She ached, everywhere. Her mind was clearing and she looked around, confused. She was clearly in someone else's hotel room, she didn't have any children to sell to pay for what this room had to have cost. A chandelier? Cowboy boots? A champagne bucket? Shit. Where am I?

She tried to remember how she ended up there and why she felt so awful. She sat up, wrapped in the sheet and ran her hands through her hair, or tried to, but her left hand got caught in a snag.

"Ouch. Damn it," she whined and tried to extricate her hand, only to realize that the snag wasn't in her hair, but on her hand – in the form of a huge diamond!

Thoughts flew threw her head, her stomach churned, and her eyes filled with tears as she stared at the ring. What had she done last night? This shit happened to Amelia, not her. She was starting to hyperventilate a little when she heard a deep chuckle come from the door to the bathroom.

She turned to see a gorgeous man standing in the doorway. He looked to be at least six foot four and was wrapped in a towel that showed off his washboard abs. He had the bluest eyes she'd ever seen and was, well, stunning. He had a slight smirk on his chiseled face, and she got distracted from her panic for just a second. Her eyes did that tennis match thing, flying back and forth from the ring to the man, and back again. She put her hand over her mouth to cover a sob, or a scream, before it came out.

"Sookie, just breathe," he said softly. He kept his eyes on hers as he walked over to the bed and sat next to her. He had some calming influence over her, and she looked back at him, waiting for him to tell her it was a dream. But he couldn't. He'd woken up and had the same "Oh, shit!" moment, but then it had all come back. That had been about an hour ago. He'd lain in bed next to her, going over the events from the day before, and he actually felt at ease.

He wasn't a man who really rushed into things, but he was certainly a man who made decisions swiftly and with precision. If he'd married this sweet blonde thing in his bed, no amount of tequila would have forced his hand if he hadn't wanted to do it. He ordered coffee, took a shower, and prepared himself for her reaction while he tried to decide what he could say that would help her realize that it would all work out.

She blinked at him, and a fat tear rolled down her cheek. He reached up and smoothed it away with his thumb. She looked at him questioningly, "Eric?"

He nodded with a smile and tucked her hair behind her ear. She started to speak again, but nothing coherent came out. He made out a couple of words like, "Are-who-when-we?" but there were no complete sentences or questions. He took her hand in his and tried to keep her calm with his eyes.

"Yes," he said evenly. "Yes. We got married last night. How much do you remember?"

She blinked even more, looking like the sweetest owl he'd ever seen. "But…" she started. "But, I…"

"You don't do this sort of thing, Amelia does," he finished.

Her eyes got a little wider, "Oh my God. How do you know that?"

He laughed a little, "You told me last night, sugar." He wanted to pull her into his arms and hold her, breathe in her scent and reassure her, but he knew it was too soon. "I tried to tell you we could wait, we shouldn't rush, but you said no. You said we didn't need to wait because you knew we should get married. You didn't really explain what you meant by that..." he said, drifting off.

She cocked her head slightly, puzzled; she had said that she knew, but did she? He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb as she studied him. "Sookie, are you okay? It's going to be alright. We'll figure it out, together."

His voice seemed to soothe her soul as he spoke. She felt her breathing even out and her whole body felt in tune. And it really was that simple. He was right. She knew they were supposed to be married. She knew, but her memory was foggy. She pulled her hand away slowly and stood, dragging the sheet with her. She stopped for a second, looking lost. She smelled coffee and sighed, going over to pour herself a cup. There was a slide show playing in her head, and she was trying to piece it together.

"Amelia wasn't there, was she?" she asked hesitantly, feeling like she already knew the answer.

"Ah, no Sookie. That was pretty much how we met."

She nodded and moved the sheer curtain at the window, seeing the Bellagio hotel fountains. At least she was in the right hotel. But this view…Shit. This room must cost a fortune. She took a sip of coffee and looked back at her new husband. Her heart skipped a beat when their eyes met. Good Lord he's gorgeous. She sighed and continued to sift through her foggy memories.

oo00oo00oo00oo

They stepped into the hotel lobby looking a little shell-shocked. He watched them from the little bar off to the side, and he was curious. They were about the same height; both were attractive, one with darker, brown hair and the other blonde. The dark haired woman seemed more animated, but it was the blonde that caught his eye.

"Oh my God! Is this right?" The dark haired one asked through her laughter, "Seriously, are we in Oz?" The blonde laughed too, but it seemed forced, and her friend just kept talking, "We did just step off the Vegas strip. This is the Bellagio, right? Why are there so many cowboys here? And why are all cowboys so hot?"

"A convention?" the blonde said with a straight face.

"A cowboy convention? Sookie! It's like heaven!"

A woman dressed in a checkered shirt had gotten in line to check in behind them and laughed at their exchange, "Ladies it may look like heaven, but it's just PBR World Finals Bull Riding week."

The dark haired one was still laughing, "PBR, like Pabst Blue Ribbon? The beer? They still make that? Wait, did you say bull riding? Oh sweet Jesus Sookie! This is priceless." She actually bent forward to catch her breath from laughing so hard.

"I don't like cowboys Amelia," her friend said with a huff.

What was that about? Bitch. He'd had enough of people watching. The blonde, Sookie, was intriguing, but she was probably just like the rest of them. He hated city women now; though he hadn't minded them when he lived there. Now they always thought they were so much better than him. Never gave him a chance before they judged him. He straightened his long frame from the bar stool and tipped the bartender. The blonde saw him then, and out of courtesy he inclined his head before he moved to the door. Fresh air, well, getting outdoors at least, would do him good; there wasn't much fresh air in Vegas.

"Seriously? This is fate Sookie! I can't believe it! We are so going to back to that psychic when we get home! And you don't have to like cowboys in general Sook; we're only looking for one." She was doing a little jig, and Sookie looked ill.

"It's a coincidence, Amelia. That's all," she said flatly. But she wasn't sure that it was a coincidence. She should think it was, and she shouldn't be feeling panicky because there were cowboys everywhere she looked. But her heart was beating fast and she was nervous; sweaty and clammy even. Then she caught a glimpse of a tall blonde man as he stood and turned to leave the bar. Her breath caught, and her heart skipped a beat. Their eyes met and he gave her a polite nod. Who was he? She felt like she should know him, if he would just turn around. Shit, she didn't want Amelia to catch her watching him. What if the psychic was right? No… she couldn't be.

She tried to distract Amelia, "Let's get checked in and go to the spa. We have reservations, remember?"

But Amelia was like a dog with a bone, "Sookie, this is not a coincidence! She said she saw you…"

"I know what she said. And she's a fake. It isn't real. It's just mumbo jumbo," she snapped. "She probably knew about this bull riding thing already."

"Oh yeah, Sookie, the woman could hardly speak English, but she's a bull riding fan?"

"Whatever. I am not living happily ever after with some random cowboy. Not happening! She made it up. The 'vision' she saw - Does. Not. Exist."

"Of course it doesn't. It's in the future. It will exist. This is a sign Sookie. She said you would know when you met him," Amelia began scanning the lobby. "Do you see anyone you like? Maybe we should do some gambling or go to a bar. Cowboys don't go to the spa."

"Oh my God! Are you going to be like this all weekend?"

The line finally cleared, and they were able to check in. It kept Amelia busy enough for Sookie to catch her breath. This was all too weird. She hadn't even wanted to go to the psychic, but Amelia had been given a gift certificate for her birthday and didn't want to go alone. Amelia had asked for a palm reading and it was simple enough. Here's your love line, here's your life line, and these slashes indicate how many children you'll have. No big deal.

Sookie had assumed that she would get the same reading, but when Madame Illona, the psychic, took her hand, the woman shook her head saying, "You have a powerful aura. Let us sit and talk." Sookie didn't buy a word the woman said. "You are a strong woman who has persevered in life."

No shit. You can say that to almost any woman and be right. So she had asked Madame Illona if she was ever going to get married and have children. It's what every girl wants to know, really.

In her thick accent, Madame Illona said, "You have struggled greatly in life, but I see change. I see joy and love. And I see your wedding. You are laughing, beautiful, glowing. Your husband gazes at you with all of the love in his heart. You will have the family you dream of. I see children, I cannot say how many. Just that you will have children with this man and you will be complete and fulfilled. "

Amelia had practically pounced on the poor woman, "You see her husband? Who is he? What does he look like? How will we find him?"

The old woman had just laughed. "Young women always want to know these things. I cannot tell you who he is. You will know when you meet him. You will feel it here. Look for the signs and you will know," she said touching her heart. "I can only tell you what I see. He is quite tall and fit. He has piercing blue eyes and blonde hair like you…"

"Do you see any identifying marks? How will she know it's him? Sookie, this is sooo cool!" Amelia squealed.

The woman was thoughtful, after a moment she shrugged and said, "In my vision of your family, he is holding a large hat. That is all I can say."

"A hat?" Amelia burst out. "What do you mean a large hat? Is it a fez or a fireman's hat or what?" Sookie elbowed her friend to quiet her down.

"Yes, a hat. You know, like in the movies with the Jean Wayne."

"Jean Wayne? Jean…Oh my God! You mean John Wayne! A cowboy hat? He's holding a cowboy hat?" Amelia's thoughts continued to spill from her mouth while Sookie considered what she had heard. She knew some guys who wore cowboy hats, but she'd never dated them, never wanted to. She found it hard to believe what Madame Illona said, but happily ever after was a nice dream.

oo00oo00oo00oo

The spa had been wonderful, but there were no cowboys, much to Amelia's dismay. The weekend was supposed to be relaxing, but it was filling up with things they wanted to do and places they wanted to see, as a weekend in Vegas normally does. This was only Sookie's second trip to Sin City, but Amelia visited a couple of times a year, so she had a better idea of where they should go and what they should do.

They walked down the famous Vegas strip taking in the sights and hopped on the shuttle bus from Harrah's hotel and casino over to another hotel and casino off the strip called Rio. The shuttle ride was the perfect opportunity to see the giant hotels and observe the tourists. It was amazing how the city was transformed by the Bull Riding event. There were cowboy boots, hats, and plaid shirts on more people than not. When they arrived at their destination, Amelia decided to turn people watching into a drinking game and would nudge Sookie to say, "Drink!" every time they heard a "Hey Ya'll!"

They had a fabulous dinner at the Rio's buffet and were ready to get the evening started. Amelia had a system, so she made Sookie play penny slots just long enough to order and receive their free drinks before moving off to watch the faux Mardi Gras parade.

He spotted them by chance playing penny slots. He wasn't looking for her, couldn't imagine the odds of seeing her again outside of their own hotel, but there she was with her friend. The dark haired one, Amelia he remembered, seemed to be showing Sookie how the lines played out on her slot machine. Sookie looked utterly perplexed but continued to push the button until their drinks came. He laughed to himself, it was amazing how complicated slots were these days, every game was just slightly different, it was no wonder she was confused. Her face lit up, and he knew she must have won something.

He shouldn't still be watching her. She doesn't like cowboys, remember? But he couldn't take his eyes off of her. She had a hint of an accent, almost southern; he'd heard in the lobby, but it wasn't quite what he was used to. He saw Amelia high-five a man in a Saints t-shirt and knew they must be from Louisiana somewhere. At least it's not New York, he thought. New Yorkers had no concept of open space or working the land. Louisiana had plantations so folks from there could understand ranches and farming. Shit. He needed to walk away. Instead, he sipped his beer and tortured himself with watching her.

Sookie was having a blast. They'd played more slots for free drinks, although she wasn't sure they were all that free when she hadn't won more than she'd gambled, and she caught some beads during the parade. A couple of times she had an odd feeling she was being watched, but she couldn't find anyone watching her when she looked around. She wasn't going to mention the feeling to Amelia. She would drag Sookie all across the gaming floor to talk to every blonde man that could have possibly had her in his line of sight, especially if they were wearing a cowboy hat.

Amelia checked her watch and told Sookie it was time to head up stairs. Apparently there was a dance club in the Rio that rivaled the famous Ghost Bar at the Palms hotel. Amelia had explained that it cost half of the cover to get into the Voodoo Lounge and you actually got into the club, as opposed to the Ghost Bar, where apparently you just waited in line all night if you weren't famous. They walked into the entrance and waited in a line that wound up the stairs.

As they neared the doorman, Sookie saw a small group heading into the bar and was surprised to recognize the blonde man she'd seen earlier at their hotel. She didn't know why, but she would have known him anywhere. She had a much better look at him this time. His khaki pants fit him perfectly, and his light blue polo shirt was taught across his muscled chest. When her gaze finally moved up his muscled body to his face, she almost lost her balance.

He saw her looking him over out of the corner of his eye and smirked. He met her eyes and returned the favor, lazily looking up and down her curvy body and giving her a smile. She was wearing a black halter dress that stopped mid-thigh and tall heels that made her calves look good enough to eat. Her breasts filled out the top of the dress perfectly. He was mentally assessing their size when someone nudged him, bringing him back to reality.

Sookie watched as a tall woman rubbed against his side and said something directly in his ear that made him laugh. He said something back to her with a wicked grin. What did she say? What did he say? Who was she? Crap. Amelia was going to bust her staring at him if she wasn't careful. He looked at Sookie one last time, winked, and headed into the club.

"Pam, you're such a tease," he laughed.

"How do you know I'm not serious, Eric?" she asked with a fake pout.

He looked down at her hand and raised his eyebrows, "The rock from Sammy is one reason. But more than that, it's because I've known you since you were in diapers."

She smiled, "You're lucky Sam did put a ring on my finger. The town busybodies are so distracted thinking about our wedding that they've stopped shoving their single daughters in your face."

"True," he said with a smile. Those old biddies in town would be spitting nails if they knew Pam was even considering getting married outside of Texas. He looked around and saw Sam and their other friends waving from the patio dance floor and led Pam through the crowd.

When Sookie and Amelia finally made it into the club, they saw that the place was packed. They danced for what seemed like hours. The DJ was playing an awesome mix that kept the entire crowd happy. They heard Lady GaGa and Akon as well as some good modern-country, like Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. After a bit, Sookie took a moment to catch her breath while standing near the railing. The Voodoo Lounge was on the fifty-first floor of the hotel, and the entire dance floor was on a patio with a view of the Vegas strip. Sookie couldn't get over how beautiful it was. Amelia came over with another round of drinks, and another round of men to meet. It was going to be a long weekend, or a long forever, if Amelia kept this up until she found "the one."

Sookie wasn't impressed with the men. She was sure that most of them were lying through their teeth about what they did for a living, if not their names as well. She sipped her drink and scanned the crowd. She hadn't seen him since they started dancing. She wondered if he had left already. Shit. Why am I thinking about this stranger? She glanced over and Amelia was doing tequila shots with one of the guys from the last group she'd brought over. He was wearing a green oxford that Amelia was trying to unbutton. Shit. She forgot about Amelia's reputation for ditching her friends at the bar. It was annoying, but not a big deal at home. We're in Vegas, she thought. She wouldn't leave me at a bar in VEGAS. Would she? And then Amelia licked salt off the guys' neck.

He stood in the corner of the patio and took in the veiw; Pam had forced him to dance for a while and he needed a break. He could see Sookie across the way. She was sipping a drink and dancing in place to the music. He couldn't resist anymore; he needed to be closer to her. He moved to stand along the rail near her, but she didn't seem to notice. Amelia was getting a little carried away with a guy, and Sookie seemed to be watching in disbelief.

She was trying to think things through as a million questions raced through her head. Did she want to get in a fight with Amelia over this? Was she really going to ditch her for that guy? Should she just give Amelia the safety speech and cross her fingers? She could get back to the hotel on her own. Should she stop drinking now just to be safe? Would she need to call a cab or could she take the shuttle? She had no idea how late the shuttle ran between the hotels. Amelia was totally lip locked with the guy now.

"Definitely give the safety speech," Sookie mumbled to herself.

"Sugar, I think she passed needing the safety speech about the time she did the body shot," a deep voice said beside her with a chuckle.

She turned her head and saw him. He was standing next to her. How had he gotten there without her noticing? What was he doing here? She tried to hide her shock and embarrassment.

"Did I say that out loud?" she asked, with a shy smile.

"You did, sugar."

Sookie sighed. She looked for Amelia and found that she had moved out onto the dance floor and was grinding with green shirt guy. She looked back at her mystery man and their eyes held. It was cliché, but when she looked into his eyes she felt like she saw her whole life unfolding as she always dreamed. She felt safe; she felt loved; she felt warm; she felt …crazy. This kind of thing didn't really happen, love at first sight, or whatever it was. She blinked quickly to break the contact and looked away. Is this what Madame Illona had been talking about? It was as if someone had opened up her chest to hand him her heart; she was just waiting to see if he would accept the gift or not. What the hell was wrong with her?

In her eyes he saw a reflection of everything he was feeling. He knew in an instant that she was the missing piece in his life and it rocked him. He could tell that she was fighting the connection in their gaze. Hell, part of him felt like he should be fighting it too, but he couldn't. No matter what a bitch she had seemed like when he first saw her in the lobby, he hadn't been able to stop thinking about her. Now he strained to hear her voice and to see her emotions changing on her face. He would do anything for her, give anything for her. What the fuck was going on? He saw her making a mental head shake to clear her thoughts and he did the same.

"Um, so I think I saw you in the hotel today," she said, keeping an eye on Amelia.

"Yes, I'm Eric," he said with a nod. "It didn't sound like you were here for the PBR event."

She gave him a full on smile with a laugh that was musical. "No. We didn't even know about it. We came out because Amelia just finished a big project at work, and she wanted to celebrate. I'm Sookie. It's a family name." She always had to explain her name, so she did it before people asked. "And you? Are you here for the rodeo thing?"

She was trying to discreetly look him over again. He had on a belt buckle that was just a little larger than she was used to seeing, and the polo that made his blue eyes look even brighter. Damn, the club has a dress code; those khaki's fit well, but he probably looks amazing in a pair of tight jeans. His hair was a sun-bleached blonde color with natural highlights that women would pay a fortune for. It was a little on the long side and tucked behind his ears, inviting her to run her hands through it. Did I just think that? Damn. He's got some kind of mojo.

He smirked, "Bull riding, not rodeo. And, it's complicated. My friends' cousin is riding, but we had already made our plans to come here when we found out. So, it's not why we're here, but we do have tickets."

"We?" she asked, almost holding her breath for his answer.

He pointed towards the woman that had spoken to him while they were in line. The woman was with a group of people on the dance floor; she was doing some seriously dirty dancing with a handsome man who was thoroughly enjoying himself.

"Pam and Sam. And that's Hoyt and Terry too. We came out to celebrate their engagement. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't decide to come back here for the wedding."

"Who's riding? Is that what you call it?"

"Yeah. Sam's cousin, Quinn, is competing. He's been on the circuit for a few years. He's around here somewhere. This event is sort of a dream come true for him. He's kind of an asshole and doesn't have much family to speak of, so Sam figured we should go watch him since we're here anyway."

They talked easily for a while. She told him how she had returned to New Orleans from Chicago after Katrina because of a pull on her heart that she tried to explain to him; the feeling that her heritage had been destroyed and discarded had been overwhelming. She was working as a freelance writer for the Times Picayune newspaper and some regional magazines. Her story made it that much easier for him to explain how he'd gone to Southern Methodist University and worked in Dallas until his folks passed on; then he'd moved back home to Seymour to take over the ranch.

She praised his dedication to his family and understood his need to preserve their legacy. She asked about life on the ranch, and how he had adjusted after city life. She laughed when he told her he had a better social life now than he ever had in Dallas. Just as Pam had said, the locals all wanted him to marry one of their daughters, so they worked hard to fill his weekends. He was never really interested in them, but it made the community happy and kept him busy.

He asked about her family and was sad to learn that she too had lost most of her relatives. She didn't have anyone left but a brother who sounded like a piece of work. He suddenly realized that she hadn't even flinched when he said he was a rancher. That usually ended the conversation when he was with a woman from the city these days. A college degree meant nothing to them if you weren't using it. He hadn't told her the scope of the ranch, or that his daddy had been a legendary cattleman, but she didn't seem to care. He looked at her again, well, he hadn't stopped looking at her, but he examined her thoroughly. She was smiling at him, sipping a gin and tonic, and he thought, I think I could love this woman. Then he thought he was losing his mind.

She was smiling, thinking that they really did have a lot in common. They believed in family and history, and he wasn't really a cowboy, but a rancher. There was a difference, wasn't there? He's looking at me like he's trying to figure me out; good luck with that. I can't even figure me out cowboy.

They made small talk and she relaxed, becoming more self-aware. Her panties were wet from just talking to him; and her chest, it still had the strange swelling feeling, like her heart was going to beat out of it or jump out and present itself to him. Her body was rushing ahead of her mind, but she didn't seem to want to stop it. Good lord he's amazing. I could live on a ranch with him. Did she just think that? She could live on a ranch if it was near a coffee shop and had wi-fi! She wanted to walk away, to stop everything, but what she wanted to do and what she would do were two different things.

Amelia stumbled towards them, green shirt guy in tow, "Oh good! You made a friend, too!" she said with a giggle. "Sookie, this is Bill. Bill, Sookie. Who's your friend?"

"Eric Northman," he said, stretching his hand out to Bill.

Amelia was slurring her speech, but clearly Bill was too drunk to care, "Eric, Bill. Bill, Eric. I'm 'Melia. It's nice that you're nice to Sookie. Hey, you and Bill wanna get us more drinks?"

Sookie shook her head, and he tried to signal that he understood; he also knew that taking Bill away would give her time for her safety talk with her friend. "Sure, that sounds good," he said as Sookie mouthed 'water' at him. He nodded and moved off to the bar with Bill.

Amelia threw her arms around Sookie. "This is so much fun! Bill is from Atlanta but he does business in New Orleans once a month. Isn't that cool?"

"Yup, cool," she said as she grabbed her friend's hand, trying to pry Amelia's eyes away from Bill's ass to hold her attention. "'Meel – I think maybe you've had enough to drink tonight."

Amelia pulled her arm away and whipped it around in front of her face; lucky she didn't hit herself in the head in the process, she squinted at her watch to make things focus before saying, "Nah, it's early!"

Sookie rolled her eyes and said, "Okay, well, maybe we should go back to our hotel and finish up the night there?"

"I'm not ready to go. But you go. Your friend is hot. Do you think he's your guy? Did you feel it? I think I'm gonna go with Bill. He's pretty sexy."

Shocker. "'Meel, you know that's not really safe right? You just met him. Maybe we can go out with him again tomorrow." Tonight really, but whatever.

"Sookie, he's not an ax murderer," Amelia slurred so it came out as 'ask murder.' "He's in insurance."

"That's nice. But you still don't know him very well," Sookie sighed. She knew it was not going to make a difference at this point, but needed to make the effort.

Sookie watched Bill and Eric make their way through the crowd. She groaned a little when she saw that even though Eric had a glass of water for her; Bill was carrying a tray of shots. Eric gave her an apologetic shrug and smiled as they got closer.

Bill had bought them all around of vodka shots. He gave some long explanation about not being able to bring a glass bottle on the patio or he'd have bought the whole thing. Sookie wasn't impressed with Bill and rolled her eyes at Eric. She looked at the tray of alcohol and thought, At least it isn't José Cuervo. I can handle one shot.

Eric almost read her mind, knowing she thought she could get away with just one shot. But isn't it funny how that's never how things work out? Bill and Amelia ended up supplying two more rounds before Sookie was able to convince them that she'd had enough, although she hadn't fought nearly as hard as she could have. If she'd have been truly serious he would have stepped in, but she was laughing too much when she said no, smiling a little too much at him over the shot glass, and licking her pert red lips, looking unbelievably hot. So no, he wasn't going to stop her.

After the third shot, Sookie was thinking that she understood why people call alcohol 'liquid courage.' She was eyeing Eric like candy and thinking she should make the first move. He was gorgeous. It wasn't just his looks, but his personality; and there was something else, something she couldn't name. She wanted him so much it was ridiculous. She tried to talk herself out of it, to pretend it wasn't there, the magnetism that was keeping her close to him and hanging on his every word, but it wasn't working. I'm as bad as Amelia, she thought, as she purposely darted her tongue out to slowly lick her lips while he was staring at her mouth.

Eric was about to break down and throw her over his shoulder caveman style when Pam and Sam arrived with his other friends in tow, bringing champagne to celebrate. Eric introduced Bill, Amelia and Sookie to his friends and Sam's cousin Quinn. The cousin was a piece of work, in a skin tight shirt that made his nipple rings more than obvious. He made a big deal out of Sam coming to watch him compete, and Sookie almost felt bad for him. Then Quinn made a tasteless toast about "bro's before ho's." They all groaned, and Sookie whispered close to Eric's ear, "I see what you mean about the asshole part."

His breath caught when she leaned in to whisper, but she was talking about Quinn. He loved that she had gotten so close to him, but wished she had been talking about anything other than that giant piece of meat. Everyone talked for a few minutes as a group, but it was hard to hear and they broke off into pairs to converse. He was standing with Sookie again, grinning and gazing into her eyes when Amelia pulled her aside and said something that she didn't seem to like.

He watched Sookie's lips as she responded to her friend. "Don't leave without telling me where you'll be," at least that's what he thought she had said. He wasn't a good lip reader and it was way too loud to hear what Sookie had actually said.

His friends were milling around, checking out Sookie as if he cared about their approval. Terry had no room to talk, he had a history of choosing horrible girlfriends, and Hoyt was all but celibate yet they were asking her questions and grinning like fools. In reality, they just hadn't seen him take a real interest in any woman in forever, so they were happy for him and intrigued by her. She wasn't intimidated by Pam, which impressed everyone.

After a bit, Pam dragged everyone onto the dance floor. It was about that time that Bill and Amelia seemed to disappear. They were all dancing, singing along to "Sweet Home Alabama," and the new couple just melted into the crowd. When the song finished, Sookie looked around, but they were gone. Damn, she thought. Then she realized she was a little drunk. What happened to my plan? She giggled and looked at Eric. Maybe being a little drunk was good... What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

Eric heard Sookie giggle a little to herself and was glad that she wasn't freaking out that Amelia was gone. He was a little drunk, but he would take care of her. Hell, he wouldn't let her out of his sight. I'd like to see a whole hell of a lot more of her, he thought as he watched her dance. Her dress smoothed over her ass gently, not too tight or too short, but making him crazy with lust because he could tell that there was either a very small thong, or nothing at all, on under that dress.

"Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" came on, and the dance floor was flooded with people. He had to move closer to her because of the crush of the crowd, so they were dancing face to face with his hands on her hips. He wasn't complaining, the crowd could have pushed them closer, and he'd have been even happier.

He mouthed the words along with most of the crowd, and she sang along with the first chorus. She seemed to stumble a little at the end of the second verse when John Rich sang, "I'm the only John Wayne left in this town."

John Wayne. Fuck. Okay, that's spooky, she thought. She couldn't stop herself as she leaned forward and yelled over the music towards him, "Do you have a cowboy hat?"

He smiled and held up his fingers to indicate he had two cowboy hats.

She smiled a little, not sure if that made her feel good or bad. Oh hell, who was she kidding? Her hands were sweaty, her mouth was dry, and heart was beating like she was having a heart attack. If she even remotely thought he was the man Madame Illona had talked about before, now she was almost certain. And if he was, well, shit. She leaned even closer to his ear, but she still had to almost yell when she said, "Do you want kids?"

Okay, that's a little sudden, he thought. This could go either way. What answer was she looking for and why am I not walking away from her crazy ass right now? He bunched his eyebrows, giving her a questioning look, then pulled her towards him so she could hear and answered, "Actually, I do, sugar."

She stepped back with a nod of her head and smiled. They went back to dancing and he noticed she had lost the panicked look but still seemed a little uneasy. Did he pass her test? He couldn't just let it drop at that. So he asked, "Do you ask everyone those questions?"

She laughed, and her eyes seemed to clear, "Nope. You're the first one."

"Did I pass?"

She nodded and said, "Yup."

"What does that mean?" He thought this was an odd conversation to be yelling on a dance floor, but whatever works.

She smiled and laughed again as she spoke, "I think it means that I know."

"What?" he asked since he wasn't sure he heard her right. Did she say she knew? Knew what?

She shook her head, "Long story."

"Good story?"

She grinned. She could tell that he had no idea what had just transpired, and really, how could she explain it? I felt my soul shift when I started talking to you, and I wanted to see if it was even possible that you're the John Wayne my psychic told me about? That would go over well. Oh and by the way, I think you are the right guy, so…yeah…Instead she said, "I think it's going to be a hellova story."

He still didn't seem to understand, but he hadn't run away from her. She thought, No time like the present to see if we have chemistry, right?

She took a step forward and wrapped her arms around him for a kiss. She stole his breath as their lips touched. She gently licked at his lips and put her hands in his soft hair. He didn't hesitate and pulled her tight against him, making her fully aware of his arousal. Oh sweet Jesus, is that a beer bottle in his pocket? Fuck, she thought. This man can kiss. It was like he'd had centuries of practice and she didn't mind one bit. She was drowning in sensations, and their surroundings had melted away; all she knew was this man and that he was kissing her like they had been made for each other. She shuddered as she imagined him moving inside of her.

He'd had his share of hook-ups, and that's not what he wanted from Sookie; but his body had a mind of its own, and he was holding on to her amazing ass like it was a life raft. The kiss was a slow burn, hot and promising. He couldn't believe the way she felt in his arms; she fit perfectly and tasted like heaven. He felt like the world had tilted on its axis, like things had fallen into place. Her dress caught and lifted a little as he instinctively rocked his pelvis against her. He could have gone on kissing her forever. To hell with breathing, it's over-rated, he thought, but the song ended. He didn't know how he knew that it ended, because he stopped hearing the music the second she kissed him, but he did, and they separated to look into each others' eyes.

"Wow," she said. Chemistry confirmed. Way confirmed.

He tucked her hair behind her ear, but before he could say anything Sam surprised him with a slap on the ass and a yell, "To the bar! Shots for the bachelor!"

Pam was laughing, "This isn't really your bachelor party Sam! I'm right here!"

"Don't care. My friends are here," he replied and yelled, "Gentleman! Start your livers!"

They were laughing as they followed his friends to the bar. His thoughts were jumbled. What just happened? That was way more than a kiss. What am I going to do about this girl?

Pam bought her a gin and tonic while the guys did shots of something. Sookie was thinking about the kiss, well really about what she was going to do about Eric in general, if he was who she thought he was. She didn't understand how they were going to end up together the way Madame Illona imagined, married and with a couple of kids. We don't live in the same state! How is this going to work? She must have been lost in her thoughts longer than she realized, because suddenly Pam was handing her a shot that she hadn't seen her order.

"What is it?" she asked.

"Dirty Girl Scout. You looked like you were thinking too much. Drink. Enjoy. It's all good Sookie. We'll get you home."

After a round of shots for the group, and a couple more for Sam, Eric looked over and saw Sookie and Pam laughing. Pam said something close to Sookie's ear. She nodded and headed towards the door closest to the bathrooms with Pam, who touched Sam's shoulder and indicated where they were headed.

He was a little worried about what Pam was saying while they were alone together, not that she'd say anything bad, but that she'd tell her how long he'd been single or something more embarrassing. That was Pam's style. He had known her forever. They'd grown up together, riding, roping, mending fences, and chasing tumbleweeds. He'd seen Pam grow out of her youthful awkwardness and into a beautiful woman, but always knew that she would never be the one for him.

Oh, they'd played doctor as kids alright, and Pam had tried to tempt Eric when they were older, but she was too much of a sister to him. Sam, on the other hand, had moved to town from Austin to work at the bank. He didn't have the history with Pam that Eric did, and it kind of pissed him off that Eric had seen her naked on several occasions. But the men had bonded over their experiences living in larger cities, and Sam had realized that Eric was the big brother that Pam never had, and he accepted them as a package deal. Eric had a feeling that both Pam and Sam loved the fact that he was all knotted up over this woman he'd just met.

As if to confirm Eric's thoughts, Sam turned to him with a shit eating grin, "Got a banana in your pocket or are you all hot and bothered over that blonde number?"

He laughed, "What if I am?"

"I'd say she's damn lucky."

They nodded at each other, the way men did, and Eric felt arms coming around his waist and a pair of breasts rubbing against his back. It was completely erotic and he was already walking a thin line. When he heard Sookie's voice in his ear he almost came just standing there. "Hey cowboy," she said, "Pam says she's ready to go. Will you come with us?"

Like he would have done anything else. "I'll go anywhere with you," he said. Did I just say that? How am I managing to talk through my dick? She rubbed her hands up his chest, and he thought he was losing his mind. He saw that Pam had Sam in a similar hold and laughed. He turned to put his arms around Sookie and kissed her neck. It was only fair.

She sighed and would have let him do anything he wanted to her then and there, but he stepped back and took her hand to follow his friends out of the club.

They were the first of the group to step into the mini-van cab that Sam had hailed. The side door hadn't even slid shut when Sookie turned and framed his face with her hands to lean in for a kiss. That wasn't nearly enough for him so he pulled her around to sit on his lap, and she didn't complain. As a matter of fact, he heard a distinct sigh as his erection rubbed against her center. Her skirt had hiked up, and his hands found her ass, smooth and bare except for the thin strap of material between her cheeks. There was nothing soft about the kiss this time as they ground against each other. Neither of them seemed to care that there were four other people in the cab as the kiss went on and on.

She felt the cab stop and he must have as well, because he pulled back and ended the kiss with a nip to her lower lip before he rested his forehead on hers. He pulled her skirt down and helped her out of the back of the van. Hoyt and Terry were smiling and laughing, Sam was giving him the thumbs up sign and Pam gave him a wink. Damn, they're obnoxious, he thought. He stood behind Sookie to hide his arousal and heard her muttering something about not needing freaking lightening to strike to get the hint. He didn't know what she was talking about and glanced up at the giant neon sign in the parking lot. What the fuck?

She was trying not to be embarrassed by the fact she'd practically dry humped Eric in the back of the van. Pam was grinning and it looked like Sam was about to high five Eric. Great. She looked around to try to figure out where they were and started blinking repeatedly, like that would change what she saw, but it didn't make a difference. Un-fucking believable. A wedding chapel? Jesus. I get it already. He's the one. Don't strike me by lightening or something to make me get the hint. But shit, am I supposed to marry him now, tonight? That's a bit much. Isn't it?

Pam was giggling and pulling Sam along into the building, "I just want to check it out! Oh my God! Elvis can officiate your wedding here!"

Hoyt and Terry bailed on them at that point, smoking cigars and wandering down the strip on their own. Somehow, she felt herself being led into the building behind Eric while trying to get her head around the fact that they were at a twenty-four hour wedding chapel. Pam latched on to a hostess as soon as they got in the door and they moved into an office discuss the packages they had available with Sam.

Sookie and Eric stood in the lobby in an awkward silence for just a second when a man stepped up behind the counter. His nametag read "Lafayette" and Sookie was sure he was wearing foundation and mascara.

"Good evening! Are you the party from Louisiana that called earlier?" Lafayette asked with a smile.

Sookie's mouth dried out, and she was afraid it had fallen open. What the hell? She snapped her mouth shut and smiled at him like a pageant queen; she did that when she was really nervous, but she couldn't even think of a response. The fates were seriously fucking with her.

Eric chuckled, "Sorry, not us."

"Well that's too bad. You two look real happy. We have some great packages and last minute deals for people who just want to "jump" into it," he said with wink.

Eric laughed again and wondered why Sookie was standing there with a crazy smile on her face, and looking like she'd been hit on the head, "We just met actually."

"Baby, you're in Vegas," Lafayette crooned. "That doesn't stop half the couples I see. They say Paris is the city of love, but in my experience, there are a whole lot of people who fall madly in love – at first sight – right here in Sin City."

While keeping an eye on Sookie, Eric politely said, "Maybe the next time we're in town."

Suddenly she looked at him and spoke up, "No. He's right. Let's do it."

"What?" Eric said, not sure he'd really heard her.

"Let's just do it. It's right. The song, the sign, your hat. I just know we're supposed to get married."

"Sookie, what are you talking about? We just met. We should wait. We can go home and see how things develop."

She smiled and said, "That's the sensible thing to do Eric. But tell me; are you really going to be able to walk away, to let me get on a plane in two days? I can already tell you that it will break my heart, so let's just not. Let's get married, and we'll figure it all out." Am I really saying this? Shit. And I actually mean it.

"Sookie…"

"What? I just know," she said firmly. Again, how am I going to explain to him that some accented psychic told me I'd know, and I just do. "Eric, it'll be fine, I'm a freelance writer. I can do it from anywhere," she said, and her stomach sank. "Oh my god. You're already married!"

"No! No, I'm not married. This is just a little sudden. I mean, are you really sure about this?"

She had to admit to herself that she was a little freaked out. Okay, a lot freaked out. But her heart and limbs were moving faster than her brain; she stepped forward and locked him in another soul jarring kiss.

He'd been trying to figure out what she'd said about a song, a sign, and his hat but he had no idea what she meant. This felt right, but it shouldn't. We've just met! Jesus. This is insane. She's totally right though. If she gets on a plane for Louisiana it's going to tear me apart. More than half of all marriages end in divorce anyway right? We've got just as good of odds as anyone else…and then she kissed him.

She figured Lafayette had seen worse, so she decided to go for broke and gave his cock a long stroke through his pants while her tongue moved in and out of his mouth. He muttered something and pulled one of her legs up on his hip to get even closer to her.

He backed her up against the counter and was running a hand up under her skirt when he heard someone clearing their throat. He pulled back and saw the damn host grinning wildly. Fucking voyeur. Oh wait, we're in the fucking lobby of a wedding chapel!

Sookie gave him one last jolt by biting his ear lobe and planting a soft little kiss just below his ear. She pulled back and their eyes held for a second. "I'm sure about this. I just know," she said. Then she cocked her eyebrow and continued, "And like I said, cowboy, are you really gonna let me get on a plane to go home?"

He grabbed her face and kissed her hard. It was a hot brand, meant to stake a claim. "You are not going back to fucking Louisiana," he growled.

She laughed. Her face lit up and her heart soared in her chest. "I know," she said. "I know! I couldn't leave you if I tried." She laughed even harder and said, "What's so funny though… It's just…I don't do this kind of stuff. Amelia does!"

He laughed and pulled out a black American Express credit card and told Lafayette they wanted everything. Pictures, video, you name it. She fought, saying they didn't need all of that but lost. They were whisked away for her to pick out a dress from the back while he was instructed to change into a tuxedo.

There was a little ruckus when Pam figured out what was going on. She started to argue with Eric but then Sam told her to shut up, that it was none of her business. Lafayette was in full support of them, but he just wanted to see them kiss again.

Eric got Sookie's ring size and sent the wedding planner that Pam had been talking to off in search of a ring. He gave the planner whispered instructions and she was back before they finished the paperwork with a little black felt box.

Sam gave Sookie away and Pam stood on Eric's side. They said the standard vows and when he looked at her, she knew what Madame Illona had seen was true. Then he opened the little black box and slid a ring on her finger that made her gasp and tear up. It was a huge solitaire. Square-cut and brilliant. She had no idea how a rancher could afford a ring like that, or why he had a black Am Ex card for that matter, and had a moment of panic that she really didn't know the man she just married. And then it was gone; they were kissing again and any doubt she had flew out of her head. All she could think of was getting back to a hotel room with him.

Pam and Sam cheered and threw rice as they kissed. Lafayette was fanning himself as he watched them and poured champagne for everyone. Pam made a toast to all of the joy the future would hold, and Sookie's eyes filled with tears again. She was struck with the thought that this was one of the greatest moments of her life, and she could have never imagined it even an hour before. Eric twined his arm with hers as he'd seen done at countless weddings before and smiled; thinking how happy Sookie looked.

Lafayette gave them a free upgrade and sent them off in a limo. They opened another bottle of champagne in the car, and it took every ounce of restraint Eric had not to pour it on his new wife so he could sip it off her skin. She wasn't sure if it was because of her nerves, or because it was really good expensive champagne, but she had several glasses in quick succession as they rode down the strip. She wanted to stand up through the moon roof and shout to the world that she was married to the God she was in the limo with, but Lafayette had warned them that it was illegal in Vegas now, so she held back. She glanced at her husband, he was looking at her like he wanted to devour her, and she had no desire to stop him.

By the time they arrived at their hotel he had her pinned against the seat and was licking the skin along the bodice of her dress. She had pulled his shirttails out of his pants to run her hands along his skin and was tempted to just tell the chauffeur to keep driving so they could continue exploring. Eric pulled back with a sigh, "Jesus, your skin is soft. I could go on tasting you forever." Instead, he winked, and helped her straighten her dress before they stepped out of the limo.

The champagne had brought her over the line from a little drunk to pretty tipsy. She was giggling as she watched Eric's ass move out of the car. He turned and reached a hand in to help her.

"What?" he asked.

"Just thinking what a great ass my husband has," she said, giggling again.

He pulled her into his arms and whispered in her ear, "Wait until you see it naked."

Oh Lord. I can't wait to see more than your ass, she thought. "We need a room."

"Got one," he said with a smile and led her through the lobby to an elevator. He was hoping for a car all to themselves, but an older couple got on just behind them, grinning at their wedding attire.

"Congratulations," the woman said.

"Thanks," Sookie said. She looked at Eric, and they both just grinned.

"Variety," the old man said.

"What?" Sookie asked at the same time that his wife slapped his arm and said, "Felipe!"

The old man shook his head at his wife, "Variety's the secret son. Keep the sex spiced up and you'll keep your wife happy. If you do the same old thing every time she'll find somebody else."

Eric and Sookie both laughed and Felipe's wife slapped his arm again. "Don't mind him. It's our fiftieth wedding anniversary so he thinks he knows it all," she told them. "The sex has been good, but communication and honesty are the keys. You could marry a complete stranger, but if you can talk to them and always tell them the truth, you can get through anything."

The elevator stopped, and they stepped off, waving back at the old couple. "I like Felipe's advice," Eric said with a shit eating grin. Sookie slapped his arm as he put the keycard in a door.

They stepped into a room and before she could look around he had her in his arms. His mouth was on her neck, licking and nipping at her pulse as they were pulling at each others buttons and zippers. She got his shirt open enough to put her hands on his pecs and moved her mouth to one of his nipples. She licked gently and then bit down as he pushed her dress to the floor.

He growled and pulled the sides of her thong until it gave way and was tossed aside. He couldn't resist and cupped her center to run a finger through her folds.

She moved to pay attention to his other nipple and felt her knees wobble as he touched her and drew his finger through her wet arousal.

"You're so wet, so perfect," he sighed.

She was trying to work his zipper as he walked her back to the bed. He pushed her back on the mattress and fit himself between her legs, rubbing her moisture around her clit and fixing his mouth on her nipple. She got her hands in his hair and arched against him as he worked two fingers into her. He brought his lips back to hers, swallowing her cries and thrusting his tongue and fingers at the same pace. She got her hands inside back of his pants. Jesus, he's not wearing underwear. She pushed them down to sink her fingers into his ass when her body began to clench around his fingers.

He kissed her gently while she caught her breath, fighting his own need to plunge his cock into her. When she was able to think again, she reached down to stroke his erection that was nudging her hip. It nearly killed him, but he pulled away to stand and get his pants off.

He turned to throw them on a chair and she laughed as she scooted up on the bed, "You're right. Your ass is even better naked."

He put one knee up to climb on the bed, and his smile went from playful to predatory. She was lying on the bed with her knees up; moisture glistening on the golden hair between her legs. He closed his eyes briefly, thinking about how it was going to feel to be buried inside of her, and he stretched out; moving his hands to her hips, kissing her inner thigh.

He inhaled, and she heard him mutter, "Fuck me," just before his mouth moved to her center. He ran his tongue along the length of her, savoring her sweet taste and sucking her hard clit. He rasped it lightly with his teeth and drove his fingers into her. She bucked against him, crying out. He curled his fingers with each stroke, driving her towards release. When she moved her hands flat on the bed for leverage he growled and trailed his tongue up her body. He ran his thumb along her lower lip, and she captured it with her teeth, drawing it in to her mouth to suck on it and run her tongue up its length. He jerked at the feel of her hot mouth, rubbing himself against her saturated entrance.

She felt his broad tip slowly pushing into her, and gave a little moan. He wanted to impale her, to bury himself to the hilt and hear her scream. Her moan brought his eyes back to her face; he held his control and pushed into her slowly. He watched the joining of their bodies, listened to her gasp as he filled her, until he was fully sheathed inside her.

She had thought for a moment that he might be too big for her, that it would cause more pain than pleasure, but he was stretching her with delicious patience. She gasped when she knew she had taken his full length. This is what sex was supposed to be. Her back bowed and she moved, gently rubbing her breasts against his chest and making circles with her hips.

He rocked against her, her body snug around his cock. He worked himself in and out of her in controlled ecstasy. But when she licked his pulse and bit his neck and he growled, and his control snapped. He pulled back and pounded into her again and again; her cries fueling him. She drove her heels into the bed, meeting each thrust, chanting his name and scratching his back. She came around him, pulsing and hot; he bit her lip and drew her eyes back to his as his balls tightened and he tensed. He made one final lunge, burying himself and grinding himself against her. She could feel his release jetting into her as she cried out again; her muscles clenching around him, drawing him further inside of her, if that were possible.

They lay together, a mess of tangled limbs, their breathing slowing. He was rubbing her back softly, when he realized that it was his wife that he was holding. She felt his chest move with a silent laugh and raised her head slightly. His eyes glittered mischievously and he said, "Married sex is kind of hot."

She laughed with him and sat up to straddle his waist. She pushed her hair out of her eyes and spied a bottle of champagne cooling in an ice bucket next to the bed. She leaned forward to reach for it, eliciting a curse from him and the stirrings of another erection as she slid along his skin. He watched her open the bottle like a pro as he kneaded her full breasts and toyed with her nipples. She took a long swig of the bubbly and laughed at the look on his face when she poured some in his belly button to start round two.

They explored each other over and over, until they collapsed into a sweaty, sticky, sated mess. Her limbs were heavy, but she reached to put her hand on his heart and grinned at the sparkle of her ring. She laid her head on his chest with a sigh and slept like the dead.

oo00oo00oo00oo

Sipping her coffee she turned to smile at him, a light blush staining her cheeks, as she remembered their marathon love making. He stood and enveloped her in his arms and knew they would be okay when she returned his hug.

She looked around the room, again taking in its opulence. Pushing back on his chest she smiled shyly, "Don't take this the wrong way, but can we afford all of this?"

He barked a laugh and reached for the cowboy hat on the table, "Sookie, I told you I ran the family ranch. What I didn't tell you is that it's one of the largest cattle operations in the state." He gave her a big old Texas grin and plopped the hat on her head, "We can afford anything you want, sugar."

000ooo000ooo000ooo000

A/N:
Okay, so I know that you have to have a marriage license to get married, even in Vegas. I got married there myself (bachelorette at Voodoo – inspiration! Giddy up!). I do know the drill – however, I couldn't make it fit into the confines of the story…and since it is fiction and all…anyway, please don't hate me.

Thanks to everyone who participated and voted in the contest.

And last, but in no way least, many thanks again from the bottom of my Viking loving heart to S. Meadows who stepped in to beta for me in a pinch! *hugs!* You Rock Girl!

R&R ya'll! Cowboy Up!