It seemed that our many near-death experiences had reverted our relationship back to the honeymoon stage. For three days, all we did was bask in the glow of our love. Our love for each other, and our love for our children. Whenever Ryan and Hadley were awake, we were with them. Playing, reading them stories, singing to them. And when they were asleep, we made love. It was never that hard, fast, sweaty sex that I've come to thoroughly enjoy with Eric, but the slow, sensual kind. We spent hours reminding each other why we were together. It was because there was nothing on this earth that could come between us. There was no force great enough to destroy our love.

We knew that it was time to break out of our little bubble when Claude called Eric and let him know that there had been a lot of interest in the open Restaurant Manager position. So, we reluctantly packed everything up and headed back to Shreveport. Eric went to the bar with the intentions of locking himself in his office and going over resumes that had been received, so he could narrow down those he wished to interview.

I stayed at home with the twins while he was gone, and got caught up on a few emails. Claude's sister, Claudine, had been a good friend in college, and she'd written more than a few emails making sure I was okay after what had happened with Victor Madden. There were a few from some of my prior residents at Hope House. I wasn't in the habit of giving my personal contact information to the parolees I worked with, however, there were a few that I kept in touch with.

Eric returned home about 90 minutes after he'd left. "It just didn't feel right. I wasn't comfortable being away from you, Ryan, and Hadley just yet. So, I brought the resumes with me, and I figured I could work from here for the evening." I laughed when I realized he thought he had to justify his desire to be here with us, instead of by himself in his office.

We made small talk while we prepared dinner, and then we put everything else on hold as we fed the twins together. We'd decided that life was too short to spend our time with our family multi-tasking. When we were doing something with our children, they would be our only focus.

After the kids were fed, we bathed them, and got them to bed. Once they were asleep, Eric and I cuddled up on the bed together. He went through resumes, and I read a book that I'd been wanting to read for awhile, but never had taken the time. When Eric had gotten through about ¾ of the stack of resumes, he started laughing, and said, "Ha, I don't believe it! This is perfect!"

I sat up and looked at him. "What is it?"

"You'll never guess who applied for the position!"

He handed me the resume he'd been looking at, and I laughed as well when I saw the name at the top. Frannie Quinn. "That's hilarious! I had completely forgotten that she was in the restaurant business. Are you going to set her up with an interview?"

"Honestly, right now I'm thinking about just offering her the job. We both know she'd be more than capable, and she's Quinn's sister, so, we know she's trustworthy."

Since it wasn't too late, Eric called Pam to tell her about his desire to hire Frannie while I washed my face and brushed my teeth. By the time I was finished, he and Pam had agreed to simply call Frannie the next day and offer her the position. I was glad that we seemed to be moving on from the horrible events that we'd been through recently.

Eric went into the bathroom to take a shower, and when he came out, he climbed back into bed with me, and pulled me close. It felt so good to just hold one another. It wasn't long before we both drifted off into a very peaceful sleep.


Things were beginning to calm down a bit, and I couldn't have been happier. Frannie was already doing a wonderful job with the restaurant, and Claude ran the bar so efficiently that I rarely had to actually be at either location. Pam had extended her stay in New Orleans a few times before she finally made the decision to pack everything up and move there. It seemed that she and Thalia had rekindled their relationship. I was relieved to see her happy again.

We'd spoken several times with attorneys concerning the incident with Alcide, and everything had been settled without having to go to court. At first, the prosecuting attorney wanted to charge him with attempted murder, considering Sookie's allergy. But, as much as I hated the guy, I just couldn't let that happen. Sookie and I knew without any doubt that Alcide had not been trying to kill her. Hell, he hadn't even really been trying to harm her. I truly felt that, if he'd known about her allergy, he wouldn't have done with he did.

Not that that excused his actions. He ended up pleading guilty to assault, was given 18 months probation, had to pay a huge fine, and would need to complete several hours of community service. Sookie thought that he was getting off a little easy, but, we'd made a deal to allow him no jail time, as long as he didn't press assault charges against myself or Jason. In the long run, I thought we'd made the right decision. I was fairly certain that he'd been driven to desperation after having spent several years in a loveless marriage with a lying, manipulative bitch. Again, that was not an excuse for his actions. But, I also figured that somewhere deep down, he was still capable of being a good man. After looking at everything I have with Sookie and the twins, I'm all for helping someone get a second chance. Just as long as he's nowhere near my family as he tries to reestablish himself.

Sookie found plenty of things to keep herself busy. Although she was no longer working at Hope House, she still made herself available for consultations with the other case workers there. She was also planning to throw Sam's fiancé, Holly, a bridal shower with some of the other staff as well. Plus, Jason had enlisted her help in redecorating his house once he'd finished his renovations. It seemed like she was almost always looking at paint swatches, tile samples, and appliances brochures. It was in watching her help Jason that I came up with my "Master Plan" for our future.

The house we were currently living in was the one I'd shared with Cindy, Lizzie and Mattie. The farmhouse was where she'd lived with her grandmother, brother, and cousin after her parents had died. The bar I co-owned with Pam, Hell's Inferno, was one that I had started with my sister-in-law when we first moved to Shreveport while Cindy was pregnant with Mattie, and our restaurant, Valhalla, was where Pam met Felicia. It seemed that everywhere we turned, our past lives were pressing in on us.

So, I made a few inquiries and gathered as much information as I could on what I'd hoped to do, and planned to sit down with Sookie one evening and present it to her. The perfect opportunity presented itself when the twins went to sleep a little early one night. Sookie was sitting on our bed, combing her hair and humming to herself.

"Sook, there's something I wanted to talk to you about." She looked up at me and smiled, letting me know I had her attention. I moved to sit next to her on the bed, and she curled into me and rested her head on my shoulder. "Ever since we met, before we even got the chance to fall in love, things from our past have been constantly creeping up, trying to pull us apart." I felt her stiffen in my arms, knowing she was remembering all the things we'd been through. "In hindsight, part of me sees those events as good things, because they were challenges that have made us grow closer. But, the other part of me wishes that we could've avoided so much hurt and heartache.

"We both have troubled pasts, and it's all part of what shaped who we are today. But, I'm sick and tired of the past trying to dictate our future as a family. We determine who we are, not outside factors." I paused for a moment to gauge her reaction. She had a look of concentration on her face, and I knew that she was trying to rapidly decide if I was right or wrong. When she turned her face to me and nodded for me to continue, I knew we were on the same page.

"I was thinking that maybe we could try and give ourselves a clean slate. Obviously, we can't just cut ties with who we were, because that's not something either of us would want to do. But, I think it would be good for us to start fresh with things that are ours, not yours or mine." She looked like she didn't quite understand what I was getting at, so, I decided to lay it all out for her.

"Sookie, the house that we live in right now, it was my house with Cindy. The farmhouse, well, that was your house with your Gran, Hadley, and Jason. The bar was something I started with Pam that was named by Cindy. We're surrounded by the past wherever we go. Now, I'm not suggesting that you sell the farmhouse. I would never suggest that, because I know how important it is to you. And, because Pam and I both put so much work into the bar and the restaurant, I wouldn't want to sell those, either. But, I was thinking that maybe we'd try and sell this house, and work with a contractor to design and build a home together. Something that was new for both of us. And, although I'd still be co-owner of the bar and restaurant, I don't want to worry about the day to day running of them anymore. I've talked to Pam a few times about selling a portion of the bar to Claude, and a portion of the restaurant to Frannie, and let them manage the businesses however they see fit, and Pam and I taking on the role of investor rather than owner."

I felt a drop of moisture on my chest, and realized that Sookie was crying. I sat her up and gently turned her so that we were facing each other. "Baby, what's wrong? Did something I said upset you? Because that truly was not what I was trying to do. I just thought that…." But, she placed her index finger over my mouth, effectively shushing me. She stood and went to the small desk in the corner of the room, where she had placed her laptop. She brought it back over to the bed, opened up a document, and turned the laptop so that I could see it. It was blueprints for a house.

"I've been working on this for the past few days. I wasn't sure how to bring it up, because I didn't know how you'd feel about selling this house. I also thought about talking to you about turning the farmhouse into a shelter for battered women."

I closed my eyes for a moment in silent prayer, thanking whatever force in the universe sent this wonderful woman to me. Before I got the chance to open them again, I felt Sookie lean into me, and she placed her lips on mine. She kissed me slowly, but very deeply and passionately. Once she broke the kiss, she rested her forehead against mine, and softly whispered, "I love you, Eric."

"I love you, too Sookie." I pulled my head back from hers, and smiled brightly as I said, "Now, show me what you had in mind for our new place." She turned in my arms, and we began to plan out our future. Together. As we would always be.


A/N Well, there you have it! I loved writing this story, and appreciate all the wonderful comments I've received throughout. Since I neglected to mention it before, the lyrics that Sookie sang to Alcide in chapter 18 (I'm not sorry that it's over, but for the way we let it end), are from Carrie Underwood's "What Can I Say?" I own absolutely no rights to the song, and also, unfortunately, do not own any of the characters in this story.