There's a time for love and a time for living.
You take a chance and face the wind.
An open road and a road that's hidden a brand new life around the bend.
There were times when I lost a dream or two.
Found the trail, and at the end was you.
~Who's The Boss Theme Song
The loud sound of a lone hammer echoed throughout the empty building, matched only by the clack of my heels on the hardwood floor as I neared its source.
I smiled to myself as I looked at the putty colored walls around me, remembering the empty warehouse that Copley Carmichael had so proudly displayed to me all those months ago. The building had a sense of history - once the highest producing cotton mill in the state of Texas – and being given the opportunity to envision and execute the renovation of the large property into a series of shops, offices and lofts was beyond anything I could have imagined. It was the job of the year as far as any stateside design firm was concerned – an unlimited budget; access to the best materials and the promise of an immense, historical property under your belt was too much for many to pass up. I, however, was the one lucky enough to execute it.
True, the completion of the Belle Rive property and the subsequent success attributable to the spread in Wallpaper hadn't hurt my chances of Copley choosing Stackhouse Design for the job, but then again I could attribute so very much to that one job. Life was funny in that way I supposed. I hadn't expected my time in Bon Temps to change my life – or, if I had, certainly not in the way it had.
As I rounded the corner, I couldn't help but smile at what I saw. The Belle Rive project had given me professional success, and the chance to work on jobs I could have only dreamed of before. But I had learned on that project that there was something more important than winning a job, or being respected in the community I had so desperately wanted to join, and that one thing was standing alone in the oversized lobby, hammer in hand.
The sight of Alcide Herveaux still managed to take my breath away from time to time. It didn't seem to matter how many times I'd come across him just like this, or the fact that we slept in the same bed and ate at the same table. He had a way of making my chest feel tight, and my legs feel less than solid.
Despite having worked on a number of projects together since my move to Shreveport, we hadn't worked this closely on a project since Belle Rive. Copley had kept us busy, undoubtedly, but I had stayed mostly on the conceptual side, where Alcide and his crew had done the dirty work. This was the first project I had unburied myself for; it was an important project to Copley, and it was an important project to me too.
Working hand in hand with Alcide on site over the past few days was proving more difficult than I had imagined. Where we had barely been able to control my impulses in Bon Temps, it took every ounce of restraint I had to keep things professional on the job here. It was so tempting to walk up behind him and run my hand down his arm or through his hair, but I wouldn't do that with Dawson, and I couldn't do it with Alcide. Everyone knew we were together, which made it all the more important that we keep things professional.
But on a night like this, when we were the last two people on site, I could allow myself to let my guard down a little bit.
His hand stopped in mid motion, the echo of the last strike of his hammer reverberating in the otherwise silence of the room. When he turned to face me, his trademark crooked smile crossed his face.
"Coming to check up on me?" he asked, setting the hammer down on his workbench.
I shrugged and leaned against the doorframe. "I couldn't believe my ears when I got off my call and heard someone still hard at work at eight o'clock on a Friday night."
"Well," he shrugged, leaning back against his bench. "The boss lady's a real hard-ass sometimes. If I don't do what she tells me, I never hear the end of it."
"It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it."
"Mmm hmm." He ran a large hand through his hair, pushing the stray black strands back off his forehead. "You plannin' to boss me around?"
"Maybe." I looked away from him to the framing studs that lined the long wall. "I would have thought you'd have a bit more done by now. It has been…" I checked my watch and tried to stop myself from smiling. "Three hours since I left you."
He shook his head, shoving his hands into his pockets and rocking back and forth on his feet. "Has it been that long?"
I pushed off from the wall, exaggerating the sway of my hips as I crossed the room towards him, coming to a stop when the cotton of my pencil skirt brushed against the rough denim of his jeans. I leaned towards him, lowering my voice to barely above a whisper. "A hard-ass? I thought you said you liked me a little bit controlling?"
His laughter echoed in the empty room and he lowered his head until our foreheads met. "You got me there."
"Well," I smirked, "since you're the last man on the job, I suppose you deserve a reward."
"A reward? Anything particular in mind?"
"Maybe." I reached up and ran my hand across his bicep. "What do you say that we get out of here and go give that jacuzzi a spin in our hotel room?"
"I don't think I can wait that long, Princess." He closed the gap between our mouths, his lips brushing against mine once, twice before he deepened the kiss to something more substantial. I felt myself melt against him, the bands of his arms snaking around my body to keep me upright. I wondered if the intensity would ever diminish; if I would ever be able to kiss Alcide without feeling like this. It had been five months since I'd unpacked my last box and made my move to Shreveport official. That was five months of kissing and…more any time I wanted, and it hadn't changed at all.
His grip loosened, his hands traveling to places on my body that weren't so much for support as exploration. I stumbled over my heels as he maneuvered me towards his workbench, chuckling against his lips when he let out a low growl.
"How many times do I have to tell you that those aren't the kind of shoes you should be wearing on the job?" he asked, lifting me easily from the floor.
"I thought you liked my shoes," I teased, wrapping my arms around his neck for additional support.
"I do," he nodded, depositing me on the top of the table. "And so does Max, and so does Victor, and Copley. Hell, my Dad made a comment about 'em yesterday." His hands traveled down my legs to the offending tan objects in question. "Sometimes, Miz Stackhouse, you're just too damn sexy on the job for your own good." He plucked off one, and then the other before nudging my legs apart and stepping between them.
"I can't say I've ever had that particular complaint before," I shrugged, leaning back on my arms.
"I don't reckon you have. But," he leaned down and nipped at my exposed collarbone, "then again you haven't worked with someone as candid as me. Have I told you how much it kills me to see you all dolled up and professional like and have to keep my hands off you?"
"I do seem to recall you mentioning that recently." As recently as that morning when we were leaving for work.
"And then you've got to wear those shoes?" he inclined his head in the direction of the very expensive leather straps lying haphazardly on the floor. "And this top?" He hooked his finger into the neckline of my blouse, tugging it down to expose the tops of my breasts. He raised his eyes to meet mine, their green depths heated with desire. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to tempt me."
The thought had crossed my mind.
The rough pads of his fingers traveled across the sensitive skin on my chest, and I let out a gasp when one dipped into the lace of my bra. "We should…go to the hotel."
He shook his head, his eyes never leaving mine as his fingers continued their exploration. "I can't wait for the hotel."
"We can't here."
"Why not?" One eyebrow rose high on his forehead in question as he lowered his face towards mine. "No one's here."
"We agreed to keep things strictly professional on this job."
A chuckle escaped his lips. "And you think this is professional?" His eyes dipped down to where his fingers were on my chest, inside my shirt.
I shook my head and pushed myself to a more upright position, effectively pushing my breasts further into his palms in the process. With great reluctance, I took his wrists and removed his hands from their nesting place. "I got carried away."
"Sook." His voice was rough, and he stood in place, refusing to budge.
"We can't," I repeated.
"It didn't hurt us last time we worked together. In fact, I believe that was lauded as your best work ever."
"You have a point." I lifted my hands to his chest, and gently pushed him away. "But Belle Rive was in the middle of nowhere. You never know who's going to walk in here. Plus the longer we argue, the longer it will be until we can get back to the hotel."
The expression that crossed his face could only be defined as a pout, and I stamped down the smile that was tugging the corners of my mouth.
"Come on." I hopped down from my position on the table. "I just need to grab my bag and then we can be on our way. We've got the entire weekend to ourselves."
"Not true," he grumbled. "We have to go to that benefit tomorrow."
"Which will take no more than five hours. That's still nearly the entire weekend." I rolled my eyes when his lips turned down in a frown. "We've got to eat sometime."
"True," he stepped forward, wrapping his arms around me once more. "But I like it a hell of a lot better when it's just you and me, and not one hundred of our closest 'friends'."
"You'd have us live like hermits if it was up to you," I laughed, standing on my tiptoes and kissing his cheek.
"If it meant just you and me and a lot less of these." He tugged at the waistband of my skirt. "Then I'd say we go buy our own island somewhere in the tropics and tell everyone to fuck off."
"I guess that's something we can aspire to someday. But now…" I pushed out of his arms, and walked around him to gather my shoes. "Now we're wasting valuable alone time. And I don't know about you, but I'm ready to pick up where we left off."
The benefit was in full swing by the time Alcide pulled our rented SUV into the parking lot of Dallas' W hotel, thanks in large part to the stall tactics of the man behind the wheel.
I checked my reflection in the vanity mirror one more time, assuring myself that my lipstick was in place and tucking a stray lock of blonde hair back into the chignon at the nape of my neck. When I was satisfied with my reflection, I looked over to see Alcide watching me, a smile on his face.
"Nothing," he shrugged, his smile broadening.
I narrowed my eyes and shook my head. "Don't you nothing me, Alcide Herveaux."
"You don't want to know."
"I'm fairly sure I do." I glanced back in the mirror to verify that there was nothing wrong. When he didn't answer I turned back to face him. "Alcide!"
"Fine. I was just thinking about how much I like when you get all gussied up like this."
Sounded innocent enough, which was exactly why I knew there was more to it. Alcide was plenty of things, but innocent wasn't one of them.
"You don't want me to say, Princess. I promise."
"I am sure whatever it is, I can handle it Herveaux."
"Herveaux is it?" he chuckled. "Is the Ice Princess coming out?"
"Fine." He reached down and unlatched his seatbelt, then turned and did the same to mine. His lips were mere centimeters from my ear when he continued in a whisper. "I like when you get all gussied up like that cause it makes me think how fun it'll be to undo it all and get you naked again."
"While that is a lovely sentiment, I know you too well. You just want to get out of that suit," I responded with a kiss. "You don't fool me."
I hopped out of the car and made my way to his side on my sky-high strappy heels. He grumbled as he climbed out of the driver's seat and shut the door behind him.
"You look very handsome," I said, stepping towards him and straightening out his tie.
"I look like a waiter."
"You look nothing like a waiter." The suit was cut to perfection, thanks to the assistance of Lafayette's tailor. He looked polished, expensive, and downright dangerous under the layers. "In fact," I continued, "I wouldn't be surprised if Amelia doesn't try and corner you tonight."
His groan was audible at the mention of Amelia's name. Despite nearly the entire world knowing the status of our relationship, Amelia hadn't given up hope. We'd run into her from time to time, and I had to admit that I enjoyed watching Alcide squirm under her overt advances. I was secure enough in my feelings towards Alcide – and more importantly, his feelings towards me – to bother worrying about any damage Amelia could possibly do.
"She gets a little too handsy, Sook."
"I know," I chuckled, then shook my head with mock solemnity. "But that's what you get for being so ruggedly good looking."
I reached down and grabbed his hand, tugging him along behind me.
"You have to promise to come get me if she corners me again."
"I promise," I nodded, squeezing his hand and suppressing my smile at the thought of little me rescuing someone of Alcide's size.
"She grabbed my balls last time."
I bit my lip to stop from laughing. While my initial reaction to that news at the time hadn't been amusement, two months later I couldn't help laughing at the terror such a tiny woman could strike in Alcide's heart.
We stopped at the doorway of the large ballroom and I looked up at him with a smile on my face. "I promise your balls will only be touched by me tonight."
"You better see to that, Stackhouse."
The Carmichael Foundation was one of the leading arts supporters in the South, and the recent contributions to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra had garnered the Foundation a lot of goodwill in the community. So much goodwill, that the ballroom was full of any number of local celebrities.
Alcide's unease at being at the event lessened after his first beer and a conversation with the star quarterback of the Cowboys. Funny how far a little man-talk went to put him at ease.
Copley kept me busy, introducing me to the local contractors and developers, all of whom were eager to hear about the renovation project we were working on. In a world dominated by men, I was a bit of a novelty, and I used it to my advantage. By the time we were finished with dinner, I had exchanged business cards with five prospective clients, and had been promised a walk-through of a new apartment project in the heart of Fort Worth.
"Having fun?" I asked, sinking down in the seat next to Alcide. Almost immediately after dinner, right as the music had started, Copley had insisted upon introducing me to the head of his corporate events team to discuss how we were going to mark the opening of the mill project. Alcide had been deep in conversation with one of the city councilmen, safe enough from Amelia's lurking presence for me to leave him alone.
"I'd have more fun if we were out of here," he replied honestly.
I rested my hand on the top of his thigh and leaned into his oversized frame for a quick break from the activity around us. "Just another hour and then I think we're good to go."
He nodded, his chin brushing against the top of my head. "Cope make you put on the dog and pony show for his investors?"
I shrugged and sat up. "It's all part of the territory."
"And I'm sure it doesn't hurt that you're as good looking as you are."
"Like you're one to talk," I laughed. "The mayor's wife was practically devouring you with her eyes."
"Yes, Halleigh," I shook my head. "I thought she might steal you away if I left you alone with her."
"You don't have to worry about that, Stackhouse. Not looking the way you do tonight."
"Oh aren't you sweet?"
"I'm many things," he said, standing up and tugging me hand until I did the same. "But sweet ain't one of them. I have my ulterior motives."
He led me out to the dance floor, pulling me flush against his body as the strains of a slow country song began pouring out of the speakers. I relaxed into him with a sigh, relishing the opportunity to be this close; to touch him like this. Despite having been "out" as a couple for a long time, there were few socially acceptable opportunities for us to act like one. At most events, we spent most of my time talking business with Copley and his associates, and we'd been so busy between jobs that we'd not had much of an opportunity or the inclination to do anything more adventurous than bowling nights with Janice and Dell.
We stayed out through another slow song and two fast before Alcide pulled me off the dance floor and excused himself to the restroom. As I made my way to the bar to refill my glass of champagne, I noticed Russell Edgington standing alone for the first time in the evening. Lafayette and Andre had taken control of his niece Sophie Anne's apartment during Belle Rive and my move, and I hadn't seen Russell in person since completion.
He greeted me with a smile, taking each of my hands in his own and leaning in to brush a kiss across my cheek.
"Well aren't you a sight for sore eyes Susannah?" His drawl was pronounced as he said my full name. It had been so long since I'd been addressed as such, it sounded weird, almost foreign to me. "You're looking as lovely as ever."
"Thank you," I replied with a smile. Russell had been one of Stackhouse Design's first customers, and remained one of my favorites. He was eccentric, eclectic and incredibly sophisticated when it came to design concept. "I feel like I haven't seen you in forever."
"That's because you haven't," he chided, squeezing my hands in his. "Talbot was just asking about you the other day; wondering why you hadn't been around. We couldn't understand why you'd want to leave Boston and move down to Shreveport, Louisiana of all places. But," he leaned in and lowered his voice, "I completely understand after seeing the man in question. Mr. Herveaux is it?" He waggled his eyebrows conspiratorially.
I felt myself blush and couldn't suppress the goofy smile from covering my face. "Alcide. Though he was only part of the equation as you well know."
"He could be the entire equation as far as I'm concerned." His eyes scanned the crowd. "And where did your Mr. Herveaux run off to? I was hoping I'd get an introduction; get to admire him up close and personal."
I shook my head and laughed. "You're terrible, Russell."
"I'm an appreciator of beauty," he countered. "And that man of yours is a thing of beauty."
"He's around here somewhere." I turned to survey the crowd. Alcide should have returned by now, and I wasn't far enough from where he'd left me for him to have lost me.
"Isn't that him there?" Russell asked, inclining his head towards the doors that lead to the hallway. My shoulders shook with mirth at the sight before me.
"Yes, that's him alright." And he wasn't alone. As I had hopped at the opportunity to get Russell alone, Amelia and her teeny tiny dress had done the same with my boyfriend.
"What in the world is Miss Carmichael doing?" Russell asked, cocking his head to the side.
"It looks like she's trying to seduce him," I replied matter-of-factly.
"And you're going to sit here and watch?" Russell sounded more confused by the minute.
"Only for a bit," I shrugged. "Her tactics get more and more amusing every time we run into her. Last time she had him backed into the corner like a caged animal. I got there just in time to stop her from shoving her hands in his pants."
"She didn't!" Russell gasped.
"Oh yes, she did." The scene before us escalated quickly, Alcide's normally calm demeanor replaced by visible panic as Amelia slithered towards him, whispering what I could only imagine were scandalous suggestions by the look on his face.
When I thought she'd done enough damage, I set my drink down on the table beside us and turned back to face Russell. "If you'll excuse me?"
"But of course," he replied, leaning in to brush a kiss across my cheek. "You go show that piece what a real lady is."
"That's the plan," I responded with a smile.
I took my time as I made my way to Alcide and Amelia, stopping to get our belongings from the coat check and say goodbye to Copley. Based on the past, I knew Alcide would be able to fend her off on his own for enough time to take care of all the niceties. After I said my last goodbye, I headed back to the hallway to break up her imagined party, taking in every inch of her wardrobe, from the top of her overly teased hair, down the hot pink leather dress and the five inch heeled boots that adorned her feet. I wondered what Copley thought when he looked at his daughter, and thought that my own father, God bless his soul, would have shot me if I dared to exit the house in anything like that. There was a time and a place for an outfit like that, and that mostly involved a street corner and an exchange of money.
"Oh there you are!" I called out when I was only a few feet from the two of them. Alcide turned to look over his shoulder, his eyes full of relief at the sight of me. Amelia, on the other hand, looked as if she would gladly have my head on a platter. It was a look I was used to from her.
"I was afraid you'd gotten lost on the way back," I smiled up at Alcide. He scowled in response. I wrapped my arms firmly about his waist, nuzzling my head into his chest before addressing Amelia. "Oh, hello Amelia."
"Hello Susannah," she scowled.
"Funny you two running into each other like this," I smiled. "Again."
"Isn't it though?" She leaned forward, displaying even more of her chest that was already threatening to spill out of her top. "Alcide and I are always just drawn to each other at these things."
"Like magnets!" I exclaimed, trying not to laugh as Alcide squeezed my arm.
"It's an attraction alright," Amelia said.
"Well," I sighed. "I hate to pull Alcide away from such a thrilling conversation I'm sure, but I'm downright exhausted. And since we came in the same car, I just can't wait for Alcide to get me to bed," I shrugged innocently. "I'm sure you understand."
Amelia didn't say anything to me, instead turning to face Alcide. "I'm more than willing to give you a ride."
What a bitch.
Alcide cleared his throat and opened his mouth to respond. "Oh I wouldn't dream of inconveniencing you," I interrupted. "Besides, Alcide already promised he'd give me a ride."
Amelia narrowed her eyes in my direction and crossed her arm in a petulant huff. She turned back to Alcide. "Whenever you're done with her, you know where to find me." She turned dramatically on her heel and I stood in place to watch her walk away, letting go of my death grip on Alcide when she disappeared into the crowd on the dance floor.
"You ready?" I asked, looking up at Alcide's face.
He nodded, reaching down to help me into my evening coat.
"How long did you let me squirm this time?" he asked, smoothing the back of my coat across my shoulders.
"Not too long," I replied with a chuckle, turning around to look up into his eyes. "Ten minutes?"
"Ten minutes! She could've drugged me and had her way with me in ten minutes."
"But she didn't," I pointed out. "I had to say goodbye for us; gather our things…"
"All of which we could have done together."
"True," I shrugged, tucking my hand into the crook of his arm as we made our way to the front door. "I'll have to remember that for next time."
"I'm never coming back to one of these things," he swore, as he had done so many times before.
"Oh come on, Alcide." I climbed into the waiting car and looked up at him as he held the door for me. "You know you enjoy it as much as I do."
He shut the door, walking around to the driver's side and starting the car before he responded.
"You know I hate it. You owe me, Stackhouse."
"I hardly owe you. It's your business too."
"How is Amelia trying to get her hands down my pants business?"
"Good point," I chuckled. "But it's very entertaining."
"Isn't it some rule that my girlfriend should stand up for me? Pull some hair, scratch her face or something to defend my honor?"
"You're 6'5" and twice my weight. I think you can defend your own honor, Alcide."
"Fine." He pulled onto the highway that led out of downtown and towards our hotel in the northern suburb. "But you're going to need to do something to erase the suggestions she made to me tonight."
"Already planning it, Herveaux. Already planning it."
I leaned across the gearbox, whispering exactly what I had in mind in his ear and let out a belt of laughter when his hands tightened on the wheel, the speedometer needle jumping up well above the speed limit.
Alcide's driving, normally well within the confines of the law, would have done Mario Andretti proud. The drive that had taken us twenty-five minutes in, only took fifteen minutes back, and the wheels squealed as he pulled into the parking lot.
He was a man on a mission, and if I had been less sure on my own feet, I would have undoubtedly fallen flat on my face as Alcide dragged me through the parking lot. The employees manning the front desk greeted us with a friendly smile (and even a howdy from one enthusiastic native Texan) when we stepped into the lobby. I was sure we made quite the sight, Alcide's face set in determination as he stormed across the marble floor, me scurrying behind him.
He didn't say a word on our elevator ride to the fourth floor, and I couldn't stop my giggle when I noticed the tick in his jaw as he looked straight ahead. I was rewarded with a warning look that wiped the smile off of my face.
"You are in so much trouble, Princess," he drawled, the gravely tone of his voice weakening my knees. He stepped closer, pulling me not exactly gently to his side and running a proprietary hand along my spine. "Do you think you can handle it?"
A lump formed at the back of my throat, making it hard to respond. I swallowed and nodded against the cotton of his shirt.
The doors slid open, revealing the long empty hallway before us. Our room was at the end, a corner room like I always requested. He nudged me forward, his hand staying at the small of my back the entire way to our door.
I reached into my clutch, fumbling for my wallet and the credit card key I kept inside. My fingers brushed against the normally organized contents, all of which seemed to have doubled in size for the luck I was having at finding what I was looking for.
"I've got it," Alcide's voice said from behind me, much closer than I had imagined. His breath danced across the nape of my neck and his arm reached around my body, key in hand to open the door.
No sooner was the door closed behind us than he was on me. His lips crashed into mine, quick and possessive, leaving me feeling breathless. My evening clutch dropped to the floor in an unceremonious thud, the contents spilling onto the floor, but I didn't care.
"I want you," he panted. "Now."
I couldn't do anything more than nod as he stepped back I watched him kick out of his shoes. My own heels dropped off my feet when he closed the gap and lifted me off my feet – apparently I wasn't moving quickly enough for him.
He barreled down the short hallway separating the main living room from our bedroom, and his lips reclaimed mine as he crossed through the doorway.
Our clothes were removed in short order through a series of fumbling hands and lips, dropped haphazardly in our wake as we moved towards the king sized bed and I did exactly what I had promised.
I rested my head on his chest when we had sated each other's bodies, my fingertips dancing across his bare chest as I tried to catch my breath.
"Wow," he said, pulling me tightly against his body.
"You can say that again," I laughed, propping my chin on my hands to look up at him.
"When's the next one of these little shindigs?"
"I have no idea. Why?" My eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "I thought you said you never wanted to go to one of these again."
"That was before that," he nodded in my direction, his hand skimming down my side and resting when he came to the bottom of my breast. "For that I'm willing to let Amelia see me naked any time you'd like."
"I'll have to keep that in mind."
He laughed, pulling me against him and rolling us until he was positioned above me. "You wouldn't dare."
"Don't try me, Herveaux," I warned.
"What am I going to do with you?" he asked, nuzzling his face into my neck.
"I have a few ideas," I started, my breath catching in my throat as his hands skirted down my sides.
"You'll have to tell me about those sometime."
"I'd be happy to. The first involves you, me and the –"
"Later," he shook his head with a chuckle. "You showed me what you can do, and now it's my turn."
And show me he did.
AN: And there's a quick peak into Heat Alcide and Sookie a few months down the road. As many people know, this story is near and dear to my heart and one of my very favorite stories I have written to date. Needless to say, I was extremely thrilled when I received the request from the fangreader's chatroom notified me that Heat had been selected to be a featured story in their chat room. The chat is this Tuesday, April 26th at 9 pm EST. I plan on logging on to answer any questions, so if you're dying to know what in the heck that stupid tile looked like, you can log on here: http : / fangreaders (dot) blogspot (dot) com/
It is a private chatroom, so make sure to sign up for it if you aren't a member already.
Now, enough shameless self-promotion. Time to promote pfloogs72, pre-reader extraordinaire. You should check out her Home Sweet Home entries (Voodoo!) and just about everything else she writes. For her, I say…Grrrr. Thrust, thrust. Liquid. Fluid. ANNNDDDD done