Kiss A Cook Contest Entry

Title: Crazy with a Side of Meatballs

Pen name: evenflo78

Beta: Krismom

Characters: Eric & Sookie, Pam, Tara, Amelia, Gran.

Word count: (not including header and A/N) 9,993

Disclaimer: Charlaine Harris owns the characters.

Sookie POV

I needed to turn my ringer down. "Hello."

And I really needed to learn to check my caller ID. "Sookie Stackhouse?"

I sat up straighter, even smoothed out my clothes. "This is she."

"Yes. This is Pamela. From Norcrofts. Black slacks, black socks and shoes, and a white button up shirt." Do not squeal. Do not squeal. "Be there at four PM."

I squealed. "Yes ma'am. Thank you. Thank you so very much."

"Right. Let's try to keep the decibel at a lower level in the future." I don't think she heard my nod. "Don't be late." She hung up.

And I squealed some more, bouncing around my house like the six year old I was. Six months. Six long blasted months I'd been looking for a job. Sure, waitress wasn't a particularly glamorous job, nor was it a high paying job for that matter. But it was a job, and it was mine. I bounced again.

"I take it you got the job, baby." She was laughing at me.

"Gran! Yes, I got it! I start tonight." She rubbed my head like a little puppy when my arms wrapped around her. "I shouldn't be this excited, but I can't help it." I giggled.

"You have every right to be excited." Gran always made me feel like I was a kid. She tugged me towards the sofa, her weathered hand wrapped tightly around mine. Even at eighty-three she was stronger than me. "I've heard great things about the place. What time do you go in?"

It was a great place. It hadn't been open for more than a year, but had already received several write ups in the local newspaper, not to mention a feature in one of the elite restaurant cuisine magazines. It was most definitely a hot spot. Super classy, posh interior, wealthy clientele, and an intense hiring process. I filled out three different applications just being screened for an interview.

"At four, Gran. I need... Shoot, I don't have any black slacks." I stood hastily, looking left and right as if the pants would just appear out of thin air. Ridiculous how little it took to get me flustered. "I gotta get ready and go to Tara's."

Gran shooed me along, laughing at me as I ascended the stairs. So yeah, maybe I was a little overenthusiastic about a simple waitressing job. But from what I'd heard, the tips were killer, the boss was hard but fair, and the hours were flexible.

From what I heard, my only obstacle was going to be the Chef. I hadn't met him yet, but apparently he was as mean as a snake and didn't like anyone. I didn't much take it to heart. People always deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt. I'd make my judgment call on him later. Surely he couldn't be as bad as everyone said.

Tara's shop was the one place in town where you could get clothes for every occasion. She'd been my bestie since Bill Compton pulled me out of the swing at recess in kindergarten. Kneed him in the privates, kicked dirt in his face while he was writhing on the ground, and told him to mind his manners. She said some words I'd never heard before after that. Words to this day I still have issues repeating.

Ever since, we were inseparable. She didn't even give me a hard time when I started crushing on Bill in the tenth grade. And she most certainly didn't give me the 'I told you so' talk after I gave him my virginity, and he in turn told the football team about it. She held my hand and wiped my face while I cried, only telling me he wasn't worth my tears. She was right, he wasn't.

Tara took over her mom's dress shop after high school instead of going to college. When her mom passed last year, I came back to help her with things until she was able. I hadn't meant to get stuck, but I did.

After I was informed that I lost my scholarship, I kind of got depressed. But I forged onward and began looking for a job. I was hoping to save up enough to pay off the loans I had so I could go back fresh. I just didn't realize it would take me so long to find someone able to add me to their payroll.

Tara couldn't afford it. Not that I would have even asked. I'd turned down three separate offers from her as it was. She was already too good to me, calling me when she had a sale, and setting items back specifically for me until they went on sale. I refused to be any more of a burden to her, knowing she struggled to keep up with running her small business on her own.

"Hey chica." Tara never greeted me with the same name. And hardly ever in the same language. I was about the furthest you could get from looking Hispanic despite my sun-kissed skin. If the blonde hair didn't give me away, then I'm sure the blue eyes would. Tara was just the opposite. Dark as night with bright brown eyes, killer body and the kind of natural glow about her people would kill for. "What's with the grin?"

We squealed and bounced until Jane Bodehouse came in to pick up a new wad of ridiculously gaudy beaded necklaces. I had no doubt if I were to visit Merlotte's, the local bar and grill, she'd be wearing every single one of those god-awful things around her neck tonight. Tara and I shared a laugh knowing we were thinking the same thing.

"So, black pants, size eight?"

"Better get me a size ten too, just in case." I still had hope that I could squeeze my plentiful behind into the smaller of the two. But prepared myself not to be disappointed if I couldn't. Gran would say I was healthy. I thought it was more like healthy-with-a-side-of-mashed-potatoes-and-gravy.

I made tracks back to the dressing room singing along with the music coming from Tara's old boom box and danced my way out of my faded shorts. She tossed a pile of at least half a dozen black dress pants over the stall telling me to holler if I needed something different.

Tara never failed to surprise me with the choices she had available. Who would have thought there were so many different styles when it came to black dress slacks? Then again, maybe I was just a little sheltered when it came to fashion. Probably a lot of other things too. But I wasn't going to fret over that. A little naivety never hurt anyone.

The first pair was cut so low I couldn't even get the ten on. One good squat and I'd be mooning the restaurant or at the very least showing them my unmentionables. I was just about to give Tara a shout when I zipped up the final pair and they fit. I sighed happily and went out to find her critical eye.

"Nice." Tara made a point of placing her cupped hands straight out in front of her. "They make your ass go POW!"

I snorted, and looked over my shoulder. "Really? You don't think I need the ten?" They were a little tight, but felt alright. And even I could admit it. They made my butt look good.

Tara shook her head and stalked around me. "No way. Those are perfect. Magnifique." She kissed her fingers, smacking my behind as I hopped back to the dressing room.

"Did you need two pairs? I have a few of those."

"No. I don't want to jinx it, you know? Just my luck, I'll buy two pairs and get fired on my first day."

"I'll set them back then." She winked.

Tara rang me up, wished me luck, and handed me a sales coupon for an additional ten percent off my next purchase over fifty dollars on my way out.

Being in a good mood always made the sun feel warm, the sky look brighter, and the birds chirp cheerier. Or maybe that was just me. Either way, I practically skipped to my car, and I did sing merrily along with the tunes on the radio all the way home.

I made it home just as Gran set a plate of pimento cheese sandwiches on the table. I retrieved two glasses, filled them with ice and poured some sweet tea over the ice. The distinct crackle of the tea melting the ice made me grin. After handing Gran her glass, I took the seat across from her and dug in.

Some might think that pimento cheese is disgusting, but not Gran's. Toasted bread, a light smear of mayo, and the cheesy spread goodness, and yummy in my tummy. It was a child favorite that even at the age of twenty-five, I couldn't let go of. Likely, never would.

Gran observed me with a grin, eying my knee that was bouncing uncontrollably under the table like it didn't bother her, when I knew it did. I made a conscious effort to control all bodily excitement after that.

By the time we had cleaned up the kitchen and dusted the knick-knacks, it was time for a shower and to get ready. It was decidedly a good thing that I hadn't drank any coffee that morning. I was a bundle of nerves as it was. Any more uppers and I would have been even more jittery.

I applied very little make-up and did my hair in a dressed up pony-tail. Dressy because of the pretty silver clip Tara had so thoughtfully given me for my birthday last month. Gran had already ironed my clothes since she's all kinds of awesome, and after smoothing the puckers out of my tucked-in shirt, I was ready.

The restaurant was only a little ways outside of town, just outside Shreveport and still only about twenty minutes from the house. By the time I pulled into the parking lot, I had given myself at least six pep talks, convincing my psyche that I was not going to freak out, and I was going to do fine.

I'd seen the interior before, of course, but it never failed to take my breath away. Replica paintings from Salvador Dali, Vincent van Gogh, Wassily Kandinsky, and Will Rafuse, coupled with the retro seating area with contrasting black and white linens. It was just beautiful. The dark cherry oyster and beverage bar completed the dining area. I hadn't even seen the kitchen yet, but I knew it would be amazing.

The peppy brunette that conducted my initial interview approached me after hopping down from a bar stool. "Hey, Sookie. I'm so glad they hired you. You wouldn't believe how many crazy people I have to go through to finally find somebody I could stand for longer than ten minutes. Are you ready to get started."

At least I wasn't the only one that seemed to be a ball of energy today. I nodded. "Amelia, right?" I knew it was her name, but it was an ice breaker. More like an ice chipper, but hey, it was a start.

"Yup. So glad you're early too. I was getting bored. Chef Northman's already here, but there's no way I was going in there to chat it up with his stick-in-the-ass self. Dinner won't start for an hour, so we've got time to look over the specials and get you an apron."

It didn't seem like there was any ice at all to break when it came to Amelia. I'd just be lucky to get a word in edge wise. "Sounds good to me."

She went on as if I hadn't spoken, tossing me a long white apron from a locker in a tiny room I assumed to be the employee break room. "So your training will take about a week before you'll be allowed to take on a full section. Today will be the worst of it since you'll be working in the kitchen. But I guess it's best to go ahead and get that out of the way."

"In the kitchen? Really?" I was kind of excited, but a lot nervous about that.

"Well, not really working per se, but more like watching. Chef Northman doesn't allow just anyone to work in his kitchen." She snorted and stuck her nose up in the air. "Tomorrow will be pretty heavy too. The Chef always insist on conducting the wine pairing and food tasting sessions himself. He'll be an ass, but he's always an ass, so pay him no mind."

"Ooh, that sounds fun." Can't go wrong with food AND wine, right? Always a win in my book.

Amelia giggled in a very condescending way. "You might would think so. But I'm pretty sure that with Chef Northman it will be anything but." She passed the menu across the table while looking over my shoulder. "Ah, the devil always knows when he's being talked about." She nodded behind me back towards the bar.

I turned around. And gaped. Oh. My. God. I may have said it aloud because Amelia snickered. "That's him?" With the bright blue eyes that could steal my heart with one look? With the body of a swimmer all lean muscular and yum? With the gorgeous blonde hair that I would swear matched my own? I licked my lips.

"Uh-huh." She may have interrupted my hearing, but certainly not my line of sight. Hell, I'd be lucky if I could tear my eyes away from his mouth long enough to figure out what she was saying. "Don't let that pretty package fool you though. He's a nasty man and a hound. And whatever you do, don't touch anything in the kitchen unless he specifically tells you to. Man goes berserk really. It's almost funny."

"What's he saying? Who's he talking to?" Some bizarre language was being spewed between those perfectly kissable lips. Even if I couldn't understand it, I certainly could tell the tone. And it wasn't good.

"No fucking clue. Speaks Swedish half the time. Don't really care either. He's probably talking to himself. Does that a lot. If he starts mixing up his speech in the middle of a sentence, back away and run for the ladies. It's the only place he won't follow. And if that Swedish gets tossed in with the English that usually means you're really in trouble."

"He doesn't look so bad." Not bad at all really. Actually he looks pretty darn good from where I'm sitting.

"Looks can be deceiving, like I said. Tomorrow you'll be looking at him with a whole new pair of eyes, I promise."

Amelia went through the training course with me after I finally tore my eyes away from the tall god of a man pacing behind the bar.

I don't think it went unnoticed that I was observing peripherally. At least not by Amelia. He ran his fingers through his hair a lot, but there would always be an errant strand that wouldn't stay tucked behind his ears. It fall back out and I'd almost sigh every time. I thing I heard a 'filthy pig' in his mutterings somewhere, but other than that his tongue was unintelligible to my ears.

Even if it did sound like he was giving a sailor a run for his money, watching him move, and hearing that slight lilt on his tongue was hypnotic. I was totally crushing. And I hadn't even met the man yet. I had officially made it in the world. I had become one of those girls. A book by it's cover kind of girl.

I was a little proud of myself, but equally as ashamed.

Amelia went over the specials and the menu with me for a while, trying to describe what comes with what and going over the desserts and such. I tried to keep up and retain it all, but sadly I'd always been more of a visual/hands-on kind of person. I knew I wouldn't fully get things until I actually started seeing them.

Pamela came in while she was going through the extensive wine list. I intended on waving and at least saying 'hi' but she didn't so much as turn her head in our direction as she stopped straight back into the kitchen.

Amelia fell silent as the shouting started. I couldn't understand a word of it, and I figured a little online Swedish training would do me good in the future. Otherwise I could be getting cussed out and not even know it. I added that to my to-do list.

There was a lot more shouting and a few banging of pans before things fell silent. Pam stormed back out looking ready to kill with her arms crossed. She said nothing as she stared at Amelia, and I silently prayed I actually got to do some work before I got fired.

"I'll be right back." Amelia patted my shoulder as she passed.

And I was the deer in the headlights. I watched as she walked over to Pam. They spoke quietly for a moment, but seemed to get louder the longer the conversation went on. It still wasn't loud enough for me to make out what they were saying though other than a few random words here and there.

Then the stuff hit the fan. The Chef came out with a knife in his hand, and I actually squeaked. My chair hit the table and knocked over a salt shaker at my knee-jerk jump. He and Pamela continued their battle of tongues in the unknown language, and Amelia just walked away.

"Tonight is not going to be a good night. The Sous just called in and quit and Pamela can't find anyone else willing to come in and work. It's just going to be him in the kitchen, and I'm afraid that would be hell. You wouldn't learn much."

"I can cook. I can help." Why did it get so quiet? The yelling ceased, and there were six eyes boring into mine like I had just sprouted three heads and started breathing fire. My eyes shifted between them all, and I shrank back into my skin inexplicably.

The Chef went back to speaking to Pamela in Swedish again, ignoring me completely. I decided to put my big girl panties on and squared my shoulders marching towards them like I was not the insecure little kitten quivering in the corner.

"I can help, really." I extended my hand towards Chef Northman. "Sookie Stackhouse. Nice to meet you Chef Northman." He looked at my hand then back to my face, tilting his head to the side and looking very much like a curious puppy. It would have been cute if it wasn't so condescending. "Really. I can help. You tell me what to do, and I'll do it."

I dropped my hand pretending it didn't hurt that he hadn't shaken it and waited for him to respond. He looked at Pamela back to me and then to Amelia, me again, and finally back to Pamela, muttering in that same language again.

"Look, you need help, right? I can help. Unless you have a problem with telling people what to do?" It was a challenge. I knew it, and judging from the cock of his eyebrow as he turned to face me, he did too. "I may not know the menu, or how to dress the plates, but I can work a grill, and I can work and oven, and if nothing else, I can just be an extra set of hands."

He looked at me with an unreadable expression for a long time. So long in fact I had to struggle to maintain eye contact. He was very intimidating, and even taller up close, Boy, was he tall. I was getting a crick in my neck.

"Fantastic. All's well then." Pamela spun on her heel and left the gorgeous blond and I to our staring contest. I figured she knew something I didn't because Amelia sighed in relief too.

Look away. Look away. My nose itches.

"What's your name again?" I felt my shoulders relax as his stance changed and took a desperately needed deep breath.

"Sookie." I held my hand out again. That time he took it. My god he was warm. And his hand swallowed mine. "Sookie Stackhouse."

"Eric Northman. You can call me Chef or Chef Northman. When we're in the kitchen you listen to me and do exactly as I say, no lip, no backtalk. Ask questions if you must, but don't expect me to repeat myself. And don't expect me to take it easy on you either."

Oh. My. God. His voice was like honey to my ears. The little lilt on certain vowels and the way his lips formed around them like he was kissing the words out of his mouth. I melted. And swooned. And very nearly moaned. Unable to speak without it coming out as a desperate whimper I opted for an enthusiastic nod instead.

He turned on his heel and walked back into the kitchen without another word. I think the little nod he gave me was a request for me to follow. I just wasn't sure if my feet would work yet.

"Are you insane, Sookie?" Amelia spun me to face her. "You better not quit on me after tonight. It took me too long to find someone I was actually looking forward to working with. Please don't let him scare you off."

"I can handle it. Trust me." If only I believed my words as much as Amelia seemed to then maybe I'd have half a chance.

I gave her shoulder a pat and walked on unsteady legs into the kitchen. "Wow." It was just as immaculate as I had suspected.

Stainless steel appliances, a stove with twelve burners, and just shiny and clean as far as the eye could see. There were pots and pans hanging from various racks, spices and herbs on shelves, and an insane amount of workspace. We'd never even have to get close to each other if things went well. Which in a way was disappointing. I could see myself getting close to him. Very close.

"Aprons, towels, spatulas, tongs." He spouted off items and pointed to various places throughout the room sounding very much like a drill sergeant. I had to resist the urge to salute him as he tossed me a cooking apron and instructed me to change. "Good. Now, do as I say, and only as I say, and you'll do fine. Oh, and for heavens sake, keep yourself clean."

I snorted. As if I was a three year old. Of course, I'd stay clean. He rolled his eyes and growled. Actually growled. It might have been creepy if it wasn't so sexy. I really needed to get my head checked. One good looking man and I was a totally different person, thinking things I had no right to be thinking. Like, I wonder if his skin is as smooth as it looks, or if his lips taste as good as I suspect they would.

Yep, I definitely needed a head doctor.

As it turns out, we actually worked quite well together. He instructed and I followed him to a T with sure, swift hands. Luckily for me, Gran and I had spent days on end since I was a child discovering a plethora of different things to be done in a kitchen. Some experiments good, some not so good, but it was a learning process, and one I was putting to very good use.

I even listened when he instructed how and when to flip a steak even though I knew darn well how to cook the juiciest steak in the south while leaving the perfect grill mark. I didn't even laugh at him when he repeated himself at least a dozen times unnecessarily.

"I remember. I thought you said you hated repeating yourself." Couldn't keep my snarky mouth shut though. I ignored his returning scowl with a chuckle.

He was definitely a bark is bigger than his bite type of guy. I had no doubt he could bite when he wanted to. But it was probably not in a situation where one might complain about the bite. I know I wouldn't. He could bite and nibble on me anytime he liked. And I was really going to call a therapist in the morning.

Apparently he didn't believe in listening to the radio while working, but since I was Snow White and all I was whistling tunelessly to some random song from my head as I stirred a bolognese sauce. Which ceased as my breath caught in my throat. Funny how my body seemed to know where he was even if my eyes didn't, and he was approaching me from behind. Very close, so close, too close. I couldn't breathe.

His finger dipped into the sauce, and his pretty pink tongue darted out to catch the drip. "Mmm, very good." I whimpered as my knees went weak. His lips were so close. "Nice." And they purred in my ear.

He had a lovely smile, and I told him as much, desperate to get my bearings back. He looked at me utterly confused for a moment, wiping that smile I was admiring right off his face. His eyes softened briefly and his face followed. His mouth opened as if to say something but shut just as quickly when he turned to face away from me.

I frowned. I needed to rid myself of this infatuation before he made my head explode. I couldn't get a good read on anything he did or said. And that definitely didn't make for a good structure in a relationship. Why the hell was I thinking about a relationship already? Right, because I'm insane and need a prescription, that's why. Preferably something strong.

The Chef was silent for the remainder of dinner, but I did catch him staring over his shoulder at me several times throughout the night. I tried not to smile. Failed. And squealed like a little girl on the inside.

He was a very thorough cleaner. But I was better, and was smirking to myself as I went behind him and wiped up a few spots he missed. I didn't have a death wish, so I didn't make it obvious either. If he was going to jump down my throat, I could think over several other more pleasant tongue lashings I'd rather take from him.

Xanax, or maybe Zoloft? I wasn't a professional, but I needed one.

"Good job tonight, Sookie. I think you've just earned yourself a permanent position here at Norcrofts." I hadn't seen Pamela all night.

"Thank you Pamela."

"Pam. Call me Pam. You've earned it after putting up with this asshole on your first day."

"He's not so bad. All talk and no action." I winked at his curled lip and challenging eyes. "It was a pleasure, really. He definitely knows how to heat up a kitchen." And when exactly did I become so crass?

"Tomorrow at two. On this table." He didn't even crack a smile.

"Aren't you going to offer me dinner first? Maybe a movie? I usually only go for a table quickie after the second date." A brazen hussy is what I was.

But his lip twitched, and his eyes dilated, and was that a blush? "Don't be late." The door was closing behind him before he finished his demand.

Pam cackled. "Oh. I like you." I was still smiling when she exited as well, her laughter sounding out behind her. "Eric, don't get your knickers in a twist." I couldn't make out what else she said, but I'm sure it was rather colorful.

Dutifully embarrassed, I made my way to the locker room, retrieved my things and headed out. I hadn't even noticed how badly I must have been blushing until the humid summer night brought a bead of sweat up on my forehead.

My dreams were very pleasant that night, but also very explicit. I awoke early with an ache between my legs that could only be sated one of two ways. I headed straight for the shower.

"What's got you look all dreamy-eyed this morning." Gran was always too observant for her own good. Or I was just that horrible at hiding my mood and positively racy thoughts from her.

"I'm in trouble, Gran."

"Who is he." She passed me a cup of hot cocoa. It was comfort drink, and I really couldn't handle coffee.

"The Chef. And he's absolutely beautiful, Gran. I know I shouldn't be so superficial, but I can't help it. I've never felt this way before. Not after only one meeting, and especially when I've heard absolutely nothing but bad things about a person." I was still smiling. I blamed the afterglow of my shower time, but knew better.

"And what do you know about him? How do you know what everyone else says is true?" Gran, ever the voice of reason. And forever my conscience.

"I don't really, but he is about as stiff as they come. All hardened exterior, and scowls, and the growling." Though I rather like that one. "He hardly spoke a word to me unless it was to tell me to do something. Even after I made a rather lewd comment at the end of the night."

"Lewd comment. I find that rather hard to believe."

"I'm not going to repeat it. So you can forget even asking." I knew that look in her eye. "Let's just say I was a little embarrassed. I guess it was really a gentlemanly thing that he didn't say anything back. Otherwise I might have found myself in a heap of trouble."

"Well, you can't believe everything that you hear. You've gotta make that call yourself, given the chance. You've got a good head on your shoulders. I trust your judgment and so should you."

Best. Gran. Ever.

"I love you." I hugged her hard and sat down behind her to finish her braid.

Gran hadn't cut her hair since Grampy died. And she had the most beautiful, silky, gray hair in the world. It was just too hot for it to be all over her back like it was. Made me sweat just looking at it.

I had enough time to help Gran with the herb garden and weed the flower beds before I had to get cleaned up for my shift. I felt better about my instantaneous crushing on Eric the Chef Northman after our talk over breakfast. But I still wasn't completely comfortable with the fact I had fallen so hard and so fast.

I was wearing a very different kind of smile when I pulled up to the restaurant that afternoon. There was only one other car in the parking lot. Which meant I got to spend more one-on-one time with my new obsession. I was nervous, and excited, and my head was all muddled and clouded. I don't even remember if I sang with the radio on the way over.

My obsession was actually nowhere to be seen when I made my way in. Most of the lights were still off in the dining area with the exception of the bar. I put my purse in the locker Amelia assigned me yesterday and made my way to the kitchen, biting my lips to keep the grin off my face.

There weren't any obvious signs that someone had recently cooked, but the lingering aroma led me to believe otherwise. I took the chair facing the door and placed my hands neatly in my lap. Partly to keep from fidgeting, but also so he wouldn't see me wringing them whenever he chose to grace me with his presence.

I heard the shuffling of feet seconds before he entered, and my heart skipped a beat in anticipation. "What is that?"

He held up the black strip of fabric and eyed me. "Don't have a fit. It's just a blindfold. It's more effective this way."

I swallowed the lump in my throat. What was he going to do to me? Not that I was particularly against anything he may have had in mind. "What's more effective that way?" My voice cracked as he stepped behind me and lowered it over my eyes.

"The tasting. If you rely on your other senses too much it doesn't have the same effect. Trust me."

I nodded and dropped my hands, not having realized I was holding the fabric away from my eyes until then. "You're not going to make me eat anything gross are you?" The laugh that came out of me was truly pathetic. There was no other way to describe the awkward snort-chuckle like noise.

His voice was lower when he spoke again, and right by my ear. "I would never give anything to you that you wouldn't like."

"Oh god." Did I say that out loud? My pulse was racing. He hadn't even touched me, and I was aching for it.

My ears followed the sounds of movement since I could no longer see him. I heard a few cabinet doors open and close, then the walk-in cooler, and finally the entrance to the kitchen. It was a little disconcerting to find out how much I had relied on my eyesight before. But then again, having it cut off made me realize how much stronger my other senses became.

"Relax, Sookie. Slow down your breathing for me." Yes, I was panting. And why was it so hot in here?

"I can't wait to taste what you've brought for me." That wasn't my voice.

The throaty chuckle that followed made me blush. What am I doing? What is HE doing? "Open your mouth. I'm going to feed you."

I licked my lips refusing to whimper at his request and did as he asked. Did he do this with all the new trainees? I didn't like the idea of it and was filled with irrational jealousy at the thought of his fingers in some other woman's mouth. He wasn't mine. Not that I was against changing that fact.

Something cool, sweet, and moist was inserted into my mouth. "What do you taste?"

"Lemon, cream. It's heavenly. I can taste the metal from the spoon and maybe mint of some sort."

"Good. Again."

My mouth opened more eagerly that time. This was rich and room temperature. "Pepper, it's spicy. Bread and salt and poppy seed, maybe?"

"Nice. Drink." The cool glass touched my lips and he was very careful tilting it so I could take a sip.

"Water." I sounded disappointed.

"Booze is coming soon." I could hear the smile on his lips. He wasn't so uptight after all. "Open."

I shouldn't have complied so willingly. But I think he could have asked me to stand up and do jumping jacks and I would have done them with a smile. His voice melted my will into nothingness.

"Hot." I heard him mutter an apology as I tried to cool off the object on my tongue long enough to taste it. "Tender. Very tender. Rosemary, duck, I'm sure of it. A little butter, no salt, very tasty. More, please." I smiled. I think he might have at the snickered. But it could have been a scoff. I just didn't think so.

"Beef. A tenderloin. Lots of pepper, almost too much. It's a little dry too."

"You have a very good tongue, Sookie." Did he mean that to have innuendo or was I just desperate for it?

I licked my lips for show. "Thank you, Chef." And there was a groan. Not from me. My teeth flashed in the resulting smile.

There was more tasting after that, more describing, until I felt I couldn't take another bite. I was lucky enough to earn a few more of those groans from him, and I'm pretty sure it was because of my happy tongue moans. There were a few things that weren't to my taste, but everything else was divine.

And thanks to the wine he was giving me sips of, I felt really light and open. On second thought, that was probably not a good thing. I never could hold my liquor, or my tongue for that matter. And alcohol only proved to loosen it further. The best thing for me then was to keep my mouth shut. Not likely.

"Dessert now." I groaned. I was so full. "Only a few more bites, and then the blindfold can come off." There was a few dishes clattering around and I felt the heat from his body as he approached and opened my mouth before he could ask. "Eager, are we?" There was definitely a smirk around those words.

I moaned unashamed as the decadent creamy dessert hit my tongue. "Delicious. Strawberry and cream cheese, lots of sugar. The key to my heart." And there was definitely a chuckle that followed. Not mine.

"Drink."

"Perfect. Just dry and bitter enough to cleanse the coating of sugar on my tongue so I can start all over again." I was going to gain a hundred pounds after working here.

"Last bite."

Another moan, and was that a finger? I licked it clean and sucked the remains of the chocolate custard away. Yes, it was a finger. And then the rustling of fabric and shifting of limbs to my right. "My favorite so far." Because of his finger. "Rich and creamy, dark chocolate. A little salty but that might have been you. More." Who know I had a phone sex voice? Because that is most assuredly what it sounded like.

His voice sounded a lot lower, and a lot more hoarse when he spoke again. "Last drink."

I dribbled accidentally on purpose and was pleasantly surprised when I felt his fingers wipe it away as it spilled over my bottom lip. "Thank you." I resisted the urge to dart out my tongue and see if I could catch another taste of him. But I really, really wanted to. I wanted to taste his tongue.

I should call Gran and have her make me an appointment for first thing in the morning.

I was already acting crazy enough as it was. And I couldn't see his reactions, only hear them. As far as I knew he could have loathed every second of what was probably the single most erotic event in my life. I doubted that was the case, and in this case naivety was most certainly not a good thing.

"Finished." His voice was further away. I hadn't heard him move while I was lost in my thoughts. "You can remove the blindfold yourself." That hard voice was back, and I almost pouted as I untied the band and let it fall from my eyes.

It took a moment for my eyes to readjust to the light, but I didn't need them to know he was gone. That hum that had been running through my body while he was feeding me was silent.

I tried not to pout, but it didn't work and I sulked all the way to the break room. There was shouting coming from what I guessed to be Pam's office, but I couldn't make it out. It was too muffled, or I was too depressed to care.

Amelia was waiting in the break room. "How'd it go today? I'm glad you made it through last night unscathed. Are you ready to follow me tonight? I'll let you take a few orders for practice. What's the matter?"

I was beginning to think she never shut up. "I'm fine. It was fine. Yes, I'm ready."

"Really, because you seem pretty distracted." Understatement. Of. The. Year.

"Sorry, just a long day." Liar, liar, pants on fire.

She takes my words at face value and goes on about how our shift will go, what my responsibilities will be, filling drinks, clearing plates, typical service industry mumbo jumbo. It may as well have been Charlie Brown's mom talking in my ear for all I heard.

I couldn't stop thinking about the Chef, and how I longed to say his real name, and yet still feared even thinking it. The way his finger was warm and salty in my mouth. Those little groans and rustling of his clothes as he seemed to shift nervously. I was trying to translate what sounds and tastes meant without my ears and tongue. That's how I felt at least.

My head was spinning for how crazy I was over this guy I had known less than twenty-four hours. And I don't even have a clue if the feelings are returned. He's got me inside out and upside down. All things hurdling through my brain and thought process involved him. Only him. And his hands. And his voice. Just him.

It's pathetic. I'm pathetic.

I sighed. And then followed Amelia out to the dining room simply going through the emotions of waitressing. She may as well have had a mannequin at her heel all night. And wouldn't you know, the only thing that can break me out my zombie state, my Eric the Chef Northman addled brain, is him. Him and all is six-plus feet of yummy in my tummy.

I snap out of it like someone just stabbed me with a dose of adrenaline, the air rushing out of my lungs in a gasp, and my cheeks stretching over the bones in my face as I smile. Smile? Not even I know why the sight of him makes me do that.

I'd just spend the last, I checked my watch, six hours thinking about how hot and cold he was, and not feeling the slightest bit better about any of those thoughts. Until I see his blue eyes and blond hair from across the room, then it's like the storm clears and it's bright blue sunny skies in Sookie's mind.

Man, I really am crazy.

It's closing time, I realized then, and the dining room is completely empty, save the remaining waitresses tidying up, sweeping, and restocking for the next shift. I scurried after Amelia, hoping I hadn't missed anything of dire importance in my first shift on the dining room floor. And really hoping I hadn't messed up any chance of her and I being friends.

Because I really liked her, even if she talked to much. She was a fun girl.

We were laughing about something inane, I don't even really recall, when Pam came out cursing and yelling for the Chef and something about meatballs.

"Fucking last minute fuckers." She certainly was a colorful woman, and had a vocabulary that would make a sailor cringe. "Northman, get your ass out here right fucking now before I take my Prada's to your pride and joy." He was right there. Couldn't she see? Right behind the bar.

Maybe I was just watching him too closely.

"What, woman? What are you going on about?" Were they brother and sister, or maybe a cat and a dog in another life? Because they sure fought like it.

"Those fucking lawyer prick friends of yours just called and ordered twelve party trays of spaghetti and meatballs."

"For when?" He didn't much seem to care.

"Tomorrow at noon."

"Fuck." Maybe he did care. His hands ran through his hair, and then once more. He did then when he was upset or frustrated, I'd noticed. "Right. I'll have to work through the night."

Who am I, if not a good Samaritan? "I can help." See.

"Fantastic." Pam's one word reply ended the conversation and she walked away.

The Chef stalked towards me, and I stood my ground. I wasn't going to be intimidated by Mr. High and Mighty any more. His expression softened and for a moment his arm extended. My breath caught in my throat as I anticipated the stroke to my cheek that never came. His arm fell limply to his side again, and I watched his fist clench, unclench, then clench again.

"We'll be here alone." And that was a bad thing? "And late." Even better. "I don't want to hear you complaining." My tongue almost came out like the five year old child I was. "Thank you." That's better.

"No problem. I'll wash up and be right there." I smiled at him brightly and turned away.

I gave Gran a call so she wouldn't be worried, used the restroom, washed my hands, and tried to compose the reflection that was staring back at me from the mirror. Not that I had much luck, but the effort counted for something.

After pulling the clip from my hair and letting it tumble over my shoulders, easing the tension out of my scalp, I made my way to the kitchen. Everyone, it seemed, had already gone home. It was just him and me, me and him, us. Nice.

He'd already set up a huge mixing bowl about the size of Texas, and there were packages of beef and sausage littering the normally clean counter tops. "Where do you want me?" I didn't mean it like that, but a blind woman would have noticed that he took it like that. I smirked at his twitchy eyebrow.

"Grab some gloves and we'll get started over there." He pointed to the mixing bowl.

I snapped on the gloves, walked to the exact spot he had designated and waited. "Now what, Chef." He really liked his title. The selfish part of me hoped he liked the way I purred it out like it was a dirty word. Hussy.

"Grab some meat." Yes, please. "And dump it in the bowl." Darn, he meant that meat.

I followed his instructions, weighing out the meat and measuring the spices specifically as he spouted them out from memory. It really was a beautiful thing to watch him in the kitchen.

"What can I use to mix it with." I didn't want to risk using the wrong thing.

"Your hands."

"Pardon." Eww.

"Hands."

I turned and faced the huge bowl stuffed with an obscene amount of raw meat and herbs, poking it with a timid finger. The hum came back with a vengeance.

His fingers were on my shoulder and sifting through my hair as he pushed it over my shoulders. I didn't moan. Out loud. "You really should be wearing your hair up while we do this." It wasn't so much a demand, but a whisper. "But I rather like it down." Hot, so very hot.

My skin crawled in the most fantastic way when the tips of his gloved fingers ghosted down my arms and lifted my limp hands from my side. His fingers twined with mine and he shoved our interwoven fingers into the mush. "Oh, god."

My eyes were closed, and I wasn't so much as touching the meat as I was stroking the insides of his fingers with mine. He was so warm on my back, and pressed close. So close in fact that I could feel every breath he took, and they were matching the heaving rhythm of mine. It was a fabulous feeling.

"I can't get you out of my head." Did he mean for me to hear that? "I haven't stopped thinking about you since I saw you across the dining room yesterday afternoon." Was that his lips moving against my neck? "You and your blinding smile that makes me feel. Feel like I'm simultaneously melting and combusting all at once."

Somewhere in the back of my mind there was a nagging voice that was telling me I shouldn't lean back against his chest. It was telling me I shouldn't expose my neck to him. And it was telling me I should most definitely be keeping his soft, wet mouth from kissing that exposed flesh. It was always a sensitive spot of mine

But I didn't.

Instead, I pressed closer. Nothing but clothes were between us, and I could feel him. All of him. He wanted it as much as I did. Throbbing. Good god. I moaned. Our fingers were still tangled, caressing, exploring, teasing, no longer worried with combining the mixture in the bowl. It was simply the match that started the fire.

Burning.

I turned, and his hands fell to the counter on either side of me. Trapped. Happily so. Once my eyes opened I could see his had closed. The gloves were off my hands before I could lose my nerve, and my fingers were gripping his face, my muscles were pulling his lips towards mine.

I exploded.

His tongue was in my mouth, and mine in his. Hands were everywhere, and I don't even care if he remembered to take his raw meatballed gloves off. I just wanted his hands where they were. In my hair, down my back, on my hips, pressing me, holding me, groping me. Making me burn in the most wonderful way known to man.

There was a flurry of clothes after that. And even though I could hear that little virginal angel on my shoulder telling me to stop what I was doing and back away, no run away, the horny little devil sitting on the opposite shoulder was talking louder. So I listened to her.

His hands found my bare breasts, and his teeth and tongue followed. I moaned, blindingly groping him wherever my hands would reach. The muscles that ran across his chest and abdomen had been explored thoroughly with my needy hands. His belt buckle, however, and what was below it was uncharted waters.

With unsure fingers, and the clink of metal and the buzz of a zipper, his pants joined the other discarded articles of clothing tossed carelessly about the kitchen. And then I took him in my hand. He hissed and I purred. Animals. We were like animals. It was the only way to describe the intense need I had for him. To taste him, to feel him, to know him. In every way imaginable. And some ways unimaginable.

Cold. Too cold. He jerked back, and I stumbled forward from the loss of his body holding mine upright. I took a step forward only to be halted by his extended arm and opened palm. "Sookie, we have to stop."

Was he kidding? We were just getting to the good part. "You're making me dizzy. One minute you're hot, the next you're cold. I want to rip my hair out." The fact that I was only in my panties hardly registered as I stepped past his arm and touched his chest. "I want this. Want you."

The tent in the front of his boxers twitched. "I'm sorry. I want you too. I do." It didn't need pointing out. The physical signs were there. "I have to be this way. On the outside. Hard. But really, I'm nothing but mush on the inside. And why exactly am I telling you this?"

He totally blushed. "Because you're talking to my tits." It was vulgar and crass, and I knew it. Didn't care though. "You're like a meatball." He looked at me quizzically. "Crispy and hardened exterior, all tender and gooey underneath. A meatball."

It probably wasn't a good thing to laugh, but I did, and he did too. So it was okay. And then his lips were on mine again, his fingers were twisting my nipples making them painfully hard. "Sookie."

"Say it again." Just like that. That half purr/half growl noise that made me ache and clench and moisten my panties. He did, and I quivered. I just quivered, and melted against him, and into his embrace. "Oh god, Eric."

I hadn't realized I was even thinking it until I felt his name leave my lips. I said it again, and again. With every kiss he left on my body, I said it. It was coherent up until the moment his fingers dipped into my panties and gave me one good stroke. It was pathetic really how I came all over his hand like I'd never been touched before. But what could I say? He just did that to me.

There was some more growling after that, and I felt my panties fall to the floor as I was pushed back with the force of his steps. I gasped when the cool steel table hit my backside, and whimpered when I heard Eric's voice, so thick and heady.

"I need you. Need to feel you."

With hands that didn't belong to me, I slid his boxers down, heaved myself onto the table, spread my legs and gripped him hard in my palm, rubbing the swollen head over my slick folds. "Need you. Need you now." I was so wanton and forward and pushy. I damn near thought I'd been possessed.

Crazy.

"Shit. I don't have protection."

It was probably stupid of me, but at the time I was so far gone, I didn't think about anything other than him filling me. I pulled him forward, sliding the tip into me enough that I felt the stretch. "I... god, so good. I'm on birth control. Please." At least I was polite. Panting and moaning, but polite.

He pushed. I gasped and fell back onto the table, only to arch my back off again as the cold surface hit my hot skin. His hand slipped under my back, holding me there, and staying still as I stretched around him.

My muscles tensed as I arched again, pushing him deeper and making him groan. It was so on then. Eric pulled almost all the way out, sliding right back in with enough force to make the table legs squeak as they scraped against the floor.

"So warm. And wet. God you feel even better than I imagined."

I tried to hold it in, I really did. But his voice, his admission, the feel of him, in me, all around me, I exploded. Out of nowhere, just exploded. I was writhing and moaning as sensation erupted in fire and ice all over my body. The contrast delicious and blinding.

I think I shocked him too. His hips shifted stiffly, the rhythm slightly forced as I gripped him tightly from the inside out. I could fell him as he swelled, the head jerking slightly before he grunted my name and fell over onto me.

His tongue found mine and tangled as he got lost in his own release. His movements slowed, but didn't stop completely. I almost thought we were going to go again. I had no objections. I don't think either of us expected it to be over as quickly as it was.

But then he spoke. "I guess we should get back to work, huh?" His voice was harder, but I assumed it was simply from exertion. I never knew anything was wrong.

We cleaned up and got back to work, finishing up around three in the morning. He said he'd have to come back early in the morning, but he didn't need any help for that part. He kissed me slowly, lingering on my lips as he said goodbye. I thought everything was fine.

Two weeks. Without a word. Two weeks had passed. Well, almost two weeks. Thirteen days, eighteen hours and twenty-seven minutes and not one single word. Nothing other than what happened to pertain to work, or food, or not screwing up anymore orders at least.

I was livid, and felt used and cheap. Never, ever had I thought of myself as a one-night-stand kind of gal, and this was the reason. I was going insane. Was that all I was to him, a quick fuck? An easy lay? Another notch on his bedpost?

Because that was sure as shit what it felt like. I'd been reduced to cussing, and I didn't cuss. Not even in my head, but I was doing it. A lot.

He ignored me, and I studiously ignored him in return. Eye-for-an-eye and all that. It made me sick.

So Sunday night at the end of my shift when I heard him call my name, it was all I could do not to flip my lid and explode like a Dr Pepper that had been sitting in the sun all day in the middle of July and then shaken like nobodies business.

I checked my watch. Thirteen days, twenty-one hours and fifteen minutes. It still counted as two weeks in my book. "Fuck you." I turned to face him anyway. Damn it. His voice still melted me like butter.

"I'm sorry."

"I know you are. But not as sorry as I am. Sorry that I let myself be tricked into your bed. Hell, I didn't even make it to your bed. I just let you take me right over that table over there." How I'd managed to find myself once again alone with him, I didn't know. "I'm the idiot here, not you. So get over your sorry's. I don't want to hear them."

Maybe I'd kept it bottled up for too long.

"I was going to ask if you'd have dinner with me tomorrow?"

"What? So you can fuck me again? And then not talk to me for two whole weeks? Not fucking likely." Somebody needed to wash my mouth out with soap. The really nasty kind. Lava or Lifeguard. Not Dove or Irish Spring. That stuff smelled way too good to be put in my mouth.

"I freaked. I fucked up, I know. And I really am sorry." He stepped towards me then, and I felt my stance relax even if I didn't want it to. "You have every right to hate me. God, I just fucked up real bad. I don't know how to act, how to deal with how you make me feel, and I'm freaking out here."

He sounded sincere, and I really wanted to believe him.

"You think I'm not freaking out? I've let all of one person ever do the thing that you did to me. And I knew you all of one day before I was putty in your magical hands. I just don't do that. But there's something. I won't deny it. We've got something, and you make me feel. Just feel alive and god, I don't know. But I don't know you. And I most certainly don't trust you."

"I'll earn it. The right way. I promise. Just give me another chance." I leaned into his hand as it stroked my cheek. My will crumbled into dust at my feet. "Please have dinner with me tomorrow. Just dinner."

"Okay." Crazy, weak woman. "What are you cooking for me?"

"Spaghetti and meatballs?"

A/N: Please do take the time to leave me your thoughts. Reviews are love.

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