A/N: Hello, all. This was my silly little entry to the Kiss A Cook contest, beta'd by the faboo Suzapalooza. Hope you enjoy.
"Sook? What's wrong?" Amelia, the sous Chef, whipped around and immediately turned her full attention to her obviously pissed off boss. She couldn't have been more shocked. It wasn't like Sookie Stackhouse to curse.
"The darn oven isn't heating up," Sookie replied, waiving her arms around furiously. "I switched it on over an hour ago, and it's not even warm! This is a disaster!" There were only a few hours left until they had to open the cafe doors for service, and having one of their two ovens down was pretty much an event of cataclysmic proportions in their tiny little kitchen.
"Do you want me to call Miguel?" Amelia inquired. "He might be able to rig it for the day."
"No, I think this is beyond even his skill set. She's a goner," Sookie sighed sadly, running her hand along the top of the oven.
"So, what's the game plan, Chef?"
"Amelia," Sookie admonished, "I've told you a million times...when it's just the two of us, call me Sookie."
"Alrighty, Sookie," she snickered, "what are we going to do? It's not as if we can put a spell on it so that it will magically start working again."
Sookie shook her head and laughed at her second in command. "The only thing I can do. Call up Richie, buy a new one and pray to all that's holy that it gets here on time for service tomorrow morning."
"Well, while I fully support that idea, we've got pastries that need to bake right now. Can I make a teensy little suggestion?" Amelia clasped both of her hands together and pressed them against her heart. Sookie knew exactly what that girl was thinking. She could practically see the wheels turning in Amelia's head.
"Absolutely not!" Sookie yelped, shaking her fist in the air, hoping that the conversation would end right then and there. "I will not let my buns anywhere near that man's equipment! So get that idea out of your head right this instant!"
Amelia doubled over with laughter.
"What?" Sookie asked, exasperated by her best friend's juvenile behavior.
"Repeat what you just said...slowly," Amelia begged. Her shoulders shook and tears spilled over the tops of her cheeks as she watched the words register in her friend's head.
"I said, 'I will not let my buns...'" Sookie's eyes grew wide, and one of her hands flew to her mouth as she finally realized what Amelia was going on about. An unladylike snort escaped between her fingers and soon she was laughing just as hard.
When she had calmed enough to speak, Sookie chastised her best friend for her suggestion. "You know exactly what I meant by that statement, missy. That man infuriates me. I will not go over there and beg to use one of his ovens."
"I really don't see how you have any other choice in the matter. It's either that, or we make half of our usual batch of sticky buns, and we sell out by nine o'clock," Amelia stated.
Sookie groaned. Amelia was right. They couldn't afford to lose that much business. Though she cringed internally at the thought of asking that ridiculous - albeit sexy - man for help, it truly was her best and only option at that very moment.
"Alright, I'll do it," Sookie agreed. "But I don't have to like it."
Amelia squealed and bounced on the balls of her feet. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, Sookie was highly attracted to the delicious Mr. Northman, and as her best friend, she knew that fact better than anyone. There was a static charge in the air whenever they were within ten feet of each other. Sookie and Eric had been dancing around the edges of a flirtation nearly a year ago when it abruptly ended without any apparent reason. It was time they got their shit together and figure it out. Amelia congratulated herself internally. Clipping the wires inside the oven was quite possibly the best idea she ever had.
She watched as Sookie dusted the flour off her apron, smoothed down her hair and checked her reflection in the stainless steel of the refrigerator. Oh, yes, she thought. This will be very entertaining indeed. I'm a bona fide genius.
Sookie paced back and forth in front of Northman's for nearly ten minutes. She didn't know why she was making such a big deal out of the situation. How hard could it be to knock on the door and ask for a little help? She knew the answer the moment she posed the question to herself. Nothing was ever easy when it came to Eric Northman.
It wasn't as if she always had trouble talking to him. When he first opened the club next door to her cafe, he seemed charming and polite. For a while, she thought he had taken a personal interest in her. He would always stop to talk or help her carry in deliveries from her purveyors. And then one day it all ended. There were no more kind smiles and sweet words...no more stories shared over morning cups of coffee and her sticky buns. There was nothing, and it hurt her terribly.
Soon, the doors to Northman's opened and things got progressively worse. Every morning at four o'clock, Sookie would be at the front door to her cafe, ready to start her work day. And every morning at five o'clock, she would see Eric through the front window of her cafe leaving the club with one woman after another. He hadn't seemed to be the type of man to take a multitude of nameless, faceless women to his bed. She never could understand how she had read him so wrong. And now, she found herself in a position where she was asking for his help. It was a bitter pill to swallow.
With one last deep, cleansing breath, Sookie stopped her pacing and rapped her knuckles lightly against the glass of the front door. You're a grown woman, Sookie. You can do this, she told herself, not that she really believed it.
She waited patiently, hearing the sound of keys turning in the lock. When the door opened, all the air escaped from her lungs at the sight before her. Standing there, in all his blonde haired, blue eyed, Scandinavian glory was Eric Northman himself. He was dressed in a well-tailored black suit, and the first few buttons of his black shirt were undone, slightly exposing what promised to be a smooth, toned chest.
A sly grin slowly spread across his face as he looked Sookie over from head to toe. He had always found her devastatingly beautiful and once imagined the possibility of a relationship with her. But after a run-in with her dickhead of a fiancé one morning, he knew he had to keep his distance. The last thing he needed was to form an attachment to a woman who was wholly unavailable to him. What he never understood was why she never told him about Bill. Not once had it come up in any of their many conversations. He truly thought they could have had something together, and he didn't know how he could have read her so wrong. Eric was nothing like that possessive jackass, so if Sookie was attracted to a man like that, she couldn't possibly be attracted to him. He felt used and lied to, and it hurt him terribly.
Since that day, he tried to push all thoughts of her out of his head, leaving with random women whose names he would never remember, whether he took them to bed or not. He knew she saw him exiting the club on numerous occasions, and he also knew she was aware of the parade of women whom he escorted home. While there were moments in time he felt ashamed, the still-hurting part of him would gloat, hoping she would see exactly what she was missing out on. It was in that frame of mind he decided to continue playing the role of Lothario in her presence, if only to protect his own heart.
"Well, good morning Miss Stackhouse. I'm afraid the bar has already closed, but I would be more than happy to entertain you with a private party of our very own." And just because he knew it would irritate her, he threw in a wink for good measure.
Sookie scoffed. "Thank you for your very generous...um, offer," she spat out, "But that isn't why I'm here."
"Then why, exactly, are you here, Sookie?" Eric asked, enjoying how uncomfortable she looked.
"I need a favor," she replied coldly.
"Typically, when one requires help from another, their tone tends to be a little less callous than the one you're currently using," he teased.
Sookie spun on her heel and made to walk away. "You know what? Forget it," she snarled. "I knew this would be a bad idea."
Guilt suddenly overwhelmed him, and before he knew what he was doing, Eric reached out and grabbed her elbow, stopping her from leaving. "I'm sorry, Sookie," he murmured. "I was only teasing you. Please, tell me how I can help."
He looked at her with pleading eyes, all evidence of sarcasm gone from his tone. Sookie believed him to be sincere, so she pressed forward. "One of my ovens died this morning, and I won't be able to get another fast enough to be ready for service. Would you mind terribly if..." her voice trailed off. Why do I always get so flustered around this man? she thought.
"You are welcome to whatever you need in my kitchen," Eric quickly offered.
Sookie exhaled heavily, grateful that he obliged so easily. "Thank you. I promise to pay you for your time and the use of your equipment." As she had done earlier in the day, Sookie hadn't considered her words carefully before they passed her lips. It wasn't until she looked up to see Eric standing before her with his eyes wide and mouth agape that she realized what she had said. With a man like Eric Northman, there was a large chance her words would be purposely misconstrued.
Eric was, of course, a red-blooded man. It was only natural that his brain immediately dove into the gutter at her words. And though the appropriate response for the role he was playing would most likely be something along the lines of "That's what she said," he couldn't bring himself to say it. Instead, "That's not necessary, Sookie. I am happy to be of service," was his reply.
"Oh, no," Sookie countered. "I must insist on some form of compensation."
Eric rubbed his chin and thought about her statement for a moment. If there was one thing he missed almost as much as his time spent with Sookie, it would be her sticky buns. They were, in a word, heavenly. Having her recipe would be a poor substitute for having her, but it would have to do. It had to.
"Well, since you insist, may I propose an alternative to a financial transaction?" he asked.
Sookie shifted nervously. She wasn't sure she would like what she was about to hear, but nevertheless, she wanted to offer him something for his help. "I'm listening," she replied.
"Teach me to make your delicious sticky buns," he stated. "I've missed them terribly."
Of all the things that could have come out of his mouth, that was the last thing she expected. "That's a family recipe. Can I trust you to keep a secret?"
"Almost as good as you, I would think," he replied dourly.
Sookie wondered what he meant by his statement, but decided it was of no great importance. She only had to do this once. Her new oven would be delivered and she could go back to her normal day tomorrow. "And you would like to learn how to make them this morning?" she asked.
Eric shrugged. "Now seems as good a time as any. I have nothing better to do."
Sookie snorted again, and then internally chastised herself. She wished she would stop doing that. "What? No random hook-up tonight?" she grumbled.
"Not that it's any of your business," he growled, "But no. So it looks like you're stuck with me today."
She looked over to where he was standing and glared at him. Pressing her hands against her hips, she muttered "Fine. Let's get this started, then."
Sookie stood at the prep table with the ingredients placed out in front of her. Eric was standing to her right side and slightly behind her. He was close...too close for her to concentrate on the task at hand. Occasionally, he would sigh softly, and his warm breath would make the tiny wisps of hair which had escaped from her ponytail flutter. She forced herself to focus and set him to work by making him spread the filling across the dough.
"The key is to spread the filling evenly on the strips of dough before you roll them," she instructed. She did one first as an example, and then watched as he mimicked her actions.
"Who taught you to make these?" he asked as he proceeded to the next strip of dough.
"My grandmother," Sookie replied. "The recipe has been passed down through five generation of my family."
She busied herself with prepping the icing she would need to make later while he continued to add the filling to the dough. From time to time, she would watch him, noticing how precise his movements were. He was doing a good job, and it made her lips curve up slightly into a smile. When he had filled the tray with the finished strips, she stopped what she was doing and stepped closer to him.
"Okay, let's roll these out," she said. "Fold one end tightly over and then continue to roll it until you reach the other end. Stand it up on the tray like this when you're finished."
Eric watched intently as she rolled out the first and then followed her lead. The smell of cinnamon and brown sugar hung deliciously in the air and mixed with the sweet scent of the woman beside him, overwhelming his senses. He looked down to the dough he had rolled and laughed. "It's completely lopsided."
Sookie giggled at the mess he made and stepped in front of him. She grabbed another strip of dough and placed it in front of her. "Here. Give me your hands. This is how I learned to do it."
He pressed his chest against her back and wrapped both of his long arms around her sides. Sookie took his hands and placed it over the strip of dough, then covered them with her own. She led him through the action, and this time, a perfect bun was formed. She turned her head to the side and looked up as she spoke to him. "See, you got it right this time." Her hands were still joined with his.
Eric stared at her for what seemed like hours before shaking his head to clear it. There was nothing right about holding an engaged woman, no matter how much he wanted to. He quickly removed his hands from her and took a step backwards. He needed to break the spell she had him under. Ask her about her fiancé , he thought. That will certainly put a damper on what you're feeling right now...
"So, did you teach your fiancé to make these, too?" he asked.
Sookie whipped around to face him, a look of confusion plainly written across her face. She couldn't believe her ears. Perhaps I misheard him, she thought. "Excuse me?"
"Your. Fiancé." he said pointedly. "You know, Bill. Or have you forgotten about him?"
Sookie was furious. She took a step forward and poked him in the chest, leaving a streak of filling on his shirt. "Not that it's any of your business, Eric, but Bill is most definitely not my fiancé ."
It was Eric's turn to be confused. "Wait...what?" he muttered.
"Are you deaf as well as an asshole?" she shouted. "I said, 'Bill. Is. Not. My. Fiancé .' What ever gave you a stupid idea like that, anyways?"
Eric took a half step forward and closed the distance between them. He towered over her tiny frame and stared deeply into her eyes. Her own widened when she realized how close his lips were to hers. As she had done to him, Eric poked her in the chest as he spoke. "Bill did."
"What? When?" she shrieked.
"Almost a year ago," Eric replied, relaxing his aggressive stance slightly. "You and I had coffee that morning as usual, and after you walked into your cafe, he approached me outside of the club. He said he'd seen us talking to each other every morning and he didn't appreciate me making a move on his fiancée."
Eric watched as Sookie's expression changed from that of anger to confusion, and then to what looked like sadness. "Oh my god. That's why you..." she trailed off, unable to put into words what she was truly thinking. Her eyes filled with tears and she blinked furiously, willing them not to fall.
"That's why I what, Sookie?" Eric asked.
"That's why you stopped talking to me," she replied in barely a whisper.
Eric lifted his hands and placed them at either side of her face. His thumbs brushed away an errant tear as he looked into her glistening blue eyes. "Of course that's why I stopped speaking to you. I couldn't be around you...talk to you...laugh with you...want you...knowing you would never be mine. I had to let you go."
Sookie's entire body shook as she cried. "But why didn't you come to me and talk to me about it? I could have...we could have...Oh my god! You must have thought I was just leading you on...god damn it! I hate Bill Compton!" She clutched at Eric's shirt and sobbed into his chest.
Eric wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders, resting his cheek atop her head. "So, based on your reaction, I'm guessing this Bill guy lied to me, huh?" He didn't want to make a joke out of the situation, but the mood in the room certainly called for some lightening up, and apparently, it did the trick. Sookie's body continued to shake against his, but this time, it was from laughter rather than tears.
She pulled back and looked up to see him smiling down at her. "Yeah, I'd say that's the understatement of the century."
Eric's booming laugh reverberated around the small kitchen. "So, tell me. Who is Bill to you, then?"
Sookie snorted again. "Are you sure you want to know the answer to that question? You're going to want to kick yourself."
"Um, apparently my stupidity knows no bounds, so yeah, lay it on me," he replied, chuckling.
"He was my produce delivery guy for about two years," she began. "He asked me out every day, but I wasn't interested and told him as much. But he wouldn't give up. It got so bad I finally had to call my vendor and ask them to change his route. After that, he started showing up all the time, harassing all my male customers and accusing them of wanting to sleep with me. I had to slap a restraining order on him."
Eric groaned and dropped his head to her shoulder. "So you're telling me I wasted an entire year with you because I took the word of a lunatic?"
"Yep," she laughed. "Pretty much."
"Christ, I'm a jackass."
"I won't argue that point with you," Sookie smiled. But just as quickly as it came, it vanished at her next thought. "Eric, what about all the women I saw you with?" she queried. "You didn't look like a man who was pining away after someone. In fact, you seemed rather, um, busy."
Again, Eric groaned as he lifted his head to look into her eyes. "I'm an idiot. They were nothing more than distractions, Sookie...a way to get you off my mind."
Sookie lowered her eyes as she responded to his admission. "And, did it work?"
He removed one arm from around her shoulders and placed a single finger under her chin. He tilted her face up so she could see the truth in his words as he spoke. "Not even once. I always wished it was you. I'm so, so sorry, Sookie. Can you forgive me for being so foolish?"
He looked so sad and defeated. She stared at him for a moment, trying to find the words to form an appropriate response, but failed miserably. Instead, she simply nodded.
All the tension left Eric's body, and he pulled her tightly to his chest once more. "Thank you, Sookie. Thank you so much." He kissed the top of her head before speaking again. "So, now that we've gotten that whole mess sorted out, may I ask you one more question?"
Once more, Sookie nodded.
He bent down, placing his lips next to her ear. "May I please give you the kiss I've been dying to give you for a year now?"
Sookie melted into his embrace. "Yes," she whispered. "Oh, God, yes."
Eric pulled back briefly so he could look at the face he had adored from afar for so long. There was a part of him that still couldn't believe he was finally holding her in his arms. He needed visual confirmation she really wanted him, too. The look of longing in her eyes told him all he would ever need to know.
Both of his hands cupped her cheeks as he closed his eyes and gently lowered his lips to meet hers. Their mouths molded together, softly at first, then more insistent. His tongue tentatively swept across her lower lip. She tasted of cinnamon and sugar, and he couldn't suppress the moan which escaped when she parted her lips and pressed her sweetly flavored tongue against his own.
Sookie's head was swimming. She had imagined kissing Eric so many times, but in all of her daydreams, they never compared to the real thing. It was, in one word, heavenly.
"Sookie," Eric whispered against her mouth. "You taste so good. Cinnamon and sugar...just like your buns."
She slowly pulled away and rested her forehead against his, resisting the urge to laugh at his statement.
Of course, he beat her to the punch. "That sounded really bad, didn't it?"
"I'm just glad it was you who said it this time," she teased. "I've had more than my fair share of 'open mouth, insert foot' moments for the day. Oh! Speaking of my buns, we should really finish this batch up. What do you say? Ready to get back to rolling the buns?"
She kissed the tip of his nose before turning around and making her way back to the prep table. As she walked, Sookie made sure to add a little extra sway in her hips because she knew he'd be watching. She yelped when she felt a swat against her backside.
Eric was staring at her with a devilish grin on his face as she turned to look at him. "Actually, I think I'd prefer to stand over here and keep an eye on yours."
"So, sweet girl, would you allow me to take you out on a proper date tonight?" Eric asked as Sookie finished rolling out the last bun.
"I'm not that sweet," she replied with a smile and a bat of her eyelashes. "But in answer to your question, yes, I would like that very much."
Eric was pretty sure the smile her response elicited was so big it could be seen from outer space.
Sookie covered the completed tray of buns with a towel and set them aside. "So, these need about forty-five minutes to rise before we can put them in the oven to bake. What should we do until then?"
"Hmm," Eric replied as he pulled her by the hand through the kitchen and down a narrow hallway. "I know just the thing! I need your opinion on something."
"Oh yeah?" she asked. "What's that?"
"I recently bought some new furniture for my office, and I'd like to know what you, um...think of it."
Sookie giggled as Eric picked her up and carried her through his office door. He slammed it closed with his foot, and before she could even blink, he had her stretched across his lap on a huge, black leather sofa.
"Do you like it?" he murmured as he kissed along the curve of her jaw.
"I think I need to spend a little more time on it," Sookie replied breathlessly. "It's the only way I can make an informed decision."
Forty-five minutes later, Sookie gave Eric's sofa her stamp of approval.
"So, Miss Stackhouse," Eric said after he licked the last of the glaze off of his finger. "I've been thinking about your oven dilemma."
Sookie stopped icing her buns and cocked an inquiring eyebrow in his direction. "Oh really?"
"Yeah," he replied with a smirk. "I think you need a Viking to heat up your buns. I hear they're the best."