I Write the Songs Contest Entry
Song/Story title: Yellow Ledbetter by Pearl Jam
Rating: M for language and suggestive content.
Pen name: evenflo78
Summary: One truck driver, a flat tire, and a rain-drenched girl. Drifting hearts don't always have to be lonesome. AH/OOC Written for IWTS2
Disclaimer: The characters and song belong to their respective owners; no copy right infringement is intended.
You don't mind if I call you that, do you? I sure hope not, because I've left it with you. Maybe it's too soon. Maybe I really am crazy. To love someone so suddenly, so completely... I can't even begin to describe how it shook me. I'm totally nuts over you.
The road life was not meant for everyone. Don't mistake, it's not rocket science, or brain surgery for that matter. It was simply... different. Lonely, if he could admit it to himself.
There were countless long days, and even longer nights. Rest stops with black sludge in the guise of coffee, uncomfortable beds and sleepless nights. No Doze was a staple. Conversations consisted of niner's and breaker, breakers. A language all their own, or code, as it were.
A trucker had countless friends, most of which were strangers. When the nights were particularly dragging, there was always someone out there to talk to. Someone else driving that endless mile along a dark stretch of highway.
And yet... loneliness still weighed heavily on his shoulders. Still bricked up Eric's heart and cut short his "heyhowareya's" with every female he came into contact with. Loving someone was out of the question.
What kind of life did he have to offer? He was gone three hundred forty days out of every year. Lost between cities and towns, somewhere near Nowheresville with a cup of joe, a seat made of bricks, and a Citizens Brand radio.
If he ever were to have someone to come home to at the end of that monotonous day, how could he bear to start the next one? He couldn't conceive of leaving her a stone-cold pillow to cuddle up next to. Wouldn't she be just as lonely at the end of the day, too?
Eric shook his head and beat at his damn lumpy pillow. Again. Better to be one godforsaken pea in a pod than two.
He hated nights like this. Nights when he was so worn out he couldn't see straight. When those guiding, white lines blurred so obscurely through the rain, he may as well have been driving in the clouds, for all the difference he could tell. Nights when his brain wouldn't shut the hell up like he'd told it to a million and a half times all ready.
A loud rap on the window gave him a start, and he cursed when he knocked his head on the overhead compartment. He was still rubbing it when he cranked the door open. Oh, he was never going to sleep now. His headache pounded with a vengeance.
"So sorry to bother." Her voice rang clearly, though his eyes had yet to focus. "I was hoping you had a jack. I had a blowout about a mile back – you're the first car I've seen out in this mess– and I know how to change it. Damn car company screwed me, I tell ya. I've got a spare and iron, but no jack."
He sputtered for a moment, still rubbing his head and squinting in the light of the cab, before his tired eyes adjusted marginally. "What? Who?"
"Oh my gosh, you were asleep. I'm so sorry," she whined.
"'S'all right." He finally zeroed in on the drowned rat chattering outside the door. Soaking wet from head to toe, and shivering slightly, she was still the loveliest thing he'd set eyes on in a long time. If not his whole life. "Wasn't sleeping."
She took a step to the side as he hopped out of the truck and into the rain. It'd slowed to a light drizzle by comparison to the sheets of rain he'd been driving through a few hours previous.
"Oh, good," she breathed, a hand raising to cover her chest. "I can bring it right back," she said, hopeful.
Her wide eyes blinked up at the mountain of a man, turning his entire world turned upside down as tiny drips of rain fluttered from her lashes. "What?" he repeated, dumbly.
"Your jack? Won't take long." She looked over her shoulder and pointed. "Those two flashers? That's me. Just a quick change and I can drive it right back to ya." She smiled up at the stranger.
Eric blinked. "Lemme grab it; I'll help you."
She traipsed after him to the other side of his truck. "You don't have to do that. I've done it a million times."
"No trouble, ma'am."
"Sure you don't mind?" she pressed, her chilly fingers brushing lightly against his forearm.
Single gal in the middle of bumfuck, Alabama, on a dark, rainy night, all by her lonesome, in need of a tire change? His Momma'd raised him better than that. "I Insist."
She squealed. "Thank you so much!" Eric flinched and cleared his throat as she bounced. Didn't she realize her shirt was the color of Saran Wrap? "Such a gentleman. I was hoping you weren't a creeper, or a psycho-serial-killer, something like that."
He chuckled, slinging the heavy bag over his shoulder. "How do you know I'm not?"
She frowned and peeked over at him as they started hiking toward her car. He'd have driven her if he could. This narrow road? There was no way he could turn around.
"I guess I don't," she finally answered, then offered him a genuine smile. It stunned him stupid. "But I got a feeling."
"Well, I'm not a killer."
"I am," she grinned. "In case you were wondering."
He snorted and shook his head. Little thing that she was. One hundred fifteen pounds, he reckoned, counting her rain-soaked clothes and hair. Eric figured he'd have no trouble picking her up and tossing her around like a sack of potatoes, if he had a mind to. Killer, his hairy ass.
"What cha doing out this late, anyhow?" he asked truly curious. It was nearing four in the morning. Pretty girl out that late was asking for trouble most of the time.
She shrugged and skipped ahead of him, turning to walk backwards. "Just driving." Her eyes twinkled slightly, he noticed. "So, where ya from, handsome?"
Took him off guard, it did.
Handsome? Not particularly. Rugged? Maybe. Gruff? A little. He was tall, sure, with sun-darkened skin from too many hours outside. He hadn't had a decent shave in... He couldn't even remember. His last shower had been days ago; he could tell from the smell of his clothes. He sniffed and made a face. The rain seemed to amplify that fact.
Certainly not handsome.
"Uh, um, Missouri," he cleared his throat. "Right outside of Mexico."
"Never heard of it." She continued her reverse shuffle. It made him a little nervous, but the road was deserted. "There's a Mexico in Missouri?"
He nodded. "'Bout two hours outside of St. Louis. What about you? Where are you from?"
"Here and there. A little bit of everywhere. Move around a lot." She didn't seem inclined to go further, so he didn't press. "Here we are."
Walking up to the flat, he set his bag on the ground and got to work. "What's your name?" He could hardly believe he hadn't thought to ask.
"Oh, where are my manners?" she chided herself as she popped the trunk of her car. "Sookie Stackhouse, pleased to meet ya."
Eric took her outstretched hand, even as he remained squatting. "Eric Northman, flat repair extraordinaire, at your service, ma'am."
Sookie giggled girlishly and released his hand, making him scratch at the scruff covering his chin to hide his smile. "My Gran would go nuts over you."
She walked back to the trunk and pulled out her spare. He barely heard a grunt before it bounced into view. Then she stepped behind him and started talking.
"I can't believe I got a flat," she complained. "I think I hit something a little ways back. Raccoon or opossum. I don't even know."
Rambling really, if he took the time to define it. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it, just a storm of words flying out of her mouth, in semi-complete sentences. It made him smile, and laugh, and take a lot longer to change her little tire than probably necessary.
"I can't wait to see her. My Gran," she continued. "Gosh, I'm hungry." He tossed the last of his tools back in his bag and faced her as he stood. "Buy you breakfast? It's the least I can do."
His stomach grumbled in response, even as he hesitated. He'd originally planned to drive through the night, hoping to hit Mississippi by morning and then find a motel and a bath, but the storm had shot that plan to hell.
He was behind schedule, as it was. "I reckon I could eat," he said. A man needed fuel.
She drove him back to his truck and waved to him as he hopped back in to follow her. Twenty minutes later, he was off the highway and sitting across from her at a twenty-four hour diner, complete with jukebox and checkered walls and squeaky, Naugahyde booths.
She was even more stunning in the buzzing, florescent lights. "Your hair is curly," he said.
She blew out a puff of air. "I must look a fright," she laughed nervously. "It waves a bit on its own. Wouldn't call it curly though, just ornery enough to irritate me."
"It's nice," he encouraged, enjoying as her cheeks pinked. It was very pleasant. Blond and falling to her mid-back, even with the unruly curls, it looked a bit of a mess, but beautiful all the same. "I like it," he admitted, averting his eyes back to the menu.
"You charmer, you," she preened. "You're far too kind."
The waitress came over to drop their drinks – coffee for him, hot chocolate with extra whipped cream for Sookie – then took her leave once she'd jotted down their orders.
Sookie talked all through breakfast, with as much enthusiasm and coherency as before. Eric found it surprisingly... not annoying. She folded two napkins and tucked them into the front of her shirt, which amused him.
She talked with her mouth full. Charming. Refreshing. Not many women did that. When she was finished, Sookie sat back, rubbed her belly and groaned. Then she belched and he couldn't contain his laughter. He adored her.
"'Scuse me," she said, quickly covering her mouth. "I ate too fast."
Eric burped in agreement. "Now we're even."
Sookie laughed, and he hid his grin behind the mug of coffee. Slightly better than sludge, he had to admit. "You don't talk much, do you?"
Not that she'd let him, he thought. A regular chatterbox, she was. "I've enjoyed listening."
"Oh, gosh," she checked her watch, and Eric's heart thumped with resignation. "I've got to get going. I can't believe how late it's gotten."
Sookie waved to the waitress, who dropped their check off. He had to bite his hand to keep from reaching for it. His manners begged him to pay for the fascinating lady's meal, but he withheld. It'd been her offer.
"Thanks so much for all your help, Eric," she gushed as he walked her to her beat up Toyota.
"It was my pleasure."
Before he could protest, she'd strolled up to him and wrapped her tiny arms around his middle. He sucked in a breath and gave her back an awkward pat. He wasn't much of a hugger. His Momma had probably been the last person to ever embrace him.
Then she leaned close, lifting high on her toes, and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"You're a regular hero," she whispered. "See ya 'round." With a flourishing wave from the open window of her car, she was gone.
I know you probably don't feel the same, and that's okay. We've only just met, for crying out loud! I kind of hope that you don't, actually. It would make things easier. Love is never simple. For such a small word, it sure carries a lot of weight.
I just wanted you to know how I felt, in hopes that it'll help you understand the rest of what I'm about to say. If you hate me by the end, I promise no hard feelings.
It's a fool's fancy to expect you'll forgive me, I know, but I request that you at least see this letter to its end. Pretty please. I'm not too proud to beg.
I have so many things I want to say. So much I should probably confess. I guess it's best to just start at the beginning.
"Yes, ma'am. I know it's been a while."
"Try Christmas," she fussed.
"I was there a couple months ago, fixing the busted pipe in your bathroom."
Her voice went hard, like only a mother's could. "Don't sass me, boy."
"Sorry, Momma. I'm about ready to drop." Eric sighed and rubbed at his eyes.
"My sweet baby," his mother crooned from the other end of the line. Why was it, even at thirty-nine years old, his Momma could make him feel like a homesick ninny? "You work too much. I keep telling you take a little vacation. It'd do you miles of good."
"I know," he agreed. "I've got some time coming up soon."
"Just don't forget about this poor old broad, sitting here by her lonesome. I miss you, sweet baby."
Oh, jeez. His mom only pulled out the 'sweet baby' guns when she was feeling considerably forlorn. He was all she had left, and he felt guilty as a son-of-a-bitch. Her endearment turned him to mush. Every. Single. Time.
"Miss you too, Momma." He had to get her off the phone before he choked up. "I gotta get off here, though. Promise to call soon as I can."
"Okay, baby. You be careful, now. Love you."
"Love you, too. Bye-bye."
Eric let out a groaning yawn and tossed his phone into the passenger seat. Fifteen more miles and he'd be in Delray. Fifteen more miles and he was going to put his bare feet in the sand, walk the kinks out of his back, and maybe, if he were lucky, he'd even get to sleep on those weathered grains.
His trailer was empty, at least for now, and he was going to take a few hours to himself if it killed him. At the beach, no less. He'd never been. Drove by them? Sure. Thousands of times. Never had stopped to appreciate one, though.
April was cooler, but nowhere near cold. It was quite warm enough for him to enjoy a few hours pretending he was nothing but a beach bum. He was pleasantly surprised after he parked his truck and walked the short distance to the beach to find it was relatively abandoned.
He took off his shoes and stuffed his socks inside. After a slight hesitation, he took off his over shirt and tossed it on top of the lot, then took off down the white sands.
It didn't take Eric long to discover the water was quite cold. However, it perked him up damn efficiently. He felt down right rejuvenated.
"You again," she cried. He stumbled and his heart galloped. "Well, I'll be damned. I never thought I'd see you in a million lifetimes."
"That makes two of us," he said, grinning as he turned to face Sookie. "What in the world are you doin' here?"
Not that he was complaining. He honestly never thought he'd see her again. He'd hoped, and hope was damned near impossible to squash, but he hadn't believed it. Not for one measly second.
Blinding as the sun, and only ten feet away, she stood in a pale yellow slip of a dress, smiling at him as if he were a long-time friend. She was even more beautiful than he remembered.
"Own the beach, do ya?" she asked hotly. Hands on her hips, toes in the sand, and hair swimming wildly in the wind, she looked as if she belonged only there. "It's good to see you."
"You too," he agreed as she joined him in his walk. They headed back the way he'd came. Eric didn't mind. Not at all.
"Surprised you remember me."
Was she kidding? How could he ever forget her? Sookie had been tattooed in his every thought since she'd sped away that early morning seven months before. No matter how hard he'd tried to shake her away, she still crept back in, wriggling her way to the forefront. Hell, he even dreamt about the girl.
"'Course I do," he admitted. "Live nearby?"
She shook her head. "Visiting. I lived on the beach when I was... oh, about six, I believe. I missed it. Nice, huh?" She kicked at the water, watching in delight as the splatter vaulted into the air before falling back into the foam.
"Very," he agreed. "This is my first trip."
"Really?" she asked, surprised. He only nodded. "Oh, man! I find that hard to believe. You gonna go swimming?"
He cringed at the thought. "Still a bit cold for that, I think."
"No way," she said, grabbing his arm and yanking him to a stop. "You have to swim. What's a visit to the beach without a swim? A waste," she answered, not allowing him the chance. "Come on," she tugged.
He followed, of course. She hadn't given him much choice. Now she'd turned them back around, away from the few beach-goers where he'd left his things. Sookie stopped, just as suddenly, and dropped his arm.
"Wait," he called, "I don't have a suit."
She gave a shrug, her smile plum wicked. "Neither do I."
Eric choked. "I'm not swimming naked."
"Why not?" She made a show of covering her eyes with her hand. "Strip. I won't peek." Then her fingers opened and a single eye peered from between them. "Much," she amended.
He was on the fence. On one hand, he'd never been ashamed of his body. He knew he was strong – it showed in his muscular frame – but he was hardly a Calvin Klein model. More like one of those Strong Man competitors, he was built like a bus.
On the other, this was Sookie. This was her. He couldn't handle the idea of her balking at his nudity. Was he too hairy? Too wide? He didn't have six-pack abs, and he had tattoos. He wasn't really sexy. He cleaned up okay, he supposed, but he hardly had time for that.
Jeez, he'd never been more self-conscious in his life. Never mind his sexual prowess. He'd never felt more like an insecure little boy.
Shaking off his diffidence, he yanked the t-shirt over his head and dropped it to the sand.
Sookie's hand fell from her eyes. "Oh, my." One little slip, and his confidence had been restored. He went for the fly of his jeans. "You're a big one, aren't ya?" Those blue eyes of hers sparked in appreciation.
He'd be lying if he said his body hadn't reacted to her obvious appraisal. Which was going to make stripping the rest of the way a bit awkward. He wasn't hard, but the riffraff between his legs had definitely liked the attention.
Oblivious, Sookie smiled up at him. "Race ya!" she squealed.
Then she took off toward the spray. First her dress fell to the sand, then her tiny panties, and Eric was left standing with his fingers on his zipper, dumbstruck. Well, he was certainly saluting now. She was glorious.
Beautifully, gloriously, naked.
She waded in to her waist, then, with one final glance over her shoulder, dove head-first into the water. She surfaced after only a moment, gasping and wiping at her eyes as she searched to find him.
"What are you waiting for? The water is freezing. Come on, slow poke."
Only when she plunged beneath the crystal waters, did he make a move to discard the rest of his clothing. Taking advantage of the fact she couldn't see, he sprinted into the water, flinching at the chilly temperature. Which, fortunately, helped with his other problem.
"Aww," she pouted when she emerged, "I missed the show."
Then she disappeared again, leaving him struggling to adjust to the frigid tide. Eric gave a whoop when he was unexpectedly pulled under by tiny hands shackling his ankles.
He came up sputtering and gasping. "That's cold." He narrowed his eyes at her. "Oh, you're in trouble now."
Sookie squealed and took off, swimming quickly along the surface. He caught her easily by diving beneath and pressing through the drag, fighting off her flailing legs as he grabbed her knees and tugged downward.
He let her go, and they both came up laughing. He couldn't believe how utterly beautiful she was. Then the game began again. First, she'd chased him, then he'd stalked her. His cheeks were hurting from smiling so much, and he hadn't laughed so hard in years.
Skinny-dipping with a beautiful woman? He couldn't think of anything more entertaining.
"Gotcha," she exclaimed, her arms holding tight around his throat from behind.
He snatched her around and pulled her into his arms, delighted by her peals of laughter. She was flushed, as he suspected he was, the cool water no longer an issue.
Sookie's legs encircled his, her arms draping over his shoulders like a long-lost lover. Her breasts tickled his chest in rhythm with the jostling waves, and his breath caught in a ragged exhale.
Only then did she seem to notice their states of undress. The smile fell from her face, turning her gaze into one of desire. She launched herself forward. Eric supported her weight easily in the water, but faltered briefly as her pillow-soft lips bulldozed into his.
Her slick tongue caressed his lips and he opened with a strangled groan, his grip around her waist tightening. She stole the very air from his lungs when she delved to explore, quickly retreating to grant him the chase. He covered her mouth with equal hunger, never having had such a thorough or more exhilarating kiss.
He'd been wrong. Kissing Sookie was infinitely more entertaining.
She pulled back on a whimper. "Beautiful, beautiful, man. Where have you been all my life?" she breathed.
Then she pressed on his chest, his already weakened knees collapsed, and he was easily submerged. When his eyes were clear of the salty water, he found her bobbing head as she swam back to shore, her giggles echoing behind her.
Acting on impulse, Eric gave hunt, tracking her to the beach, oblivious to his nakedness as he approached his prey laid out in the sand. He pounced like a lion, tackling her body, her lips, her skin, with his mouth and hands.
"Definitely a big boy," she purred. "My, oh, my."
Time lost all meaning as they made out like teenagers, heavy-petting had never been more of a rush. Eric probably had sand in his ass, but he couldn't have cared less. An angel was in his arms, her kiss fresh on his swollen lips. He ached like never before.
"I should go," she panted, pressing lightly on his chest. "It's really late. I should get back."
Was she trying to convince him or herself? He continued to kiss along her smooth neck, the scar just below her jaw, enjoying the tiny shivers his touch elicited. He was never letting her go, if he had his way. Not ever.
"I don't want to," Sookie continued. "God, I wish I could stay like this forever."
Her hands found his backside and squeezed, pressing him precariously close to where he longed to reside. Her heat, the wetness there, was like a breath against the head of his cock, teasing, taunting. Inviting.
Eric groaned. "Stay," he begged, shameless. "Stay with me."
"I can't," she cursed. He reluctantly let her go when she wiggled beneath him. Damn it, he already missed her skin. "They'll be worried. Probably looking for me as we speak."
"Who?" he asked, watching as she gathered her clothes and began slipping them back on. "You can use my cell to call, if you'd like." He was so gone, not even the petulance in his voice seemed to bother him.
She shook her head and pulled a wallet from the pocket of her dress, where she extracted a scrap of paper and a pen. It gave him the hope he needed to pull himself together. If she would just give him a number to call, a way to contact her...
"I'm so sorry. I feel like a tease." She was clearly flustered, and her eyes roamed restlessly. If he didn't know better, he would've said she looked frightened. Maybe she was just as disappointed as he was. Sookie laughed nervously. "I am such a tease," she sighed.
He chuckled as he slid on his pants. She was a tease, not like he would call her that. Or blame her, for that matter. Hell, this was only the second time they'd met. He supposed they hardly knew each other. He couldn't fault her for not wanting to do get down and dirty with a relative stranger.
"I got carried away, Sookie. I apologize for that." He could hardly bring himself to be ungentlemanly toward her. He reached for his shirt.
"Say it again," she whispered, stilling him with a hand to his bare chest.
He frowned, distracted by her touch alone. "What?"
"My name," she smiled sweetly. "Say it again, please."
"Sookie," he obeyed.
Her eyes rolled back, the lids fluttering closed as she put a hand dramatically to her forehead. "You're a devilish man, Eric, I do declare. Make a lady want to do positively sinful things."
His pride swelled at the compliment. He didn't strut. He didn't. "You're not any better," he teased. She wasn't. Sookie made him want things he had no right to. He'd break every rule, every law, for her.
"Where you gonna be on the twenty-ninth of next month?"
The question startled him. "I'm not sure. Why?"
She scribbled something on that scratch piece of paper and handed it to him. An address. His pulse raced in triumph. "Meet me there. If you can."
Of course he would. He'd meet her anywhere. He'd travel a million miles out of his way for her laugh alone. For her smile? Beyond the Milky Way, he reckoned. "I'll do my best."
I want to tell you about my parents. You asked me to tell you once, and I couldn't, but I'm opening my book to you now. It's yours for the taking. You've stolen my heart, it seems such a pitiful thing to hold on to.
They were in love. In love as two people could ever be. But my father was in the Army. They sent him away when I was just a young thing. Wars are not kind, not for anyone. I've witnessed many families torn apart because of them. Mine among them.
I was naive though, and maybe my mom was too. I knew, just knew, my parents love was strong enough to get them through the months and months they were forced to spend apart.
But I was wrong.
My dad came home with a flag and a medal, encased in a wooden tomb, and I watched as my mother broke. Helplessness is not something a child should ever feel, and yet I felt it.
She seemed okay for a while, seemed to be surviving. But I saw the light die in her eyes. I saw her will to live dwindle down to nothing. At first it was little things, laundry going unfinished, dirty dishes piling up in the sink, and then one day she forgot to pick my brother and me up from school.
Then it was dinner she forgot to cook. Gas lines she forgot to turn off. Candles she forgot to blow out. She survived the fire, but the house didn't. They admitted her to a hospital and sent us to live with our grandparents. We were happy there, but it was never the same.
I promised myself, vowed to myself, that I'd never, ever let that happen to me. Originally, I planned to never get married. Never fall in love or open my heart up to that kind of hurt.
I met him when I was eighteen. He was a Marine and I fell madly in love. We married a year later.
"You snore," she teased, her fingers combing though his chest hair, rousing him in more ways than one. "Not like a grizzly or anything."
"Sorry," he mumbled sleepily.
He felt her shrug. "It's cute."
"Snoring isn't cute." Eric pried open his eyes, stretching and curling around her lithe body as she sprawled next to him. Her bare flesh greeted him, and he was suddenly alert. "I didn't mean to fall asleep."
He'd drove all day the day before and straight through the night to meet her. The town was in the middle of swampland Louisiana, abandoned houses and weeping trees led the way to the relative shack they were holed up in. Aside from one large building, a hospital likely, he hadn't passed a single business down her strip of road.
'Ghost town' came to mind. Had he been in Texas, he would've expected a few rolling tumbleweeds blowing in the wind.
His excitement at seeing Sookie again had overridden any questions he might have had, though. Her greeting at the door had been an assault of kisses and tight embraces and, "I missed you's," that had led to a heated frenzy of sex right there on her living room floor.
Not that he minded, really, but he had wanted it to be more special, more memorable, for their first time. Well, he hadn't expected the sex at all, but he was hope's little bitch. In the end though, it'd played out nothing like he'd fantasized it might.
"I don't mind in the least," she grinned up at him, curling tighter around his side. "Quite the compliment to sex a man to sleep, I gotta admit."
He wrapped her in his arms, locking them around her waist while he rolled them until she was nestled on top. "Who are you?" he asked in disbelief. Men like him were never lucky enough to be with women like her.
She sniggered and burrowed deeper in his embrace. Stray hairs caught in his whiskers, tickling his face. He didn't dare to brush them away. "I'm me, silly."
He traced the curve of her hip and ran his fingers over her back. Small welts marred her skin there, and he wondered absently if they matched the more exaggerated ones on her stomach, the larger, white scar under the swell of her breast. How had they got there?
"I mean, who are you really? I hardly know a thing about you. Tell me about your family?" he asked instead. He wanted to know so many things. He wanted to know everything.
"Not much to tell, really," she said, raising up to meet his eyes. "My dad died when I was pretty young, and my mom left not long after. Gran raised me and my brother – he's almost as much of a wandering spirit as I am, by the way – but she passed away a little over a year ago."
"But I thought you'd said you were excited to see her? The first time we met, I figured that's where you were headed."
She frowned and looked down at his arms, still idly mapping her body. "Did I?" She had. He knew she had. Eric remembered every word she'd said since she had blown into his life that stormy night. "Must've misunderstood."
He didn't argue. "Tell me more," he urged. "Tell me something else."
Sookie's grin was seductive. "I love your body," she whispered, her breasts swaying in a distracting way as she lowered her lips to press a kiss to his nipple.
"What the hell for?" he found himself asking.
She sat up and gave a dramatic sweep. "It's so manly. So strong." Her hands wrapped around his biceps and he shivered when her fingernails dug into his skin. "You are the epitome of what it means to be a man."
He scoffed. "Not. Maybe if being smelly and hairy means you're a man."
"Stop that." She gave him a playful slap. "You're total eye-candy, baby. Arms meant for working, thighs the size of tree trunks, your shoulders, my God, your shoulders. And don't even get me started on your stomach." Her nails gave a scratch there, and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. "You're the kind of man women swoon over."
"Hardly," he whispered, though with much less conviction. She was doing a damn fine job of persuading him. "But I'm glad you appreciate what I have to offer."
Her arms went behind her back, her small hand cupping him between his thighs. "Oh, it's definitely appreciated." She gave him one, swift stroke then let him go. He wasn't sure if he was grateful or disappointed. "Now, tell me about your day. How was work?"
"I'd rather talk about you," he groaned, still gripping the hell out of her luscious thighs. Sookie had completely undone him.
"Well, I wanna hear about your day. Did it take you long to drive?"
Putty in her hands, his lips opened to spill it all. She listened raptly, as if he were spinning the most fascinating tale in the world, as he droned about day-old coffee, and foul-mouthed consumers, complaining their shipment was twenty minutes late.
He even told her about the conversation with his Momma. The one that'd nearly succeeded in making him feel guilty enough to cancel his plans to meet Sookie and visit her instead. Almost. Now that he was here, he couldn't believe he'd ever had a second thought.
"Aww, you're a momma's boy," she cooed.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he groaned, rolling his eyes. He gave her sides a tickle. "You got a shower I can borrow? I smell like a horse." And sex, which he planned on smelling like again once he washed off some of his own funk.
She leaned down and took an exaggerated whiff. "Smell like a man to me." Her tongue darted out, flicking his nipple. "Mmm. Taste like one too."
He flipped them over, resting easily between her legs which had slid open in invitation, and caging her with his elbows. "I'm a beast." His hair fell forward into his eyes, reminding him he needed a trim.
"Man," she argued, reaching up to nip at his chin. He watched her with enchantment. "Magnificent." She kissed his neck. "Powerful." His jaw. "Beautiful." Her tongue licked at the shell of his ear and he shuddered. "Man."
He pushed up to his hands, hovering above her much slighter form. Hypnotized, was how he felt. Drugged and under her spell, and completely out of his mind for her.
"You drive me insane," he bit out, leaning his weight to one arm so he could touch her pretty skin. He traced her scars. Little, white lines that seemed to only magnify her beauty. "I want to know the story behind these. I want to know where you're from. I want to know so many things. Most importantly," he groaned as he fingers met with her silky heat, "I want to take my time with you, but you drive me batshit crazy."
His fingers thrust deep, without much resistance, and he took great pleasure in the way her body arched to meet his palm. She was so very wet and it amazed him that it was all for him.
Eric stroked her carefully, watching her body react, the shivers he elicited, her mewls of pleasure, and he craved each response she gave like a starving man. Then he replaced his hand with his cock, achingly hard. It damn near hurt, and he could have cried in exaltation when he finally made that slow slide into her.
When all was said and done, though, he had taken his time. He'd kissed everywhere he could reach, touched and caressed her feverish skin until she'd cried his name in earnest. He more than had sex with her; he made love to her.
Where their first coupling had been frantic and desperate, this one had been lazy and intimate. Eye to eye and cheek to cheek, he'd answered her cries with fervent groans. He'd given her the best sex of his life. His crescendo had paralyzed him, and she'd wrapped him in her arms, bearing his weight until he could move once more.
Eric pulled Sookie into his side, needing to have her close enough to touch. He would have every inch of her memorized before the day was over, he vowed. He'd intended to shower, but he remained in that bed next to her where they talked until the sun went down.
I was luckier than my mother. My husband came back alive.
Changed, confused, and scarred, but he came back home, and that was all that'd mattered to me at the time. I don't know, maybe there was something that had lived inside him to begin with, something hidden deep that I'd never had the chance to peek at.
Something broken and evil.
In the beginning, it was only the occasional slap on the face. They grew to punches and shoves, and serious beatings that I made excuse on top of excuse for. War had wounded him, I rationalized. Wars are frightening and life-altering, I reasoned.
He didn't mean to shove me down the stairs. He never meant to knock my teeth out.
My excuses stopped when he killed my baby.
I never even knew. Never had an inkling of an idea that I might have been pregnant. It was the first time he'd used a knife. Beer bottles and dishes, cigarette's and belts, he'd used plenty of times. It was the first time I actually feared he was trying to kill me. Damn near succeeded, to tell you the truth. I spent weeks in the hospital. It was there that I learned about the fetus.
It was premeditated, you see?
I told you the first time I met you that I was a killer. You thought I was kidding, but I wasn't. I killed that murdering son-of-a-bitch with his fucking knife without a second's hesitation. And I would do it again. No remorse. Eye for an eye.
Does that make me a bad person? It wasn't his fault that he cracked. He had never been like that before. Or did he choose to go berserk on me? Did he want to kill me? Did he want to kill our unborn child?
Maybe I was wrong for what I did. I don't know. Maybe I am as insane as they say.
Am I insensitive? Am I lacking in compassion? I felt... vindicated, if for only that moment as I watched his blood soak into the mattress. I think, maybe, there is something... not quite right with me.
It's only because of a fluke in the system that I'm not on death row right now. Something about predisposition for depression and psychotic disorders – thank you, Mom – along with the harsh evidence of my deceased husbands crimes against me, and I'm sent on my merry way to the state hospital for further observation and treatment.
Thirty-four years, I've been kicking and screaming on this earth, and I've just now found you. It hardly seems fair.
They'll drug me into a drooling idiot when they find me. They always do. But eventually, the narcotics wear off, and I'm lucid enough to fake taking them again. Then I'll escape. It may take longer, I can't be sure. Their security gets better with each of my break-outs. Damn them.
So, you see, I don't leave your side out of choice, but out of necessity. If I go back on my own it's not as bad. I'll go AWOL here in another month or two to spend a few days pretending I live someone else's life. Pretending I have a life.
I feel it's only fair to tell you, as we've met in several states now, that I lie, cheat, and steal, to get myself wherever I need to go. Wherever I want to go. Never the same place twice. It's a rule of mine.
My life hasn't been easy. Sometimes I feel a little like Evander Holyfield to Life's Mike Tyson, but then I imagine myself the opposite. Kicking ass and taking names. Never giving up, and never surrendering.
I don't expect I'll ever see you again. As much as I hate that idea, it's probably for the best. To have spent one night in your arms, one night pretending that I was yours and you were mine, and our love was eternal and unbreakable, is enough to allow me to die a happy woman.
The way I figure it, they'll never let me out of that miserable hospital. Even if they do, it's straight to the big house for me. They'll wise up to me eventually. Each day is a gift for a walking dead woman.
Take care of my heart. It's yours until the end.
He carefully folded the note, mindful of the previous creases. It took him several tries to return it to its envelop. The shaking in his hands wouldn't quit. The lump in his throat, he couldn't swallow. Eric blinked and then blinked some more.
Such was life.
He stood, leaving the letter behind on the porch where he'd found it, and squinted in the light of the new day. Then he walked back inside the empty home and gathered his things.
Standing in front of the bed, he took his time dressing, determined to brand each detail of the tiny cottage to memory. Images of their time together flashed behind his eyelids, and he squeezed his lids tight. He would not cry. He wouldn't.
With a sigh and rough tug through his shaggy hair, he finally grabbed his keys and walked out the door. He didn't bother to lock it. It was likely abandoned as he'd first expected. He cranked up his truck and started down the road. It was time to get back to work.
Maybe he was the one that was certifiable, but he was far from done with Sookie Stackhouse. He'd spring her from her prison, if he had to. His life was on the road, as it was. Somehow, someday, he knew he'd see her again.
A/N: Only a small portion of this story was based on actual lyrics from my song choice. However, the incoherency and melancholy of the song itself inspired what this actually grew to be. Sometimes we, as writers, start out with one thing in mind, only to be boggled when the story flips ass over elbows – as this one did – and there's not much choice but to run with it. Or maybe that's just me.
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