5. Opening Doors

Sookie ran her hands down Eric’s naked chest, fascinated by the definition of his muscles. Leaning forward she planted a trail of gentle kisses down his neck and Pecs before sucking one of his nipples between her soft, pink lips. He hissed out her name and pulled her back up, crashing his mouth against hers, both of them moaning hungrily as their hands explored every inch of naked flesh that was uncovered. Sookie gasped as Eric’s long, thick fingers found their way into her panties and dipped between her folds, sliding effortlessly inside her before moving to rub her clit gently.

“Eric I’m so wet for you, I need you.”

She rubbed his length through his boxer shorts, the small gasp of surprise she let out when she felt how well endowed he was made Eric smirk and redouble his efforts in pleasuring her.

Knock, knock, knock.

Turning around, Sookie straddled Eric’s shoulders before lowering her mouth towards his hard

Knock, knock.

“What? Who’s there?” Sookie removed her hand from between her legs and grabbed the shampoo, frustrated at the interruption to her fantasy.

“Hi Sookie, its Pam. I just wanted to make sure you had everything you needed.”

“Uh … yeah, I’ve got everything I need right here.”

“Okay then, breakfast is almost ready.”

“I’ll be done soon.”

Pam walked away from the bathroom door and immediately went to the basement, running downstairs and finding a red-faced Eric sitting up in bed with a pillow in his lap.

“Mom! Come on! You know it’s polite to knock, I could have been walking around naked!”

Pam opened and closed her mouth a few times, realising in her haste to make sure her Son wasn’t upstairs in the bathroom with their guest; she walked in on him masturbating. Mortified, she ran back up to the kitchen, passing the door that she’d heard Sookie calling out her Son’s name from only moments ago. Felipe noted his wife’s pale appearance as she entered the room and frantically started cracking eggs into a bowl.

“Are you okay Mi Belleza?”

“I’m fine, fine, nothing wrong with me, no sir!”

“Suuuure, come now Pammy! Tell me what’s got you so spooked.”

“I went to see if Sookie had everything she needed and I heard her … well she was moaning Eric’s name, so I went to the basement because … Eric isn’t ready for that and I was worried he was in there with her.”

Felipe put his mug of coffee on the table and stared at Pam. “Was he?”

“No! I … interrupted him. They were both … y’know.”

Felipe started laughing. “Querido, I can assure you that they will be more upset about this than you and just to add – if Eric feels like he’s ready for something – then he’s ready. You know he won’t let anyone push him, just let it happen Pammy, he’s an adult.”

Pam nodded and Felipe went out to get the paper, as he opened the front door he heard car doors slamming closed and looked up to see a woman with small device in her hand and a man with a camera running towards him. His eyes almost popped out of his head and he slammed the door closed, bracing his back against it as if the people were going to start breaking it down.

“PAAAAAAAM!”

Pam ran out of the kitchen wiping her hands on a ratty tea-towel. “What? What’s wrong Felipe?”

“I can’t get to the paper. I opened the door and some woman and a guy with a camera ran towards me!”

Pam’s pale face whitened further before she turned towards the study where their guest was staying. “SOOKIEEEEEE!”

The actress opened the door to the study and walked out barefoot with a brush in her hand. “Uh … hi, do you need me for something?”

“Sookie, we think there are reporters outside!”

“WHAT? Shit, fuck, how? Wait!” She ran back into the study and came out with her cell phone at her ear. “Arlene, they found me, I don’t know how but they’re here at Eric’s house.”

Pam and Felipe kept their attention on Sookie as she held the phone away from her ear and grimaced. At that moment, Eric came up from the basement and frowned at the scene before him.

“What’s all the shouting about?”

Pam went over and put an arm around him, guiding him towards the kitchen. “Oh it’s just a thing, you know, there might be a reporter outside, I’m sure it’s nothing!”

Eric turned to Sookie and watched as she hung up on her call and banged her head against the nearest wall. “Arlene is gonna call me back as soon as she can, until then stay inside, stay away from the windows and try not to think about how they knew I was staying here and got the address.”

She sighed and plopped down at the kitchen table, closely followed by Eric and Felipe as Pam finished making breakfast and dished out toast, eggs and bacon for everyone. Once they’d finished eating, everyone sat in silence waiting for Arlene’s call, after 10 minutes Felipe stood up.

“I can’t wait around all day; some of us have jobs to do. I’ll just need to try and fob them off, does ‘no comment’ work or is that just in the movies?”

“It just makes you look like you’re hiding something and it doesn’t stop them from asking more questions.” Sookie sighed and picked up her phone, willing it to ring.

Eric cleared his throat. “What about the truth? Isn’t that why they’re here? Because Sookie told the truth, we simply tell them that I’m her web designer, we became friends and now she’s staying here to get some peace.”

Sookie smiled and grabbed Eric’s hand, nodding her agreement. “Even if we don’t have Arlene’s say so, the truth is always the best way to go!”

Felipe came back a few minutes later with his jacket over one arm and his briefcase in his hand. He attempted to loosen the muscles in the back of his neck before opening the door, jangling his car keys in his hand he pulled the handle and looked outside. The same two people jumped up from where they were sitting on the bonnet of a brand new Neon and walked towards him as he made his way over to his own Camry.

“Are you Felipe De Castro?”

He turned to them as he opened the driver’s door and found the device the woman was holding was a Dictaphone. “I am; may I ask who you are?”

“Sophie-Ann LeClerq, for OK! Magazine. Can you confirm that you met with Sookie Stackhouse last night? The two of you were seen in an embrace in the parking lot of a convenience store near here. Are you in a romantic relationship with her? Are you having an affair with her? Does your wife know about the fact you know her?”

Felipe ground his teeth and glared at the intrusive woman in front of him as the photographer clicked away with his camera. Putting on his most authorative voice, he went into teacher mode. “One, Yes I met with her as she was lost. Two, I am not and have never been in a romantic relationship with Sookie Stackhouse. Three, I am certainly not having an affair with her and four, my wife is currently sitting drinking coffee with Miss Stackhouse and my son. If you’ll excuse me, I have a proper job where I don’t hound members of the public about their private life.”

Felipe got in his car and drove off as fast as he could before stopping and pulling out his cell to call Pam at home. In the kitchen of the Northman-De Castro house, Pam, Eric and Sookie were debating over the merits of answering the knocking at the door when the phone rang.

“Hello?” Pam almost whispered down the line.

“Pammy, they think I’m having an affair with Sookie!”

“What? Why on earth would they think that?” Pam put her hand over the mouthpiece and relayed what Felipe had told her.

“Someone must have seen me hug Sookie when we met last night and called them, I told them that I wasn’t involved with her romantically at all but you know how these people can be.”

Just then Sookie’s phone chirped, Pam said goodbye to Felipe and went back to the kitchen table where Sookie had her cell on speaker.

“Hi Arlene, there’s been a … development.”

“And what might that be sugar?”

“The reporter who’s here asked Felipe if he was having an affair with me when he left to go to work.”

“Well where the fuck did they get an idea like that?” Pam chimed in and told Arlene about the witness to the hug of greeting in the parking lot of Sunoco the night before. “Shit. If the slightest hint of this gets out, it’ll blow up to massive proportions and we’ll all be in the crap. I’m bringing in the Shifter.”

Eric, Pam and Sookie looked at each with confused expressions. “The Shifter?” They asked in unison.

“Sam Merlotte, they call him the Shifter because he can shift public opinion about anything. Hang tight, I’m guessing he’ll want to come and see you face to face.”

“But I have to leave for work in 20 minutes.” Pam was gearing up to go into flap mode. “I can’t call in and say ‘well I have reporters camped out on my lawn’, I’ve got responsibilities!”

“Mom, calm down. Arlene what’s the best plan of action?”

“If you do need to go out and they’re still there, stick to one word answers, preferably yes or no.”

They all nodded and agreed to follow her instructions until Sam, or the Shifter, got in touch with them. Pam busied herself getting ready for work, primping a little more than usual in case she got her photo taken for a newspaper or magazine, when she finally deemed herself ready, she kissed Eric goodbye and gave Sookie a hug before walking out of the door. Eric and Sookie looked at each other as they heard the door close.

“Well, at least I don’t have to worry about going out there and talking to them.” Eric grinned.

“Why?”

“Uh … agoraphobic?”

Sookie snorted and slapped her hand on the table before she fell off the seat laughing.

–**–

Sam Merlotte twirled the scrap of paper with the phone number on it between his fingers; it was about time they called him to deal with this girl. He should have been called in by Alcide back in Cali when the shit with Quinn went down but that ass Barry Horowitz wouldn’t give them an inch. When Arlene told him where Sookie was and what the newest rumour for the press consisted of, he cancelled his appointments so he could have the whole day to focus.

It wouldn’t be a tough job, a lot of the work had already been done by posting her video on her website, a majority of public opinion was already in favour of her but a rumour about her having an affair with a married man … that would not be good and it had to be nipped in the bud, quickly. He dialled Sookie’s number and spoke to her and some guy, her web designer apparently, they seemed a little closer than your usual business relationship would be but Sam figured that if they had a usual business relationship, she wouldn’t be hiding out at his house.

–**–

Sookie spent the day with Eric in his basement, watching him do a little work on his computer, Eric helped her write a personal message to her fans thanking them for their support and letting them know she’d be back on set soon. He continued to prevent her from seeing any disparaging comments and instructed her to watch some TV while he was dealing with them, Sookie was shocked when she flipped to the national news and heard what was going on.

“In California, law enforcement officers are staging a manhunt for hot shot actor John Quinn. The star of soap opera ‘Rich Men’s Families’ and long running UFC parody ‘The Pits’ is wanted for questioning in the sexual assaults of 5 different women ranging from the ages of 15 to 23. It hasn’t been established yet as to whether Mr. Quinn is to be arrested in conjunction with the offences but several investigations have been opened, or in some cases re-opened since a former co-star released a video statement accusing Quinn of spiking her drink when she was 17 years old.

The actress, Sookie Stackhouse, who was a minor at the time, woke after the evening of the spiking incident to find she had been raped and photographed with two mystery naked men. Representatives of both Mr. Quinn and the network she was employed by at the time have admitted to downplaying John Quinn’s role in the crime and making Miss. Stackhouse’s involvement seem worse than it was to protect Quinn’s career but have yet to make any comments with regard to the negative impact these actions had on Miss Stackhouse’s career.”

She stood up and walked back and forth a couple of times rubbing her upper arms with her hands before sitting back down on the edge of the bed.

“Are you okay?” Eric knelt in front of Sookie with concern etched on his features.

“I’ll be fine, it just took me a long time to realise what they did was wrong. Occasionally my brain flips to ‘victim’ mode. A hug and some hot chocolate and I’ll be back to normal!”

Eric grabbed the remote and changed it to some music channel. “I think there’s some cocoa upstairs and I’m sure there’s plenty of milk …”

“Oh, its okay, you don’t have to do that.”

“No I want to, I … uh … I feel better when I’m around you andIwanttotryandmakeyoufeelbettertoo.”

Eric rushed out his words and went upstairs, leaving Sookie smiling softly at what he’d said. In Sookie’s view, Eric didn’t have to really do much to make her feel better, she should have been concerned with what was going on in the big world outside but spending time with Eric seemed to just make all the stuff she stressed about float away. She stretched out on the bed and picked up a pillow, hugging it to her chest and breathing in Eric’s scent.

In the kitchen, Eric stirred the hot chocolate and debated putting marshmallows on top. Some people didn’t like marshmallows, what if Sookie was one of those people? Deciding to take the bag of marshmallows with him, just in case, he poured some cold milk into the drink so it wouldn’t scald her and she could drink it right away. Smiling at the thought that he was making an attempt to take care of someone else for a change, he made his way back down to the basement. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he saw Sookie lying on his bed hugging his pillow, just like he did last night, pretending it was her.

Sookie leapt from the bed with a grin. “Ooh! Marshmallows! Yum!”

She sat bouncing on the edge of the mattress as Eric walked towards her and made a grab for the mug as Eric moved to put the marshmallows on the bed, causing the hot drink to spill over the arm of her shirt. When she cursed Eric jumped backwards and more hot chocolate sloshed out over the sleeve of his shirt this time.

“I’m so sorry!”

“God! I’m a klutz!”

They spoke at the same time making each other laugh, Eric turned to put the, now half full, mug on the nightstand as hot chocolate dripped on the rug at the side of the bed.

“I’m sorry Eric that was my fault; I shouldn’t have tried to take the mug when you weren’t looking.”

“No, I should have put it on the nightstand in the first place. I’ll just go get something to clean up a little.”

Sookie nodded and held her arm out to stop the wetness running up her elbow and wondered if Pam had had the chance to wash and dry her clothes from yesterday like she said she would. Eric came back from the bathroom with a cloth and bent down to dab at the rug before surveying the damage to his own clothes.

“Your Mom said she was going to wash and dry my clothes from yesterday, do you think they’ll be ready?”

“I don’t think so; usually she puts the wash on before she leaves for work then puts everything in the dryer when she pops home for lunch. Do you want me to check?”

“Please, I don’t have anything else to wear.”

Eric went to the garage and opened the washing machine, noting the wet clothes. He pulled them out and loaded them into the dryer; he wondered if Sookie would want to borrow one of his Mom’s shirts while she waited. He really didn’t want to go into his Mom and Felipe’s room and raid her dresser, Eric had the distinct feeling that he might very well come across something he’d rather not know existed. Rather than risk the stress of finding Pam’s rabbit, he decided that offering the actress one of his shirts was a safer option.

In the basement, Sookie couldn’t stand the wet fabric clinging to her skin any longer and started peeking in Eric’s wardrobe to see if there was a shirt she could wear. The wardrobe only had jeans hanging up, which, at first, she thought was odd but then remembering that he never left the house it made sense. She moved to the dresser and opened each drawer a little bit to see what was inside rather than just ransack the piece of furniture. The bottom drawer looked like underwear and socks, the next one, however, looked like it was full of books, intrigued but not wanting to intrude on Eric’s privacy she closed the drawer only to be interrupted by someone clearing their throat. When she turned around Eric looked worried.

“I’m sorry Eric! I was just looking for a shirt, I didn’t mean to pry.”

“No, its okay, I know it looks … odd, keeping books in a drawer rather than on the bookcase but … well they’re not the reading kind of book. Here let me find you a shirt.”

Sookie was confused; the only kind of book she ever heard of was a reading kind … well except picture books, she had a wave of embarrassment when she thought that maybe those books were picture books. Eric wouldn’t be the first man to hide ‘special’ picture books and he certainly wouldn’t be the last … but they looked more like notebooks. As Eric handed her a plaid button down she realised that they must be journals or diaries, it made sense to her now, a diary wasn’t a reading book, it was somewhere you kept your secrets, reading someone else’s diary was strictly against Sookie’s moral code.

“You write a lot?” She asked Eric as she pulled off her chocolaty long sleeved t-shirt. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. If you’re hiding your notebooks, you probably don’t want to talk about them huh?”

Eric was speechless as Sookie dropped her shirt on the floor and stood in front of him in her bra and yoga pants. Her mouth was moving but for some reason his brain wasn’t absorbing what she was saying, instead Eric’s mind was multi-tasking between avoiding looking at the swell of her breasts almost spilling out of the cups and willing away an erection. He felt the shirt being plucked from his hand and saw Sookie waving her hand in front of his face.

“I didn’t open the drawer all the way, I’m really sorry Eric. Please don’t be angry at me.”

“What?” Eric frowned. “I’m … I’m not angry at you. So you know where I keep my journals, big deal. I trust you not to read them.”

“Oh … it’s just you seemed a little … off.”

Eric cleared his throat and walked over to his computer desk to sit down. “Well I don’t get a lot of women stripping off in my bedroom, it kind of distracted me.”

Sookie skin flushed as she buttoned the shirt, she was so used to getting changed with other people milling around she didn’t even consider how it would make Eric feel. At his desk, Eric was memorising what he’d seen for later that night, when his Mom had interrupted him earlier he’d known Sookie was in the shower, just thinking of her being in the same house as him naked made him hard.

“Old habits, when I’m on set or getting ready to go on stage, there are always a bunch of people doing the same thing. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

Eric nodded and looked at the stain covering his own shirt; he was used to having the room to himself and being able to strip off whenever necessary. He wondered if it would make him look like an idiot if he went into the bathroom to change his shirt, after all Sookie didn’t mind him seeing her so she probably wouldn’t bother about seeing him either. Steeling himself, Eric pulled at the shirt until it was over his head and lying on top of Sookie’s discarded clothing, then went back to the dresser for a replacement.

Sookie gasped when she saw Eric with his top off. She knew he was handsome and that he was well built but her imagination this morning had been seriously lacking; there wasn’t a part of him that wasn’t toned. Some guys have exercise equipment for show but it was deliciously obvious that Eric actually used his, her eyes followed him as he took a shirt out and turned his back to her to put it on. The muscles in his back rippled as he pulled the material over his head and shoulders, when he spun around to face her, Sookie knew she’d actually groaned out loud rather than in her head.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“God no! I’m peachy!” Sookie giggled but then stopped as she saw Eric’s demeanour change dramatically. “I think I just got caught up in looking at you, you never get told how handsome you are, do you?”

Eric blushed and went back to sitting at his desk, for a moment he thought that Sookie was laughing at him rather than her reaction to looking at him. “My Mom tells me that all the time.”

“She’s right, I’ve seen a lot of hot guys but you’re something else.” Sookie tentatively made her way over to the desk. “Eric, you’re a very hot guy and you’re a very nice guy. I like you a lot.”

Eric’s heartbeat thundered in his ears and his hands gripped the arms of his chair as he watched Sookie get closer and closer to him. By the time she was in front of him his breathing was coming out in short gasps and he could feel his stomach flip flop and the sweat prickle on his brow. Sookie could see Eric panicking and wondered if she was about to do the right thing.

“I want to kiss you Eric, can I kiss you?”

Eric’s head moved slowly up and down, every cell in his body was torn between staying for that kiss and running the hell out of there. His knuckles were white from holding onto the chair and he licked his lips nervously, Sookie placed one of her hands on his to try to calm him down before cupping his cheek with the other and leaning in, tilting her head to the side, brushing her lips against his softly, pressing a little harder and moving her hand to weave into his hair, darting her tongue across his bottom lip, feeling Eric press his free hand to the back of her head and deepen the kiss.

They were interrupted by someone not only knocking at the door but ringing the doorbell at the same time. Sookie pulled away and stamped her foot as Eric yelled.

“GODDAMMIT!”

–**–

Sophie-Ann sat up in the seat of the car and slapped Chow on the chest with the back of her hand.

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

Chow grabbed his camera and got a couple of shots of the man walking to the front door of the house they’d been scoping. “Is that … Sam Merlotte? Oh! This is good; something stinks in suburbia if they’re calling in the Shifter!”

Sophie-Ann slapped him again and he shot her a dirty look as he tried to pop off as many shots as possible. “See? And you said that we should split after the teacher and his wife didn’t give us any dirt!”

They watched as he almost beat down the door and pressed the bell at the same time, then paced back and forth until the door was opened by a tall, handsome man with long blond hair. Sophie-Ann gasped and Chow grinned widely.

“Holy hotness Batman! Tell me you got some shots of the fucking Adonis that answered the door?”

“You fucking bet I did.”

–**–

Eric led Sam into the kitchen and offered him a drink before sitting down to hear what ‘The Shifter’ had to say. Both Sookie and Eric were assessing the man’s features, he had a kind face but Sookie was sure that face could turn real mean when cause surfaced, Eric saw that the man was short and wiry but was sure that he could be physically imposing if the need arose. Sam looked around and sniffed before looking at Eric.

“On second thoughts, that coffee smells good. I’ll take a cup now if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, right away sir.”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me boy, you can call me Mr. Merlotte until you prove you aren’t a pussy then you can call me Sam.”

Eric stopped pouring the coffee, his nervous mood changing to anger. “I’m not a pussy! I have mental health problems so fuck you!”

“What? Really? Oh … sorry man, I didn’t know. I was just tryin’ to light a fire under you guys so we’d have something to work with.”

Sookie frowned. “Light a fire under us? What exactly would that accomplish Mr. Merlotte?”

Sam shook his head and smiled at the young actress. “Sookie, where the press have been concerned you’ve been painfully passive and what has it done for you? Nothing, that’s what, so new game plan is we go in head first, hiding and denying does nothing but breed rumours. Now, outside sits the Queen of OK! Magazine dirt digging and her minion photographer, the longer you hide in here, the more ideas they can dream up of what the hell you’re getting up to with the nut job over here.”

Eric slammed the mug of coffee in front of Sam and grabbed him by the shirt collar. “Are you still trying to light a fire or are you trying to make me kick your ass?”

As abruptly as Eric’s action had occurred, he let go of Sam and dashed out of the room. Sookie heard the door to the basement open and close and glared at the visitor. “Are you happy now? Look what you’ve done!”

“What the fuck is his problem?”

Sookie sighed and stood up from the table. “He … I don’t know if he’d want you to know.”

“Sookie, seriously, if he does have problems, I need to know. I can’t send you out there to talk to the press not knowing all the facts – look what happened with Bill and his ex-representatives.”

Sookie nodded and excused herself, making her way down to the basement and calling softly for Eric as she went. Peering around the room, she noted that he was nowhere to be seen then she noticed the missing pillow from his bed. The actress walked over and lay down on the same spot that she had the last time he had been under the bed, Eric’s sad expression tugging on her heart strings.

“Hey you, whatcha doing?”

“I didn’t mean to grab him, I’ve … I never stood up to any of them and now I’ve ruined everything.”

Sookie scooted across the floor so she was half under the bed with him. “You haven’t ruined anything, he was being an asshole and he deserved to be put in his place. How dare he come into your home and speak to you like that. No baby, you did the right thing, stop beating yourself up about it.”

Eric smiled but tried to hide it behind his pillow. “You called me baby.”

The blush that spread across Sookie’s cheeks entranced Eric to the point that he didn’t notice her moving closer until their noses were practically touching. Sookie reached out and stroked the side of his face with two fingers and Eric closed his eyes, just enjoying the contact.

“Eric, Sam wants to know everything. We should tell him all about you, I’m sorry I brought you into this whole mess. If I hadn’t run away you’d be fine, Felipe wouldn’t have people accusing him of having an affair with me and you’d be able to just live your life.”

“I’m not. I mean … I’m not sorry. Sure it’s … complicated and stressful but I’m dealing.” He looked around him. “Mostly.”

“Well I think you’ve been amazing. Do you think you’re okay to go back up and talk to him?”

“Yeah I’m okay but can we just … stay here, like this, just for one more minute?”

Sookie smiled and nodded, shuffling closer still, until their bodies were flush against each other and tugged on the pillow so Eric would let go. Tossing the comfort behind her, she placed a hand gently on Eric’s side and brought her mouth closer to his. Eric inhaled sharply and closed his eyes before pressing his lips against hers, his body sagging with relief as Sookie kissed him back with fervour, her hand moving to his back to trace the outline of the muscles there, he could feel her breasts pressed against him and desperately tried to stop the affects the kiss was having on his nether regions. Realising that the longer the kiss went on for the harder things got, literally, he drew back and pushed Sookie away to prevent his arousal poking her in the stomach. Sookie, too, was having problems, stopping herself from grinding against Eric’s erection was frustrating and when he pushed her away she wasn’t sure whether to thank him or curse him. Just as she had underestimated his physique in her fantasies, her imagination had sold Eric short in the trouser department also.

“God, Sookie, I … I’m sorry.”

“What for?” Sookie frowned, not knowing what on earth Eric would need to apologise for. She saw him look down at his crotch and his face redden with shame. “You never have to be sorry for that Eric; it’s a … uh … big compliment.” Eric was almost purple with embarrassment when he scooted backwards from under the bed. Sookie was quick to follow, running to him and catching his arm, begging him to wait. “I was trying to reassure you, I guess I need to work on that but, honestly, if you didn’t have any reaction to me, it would make me wonder if you liked me.”

Eric calmed after hearing Sookie’s logic and agreed to go back upstairs and speak with Sam, no matter how much he wanted to stay under the bed and spend time with Sookie. Sam had finished his coffee by the time they got back upstairs and glared at them as they entered the kitchen.

“Would one of you care to tell me what’s going on?”

Sookie looked at Eric and sat down at the table next to the spin doctor, smiling and nodding encouragingly. Eric went to the sink and drew a glass of water before joining them at the table.

“Sam, the reason we’re reluctant to … face the press is I don’t want to draw any attention to myself.”

“Well, shit Eric! No-one wants that kind of attention but …”

“I’m agoraphobic and I suffer from panic attacks.”

“Oh … uh … yeah, that would make this a little … stressful. Okay now I understand your reaction earlier and I’m sorry for being out of line but I don’t like to mince my words. Here’s what we need to do.” Sam looked at Sookie and pointed at her. “You need to come clean about why you’re here and more specifically who you’re here to see.”

“I’m here because I didn’t have anywhere else to go, none of my family was at home and I don’t have any friends except Arlene and she was being hounded by the press too …”

“Uh-huh, okay the fact that he looks like a male model and has that ‘needs a little care’ angle had nothing to do with your decision?”

“Well … okay, I was attracted to Eric, even if we’d only met once …”

“And when was that?”

“Two days ago.”

“Good, good, that was after the whole Bill thing so there’s no chance of you being accused of cheating on him. It’s not long after the whole Bill thing but a young woman running to another man for comfort is pretty common.”

“She didn’t run to me for comfort.” Eric leaned forward crossed his arms on top of the table. “She came here two days ago so I could help make the video for the website.”

Sam shrugged. “Po-tay-to, po-tah-to, you were there for her when she needed someone after Bill and once again you’re there for her when she needs to escape the big bad reporters in the city. Hell Eric, you might not ever leave your house but women across America will want their own Eric for themselves.”

–**–

Sophie-Ann was woken by someone rapping on the window of the car; she opened her eyes and wiped the drool from the side of her mouth before kicking Chow who was engrossed in his Nintendo DS. She rolled down the window to face none other than Sam Merlotte and he was smiling.

“Hey there Sophie-Ann! Whatcha doin’ out here?”

“Cut the crap Merlotte, what’s the skinny on Stackhouse?”

Sam stood up and cleared his throat. “This is going to be official so you might wanna record it.” He winked as Sophie-Ann scrambled for her Dictaphone. “Sookie Stackhouse is in Elmira visiting a close friend and his family in an effort to escape the constant questioning of the press in New York. As you are aware, Sookie bared her soul on her official website and is still feeling somewhat emotional after it. She requests that her and her friend’s privacy be respected and she’ll be back on set tomorrow.”

“Can we have the friend’s name? You might as well; we got pictures of him answering the door to you.”

“Her friend is Eric Northman; he is the designer and maintainer of her official website.”

“How close are they? Was she having an affair with him while she was dating Bill?”

“They’re two young people enjoying one another’s company. Sookie only had minimal email contact with Eric prior to her discovering Bill’s infidelity; she only actually met him when she came to him for help in making the video for her site.”

“Well thank you Mr. Merlotte, I think we’ve got enough.”

“Off the record please, Soph.” Sophie-Ann turned off the Dictaphone and Sam double checked to make sure. “Eric is a nice guy, he likes being left alone and he likes knowing that people aren’t peering in his windows. Don’t push and you’ll get an exclusive when or if they go public.”

Sophie-Ann nodded and watched the Shifter walk back to his car, turning to Chow she weighed up the options. They could print everything, Eric’s name and picture but then a swarm would descend and her story would be buried under the dirt that everyone else would dig up. The better plan would be to withhold his name and leave out the photos, when the lovebirds were ready to sing she’d be the one to hand them the microphone.

“Chow, delete all of the photos you have of this Eric guy, I’m ordering the whale rather than the salmon. C’mon, let’s go back to the source and rag them about not giving us anything worthwhile.”

Chow nodded and started up the car for the short drive to the convenience store; on the way there Sophie-Ann called finance and set up two $500 payments to accounts yet to be confirmed. No doubt the Sunoco monkeys would be pissed as hell for not getting the big bucks, but what did they expect when they called in the press for something that wasn’t even true? Chow threw the car into park and Sophie-Ann got out, marching into the store like she owned it and slapping a hand on the counter in front of the irritated clerk.

“I need to speak to Cam and Sandy.”

The clerk nodded and rang a bell under the counter. “Well, I’m Sandy; Cam should be here in a minute. Are you from that magazine we called?”

“I am.” Sophie-Ann extended her hand regally as if expecting the clerk to kiss it. “Sophie-Ann LeClerq, OK! Magazine.”

Cam strolled up from the back room, annoyed that his game of Tetris had been disturbed when he was close to beating his high score. “What’s up Sandy?”

“Cam, this is Sophie-Ann LeClerq from OK! Magazine.” When Sophie-Ann turned to grasp Cam’s hand, Sandy flicked the end of her nose with the tip of her finger behind the woman’s back to let Cam know she was snobby.

“Nice to meet you Sophie-Ann. So!” Cam rubbed his hands together. “How much to we get for that little nugget?”

“That little nugget turned out to be a complete wash; she’s not fucking the teacher. We found out a few things from the trip so you’ll get $500 each, I just need your bank details so we can wire it to you.”

Sandy leapt over the counter. “But we saw them! They were hugging!”

“And?” Sophie-Ann sneered at her. “Since when does a hug equal sordid sex stories? They’re friends, end of, nothing sordid, nothing sexy, nothing worth dragging my pretty ass to this shit hole to find out about.”

Sophie-Ann knew that last part was an outright lie but she was damned if she was giving these two any ammo to call another magazine or paper with. Cam ushered Sandy back behind the counter and they gave their account details to the snooty reporter, $500 was better than nothing but Sandy knew there had to be more to it. She wondered how on earth a teacher from Elmira with a dull wife and hermit-like step-son would get to be friends with an actress who lived in New York City. A flash of inspiration struck her and she stopped the reporter before she walked out of the store.

“Was Eric there?”

Sophie-Ann halted mid-step and whirled around to face the clerk. “Eric? You know him?”

Sandy smirked and shrugged. “Sure, I went to school with him. I hadn’t seen him for years, thought he’d upped and left town but he was here maybe two or three weeks ago. He’s grown into one hot piece of ass, considering how weedy he was in school.”

“And he went to …”

“Southside high, same school his Step-Dad teaches in. That’s how his Mom met Mr. De Castro, he always had to call her to come and pick him up, Eric was sick a lot.”

“Did he have any friends? Close friends? When did you graduate?”

Sandy snorted. “Unless you count Victor Madden, he was the only person who ever got close to Northman and even that was just to push him around or give him a wedgie. We graduated class of ’04.”

“I see … well thanks for that Sandy, don’t spend all your $500 in one store!”

Sophie-Ann walked out of the store and grinned as she got back into the car. “Chow, when we get back to the office I want you to find me a copy of the yearbook for Southside High, Elmira for the year 2004. While you’re doing that I’ll be looking for Victor Madden.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s