Chapter Three: Ultimatums
Eric looks smug as hell after he returns to the house where we are staying. It’s Eric’s house, but I only recently moved back to Shreveport, and am still looking for my own accommodations. The house is pleasant enough. Two-story farmhouse, though not Eric’s taste at all. I suppose the land is more appealing to him than the house itself. Telling by the blueprints spread out on his desk, he is either planning to level it or renovate. God, I hope he takes a wrecking ball to this hovel.
I look at the plans a bit longer and finally determine that he is renovating. There are plenty of indicators that betray the pre-existing floor plan of the farmhouse.
Ugh, this is boring! I preferred our condo in Shreveport over this place. Maybe I should have asked Eric to let me stay there? Who am I kidding? He would pitch a fit when I redecorate it, complaining how it was still his property and piss and moan for a year or two. It is not worth the annoyance.
Wandering around the house, I find a lingering correspondence with Godric. It is the outline for the rules regarding Eric’s “Humanity Bootcamp.” I spot several red ink notes in Eric’s hand, mostly notations mocking Godric’s suggestions and opinions. This exercise is ungodly in my opinion. We are vampires, for fuck’s sake!
Still, Godric has a point. Eric oversees an abundance of vampires in this Area and is regularly sought by Sophie-Anne to calm churning seas throughout all of Louisiana. Just last month he was in Baton Rouge, cleaning up a mess caused by the Bayou vampires, mostly unkempt wretches who stay in the bogs until they need to feed. Apparently they were doing a piss poor job hiding the bodies of their victims, and three had been recovered by authorities. Eric ended three vampires, stating that for every body recovered, one of them would meet their True Death. So far, no new bodies have been recovered in Baton Rouge.
“Are you ignoring me, Pamela?” Eric asks sternly as I continue floating about the house, ignoring his gloating mood without inquiring about it.
“Did you say something I was supposed to respond to?” I bat my eyelashes at him and he rolls his eyes. “Fine,” I sigh. “What did you discuss with the children?”
“Dinner was very slow for conversation,” he admits. “They were hard-pressed to keep the attention of anything once their food arrived. However, I drove them home. Stackhouse even invited me up to his apartment to warm up while he put together a thermos of coffee for work. I think it was warmer outside than in that apartment,” he grumbles.
“Are their accommodations just as meager as their grocery list?” I ask amusedly. Eric’s lip curls with frustration and I raise my eyebrows at the response. “That bad?”
“It is obviously a better neighborhood than they could normally afford to live in, but it is a duplex from the twenties and they are on the upper level. Definitely the short end of the stick. I plan to purchase it, kick out the main floor tenant, and give it to the Stackhouses at a lower rent with “utilities included.” I will need to hire someone to oversee it and live in their old space. I can use them to keep an eye on things,” he explains this with a bit of excitement.
I stare at him blankly before my brows scrunch together and I am almost glaring, “Are you actually enjoying this?” I demand.
Eric stops in his tracks. He already has his phone out to start making the contacts he needs to acquire the building and put his plans in motion, “You know that I enjoy my chess games. These two are making it far more enjoyable because they do not want help.”
“And that little girl has nothing to do with it?” I ask almost snidely.
“What would she have to do with anything?” he sounds almost baffled by my accusation.
“She is very pretty,” I shrug.
“She is a child,” Eric insists.
“Only a year and a half younger than I was when you turned me,” I point out. “I am not jealous, Eric. I just wish you would be honest with yourself about her.”
“I am being honest,” he continues to assert, but I can see the cogs in his head grind to a halt. “She is very beautiful.”
“And she struck a few nerves being so suspicious about you. Also, didn’t you say that she seemed to always know when you were watching her last night?” I remind him.
“Yes, it was almost as if she could sense my every move. Her body seemed to move with mine,” Eric sits on the couch, and then he is distracted again. “I should clean, repaint, and furnish the bottom level of the duplex. The new “landlord” could tell them the previous tenants left their furniture after an abrupt move.”
I groan and leave the den so Eric can start his newest project. I suppose this is good for him. With all the restrictions Godric has put on my Maker, he needed something to occupy his time. Far too many Shreveport women have been walking bowlegged since Eric was put on this regimen.
A sudden idea strikes me, and I run back to the den and stare at Eric intently until he is off the phone. He looks up at me while he continues talking to the current duplex owner. When I hear how much Eric is offering to pay for the building, I roll my eyes. He is definitely overpaying for that piece of shit I haven’t even seen yet. Eric has more money than sense sometimes, but I won’t complain because it keeps me in all my designer clothes and accessories.
“What is it, Pam?” Eric asks as he snaps his phone shut and lobs it onto the sofa cushion.
“I want to update the area the Stackhouses will be living in,” I proclaim in the way only I can demand things of Eric.
“Fine,” he shrugs disinterestedly. “I was going to hire Adriana Metcalf, but if you wish to do it I will not object.”
“Yes!” Another excuse to run up Eric’s credit cards! Plus, I have been having the retail itch for days and I still have not found a place I would wish to hang my tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of clothing. “When will the duplex be in your possession?” I am already aching to look the place over and begin the refurbishing process.
“Next week. Money greases the wheels,” Eric laughs. “Of course, it is in total disrepair, so I believe the owner thinks he is robbing me blind. If it were not for the modest expense of the building’s rent, I am certain his tenants would have been complaining about the abysmal situation they reside in. I will pay off the downstairs resident to get them out.”
“Can you have the owner send pictures of the interior so I can start planning?” I request nicely to keep getting my way.
“Of course. The entire building will need to be gutted. I am certain the plumbing and electricity is no longer up to code. I will call my contractor and you two can discuss floor plans. That will be difficult, however, because we cannot be there when the Stackhouses are present.”
“Well the boy works every minute of the day. I am sure you could lure the girl out on a whim,” I point out.
Eric laughs darkly at that, “I doubt it. She is very suspicious of me. Surprisingly so. I do believe she finds me underhanded.”
“Good instincts,” I smirk.
“Apparently so,” he chuckles again, but more amused this time.
We scheme the remainder of the evening, and Eric makes a call to his dayman, Jeffery, regarding approaching Jason Stackhouse the next day as the new owner of the building.
God, shut up! Shut UP! I shuffle to the door as someone is knockin’ like a damn woodpecker while I’m tryin’ to catch a couple hours sleep before pickin’ Sooks up at the restaurant. I fuckin’ hate winter. It’s dark by the time she gets off this time of year.
“Yeah?” I fling the door open, and there’s a guy with sandy blond hair and small gray eyes grinning at me.
“Hello,” he holds out his hand to shake mine. I sneak my hand out of the quilt and take his offered hand. It’s cold as balls in the apartment because the downstairs tenant is gone for the day and turned off the thermostat. I’ve been tempted to turn our heat up to 65º, but the dumbass who lives downstairs will be home in an hour and then we’ll be cookin’ up here. “My name is Jeff Carson. I just bought this building.”
My eyes widen. Shit! He’s gonna raise our rent! Fuck me!
“I’ll be taking ownership at the end of the week and thought it would be nice to meet the tenants while the paperwork is being processed.”
“Uh, come on in,” I step aside to let Jeff in and tug the quilt tighter. “I’m Jason Stackhouse. I live here with my lil sis, Sookie.”
“Ah,” Jeff nods, takin’ in the apartment. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
“So, uh, what are you planning to do with the duplex?” I ask.
“Oh, well,” Jeff looks around and I can see he’s less than impressed with the apartment, “you see, the building is going to need several updates. I’ve already enlisted a contractor to come and gut the building. New plumping, electricity. Updated water heater and HVAC. The whole works.”
And that costs a fuck ton of money, I think miserably. I don’t wanna put Sooks in Hollywood, but it’s the only place I can afford if we have to move. Shit, she’ll have to switch schools for her last fuckin’ semester! What’ll happen to all her A.P. credits!?
“You see, I love restoring and updating old buildings,” Jeff continues. “You know, keeping the old town alive but livable,” he laughs at crushin’ my world.
“So, uh, how much is rent gonna go up with all the reno?” I ask. No use beatin’ ’round the bush. With football lettin’ out maybe I can swing it if it’s only a hundred more?
“Up?” Jeff looks at me in surprise, “Oh! Heavens no!” he starts laughing. “I would never screw over someone already living here just because I have expensive hobbies. No, actually, your rent will probably go down because I will be installing more energy efficient fixtures, insulation, and appliances. Top quality in energy efficiency. Nothing less.”
“Then how do you get your money back?” I ask, super confused, but real relieved.
Jeff leans in and whispers, “This is really a project for my son-in-law. He needs the money, and I actually hired another guy to pretend he owns this place. This recession is killing him, and I figured a big reno project is enough to keep him afloat. He’s a good, honest man, but he won’t accept my money. My daughter begs him over and over, but he won’t live off his father-in-law. I respect that, and I figure a job is a job. Right?” It’s like he’s asking me permission to help his son-in-law on the slide.
“Well, Mr. Carson, I can’t say I’d appreciate bein’ mislead that way,” I confess. “But, family is family, so I can see where you’re comin’ from. You got a right to make sure your daughter ain’t miserable. They got any kids?”
“I’m afraid I might have to inconvenience you a bit,” he quickly changes the subject. “However, I might have a work around for it.” Jeff frowns. “You see; your neighbor below is actually moving into a condo near Cross Lake. Since I would hate to push you out for the renovations, I thought perhaps we could work from the bottom up. We can get the utilities room updated first, then the first floor, while you and your sister move down to the first floor, we can finish off the top floor.”
“Oh, me and Sooks could never afford the main floor,” I protest.
“Nonsense!” Jeff laughs. “I’ll throw you a price on the rent once I’ve looked over the finances. At the very least you can stay on the main floor while this area is renovated. You don’t want to be living out of a hotel for six to eight weeks, do you?”
“Sure as hell couldn’t afford that,” I laugh and shake his hand. “Well, I look forward to seeing the new numbers.” A sudden, unsettlin’ thought comes to me when Jeff takes my hand and I frown. “You’re fuckin’ with me, aren’t ya?” I accuse, shakin’ my head. “You work for Eric Northman, don’t you?”
“Excuse me?” His expression is all innocent and shit, but his voice cracked a bit when I called him out.
“Eric bought the fucking duplex, didn’t he? Fuck,” I swear and start pacin’. “Seriously? Did he really think he could pull some shit like this the day after he fuckin’ met us and we wouldn’t notice?” I demand. He knew I wouldn’t take his fuckin’ charity and now he went and bought my buildin’, knowin’ I couldn’t stop him and couldn’t move without screwin’ over Sooks! Son of a BITCH!
Jeff’s expression changes quickly to a scowl. He crosses his arms over his chest and practically glares at me. “Listen, Stackhouse,” he barks at me, “the point is, this property has a new owner. What that owner decides to do with his property is none of your fucking business! If you want to pitch a fit, fine. Move to Mooretown or Cedar Grove, and you can hold your sister’s hand all day while you lose hours for work. Northman flat out told me if you figured us out to tell you this; you’re an honorable person, I’m giving you nothing. You still owe rent. You still owe utilities. Get the fuck over it or leave!”
My eyebrows must have shot to my hair. Eric wasn’t so crass last night. Maybe this dude’s paraphrasin’?
“I’m like this close,” I raise my hand and hold my index finger and thumb an eighth an inch apart, “from gettin’ a fuckin’ restrainin’ order on this guy.”
Jeff laughs at me, “Listen, you don’t want charity. I get it. You’re a proud guy, but you know what? Northman’s got just about everyone who counts in his pocket. He’s seen your Social Services reports. If they don’t see improvements by February, they’re removing Sookie. Do you really want her to spend almost four months in foster care just so she can come back to this shit hole after God knows what happens to her in the foster system? I’ll guaran-fucking-tee you that pretty teenage girls her age don’t come out the same they went in.”
My shoulders tense at that, “They wouldn’t go through all that bullshit for a girl ’bout to turn 18 in less than six months. You’re tryin’ t’bully me.”
“Jason, your sister weighs a buck and change,” Jeff tells me bluntly. “So, can you swallow your pride so she can swallow some God damn food?” His eyes soften a bit after he’s startled me into silence. “It’s an extra hundred and fifty dollars you can put toward your grocery bill a month, better living conditions, and a place you could actually call a home. Can you accept that for your sister’s sake? There’s pride, and then there’s flat out bullheadedness.”
I lean against the kitchen counter and hear it creak against my weight. That sound makes my heart lurch. The counter never makes a sound when Sookie leans against it. “My sister’s only just barely a hundred pounds?”
“According to the measurements they took at the ER the other night, she’s 102,” Jeff tells me.
I put my hands against my face, push them hard against my eyes, trying to make ’em hurt so it gives them an excuse to water. It’s a stupid move though ‘cause fuckin’ bitch sobs are workin’ at my throat. I’m fuckin’ cryin’ in front of a complete stranger ‘cause I just found out I’m starvin’ my baby sister. How did Social Services not take her? What’s their fuckin’ problem!? I’m killin’ the one person I got left and they ain’t savin’ her!
“Jason,” Jeff’s got me by the shoulders and is shakin’ me a bit, but I’m bawlin’ like a toddler now, “she wants to stay with you. So, can you do it? Can you just accept that someone sees that you guys are good people and wants to help?”
I’m sobbin’. I’m noddin’. Fuck, I’m huggin’ on Jeff like he’s a saint deliverin’ me from Hell.
“Finish school, get a job, and you can pay Northman back. Okay? He’s good at keeping a tab open for people.”
“Okay,” I’m gaspin’ for air while tryin’ my damnedest to stop cryin’. I’m such a little bitch.
“I’m going to go now,” Jeff tells me.
“Okay,” I choke.
“You going to be okay?”
“Okay,” I reply on autopilot.
“I’ll be okay,” I tell him.
“You have to let me go now, Jason,” he nudges me in the ribs and that’s when I realize I’m still huggin’ him.
“Sorry,” I mumble, embarrassed that not only have I been cryin’ like a little girl, but I’ve been huggin’ on a guy, a guy I don’t even know. “I gotta go pick up Sooks from work now anyway,” I look down at my tore up jeans and the hoody I think I’ve been wearin’ the last three days now without a wash.
“Can I drop you off?” Jeff offers. I look at my watch. I’m runnin’ behind and know I’ll miss the bus if I don’t take his offer.
“Sure, thanks,” I go to my shoes, or where I thought I left my shoes. The fuck are they!? I finally find them halfway under the couch, slide them on, and grab my keys and wallet.
Jeff’s car is one of those cozy little Subarus. It’s a nice car, not over the top like Eric’s Corvette, but still pretty sweet. I’m more of a truck guy myself.
We’re quiet in the car. I think Jeff knows I’m embarrassed about my breakdown. It’s weird. I’ve never been much for cryin’ and shit like that, but the last three years really upped the waterworks from the old water supply plant. Pretty much anythin’ involving Sooks makes me cry. When she’s happy, when she’s sad, when she’s hurt… These past couple nights have really kicked me in the balls though. My baby sis gettin’ mugged, gettin’ hurt like that. Then findin’ out she’s practically disappeared beneath my clothes undid me. How didn’t I see she’d lost so much weight? No wonder Sarah was on Sook’s ass at the hospital night before last. She probably got a look at Sook’s weight and freaked the fuck out!
The car pulls up to the curb and I hop out, thank Jeff again, and turn toward the Rochester Café. I can see Sookie weavin’ ’round the tables, sweepin’ up tips, and refillin’ glasses.
“Hey, Sooks,” I wave at her and she freezes a moment, lookin’ me over like I’m tattooed with the story of the day.
“I’m almost done, Jason,” she finally says after she’s made her assessment. “Darla’s about ready to take over.”
“Okay,” I sit at the counter and order a cup of coffee. After the last few days I’ve had, I think I can swing a dollar for myself and get a real cup of coffee instead of the instant shit we have at home. “Can you get a slice of that peach pie for Sookie?” I ask Juan while he fills my mug. Juan’s eyebrows go up a bit at my request, but he looks super excited that I’m gettin’ Sookie some food.
“Hey,” Sookie sits next to me, “you’re sittin’ down!” she teases. I take a sip of my coffee and Juan slides the plate of pie to her. She looks at me puzzled. “What’s this?” she asks.
“That,” I point to the pie, “is going into the belly of my one hundred and two fucking pound sister.” Her eyes widen at my tone. “Why didn’t you tell me you was so starved?”
“I’m not starved!” she insists in a low hiss.
“Oh yeah?” I grab the tail of her shirt and twist it around my fist until it cinches against her sides. Fuck me! 102 on a 5’6” girl is terrifying! “Oh my God,” I utter and let go of her shirt. Next, I put my hands on either side of her waist and my fingertips are almost touchin’. I know in the back of my head that if I just squeeze a lil more, I could touch my fingers together. Only… If I did, I think I would throw up. My fingers touchin’ is the ultimate sign of my failure as her brother. “Oh my God,” I repeat like a prayer for forgiveness.
“Jason, I’m fine!” she tells me desperately, pushin’ my hands away and billowin’ her shirt back out so she looks more filled out than she is… ‘cause her worthless shit of a brother ain’t feedin’ her.
“No, Sooks, you ain’t fine,” I shake my head before restin’ it on the counter. “Sarah could and shoulda yanked you outta my custody night before last.”
“Jason,” she’s panickin’ now. She can tell I could kill myself right now.
“So, what I’m gonna tell you is how it’s gonna be. No whinin’, no arguin’, no nothin’. Got it?”
“Eric Northman bought our buildin’. He’s movin’ us into the main floor, lowerin’ our rent, and updatin’ the building. We are gonna be appreciative, accommodating, and ass kissing. We will be the fuckin’ Triple A of hospitality toward him. Got it?”
“What the heck-”
“Shut it!” I snap and Darla looks at me in surprise. I don’t think no one’s ever heard me raise my voice to Sookie in her entire life. “Listen, I don’t wanna lose you. I will suck Northman’s dick if it’s what I gotta do to keep you, and to keep you healthy,” I turn in my seat and grasp at her face. I stare her dead in the eyes and say, “You are the only fuckin’ thing that matters to me, and if I gotta accept a little charity right now to keep you healthy, I’m gonna fuckin’ do it. Understand?”
Sookie looks at me, all contrite, and I pull her into my chest and kiss the top of her head. “Sooks,” I start again after a minute, “last time they weighed you, you was 117. What happened since November?”
My sis takes a fork and starts playin’ with the pie piece. “I-I was gettin’ terrible tips all month,” she whispers after a minute. “I didn’t want you to cut out your own food, so I cut my lunch money outta the budget and didn’t tell ya,” she finally confesses. “I only just started gettin’ my tips back up again the other day.”
I know my eyes is big as the moon when she tells me this. She’s been keepin’ the same portions for us at home this whole month and a half, and I only let her do that on the weekdays ‘cause they feed her so good at school. “You stupid, beautiful, stupid girl!” I’m kissin’ on her head all over again. “Juan, can you get her a burger, fries, and a Coke, too?” I call out.
“Jason!” she looks at me in surprise.
“Nah, this is just a kick start. Football season’s over and done with. I can cut back for now. Social Services can’t take me away, right?” I point out to her.
“Jason,” she’s got ‘Boycott” written all over her face.
“Sookie,” I stare her down and she finally concedes. She starts eatin’ her pie and is just finishin’ up when her burger and fries come. Sis is practically force feedin’ me French fries and makes me take a couple big bites of her burger, but I know her stomach’s probably so shrunk up she’d make herself sick t’eat all that food in one go.
“I love you, Jason,” she says as we grab our stuff up and go to catch the bus.
“I love you, too, Sooks,” I tell her and wrap my arm over her shoulders. How didn’t I notice how bony her shoulders feel against my arm?
When we get back to the apartment, Eric Northman is sittin’ on our lumpy couch, my lumpy bed. I groan internally. I wasn’t prepared for ass kissin’ so soon.
“Good evening,” Eric stands up and shakes mine and Sookie’s hands. “My assistant told me that you called him out on our ruse. You Stackhouses are very astute.”
“Yeah, well, he almost got me,” I admit ruefully. “All the sudden I realized me and Sooks don’t usually get showered with good luck. Then you was practically tryin’ to shove hundred dollar bills in my pants. Thought I was a male stripper for a minute last night.”
Okay, so I don’t kiss ass too good.
Eric actually laughs, “Yes, I am not a very discrete individual.” Sookie’s bein’ super quiet. I don’t think she trusts herself to be nice. “And that one,” he points at Sookie, “already has me in her crosshairs, so I tried to walk the line carefully.” He smiles at her in a way I don’t like. He’s got a ‘come sit on my knee’ look in his eyes. “You have more color in your cheeks,” he says to Sookie. “Have you eaten?”
“Yeah, we ate at my work,” Sookie spits out.
“I am glad,” Eric actually sounds sincere. He looks at me now and points to the kitchen counter. There’s a black, leather binder sittin’ there. “That is the ledger with which I will be keeping track of your debts. Whatever way you wish to proceed from here is fine by me. I will record the expenses you incur and the debts you erase. Whenever you wish to pay me back is fine by me. If you wish for me to destroy it, I will do that as well. It is up to you.”
“I just wanna know why you’re doin’ this?” Sookie pleads suddenly. “I don’t get it. I don’t like not gettin’ it!”
“I have told you my reasons. If you cannot accept them as the truth, then all that remains are lies,” Eric tells her, and I have to admit, that’s a pretty smooth line.
“I get why us, but why at all,” she insists.
Eric’s lip twitches, like he’s so excited she phrased it like that or somethin’, “Because I was ordered to.”
That makes me and Sookie frown. Ordered by who? What is he talkin’ ’bout?
“You see, my father,” he smirks thinkin’ of his dad? “insisted that I learn how to be more philanthropic. Therefore, I must spend two hours every evening helping others. It is tedious, boring, and I do not like it at all. However, he never said how many people I had to help, only how much time I had to devote to it.
“I like you. I like your brother. So I spend my two hours finding ways to help you because I know you will not squander it. You will be appreciative, although reluctant, and somewhat hostile in your case, Ms. Stackhouse,” He flashes a weirdly excited smile at my sister when he makes that point. “It is fun. I never thought this little social experiment of my father’s would be fun, but it is. You two are challenging, and I challenge you to challenge me to keep our game going. Draw lines in the sand. Make me work hard to help you. Which, by the way, I still had a half an hour to kill on my quota this evening,” He points again at the kitchen, and I realize he’s pointing at the fridge. I go over, open it, and the fucker’s packed full of food. “So, I went grocery shopping to fill the required thirty minutes.”
I look at Sookie with wide eyes, but she’s starin’ at Northman as though she’s seein’ him in a whole new light. All that distrust and anger seems to evaporate now that she understands why he’s doin’ what he’s doin’. The fact he’s admitted that he’s not doin’ this outta the kindness of his heart seems to settle her in some ass-backward way. She knew there was somethin’ he was holdin’ back and now that she understands what it was, she’s a lot more acceptin’ of him. I could do without the oglin’ she’s got toward him though.
I clear my throat to get Sook’s attention, and she fuckin’ blushes and looks at her feet. Shit.
“Well, thanks for spendin’ your quota on us tonight, Mr. Northman,” she mumbles, embarrassed that I caught her starin’. I guess she could do worse than Northman if he’s interested, but at the same time, he looks older than me. I don’t know how I feel about that.
Eric nods at her, and he’s got a cocky grin on his face I’d like to punch for some reason. You ain’t fuckin’ my baby sister, I think angrily.
“I’ll grab a thermos and walk you out,” I can hear the pissy tone in my voice and try and recover my earlier attitude while makin’ myself a cup of instant coffee. Fuck it, I decide to just make it with tap water and drink it cold. Instant coffee is shit anyway. I can always nuke it at the Buy’n’Bag if it’s terrible.
Once I got my “coffee,” I kiss Sookie on the head, tell her goodnight, and walk out with Northman.
“My sister likes you now,” I grumble as we walk down the stairs.
“Is that so?” He looks amused.
“Yeah, it’s so,” I snap. “How old are you?”
“Do you think my interests align with hers?” he asks me with that same laughter in his eyes. I wanna slap him upside the head. Don’t matter if he likes her. A girl likes a guy, and that’s all they need to try and get in their panties whether they like the girl back or not.
“How old are you?” I demand again.
He smirks, “Twenty-four.”
Seven years. Almost four years older than me. Does that bug me?
“Look, you’re playin’ it cool right now, but if your interest in her changes, you fuckin’ tell me before you tell her. Got it?” I warn him with a cold glare. “You ain’t fuckin’ my sister. Got it? She deserves love, and it’d be her first time with any shit you pull. She don’t know men. She sure as hell don’t know rich men. She’s hearts and flowers, not champagne and caviar. Hear me?”
“Loud and clear, Stackhouse,” he assures me. “I believe your warnings are monumentally premature, however. She has only just thawed to me.” We are standing in front of his car now and I’m starin’ at him, waitin’ to make sure he leaves before I do. “Would you like a ride to work?”
“I’d like you to not be here when I ain’t,” I tell him honestly.
Eric nods at me and points to the passenger seat, “Get in. I see that we have a bit more to discuss now that you think your sister is a different concern than resistance.”
I walk around his car and slip into the seat while he climbs behind the wheel. He pulls out of the parkin’ space smoothly and takes off toward the Buy’n’Bag. I like his driving a helluva lot more than his sister’s. “I promise that I will not make any advances toward your sister, Stackhouse. If anything were to change in regard to my relationship with her, she would be the one to initiate it. I further promise that if she were to do so, you would be the second to know,” he tells me, but I could do without that confident look in his eyes. I don’t like to think that my baby sis would make the moves on a guy. She’s a lady. She wasn’t raised to put the moves on nobody.
“She won’t make a move on ya. She doesn’t even know how,” I laugh.
Eric shakes his head, “Nuances, Stackhouse. A man knows when he is wanted. I would appreciate finding out if I am wanted…?”
“Listen,” I groan at his implying that he wants to spend more time with the two of us, “we both work. We both go to school. We ain’t got time to be wined and dined by a millionaire.”
Eric actually laughs at that. “What if we were to do as we did tonight? You will pick up Sookie as you usually do on evenings you work at the convenience store, I will meet up with you afterward, we will converse, get to know each other, and then I will drive you to work?”
“I guess I can live with that,” I concede begrudgingly.
“Would you also be able to live with having my physician take a look at that arm? She is very revered for her specialized treatments,” he tells me. “I fear that your school’s physician will prescribe rotator cuff surgery, and my physician might have a better plan for you. It could mean staying on the football team for your fourth year, and then you will not need the alternate scholarship.”
“What? She bottle miracle juice or somethin’?” I joke. I know my shoulder’s trashed, but despite how draining football is, I’d hate to abandon my team my last year.
“If she were not such a pain in the ass, she could have been deemed a saint for the miracles she has performed,” he jokes back. “I warn you, Dr. Ludwig is crass, bossy, and very no nonsense. Do what she tells you, be grateful, and do not complain.”
“Oh, so, she’s like a woman version of you?” I jibe.
Eric laughs again, “I cannot remember the last time I laughed this much,” he admits. “You know, you and your sister make me laugh… In a surprisingly good way.”
“I guess all the money in the world don’t buy happiness, huh?” I frown now ‘cause I’m realizing this guy seems to have had a pretty empty life. “Are you and your sister real close? What about you and your dad?”
“We are all very tight knit,” he assures me. “Our father lives in Texas. Pam recently moved back down here several weeks ago and is staying with me until she finds a place she deems suitable. We are not overly social with one another, but our affections run deep. Not nearly as demonstrative as you and your sister are, but we are very much a close family.”
“Anything bad ever happen to your sister?” I ask, thinkin’ ’bout the other night and how I thought my world ended. Thinking about today and findin’ out how bad I was failing my own sister.
“She was severely injured in a scuffle a while back,” Northman tells me, his voice darkens a bit, and I know that it still bothers him. “I picked her up and ran very far with her… Another man wanted her, and she did not want him. He tried to beat her into submission.”
My eyes are huge when Eric tells me this, “Was she okay?”
“She recovered. It was a long time ago, and I have since taught her how not to be put in such a scenario again.”
“What about the guy who hurt her?” I ask.
“He was dealt with,” is all he offers, and it makes a shiver go down my spine. Northman’s rich, and he’s said he loves his sister a lot. I wonder if he had the guy killed or something. Hell, maybe he killed the bastard himself. As a big brother, I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. Plenty of gators in Louisiana to clean things up, after all.
Eric pulls up to the Buy’n’Bag and I climb outta the car. Before he can leave, I tell him I’ll give his doc a shot at my arm. He nods and says he’ll send her over sometime when I’m home.
Once his car’s drivin’ away, I turn toward the store. Mine and Sookie’s life has changed a lot in forty-eight hours.