It`s been a while now, huh? I have no excuses apart from this chapter being so hard to write. Ugh.
Thank you for all your lovely reviews and PMs. Some of you were pretty worried that I would stop writing Work Permit when I started Dead on a Football Field. So far from it! Football Field is pure fun to write (and I hope to read) and was just what I needed when I struggled with this one.
Thank you again to the lovely Rascalthemutant of the Alexander Skarsgård Library Forum. I sent her this chapter late last night and this morning I got it back with comments and some soothing words. She is the perfect beta and if all goes well, she`ll also publish a great story soon (yes, I said it, Rascal – you have to publish now, right? :-D)
The bed was empty when I woke up and to my huge shock and surprise, it was almost 11 a.m. I took a quick shower, got dressed and went to the living room where I heard voices.
Chow had apparently come and he, Pam and Eric were deep in conversation. Eric looked up with a smile when I entered.
“Why didn`t you wake me?” I asked.
“You looked so peaceful.” He came over and gave me a kiss. Chow tried not to stare in surprise. “So do you want breakfast or lunch,” Eric asked on his way to the kitchen.
I quickly passed him. “I can go fix myself some breakfast.”
When I came back to the living room, I heard the word `press conference` or rather `pressekonferanse` since they were speaking Norwegian.
“Whoa, what are you planning here? Care to include your PR-expert?” I said, shaking my head.
Eric looked at me. “Chow has made some vital discoveries and we wanted to get it out to everyone and fast. We thought a press conference would be the best way to do it.”
“Press conferences are really a thing of the past, unless you are the king announcing a new grandchild or the Nobel Peace Prize committee announcing this year`s winner. But let me hear what you have and we`ll decide what to do with it.”
Chow looked at me with his dark brown eyes. Then he started talking. And talking. The man had been busy digging up information, both legally and illegally. Mainly illegally. Unless it has suddenly become legal to hack into computers and break into homes.
“As we all know,” Chow said, looking at me with sad eyes, “Eric has had quite a few love affairs and not all of them ended happily. We have all been witness to what MaryAnn did to you,” he nodded at my back. “She was my first guess and I checked her out, but apparently her idea of revenge is more in the ways of pushing girls into fences than corporate scheming.”
I looked at Eric who apparently found his feet very interesting.
“After having checked a few other nutcases in Eric`s little black book of lovers, I decided to look in another direction. Pam here…” Chow pointed in Pam`s direction, “hasn`t been able to keep check on all the skirts entering and leaving this house.”
“Or his car, cabin or wherever else he would take them,” Pam supplemented.
Thank you very much for that piece of information, Pam.
“Well, I figured I would check on Marnie Stonebrook, the person who has actually accused Eric here and bingo, I hit jackpot. Apparenly Eric and Marnie had had a fling at some conference last year and she had put so much more into it than he had.” Chow looked at Eric. “I know you don`t remember it now Eric, but a word of wisdom – don`t screw a woman and promise her a merger at the same time and then forget all about it the next day. I think you could have saved yourself a lot of grief if you at least had answered one of her many calls.”
Eric actually had the decency to look embarrassed.
What he told us, or rather me because Eric and Pam apparently knew already, was definitely worth a press conference. If we could have actually told the story.
“So which parts of this information are legally obtained?” I asked when Chow had finished speaking. “Is there anything we can turn over to the police?”
Chow looked down and then we all went through the material again. No use in having a press conference if you are just going to say that you have broken another law from the one you were originally accused of breaking.
We didn`t have a press conference to my great joy. Instead Pam contacted an old pal at Aftenposten, the largest non-tabloid paper in Norway and handed over the story to him, telling him he couldn`t reveal sources, but that she, Eric and their mother would love to comment on it. Extensively. And exclusively.
According to Pam the reporter almost drooled when he heard what Pam had for him and she never heard any complaints about the legality of the documentation. Or that the sources were to be secret. The only question she got was if her mother would also be willing to do a more general interview. Perhaps with her two loving children? Pam promised to check with her brother and mother, but I had a feeling that interview would never happen.
“You should do this,” I said with enthusiasm in my voice. “It`s a perfect time for you to show the world who you are. It makes the statement so much more valid if people actually like you too.”
Eric and Pam looked at each other.
“You should call your mother now, Eric. Swallow a few camels and we are back in the saddle,” I said with a plastered on smile.
Eric definitely looked like he was swallowing camels when he was thinking about the call he knew he would have to make. He was swallowing camels, tents, deserts, belly dancers and two pyramids by the looks of it. I felt sorry for him, but tried to keep my eye on the target.
Then Eric got up and shrugged.
“I suppose you can`t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Shall I ask her to come straight over?”
Sophie Anne Northman-Ravenscroft was the kind of woman who would steal the room when she entered it, and I don`t mean that she ran off with the silverware. She had something about her that was impossible to ignore. A radiance of some kind. And after having kissed both her kids, and ignored Chow totally, she set her assessing eyes on me.
“So you are Sookie? I have heard so much about you,” she said in a way that made me think that she really had heard much about me. As in having someone dig up information about me.
I went deep in myself and found `confident Sookie` somewhere – and gave Eric`s mother my most winning smile.
“Hello,” I answered politely. Gran would have been proud of me. I held out my hand and Mrs. Northman-Ravenscroft took it and spun me around, much to my surprise. No part of my body was left unscrutinized by Eric`s mother.
“Yes, yes, very well,” she said in a tone that made me feel like I was some prize cattle waiting to be sold. My dignity was somewhere on the floor and I did my best to scrape it up and fill myself with it again.
“Can we get down to business?” I asked after my spin had stopped and I had regained my balance, at least physically. “It seems that you are the wet dream of any Norwegian reporter and I hope we can use that.”
I should have felt mortified over calling the mother of my lover (which was what she was to me, I decided. She was the mother of my boss too, but that was not how it felt) a wet dream, but this was my way of standing ground with her.
She didn`t seem to complain. Actually she seemed quite pleased.
“Yes, I am a wet dream, as you say, for any reporter here. I don`t give many interviews, but when I heard the trouble my dear,” she looked at Pam and Eric “children were in, I of course had to come and I`m willing to do anything for my babies.” She was almost theatrical when she said `anything`. “I usually handle my own PR, but what do you suggest, Sookie?”
I became `PR-Sookie` and handed her the mental list I had made of how I wanted her to act, what I wanted her to say and how I wanted her to say it. I did not say what she shouldn`t say, that`s a big no-no when you talk to reporters. Nine out of ten times you would blurt out with just that. It`s like saying to people “don`t think of a white horse.” Everyone gets a white horse on their minds.
“So we agree on all of this, Mrs. Northman-Ravenscroft?” I asked, having Pam`s suicide PR-stunt fresh in memory. I wanted to make sure at least one member of the Northman-Ravenscroft family used my skills.
“My dear Sookie.” She wrapped her hands around one of mine. “I do hope you will call me Sophie-Anne,” she smiled to me. I smiled back, but when I glanced at Eric, his eyes were very dark and it made me stifle my smile a bit. “Your plan sounds wonderful and I can see why my son hired you.” She had a way of making that sound as if I was hired for more than my “wonderful” plan.
The reporter came by, and I got to see the `Sophie-Anne-effect` up close. She had the reporter around her little finger, playing coy, helpless, strong and wounded all at the same time. The reporter wrote and asked and talked and giggled. I could almost taste the champagne he was going to celebrate on afterwards.
Eric stayed in the background since his memory, or lack of it, could stand in his way of sane answers. Pam added some snark to the conversation, as only Pam could, and Chow and I were quiet.
After an hour of journalistic admiration, Sophie-Anne started to get frustrated.
“Weren`t you supposed you bring a photographer too?” she asked.
Pam groaned and rolled her eyes and Eric channeled an inner sad kid.
As if on cue the doorbell rang and a female photographer entered. As much as the male reporter had been in awe over being in the same room as Sophie-Anne, the photographer immediately checked out Eric. I decided I didn`t like that photographer. Sophie-Anne coughed lightly and then the photographer went star-struck over her instead.
“I just need to freshen up a little,” Sophie-Anne smiled and went to the bathroom. When she came back twenty minutes later, she wore a thick layer of makeup. It looked phony in real life, but I had seen enough pictures to know that it would look great in the paper.
The photographer took pictures of Sophie-Anne, of Eric, of Pam and of all of them. Chow and I were silent spectators. Then the reporter said “take a few of those two too, just to be on the safe side,” and my natural and non-glamorous face was also inside the memory stick of the camera.
One would think that the anticipation of getting Viking Game`s and Eric`s names cleaned in one fine stroke, would make us giddy and happy. We were so far from it. Eric was broody, Chow was quiet and Pam was snarky – and not in her usual fun way.
And Sophie-Anne gave me the third degree. I tried to be polite. I mean, I was brought up being polite to people`s mothers. But that didn`t mean I felt comfortable.
After a quick dinner, and this time it wasn`t some delicious thing Eric had cooked – it was pizza delivered by some acne-plagued teenager, I went to bed.
I lay awake for some time in the hope that Eric would come too, but he never did.
Well, he did come, but not until the next morning when he jumped into my bed with a yell that would have scared Tarzan and made all the animals of the jungle worship their new king Eric.
“The paper is here and the article is gooooood.” His mother had apparently never taught him that you shouldn`t jump on the furniture because I was bounced up and down by a 7-year-old in a huge body.
Pam came into my bedroom too.
“It`s fun how I started out my life by having a big brother and now I`m suddenly the old and wise one,” she said with a smile.
I picked up the paper and was amazed to see that our story had hit the front page.
“De anklagende anklages” was the headline. “The accusers are being accused.”
I read the article through very fast and then I reread it, asking Eric and Pam for translations whenever I met a word I hadn`t learned yet.
“Aftenposten can today exclusively tell you the story of a woman scorned and how she tried to seek revenge. Because of a broken heart owner of Bloksberg, Marnie Stonebrook, accused Viking Games and its owner, flamboyant Eric Northman, of having broken the Laws of Competition. The accusations against Viking Games are unfounded.”
There were huge pictures of a smiling Pam, Eric and Sophie-Anne, but also a serious picture of Eric with the caption: “Had I known she would be so upset when I broke up with her, I would never have been involved with her in the first place.”
This triggered something in me and my smile faded. My brain did a quick run-through of the women who had done crazy things for love after I had come to Norway.
Marne Stonebrook had tried to break Eric because he had rejected her, MaryAnn had hurt me for the same reason. Lorena had manipulated Bill. And then there was the case of Debbie who had… well, no need to ruin my good mood, I decided.
Love was crazy and I got a sudden case of cold feet towards Eric. How could I know that I wouldn`t be the next scorned woman in his life? The next one to do crazy things because he rejected me?
I huffed and went to the bathroom. I jumped into the shower and tried to let the water wash my brain and clear out all the sad thoughts. Instead I ended up crying. I knew the few days I had had at the cabin with Eric wouldn`t come back and I knew I would have to build something else instead. But how? I hadn`t trusted Eric before he lost his memory and being reminded of his extensive love life didn`t exactly enhance my faith in him and any relationship we might have in the future.
I looked in the mirror and figured I would just have to play it by ear. There was really not anything else I could do.
When I came out to my bedroom again I found Eric sitting on my bed, his face buried in his hands.
He looked up at me as I entered the room, and he looked shocked. Well, no wonder, what with everything that had happened the last few days.
“Sitting here on your bed, smelling your scent and reading the newspaper,” he said in a voice so low I had to strain to hear it.
“Sookie… I remember everything.”
I started to smile, but my smile was killed by Eric`s angry eyes.
“Are you pleased with yourself now, Sookie?” he spat out.
Oh, I`m cruel with the cliffie.
Before you ask – the relationship Eric – Sophie-Anne will be explained.
Hope you liked this chapter.
Jeg vil ha snøen tilbake – hulk hulk (I want the snow back – buhuu)