I`m so happy to see that this story wasn`t entirely forgotten in its hibernation. Thank you so much for all your reviews and comments to the last chapter. And it seems the story even got a few new subscribers.
I want to thank Suki59 for betaing this and for not losing patience when I make the same mistakes again and again. And again. You just can`t teach old dogs new tricks.
Bill was surprisingly fast. The man who`d been stalling any kind of commitment to me managed to quit whatever job he had and come to Norway in only two days. It was with mixed feelings I opened the door to him. He`d been an important part of my life but apart from a few emails back and forth, always initiated by him, I hadn`t talked to him in months.
But I was happy that he was here to help us. In the two days since his phone call I`d had everyone at Viking Games look into his allegations and a few phone calls to our competitors and other people knowing the business, revealed that something big was underway. Someone was hiring the best game designers and programmers and Bill hadn`t been the only one hearing tales about how they – whoever they were – wanted to bring down Viking Games.
“Sookie!” he said in that deep voice of his. He opened his arms for a hug and I decided to give him that hug. I found that I had missed the friendship Bill and I had had.
“How was the flight?” I asked.
“Awful, as they always are. And I could only get a tourist visa on this short notice so I can`t stay for more than three months and any work I do must be more of a favor than real work.”
“So you can work but we can`t pay you?” I asked with a smile. “Who would have known that the Norwegian Immigration would help us save money?”
I looked at him and noticed that he was only carrying his computer bag.
“Where are your things?”
“They`re still in the taxi.” He pointed at a car waiting in the street. “Oslo Taxi” the white sign said on the roof of it.
“Why?” I asked and then I realized. “Go get your things, Bill. You`re staying here.”
One of his rare smiles cracked his face. “I wasn`t sure,” he said and then he turned around and ran down, retrieved his luggage and paid the taxi driver.
Back inside I had him put his things in the guest room and then I made him lunch. We talked and laughed during lunch and it was almost like in the old days. No, it was better because Bill was nicer – sweeter somehow – and I was not that little puppy-dog so in love with him I couldn`t see his flaws. We were two adults – two friends – having a great conversation.
“This was a great meal, Sookie. So much better than the ones I`m used to.” Bill patted his stomach and then he couldn`t hide a yawn.
“I`m glad I can compete with macaroni and cheese, Bill,” I teased him. “But right now you need to sleep. Knowing you, you were up all night on the plane, hitting those keys on your laptop keyboard.”
Bill smiled. “And I lost seven hours on the way too.”
“Right. So off to bed and we`ll talk more later.”
Eric looked gloomy when I visited him at the hospital after having made sure Bill had a key to the house if he needed to go out before I came back. My heart ached for Eric, knowing what he`d been through and what memories Appius` visit had stirred.
But then my heart ached for myself as well, not to mention for Alexei with the troubled childhood and Colman who`d died in his attempts at getting revenge.
We were a sorry lot. And all because of a few rich men – Appius and Niall in particular – and their twisted ways of viewing the world.
“How are you?” I asked Eric and gave him a kiss.
“Has Pam been around today?”
“She just left.” Eric looked away for some reason.
“What`s wrong?” I thought of Pam`s visit and how she had been almost offended that Eric hadn`t confided in her before. “Did you argue?”
“What? Why do you ask?” His blue eyes were suddenly very awake.
It was my turn to shrug.
“So you`re coming home in a few days?”
“I`m looking forward to it,” I said, smiling.
That brought a smile to Eric`s lips. “Me too.” He got up and walked over to me and then he pulled me into his embrace. He kissed me deeply and in that kiss I had my old Eric back. He pulled back and looked at me. “The first thing I`ll do when I get home is …, ” and he whispered his suggestion into my ear, making me blush like a teenager. “And damned the rest of the world,” he declared.
The rest of the world may be damned but it was there all the same. I drove straight from the hospital to Viking Games and found everyone in a frenzy.
“A company called Vampire Games issued a press statement,” Thalia, a fairly new recruit from Greece said as she was running by me.
“What?” I stopped her. She had that sulky look that always unnerved me but she was one of our best game designers and I had a lot of respect for her achievements.
“They`ll release their game on May 17th,” she said and kept running.
I checked my watch for the date and noticed this was April first. Was it some kind of April fool? Did they even celebrate April fools here?
I pulled out my phone from my purse and called Bill, hoping he`d gotten the sleep he needed. I was a bit embarrassed to hear a very sleepy Bill answer the phone but told myself it was an emergency.
“Can you be at the office in half an hour? I need to talk to everyone and I want you here.”
One of the reasons for wanting Bill there was to make sure he shared his knowledge with everyone but I also wanted to be the one introducing him to the people who had been his coworkers and were now his coworkers again. He was considered a traitor and worse for abandoning Viking Games last summer and would not be welcomed back without my endorsement. And maybe not even then.
I looked out of the window while waiting for Bill and was amazed to see the snow gone and tulips and grass growing instead. When had that happened? The sun was hot against the window but I knew there was a cold wind outside. Still, it felt as if this country had no spring – only winter and summer. And that it had jumped from one to the other while Eric was in the hospital.
I knew the moment Bill walked in the door. Not because I saw him or heard him but from the united gasp that came from everyone in the room.
I turned around and Bill stood there, handsome as ever. I thought about how he`d once had my heart beating fast and now he was just another man.
No, not just another man. He was a friend, I reminded myself, and he might be our best card in the trouble we had waiting for us.
“Listen up,” I said in a loud voice and everyone turned in my direction. “I want to call a meeting in the conference room. And I want everyone to be there in five minutes.”
And with that I went to fetch myself a cup of coffee and when I turned around, Bill was next to me, waiting with an empty cup. I poured him a cup too and we went silently to meet everyone at Viking Games. Everyone but Eric.
I took a deep breath. I wasn`t the manager or owner of Viking Games but I knew they would listen to me anyway. Partly because I`d earned their respect these past months but I knew it was mainly because of who I was married to. When Eric wasn`t there, I was the blonde substituting the blond.
“You`ve probably all heard about the press release saying we will have a new competitor on May 17th. What some of you might not know is that this competitor has decided to make it personal. They want our blood and they want us dead.”
I heard someone snicker and was surprised to see it was Thalia. I didn`t know she had any facial expressions other than sour, surly or just plain bored.
“What`s funny?” I asked.
“They want our blood,” she said.
“It`s a vampire game. Get it?” She giggled. I figured Thalia`s giggling was like seeing pigs fly or the big guy down below making himself a snowman.
Several people laughed with her and I smiled too but mainly because it was nice to see Thalia laugh. And upsetting, somehow.
“They are going to release the game on May 17th and that means we have … ”
“Did you say May 17th?” I was interrupted by Quinn, the receptionist.
“But … ” He looked confused. “But that`s our national day,” he said, blushing because he had everyone`s eyes on him.
I looked around and the other Norwegians – Viking Games didn`t have that many – nodded.
“So?” I asked. “It just means that Vampire Games is not a Norwegian company?”
“No,” a voice said. I turned and saw Indira, a Norwegian programmer with Indian parents, gesture that she wanted to speak. I nodded at her. “They know how important the 17th of May is to us. They are mocking us with this release date. The 17th of May is very special.”
“What happens on the 17th of May?” I asked.
“All the children walk through Oslo in their national costumes and when they reach the royal castle, the king greets them. And then we celebrate the day with our family or at large gatherings at the schools. It`s a huge day.”
A cacophony of voices discussing the news rose – Norwegians explaining the insult that this apparently was and everyone shouting out suggestions as to what we could do. Then Bill got up and they all became quiet. Not out of respect, because it was clear that no one respected him, or even liked him. People folded their arms over their chests and I even heard a few snorts and huffs.
“They asked me to come work for them,” Bill said.
“They asked everyone to come work for them, Bill,” Thalia said. “You`re not special.”
Bill smiled. “No, I realize that, but what I was going to say was that I`m going to accept the job.”
If people had been talking loudly before, they were shouting now. The Bill-dislike turned into outright hatred. Bill just smiled one of those sad smiles I`d used to love. He didn`t do anything to stop people from shouting at him. When they finally realized he had more to say, the shouting died down and he continued.
“You need a mole there,” he said and then he turned to me. “Can we go to your office?”
I nodded and walked towards my office, knowing he would follow me. I closed the door after him and saw everyone`s faces turned in our direction.
“What was that about, Bill?” I asked. “Is it smart to reveal that you`re going to be a mole in front of that many people?” I sat down behind my desk. “And really, Bill. A mole?”
“I`m the perfect guy for it. Everyone knows I`m not very popular here and my telling a story about wanting to get revenge … well, it wouldn`t be that hard to believe. If they know I was here – if anyone … ” He nodded in the direction of the group gathered outside my office. “… tells them I`d said I was going to be a mole … I can just tell them I`m a counter-mole. That I`m making you believe I`m working for you.”
I shook my head. “And how do I know you aren`t?”
Bill shrugged. “Would it make any difference? It`s not as if you`re going to tell me any secrets or anything. You`ll have everything to win and nothing to lose on this.”
“But why would you tell everyone?” I asked.
Bill looked down and then at me.
“I want to come back and I want people to welcome me back. This way they`ll all know that I`m doing something extraordinary for Viking Games and they might just include me the way they used to.” Bill got up and walked towards me. “I`ve missed .…” Then he stopped. “I`ve missed working here.”
Bill started making enquiries immediately and before Eric was out of the hospital, Bill was on a plane to Berlin, Germany, where his new company had their headquarters.
I wished him good luck. And then I wished myself good luck on the choice of trusting Bill. I reminded myself that I had nothing to lose this time. He wasn`t my boyfriend and he didn`t have anything else he could betray me with. Or so I hoped.
But Eric was coming home and that was my main concern. I had missed him so very much but I was wary too. He`d been through a lot and needed my support. But I had been through a lot too. Watching a man getting shot is not something you easily erase from your brain.
I wasn`t sure I understood what grip Appius had on Eric. I wasn`t sure I would ever understand. But I understood there was something.
I also understood that I loved Eric and love was supposed to conquer all, right? My love had been slow in growth – or rather in realization. But then it had never had perfect conditions in which to grow. Now those conditions was worse than ever but I didn`t doubt that I loved Eric. It was actually one of few things I didn`t question these days.
So I drove to the hospital with a smile on my lips. It could never be a bad thing to get Eric back.
I drove up the long pebbled road to the hospital and was surprised to see that Pam was already out on the hospital steps, talking to Eric. I smiled to myself. I liked Pam and I knew she was a great support to her brother. She walked that fine line of being a support but also not agreeing with him on everything. She was honest with him and he definitely needed that, growing up in a family where honesty was rare.
But Eric didn`t always care for what Pam had to say and, judging from their facial expressions, this was one of the times where he did not like her opinions.
I drove closer and was surprised to see that there was actual anger in Eric`s face. It wasn`t just that he disliked what Pam had just told him. He was angry at Pam for saying it. Then Eric looked up, saw me in the car, said something to Pam and made a gesture that made it clear, even to me out of hearing distance, that he wanted Pam to leave.
I parked the car and walked over to them. Pam smiled a sad smile but Eric still looked angry. That wasn`t the welcome I had hoped for.
I just wanted my husband home. My husband. Not the angry man who`d shouted at his sister.
“What`s wrong?” I asked.
Pam glanced at Eric who just shrugged. Then he shook his head, huffed and his face transformed into the smile I had hoped for. Eric has a great smile and then and there it melted my heart. And the doubt that had been lurking.
He held out his arms and I ran towards him and jumped into his embrace. It was like coming home.
He hugged me tight and I hugged him tighter. Because of the difference of our height, I was a couple of inches above ground and Eric snuggled into my neck.
“I`ve missed you,” he whispered and I knew it wasn`t that he thought it was a long time ago since I`d visited him. I`d visited him the day before. It was a long time ago we`d just been us. Eric and Sookie without a care in the world.
I turned my head and kissed his forehead. Then I kissed his mouth. And he kissed mine.
It was a deep kiss. A kiss filled with emotions. A kiss that told me that we would overcome anything.
I wanted to ask him how he was doing but right now I was content with kissing him. Appius, Alexei, Eric and Pam fighting – it could all wait. So could Bill going to work for our mysterious competitor. Eric and I were allowed to have a few moments in our own little world.
Pam coughed. “You have to go, Eric.”
I looked at him and he let my body slide down so I could stand on my own two feet.
“Go where?” I asked.
Eric`s smile was gone. “Victor`s in town. He requires my presence.”
“Requires?” I asked. I only had one cousin, but she`d never required anything of me. Asked, perhaps. But never required.
“Yeah. He`s at the Grand Hotel.”
Eric and I got into the car I`d driven to pick him up in and Pam walked over to her own car. And instead of going home and being just Eric and me, we went to the Grand Hotel to meet Eric`s obnoxious cousin, Victor.
The Grand Hotel is situated on Karl Johan, the main street of Oslo. It`s a beautiful old building and I`d always wanted to see more of it. But when we walked through the lobby, I found myself not that interested.
Eric, Pam and I took the elevator in silence. Victor, of course, had the largest suite and when we got out of the elevator we were met by two huge guys standing guard outside the suite. They knocked on the door when we had stated out business. From inside, another huge man opened the door and let us in.
If Victor had wanted to make us feel uncomfortable before we walked over the threshold, he`d certainly succeeded. Having a guy twice your size walking next to you does something to you. Even Eric, who was the same height as the guy walking us in, seemed skinny compared to the hormone-induced muscles the other guy carried. And very few people would normally call Eric skinny.
Victor was half lying, half sitting on the white couch in the middle of the suite. His wife wasn`t there but he`d made up for this by having a man and a woman on each arm. Victor`s hand was on the woman`s breast and the man was groping Victor`s groin. If they`d worn a little less clothes, I would have looked for cameras because this could have been the filming of an x-rated movie. Then I remembered that porn was illegal here in Norway, Then I remembered that porn was illegal here in Norway, or at least the filming of “organs in movement” (Eric had once laughingly explained to me how the law was worded). So Victor could be filming a legal Norwegian version of an x-rated movie.
If the muscle guys had made me feel slightly uncomfortable, Victor`s peep show finished the job.
“I thought I told you this was family business, Eric,” Victor said with a lazy grin but without looking at either Pam or me.
“Pam and Sookie are family,” Eric answered, his face chiseled stone.
“Pam is not my family. Pam is not a Northman.” He paused, then his head turned very slowly until his eyes met mine. I`d heard stories about snakes hypnotizing their prey before they ate it and Victor`s eyes made me feel like a little mouse meeting her final hour. “And Sookie isn`t family at all. Not when she can`t produce an heir.” He turned back to Eric. “I`m sorry for your loss.”
Only, Victor wasn`t sorry at all. He was gloating. Eric having had a child would have made him a stronger candidate to take over Northman Enterprises. Only, that wasn`t what Eric wanted – not that Victor would ever believe that.
“Why are we here?” Eric spoke in an even tone. He was mad but did his best to contain his anger.
Victor kissed the woman who`d now crawled up on his lap. “Oh, why are you here? Do I have to have a reason to see my dear cousin?” he asked.
I looked at Eric and could see the muscles in his jaw clenching.
Victor pushed the woman on his lap aside. “But I have a reason, of course,” he said. “I wanted to warn you, Eric. I`ve been seeing how much fun you`ve had with that little game company of yours so I started one too. And what do you know? I`ve hired some of the best people in the business. Even a couple of your people.” Victor looked back at me. “I just got a phone call from Bill Compton. He was your old boyfriend, wasn`t he, Sookie? He wanted to work for me too.”
A glance at Eric told me that it was a good thing that I`d never had time to tell him about Bill`s offer because the surprise and anger Eric showed now would have been an Oscar worthy achievement had he known about it beforehand. Victor`s grin told me how much he`d loved Eric`s surprise and I did my best to convince him that I was repulsed by Bill`s “betrayal” too.
“Was Bill the guy who raped her?” the woman asked Victor in a way that was too rehearsed to be anything but an act. And a poor one at that.
Victor arranged his features in a compassionate look that didn`t fit him. “Yes, he was,” he replied. “You`ve had a tough year, Sookie,” he said. “Eric has brought you a lot of bad luck.”
I was about to answer when Eric grabbed my hand. “Goodbye, Victor,” Eric said and turned around, ready to leave.
Victor got up. “Are you leaving already? You haven`t seen my suite. It`s the one Barack Obama stayed in when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. And Nelson Mandela and the Pope stayed here too. I do believe even Elvis slept in these rooms. I would offer you a drink, but you can`t drink, can you, Eric? I mean, you`re on antidepressants, aren`t you?”
“Fuck you, Victor,” Eric shouted, and with me in tow, he walked out of the suite. Pam was one step behind.
We took the elevator down in silence, got into the car and it wasn`t until we`d come home to our house and hung up the coat (me) or thrown the jacket on the floor (Eric) that Eric spoke. Pam had gone to her own apartment.
“Fuck!” Eric shouted, anger oozing from every inch of his body. He kicked the poor jacket on the floor.
I took his hand.
“Forget Victor,” I said.
“What?” Eric looked at me as if he were surprised to see me there. “Oh, yeah.” Then he pulled me into his arms. “Let`s fuck,” he said.
Eric wasn`t usually this blunt and normally I wouldn`t have cared for it but I right now, with all the aggravation and frustration, I welcomed it.
“Yeah, let`s,” I said, my voice much deeper.
Clothes were shed, buttons went flying and faster than one would have thought possible, we were naked on the floor next to the shoes, boots and the jacket Eric had kicked around.
We rolled around a few times, groping, grunting and not really sure who was to be on top and which limbs were going where but then Eric sat up, supported by the wall and I was on top of him.
Eric`s large hands were on my hips and butt and pulling me down onto him. The feeling of having him inside me again made me say something I would rather not repeat in good company but it seemed to make Eric happy. He grinned and then he groaned and then he didn`t do much with his mouth apart from half-sucking/half-biting my left breast.
I rode Eric and Eric helped me ride him harder and faster. It was passion and frustration all mixed up in a very hot cocktail that Eric and I didn`t sip but gulped down so quickly we both lost our breath. But we still kept going.
And when my breath was completely gone, Eric rolled us over so that I was on my back, lifted my butt and pounded me deep and hard.
It was so good and so very intense and soon I was bucking in his hands, my orgasm washing over me. My moaning out my pleasure did something to Eric as well. He went even faster and even harder and then, with one last thrust, he said something that definitely wasn`t in the Norwegian vocabulary I`d learned – and Eric had taught me bedroom-Norwegian too – and fell down on top of me as if someone had hit him with a taser. He even had the same kind of shivers going through his body.
I, on the other hand, felt a kind of relaxation I hadn`t felt in a long time. With my hands on Eric`s sweaty back, and my legs around his waist, I felt as if I could absorb him. Absorb all his problems. As if we were one and everything was fine.
Life with Eric should be like this always. We should have this post-coital feeling forever. Apparently Eric felt the same way because we lay there for a long time. A very long time. But when I started shivering from being naked on the cold wooden floor, Eric pulled out, kissed the tip of my nose and helped me up.
Silently we went to the shower where he washed my hair and then I washed his. It wasn`t until I was drying my body with the soft towel I realized one could get rug burns even when the floor had no rugs.
I looked at my raw knees and then I looked at Eric`s. They were even worse than mine.
“Well worth it,” Eric said with a grin. “I`d rub off the skin from most of my body for sex like that.”
I nodded in agreement.
Eric handed me my bathrobe and then he opened the medicine cabinet and grabbed the band-aids. We went to the bedroom where he put band-aids on my knees and then I put band-aids on his. One could probably make this into a metaphor of our life – the pleasure and the pain we were going through together – but I was too tired.
I took off my bathrobe, crawled under the duvet and went to sleep. The last thing I felt was Eric`s arm around my waist. I`m sure I entered Dreamland with a smile on my face.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Next chapter will be up soon!