He opened the door to his ‘tank’ and helped me in. Ok, he had to pick me up. I probably would have been able to manage if I wasn’t wearing my shortest dress.
I gave the enormous SUV a once over and had to fight a laugh. “So, uh, you’re pretty ‘green’, huh?” The truck couldn’t possibly get more than 7 miles per gallon.
He studied me from the corner of his eyes.
“If your house burns down, you have somewhere to stay. I think I saw a bathroom back there… and a racquetball court.”
He chuckled, finally. “I do live in it once in a while. I don’t bother with a tent, just an air mattress.”
“How often do you go a’ sporting?”
He shrugged. “Here and there. Sometimes for the magazine, sometimes for quiet. You ever go camping?”
“As a kid, but I’ll admit… it was all about the s’mores. When I was in high school I discovered the toaster oven cheat… camping and I haven’t spoken since.”
He chuckled, shaking his head. “Maybe you can reconnect.”
“It was for the best. S’mores and I couldn’t be closer.”
We laughed for most of the drive to the restaurant. I spend so much time with uptight writers working on deadlines, that it’s easy to forget how to relax and have fun sometimes.
He was refreshing, to say the very least.
No sooner than the waitress left after taking our order, Eric flashed that smirk of his. “Your turn… To talk about yourself.”
“Pam didn’t tell you anymore about me than Amelia told me about you. Wonderful.”
“About 2 months ago, they tried to slip ‘we have this friend’ into a conversation. I shut them down.”
“So why did you agree to do the show?”
“Because I’m a damn pushover for tears. Pam faked a weepy episode on the phone.”
I gasped. “She didn’t! That’s low! Even for her.”
“She’s good. I’ll give her that. Why’d you do it?”
“Amelia told me that her job was on the line and if she got fired for not following through, she’d be ruined.”
“That’s just wrong… Alright no more stalling. We’ll start small. Do you collect anything?” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for an answer while he took a sip of his drink.
All of a sudden I was hit with a spray of ice water. “Oh, my god. I’m so sorry. I…”
I started patting myself dry with my napkin, trying not to laugh too loud. “No. It was really bad timing for the joke. I’m sorry.”
“Shit. I’m… I can’t believe I did that.”
“It’s just water… I don’t collect anything really, other than movies. The normal kind.” I was hoping that going back to the conversation would help him realize that I wasn’t upset.
After a minute of playing the staring game, he finally smiled. “I don’t really collect postcards, but it was the only thing I could think of. I’d just gotten one. I checked my mail on the way out this morning.”
“Really, from who?”
He cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably. “Uh… My ex-wife.”
OH Damn! It would figure. “She sent you a post card?”
He nodded. “From her honeymoon. I can’t figure out if she thought it would bother me. She’s always been kinda weird.” At least there’s that.
“Alright. I’m looking for red flags. Give me something I can work with.”
He gave me another smirk. “Your turn’s coming… I got her pregnant in high school…” Fucking shoot me now. “…We were 17 and we snuck off and got married. We got grounded for it, if that’s not completely insane. We’d been married for 2 weeks when she had the miscarriage. We were at the hospital and she looked up at me and said ‘thank god’. By the time our annulment was done, we hadn’t been married for 3 months. Our parents hadn’t even let us live together.”
He nodded. “I wanted to hit her at the time. She sure as shit coulda put it better, but we were both terrified. We both had plans that wouldn’t have happened with a baby to work around, but we were too chicken shit to admit it. We would have fucked everything up. Now she’s married some tool named Calvin. She signed the card ‘Deborah Norris’ and wrote a smiley face in the Os… Now. You… You’ve sworn off men. Why?”
I snarled at him as a joke and took a deep breath. One of these days I’m actually going to stop talking to Amelia. I can’t believe she’d tell him that. “I dated my married boss.”
He laughed and sat forward almost laying in his own lap to look up at me. “What? You just got an ‘oh shit’ face when you heard me say ‘EX’ wife and you ignored how many red flags?”
“I’ll admit that dating my boss wasn’t a great idea, but we seemed to be doing just fine because we were keeping it quiet. It was easy because I wasn’t in the same office. Sam had started talking about us moving in together, but I stopped by the office to drop off some copy… His wife had brought the kids by to visit. That’s how I found out he was married.”
“NO! That’s fucked. You don’t still work with him do you?”
“No. I emailed my resignation from my phone in the parking lot. I moved here a year ago from New Orleans.”
“Good girl. What about family?”
“I’m an orphan. Foster care after my parents died in a car accident. My foster family was awesome. I’m still in touch.”
“Nope. Parents are gone too. Dad took off before I was out of diapers and mom found a lump about 5 years ago that had already gone too far… metastasized to her lungs. They didn’t catch it in time. I ended up with a stepbrother, but I only ever hear from him when he needs bail.”
I tried to smile sympathetically. “It’s sweet that you’re so close.”
He chuckled. Thank God. “So we’re both orphans, we both write, we both love a good movie…”
“Hold on. Before you go any further… You need to know that I’m not healthy. My homepage is IMDB. I’m obsessed with movies. I got the Entertainment Editor gig just so I could have an excuse to go to Tribeca and Sundance. I plan for them for months. Amelia calls it ‘Movie Day’; every Tuesday I leave the house around 11 to go to the theater and watch the test runs for the Friday premieres so that I can write the reviews for the Thursday edition. It’s all a smokescreen so I can see them a few days early.”
He stared at me for a long time.
Shit. “I told you. It’s not healthy.”
“How do I apply to be your assistant?”
I almost blushed at the excited look on his face. “I get press junkits too.”
“The bigger studios send out advance copies to the press to generate buzz. We review and they get free press. Networks send them out too for pilots. You should see my closet. Amelia calls it ‘Hollywood-land’ because of all the movies I have. Normally I wouldn’t, not with Shreveport Magazine, but because I was already the EE for the Picayune, I was on the lists.”
“You’re my hero.”
I laughed at how serious he seemed when he said it. “So movies, writing, how are you on a dance floor?”
“Oh, I hold my own. You camp for S’mores. I dance for booze.”
I was laughing again and suddenly trying to remember the last time I had laughed so much. “Fair enough. So what’s with the rock climbing? Spiderman fantasies?”
He smirked at me again. Damn. “I went with friends on a kayaking trip. Never done it before and fell in love with it instantly. We started at the top of Mount Pisca in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Middle River. Everyone laughed at me when I didn’t leave. I drove out to the Appalachian Trail and spent two weeks. I was on one of the trails there when I saw someone rock climbing. That was all she wrote. I worked as a tour guide and instructor for half the year and ski instructor the other half. Writing on the side. The resort I worked at provided board and in the summer I lived outside. I managed to save up enough to open the gym.”
“That’s not stuff you can find around here though. White water and rocky cliffs to dangle from. How’d you end up here?”
“Rock climbing gyms make more money when nature isn’t your competition. Most of the better climbs and white water are scattered so I’d travel anyway. There’s great spelunking to do in Texas and don’t underestimate the water around here.”
“You never thought of somewhere like Colorado?”
He chuckled. “That’d be like teaching a whore to fake it. Those folks are practically born for rock climbing. You need repelling gear just to walk to the market.”
“Teaching a whore to fake it, huh?”
“Teaching a cop to eat doughnuts… teaching a lawyer to lie… teaching a crack head to suck a…”
I waved my hand, trying to get him to stop. “Bup bup bup… I get it.”
He licked his lips and leered at me. “I was going to say ‘pipe’.”
“Sure, you were.”
“No really. How about we settle on ‘teaching Pam to be sneaky’?”
I smiled and gave him a nod. “Oh, I’m going to kick their asses for this.”
“Do you think they did such a bad job?”
“Not at all, but they don’t need to know that. Besides what if I’d ended up picking Bill?”
Eric laughed out a deep breath. “Ahhh, Mr. Gone With The Wind. I’d be surprised if he’d ever gotten laid without paying for it. His Betty Blow Up probably makes him turn the lights off.”
He raised his eyebrow at me.
“Ok. It’s probably true, but it’s still not nice.”
“How would you feel if I told you Quinn probably had a couple of phone numbers in his pocket, but someone would have to help him dial them with his Cro-Magnon stubs he calls fingers.”
I giggled at him. “You’re pretty cocky for someone just as single as they are.”
“Oh, but ‘single’ is subjective. I am single because I haven’t been in the mood to date for a while. They are single because they are knobs.”
“So, who put you off?”
“I dated a girl last year who jerked me around. She enjoyed mind games a little too much. I backed out.”
“What kind of mind games?” I was just curious, but part of me wanted to make sure that leaving a toothbrush at his place wasn’t considered a mind game.
“Uh… when Valentine’s Day rolled around, we’d been dating for about a week. She thanked me for the flowers I brought her and made sure to point out that she was wearing a necklace an ex gave her. She had a friend sign up at the gym to flirt with me as a ‘test’ to see if I’d take the bait. She came over to my house with a black eye and told me that an ex did it. When I caught up to the guy, it turned out that his girlfriend did it to her when she ran into them at a bar and started a fight by dumping a beer over the girlfriend’s head. Shit like that. She was psycho and she was almost enough to turn me gay.”
“You actually went after the guy?”
“I’m old fashioned like that.” He winked at me. He was just edible. “So I suppose we have two dilemmas. One: how to mess with Pam and Amelia for playing matchmaker. And Two: what to do when we leave here.”
“How are you with a screwdriver?”
“So-so I guess, but I make a mean Tequila Sunrise.”
I snorted, almost returning the ‘shower’ he’d given me.
After a quick stop at the hardware store, earning plenty of raised eyebrows for surpassing the apparent flannel/coveralls dress code, we came to the conclusion that we should go to FYE to buy a movie to take back to my house.
We walked up and down the aisles for nearly an hour. I saw the usual standards that I already own, movies I’d seen too many times already and movies that I considered having seen once as too many times. He seemed to be having the same problem. The only thing we seemed to agree on was our repeated returns to browse the comedy section. Keeping things ‘light’ seemed to be part of both itineraries.
“Sookie, are you always this indecisive?”
I knew he was mostly joking. “No. No, usually I’m accused of being a complete… I have a nickname: OCDiva.”
He smirked again, something that I found myself becoming addicted to. He held his hand out and took mine, shaking it. “That’s very interesting. ‘OCDiva’, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m known as ‘Control’.”
I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. “Hi, my name is Sookie and I am a neat freak. My clothes are organized by occasion and color and the reason Amelia and I don’t share an entertainment center anymore is because I couldn’t stand opening a DVD case to find the wrong disc even though what I told her is that I felt awkward trying to watch a movie while her and Pam were making out on the other end of the couch. Your turn.”
“I put my clothes in the washer before I get into bed and they dry while I eat breakfast. I don’t own a hamper because I don’t need one. I rip every movie I buy and add it to my hard drive so that I can search alphabetically, by genre, cast, year, rating or soundtrack genre in excel. I keep a tracker for the sport I’ve done too. Rocks, rivers, slopes… things like height, depth, speed, accessibility, lat and long. I’m more organized than anything.”
I smiled at his anal retentive organizational quirks. “Excel, huh. You’re going to have to show me. I never thought of that. I can stand in my closet for hours and stare. Just lost.”
He chuckled at me. “I’ll show you, but it doesn’t seem to make things any easier unless someone asks for a suggestion. Besides it could take weeks for you to put it together.”
“Maybe with the right amount of sweet talk, you could help.”
“I can’t imagine being in your room for long and keeping my mind on your movies…” His eyebrow went up. He was overtly flirting with me and it made me blush. “…In the meantime…”
He took me by the shoulders and led me over to the comedy section. He bent over and took my shoes off, setting them to the side. As soon as I closed my eyes like he asked, he put his hands on my shoulder again and spun me around like a child about to bash at a piñata. “…Be careful because we were taking home the first movie you touch.”
Blind Date. Bruce Willis, Kim Bassinger, classic first date comedy.
I was just excited that I hadn’t touched Blond And Blonder. That was a dodged bullet if ever there was one.
When we got back to my house, I got to see a sexy wickedness bubble to Eric’s surface. The neighbor was using my driveway again. Eric didn’t think twice about blocking them into to the driveway with his ‘urban assault vehicle’. There was no way for the car to get out of the driveway without the tank getting moved. I was still laughing when I let gravity help me out of the moving mountain.
His suit jacket came off right away and was laid neatly of the back of the sofa as he loosened his tie and told me to fetch my toolbox.
I acted as his nurse, handing him whatever items he asked for as needed and he made very short work of changing the locks on the front and side door… and even thought to unplug the garage door opener so that Amelia would think that she’d been thrown out.
While I blocked her cell number, he even printed out a fake eviction notice from the internet and tacked it to the front door.
Eric’s first words when we got to my room were ‘I want to see’.
It took a minute for what he said to register and by the time it had, he was blushing. I giggled at him. “I’m going to assume that you mean my closet.”
He mangled his eyes trying to hide how embarrassed he was. “Yes. Can I see your closet?”
I told him to knock himself out.
Officially listed as a ‘bonus room’ by the real estate agent, it was the selling point for the house. There is a small closet off the bathroom that Amelia called my ‘break room’. It was just big enough for a mini fridge and a basket of munchies in the bottom since I tend to sequester myself when I’m working and my private linens lived on the shelf in the top…
My ‘closet’ though was 12 by 10 and I had a contractor install everything I needed before I unpacked the first box. The most important of the new fixtures was the floor to ceiling rows of shelves made just right to hold DVD cases. Over 2000 of them.
I laughed. He hadn’t even made it through the door.
“This is sick!”
He took a minute to gather himself and finally took another step in so I followed him hoping to eventually get far enough into the closet to get something more comfortable to wear. It’s not like there was a lot to the dress I was wearing, but it wasn’t exactly right for curling up on the couch to watch a movie.
“Now you see why I got so excited about your spreadsheet.”
“No shit. How long have you been collecting?”
“Since DVDs came out. In my first apartment, my mattress sat on milk crates full of VHS. It took me forever to replace them all.”
“You’re like a one woman Netflix.”
“I’m not that bad.”
“Oh yeah, you are! There’s movies here I’ve never heard of… Some of them aren’t even English.”
“They have subtitles… Want to see something funny?”
“Do I have to leave? I want to stay here… forever. This is impressive.” I was more than a little happy that he wasn’t preoccupied with the 200 some odd shoe boxes; all lined up by designer with a Polaroid of each pair taped to the end of the box for easy locating… a secondary obsession. Far more manageable too.
“Don’t worry. We aren’t going far enough away that you won’t be able to feel its power.”
“It’s like Mecca for movie nuts.”
I laughed and turned the light off, taking his hand.
“The Wailing Wall.”
I led him down the hall to the door to Amelia’s room. “If you tell her I showed you, we’re going to fight.”
He smiled and pointed over his shoulder, back towards my room. “But… but the Vatican…”
It took me a minute to stop laughing. He was doing it on purpose. Eric was impressed, but he was having as much fun with my collection as I had with his ‘rock yacht’. I’d even joked that his license plate was the ‘plus four’ to its own zip code.
Swinging open the door to Amelia’s room shut him up though. His lip curled as he stared into the room in disgust.
Her room looked like a Wal-Mart was picked up and shaken then dumped in. There was a sneaker sticking out of her lampshade. There were clothes and shoes strewn all over the room. Her waste basket was overflowing with fast food bags and soda bottles. There was a pile of open movie cases in front of the TV and DVDs were scattered on the floor with them.
Eric’s mouth was hanging open. “Is there even a bed in there? What the fuck happened?”
“The cat won’t even go in. When Amelia’s in there, she’ll sit in the doorway and mew at her.”
“Holy fucking odd couple, batman.”
“This would be why they spend so much time at Pam’s.”
“You should… lock her in until it’s clean.”
“I think she’s only still paying rent because she’s scared to clean it to move out. I’m considering calling one of those professional clutter people, but I’m almost afraid of what they might find.”
“I… she… Has anyone tried looking for Hoffa in there?”
I laughed at him. “It’s cool. I have Hoffa in my closet.”
He smiled, finally shaking off the horror of the war zone in front of him. “And Rudy, JFK, The Bodyguard, Dare Devil, Spartacus, Ben Hur, Turner AND Hooch…”
“…Elizabeth, Dracula, Harry Potter, The Reservoir Dogs, Eight Men Out, Space Cowboys… Smokey AND the Bandit.”
He finally closed his eyes and reached past me, slamming the door closed. Then he scooped me up and ran to my room, slamming that door closed behind us. He was making a joke of panting when he set me down. “Ok. I feel better now.”
He followed me back to my closet and didn’t seem to get the hint when I asked him to unzip me. I had to put both hands on his massive, rock hard chest… never mind.
I had to shove him through the door. I laughed the whole time I changed because he took a minute to whimper and scratch at the door.
When I came back out, I had my hands on my hips as a joke. “You know, it actually bothers me that I probably could have let you stay in there and you wouldn’t have noticed that I was changing.”
He was leaning on the arm of my couch with his arms folded. His answer started with a smirk. “I thought we were watching a movie.”
He’s really damn lucky that he’s so sexy, but he knows it. I snorted and flopped on the couch after loading the disk and grabbing drinks from the ‘break room’.
We both got comfortable as the movie started.
Walter was getting warned about letting Nadia drink when the disk skipped the first time. “Ok. There’s another pet peeve… I hate buying a movie that skips right out of the shrink wrap.”
Eric looked over from the corners of his eyes again and smiled. “It’s not that bad. It could just be a glitch.”
I huffed. I was officially pouting about getting a bad copy and planning on going to Amazon.com to get a new one as soon as Eric left.
When it skipped again, I went to slide from my corner, but Eric put his hand my ankle. “Sookie, it’s still viewable.”
“It’s too distracting.”
Before I realized what was happening, Eric used my ankle to pull me to him and was on his knees between my legs. “It’s just a skip.”
“I hate that.”
He smiled at me and that was all the enlightenment I needed.
I gasped. “You scratched it.”
His hands found mine, holding them to the couch and his whiskers tickled my cheek as he whispered ‘maybe’.
Part of me wanted to be angry, the rest of me wanted to get to the bed somehow. “That was dirty.”
“No. ‘Dirty’ was seeing you backstage and then telling the other two guys that you’re fat and had kids with you so they wouldn’t even try.”
I started laughing. “ERIC!”
He shushed me, nuzzling into my neck. “Pace yourself… You don’t want to start off screaming my name….”