Love cures people—both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.
Eric rubbed his face with his hand, stretching briefly before he sat back down at his desk to finish the mounds of paperwork he had been working through.
He was tired, exhausted, physically and mentally. Today, a Monday, had been a much busier day than anticipated and on top of it he had to juggle the meeting with the private eye he told Hannah he would get on Sven.
As he had expected, the investigator was more than eager to help and told him this was a very straightforward and simple case, so it would be free of charge, and that he would call with updates, but expected this to only take a week, two max, as people fitting Sven’s profile were customarily predictable and either did stray with some frequency or they did not stray at all, instead there was some reasonable explanation for everything.
While Eric had offered his help readily, this whole thing made him very uncomfortable. Generally he liked Sven, but he really seemed to have issues with fidelity. One time had been confirmed when Ewan caught him with Cass, another time Eric saw it for himself just days before Hannah’s wedding when they both walked in on him very obviously hitting on some waitress, which Sven had tried to explain away as pre-wedding jitters. While that may have had some merit – not that uncommon for some men to test their appeal one last time before saying their “I dos”, it wouldn’t explain why now Hannah caught him in a compromising situation at his place of work. Evidence spoke volumes against his innocence and Eric could not dream up one single scenario that would make all this reasonable.
His job had taught Eric to never jump to conclusions and keep his calm but he hoped for Hannah and Sven – and their child – that all this was just a string of odd coincidences. If he were a betting man though …
Finally his work day ended and Eric went home. As soon as he parked his car, his happy anticipation to get home, see his wife and son, was overcast by seeing his father-in-law’s luxury SUV parked there like a bright blue slap in Eric’s face. Ugh!
Eric’s mood dropped. After the long day he already had not that now too! Some days the stars seemed to align for the sole purpose of forming a raised middle finger in his general direction. Days like today.
Significantly slower than he usually would he walked to his front door, unlocked it as quietly as he could, and could already hear Judge Seymour’s commanding voice from their kitchen.
“… all I say is that you still can better your situation. You’re still young and pretty enough to try reel in someone of more substance, with slightly lowered standards, maybe a divorced doctor or lawyer who has children from a previous marriage himself whom you could help him raise and who wouldn’t mind you having a kid from a poor judgement relationship. If not for yourself, then think of your son. He cannot give James anything, he’d have to attend some public school, probably a community college and get some common career, struggling as you are now. Is that what you want for your child? For yourself? How are your mother and I ever supposed to rest easy knowing you and our only grandson are in constant limbo?”
“Dad, we are not struggling. You make it sound as if we were living under a bridge. We are doing fine, our house may be small, but is new, modern and build on prime real estate in a safe and lovely place. Jamie will go to the school across the street, of course he will! Eric’s family teaches there and they are exquisite people, I could not think of a better option. The entire Cameron kids went there for generations, Ewan is a celebrity and plans to send his son there. Jamie can go to any college he likes one day, we will make it happen for him and he can choose any career and we will support his dreams. We are saving for all that already, which is why we are not splurging now, not because we cannot afford it. It’s a choice, dad, one we both made.” Charlotte’s tone sounded almost pleading.
“Supporting dreams, if I only hear such non-sense! There is no use coddling a child, especially not a boy. You and your husband are going to raise a ninny, especially when I have to watch that cripple Eric or his father kiss around on that kid. That is just … wrong! Charlotte, your mother and I are heartbroken that you throw away everything we have prepped you for, the kind of life we primed you for since you were James’ age to become a Suzie Homemaker, washing the dirty underwear of a disfigured small town cop who will never amount to anything. Appalling!” Judge Seymour ranted.
“DAD! Enough! I work – I own a Gallery that my amazing HANDSOME husband bought for me. And I love Eric, you know I do, why can you not just get over yourself and let me live my …”
Eric heard a telltale sound of skin meeting skin, which had stopped Charlee’s response in mid-sentence with a muffled sound.
Right away he rushed into the kitchen found Charlee quickly removing her hand from her slightly reddened cheek, Eric’s expression hardened.
“OUT!” he roared at Judge Seymour.
“Eric ..” Charlee tried.
“GET OUT!” he repeated, slightly louder at her father, who realized the delicate situation and set into motion, carefully passing a visibly angry Eric.
Once he had almost reached the door, Eric told him.
“I think it would be best if you wouldn’t visit Charlee again. Sounds like you two don’t have a lot of good stuff to talk about anymore so what is the point, right? Maybe you both need a break.”
“You are forbidding me to see my daughter and grandson?!”
“Oh, you’re here to see the grandkid, are you? So what is Jamie wearing today? Huh? I am waiting? That’s what I thought. You haven’t even seen him have you?”
“Of course I have and I brought him a toy.”
“Oh, good, material things are so much better than actually spending time with the kid. I am sure one day, when he is 18 and faced with a complicated choice, he will remember back to the toy his uninvolved grandfather gave him and know just what to do.”
“I do not appreciate your tone, a little respect would be in order.”
“Respect is earned, not handed out by title in this house and you have done nothing to earn it as far as I am concerned.”
“I warn you, Cameron, do not overstep with me. I am a very powerful man and …”
“You are warning ME in my own home? Well, since we are already at that point, let me warn YOU, Seymour: I come from a long line of men who follow a strict zero tolerance policy against cowardly men hitting women, plus I am a lot more inclined that way due to my career choice. If I were not in law enforcement, I would already have beaten you beyond recognition for laying hands on my wife. You are banned from our home so I can ascertain that does not happen again and that it will NEVER happen to my son. Do not test me, that part is not a warning, but a promise. Now for the last time – OUT – or I will personally walk you out and you won’t like it.”
Seymour glared at Eric, shot an angry glance at his daughter, then left, slamming the door hard enough that the windows rattled.
“Sorry baby …” Charlotte whispered.
“What are you sorry for?”
“Everything. Him. I wish my parents were more like yours.”
“I don’t. Makes choosing where to spend the holidays much easier.” Eric smirked and pulled her close.
Charlee chuckled, until Eric asked her softly, but serious
“Has he done that before?”
She shook her head, but avoided looking at him.
“Are you telling me the truth?” his tone foretold that he already knew it to be a fib.
“Charlee …” Eric lifted her face up to look at him.
“Fine, but it never really hurt. It’s always been more a scare tactic to command attention.”
“Are you kidding me? You are not defending your father hitting you?! He is definitely not allowed around Jamie unsupervised and I really do not want you alone with him ever again! A lot of things are starting to make a lot more sense now. Like why you chose to oblige him when he broke us up so he had you free to send you to marry that royal asshole.” Eric looked angry.
“Eric … please … let’s not start with that again. I almost forgot all about it. All I ever remember is some wonderful stranger kissing me on a dark street …” Charlee smiled up at him, reminding him of the night they first met, when in an attempt to prank his cousin Hannah, he accidentally kissed a total stranger, who happened to be Charlotte. (read here)
“Ah – nice diversion. Yeah, that was some night nobody will ever forget.” Eric grinned.
“As was our first night together … as lovers.” Charlotte said, while gently running her fingers over his face.
Her touch, her words, the memories they evoked and the look she gave him, made Eric hot under the collar. That also had been a night he would never forget. (read here)
“You are very much asking for a repeat right now.” Eric told her with a throaty voice.
“Eric, we can’t. I haven’t even had a chance to make dinner yet and Jamie is bound to wake up from his nap any second.”
“Let’s drop him off with my parents, go out to eat and then .. go somewhere to renew that memory – correction: to make new memories, even better ones. Do something crazy.”
“Why, sergeant Cameron, I do declare …” Charlee giggled.
“I don’t care what you declare as long as you do it naked …”
“Eric … shhhhh!” Charlee pointed to their toddler son on his way to them now.
“Ah – we have awoken the beast. Evening son! How was your day?” Eric let go of his wife, lowered himself down to the ground, caught the little boy, kissing him on the cheek while Jamie almost strangled his father for excitement.
“Grampa … yuck!”
“Oh, I agree! Good kid.”
“Eric .. don’t encourage that!”
“Why not? Just shows how smart he already is.”
Eric fed the toddler to give Charlee time to dress for a night out, she then entertained Jamie, packed his little overnight bag for his stay at his grandparents while Eric got ready.
And then they were a couple out on the town on a balmy summer night.
They ate at Charlee’s favorite restaurant in San Myshuno, where Eric had proposed to her.
“Eric – this place is not exactly budget-friendly. It’s not even a special night …”
“Zip it wifey and order something decent. If I hear you order a salad or some BS like that, I will order an entire roast pig and hand-feed it to you.”
“All right, while I am almost certain they do not even serve roast pig here, I will order my favorite dish and some wine for us and we’ll have dessert. When I am done with all that I will feel like a roast pig, how’s that?”
“I think I will cry for pride.”
The incident with her father was long forgotten now.
After dinner they strolled arm in arm through the old downtown, looking at the shop windows, giggling, kissing.
Once back in the car on the way home, Charlee sighed contently
“Oh Eric, tonight has been a dream. This is why you make me a better person. You make me want to be less tentative and more adventurous. You always manage to make me feel all those things I was never allowed to feel, that I never thought I would feel. The stuff you read about in sappy novels and see in rom-coms.”
“Glad to know my wife thinks I am a chick flick. Would have preferred something more cool and heroic along the lines of James Bond, but I’ll take what I can get.” Eric tried to downplay the compliment.
“You are my hero. In more ways than one. Really gallant and sexy hero, much better than some man-whoring alcoholic spy with fancy gadgets.”
“You’re just saying that to get into my pants.” Eric jested.
“You’re not all wrong …” Charlotte giggled.
“Good to know – that just decided something I had been contemplating, but not sure you’d go for. I want to introduce you to a flashback from my youth.”
Eric shot her a look, winked, then steered the car to the side to make a U-turn, took a few side roads and suddenly they were driving past Windenburg’s scenic downtown into the rural area, where he finally stopped on some mostly dark parking lot.
“Are we here to become incognito farmers or so you can rape me or murder me?” Charlotte joked.
“Why choose? I have some distant family who owns the Loughlin farm not far from here. My initial plan was to kill your inhibitions with my boyish charm and then have my way with you. Open for anything after that.”
Charlee giggled, as she followed him, his arm around her shoulder and hers on his waist, to what looked like the entrance to a pretty dark park. She wasn’t frightened. Not with Eric by her side.
“Where are we even? None of this looks familiar at all.” she asked when they passed a sign proclaiming they were still in Windenburg.
“How can you have been born and raised in Windenburg and not now this place?! We are at the infamous Everett Heights. Popular teen and adult hangout spot and prime location for underage drinking and forbidden nookie for many generations now, also probably one of the unofficial top conception spots for oopsie-babies. And also not far from the location where I had my accident that turned me into the rugged beauty I am today.” he had taken her to a quiet spot by a pond and began to suggestively kiss her.
“You forget who my parents are and that I spent most of my youth in boarding schools abroad. And Eric, I didn’t know this is where it happened … ”
“It’s cool. I have been here a million times since. I still love this place. And you will too, once I am done with you.”
“Eric – are we really going to have outdoor sex now? At our age? What if someone shows up here?”
“At our age? We’re not even 30! And the fear of getting caught is part of the thrill. You really haven’t lived until you had to scramble away like a scared bunny, hoping you grabbed all your clothes as you are running through the fields buck-naked.” Eric chuckled, while still trailing little kisses along her neck.
“Oh boy – am I about to learn the deep, dark secrets from my husband’s promiscuous youth? And isn’t nookie in the bushes a bit low-brow when we have a perfectly good car parked just feet away?” Charlotte had almost given up trying to resist his advances, returning his kisses now.
“I don’t know, let’s try it out and see if we may not have to get you a subscription afterwards.” Eric’s voice was raspy and deep as he had enough of the discussion, picked her up to carry his nervously giggling wife behind the imposing trunk of an old tree where things progressed quickly.
It was already past midnight when he was laying with his head in her lap, her gently petting his hair, the still warm breeze in the air of the late summer night. Her initial worries out the window, both of them still in their underwear, completely disregarding the possibility of someone seeing them. Charlee did not care anymore and Eric never had to begin with.
“Eric?” Charlotte whispered gently.
“Thank you for kissing a complete stranger on the dark streets of Del Sol Valley some years ago … you really saved someone’s life then. Actually, you gave me life then. Until I met you I had never known how empty and void my world was. Before you showed me, I had never known feelings as intense and so plentiful as I have had since I met you and turns out, you are still not done teaching me.” her voice was warm, but sincere.
He just smiled as he sat up quickly and buried his head against her shoulder, mumbling
“We may have very well saved each other. After my accident I had completely lost my way for many years, lost myself in the process. I had given up, was a leaf in the wind, just clinging to Ewan and Hannah, but I had no hope, no happiness, no goals left. After I met you, it shook something awake in me. Not gonna lie, I cursed having fallen for you a few times, but I wouldn’t trade anything we have been through for the world, if for nothing else for the knowledge that we really were meant to be and can weather anything together. But – how about a little less talk and a LOT more action now before we both turn our little naughty camp-out into a sob-fest?”
“Oh, a sob-fest would be a crying shame. Do you have any ideas of possible actions we could .. whoa … ” Charlee tried to tease him then giggled when he took action.
Gently he pushed her back down to the ground and with one smooth movement was atop her, kissing her, all which promised that he wasn’t done showing her intense feelings for that night.