Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Breandan struggled to hide his irritation. He was sitting at the small kitchen table across from Michele. Sookie had run to the grocery store to pick up the turkey and Breandan volunteered to remain behind to keep Michele company. Usually that involved telling stories and playing music, which was pleasurable and perfectly acceptable. Instead, Breandan found himself peeling apples, which was neither.
“I’m sure you know how it’s done,” Michele chided when Breandan hesitated to take up the knife. “It’s just that my hands are shaking so badly. I don’t want to cut myself!”
Breandan gave in but, with each passing minute, his unhappiness grew. It wasn’t the work, it was the wrong-ness of the situation. Fae didn’t cook for humans. Humans cooked for Fae. They traded their food for favors, it was the way of things, and what Michele was asking broke all the rules! Everyone knew when a Fae offered you food, it tied you to them. There were hundreds of stories of humans eating the food of the Fae and becoming so ensorcelled, they never found their way home again.
‘She doesn’t know who you are,’ Breandan reminded himself.
For weeks, Michele teased Breandan about cooking, but no one seriously pushed the matter. Sookie cooked and Breandan repaid the favor by cleaning the kitchen afterward. Michele remarked, ‘It’s like magic,’ when the women returned to the kitchen. It made Breandan laugh because, of course, she was right.
When he finished the apple he was peeling, Michele had him hand it to her. She set it on the cutting board in front of her to slice up. “You’re doing the rest?” Breandan asked. He couldn’t keep the hopeful note from his voice and Michele chuckled.
“You really are hopeless around the kitchen,” she shook her head. “Is that an Irish thing?”
“More of a family thing,” Breandan grumbled.
“I’m not sure how Sookie will feel about that,” Michele said, not meeting his eyes. “She’s pretty American that way. She expects men to pull their weight around the house, not that I asked that of her Father. He was more like you, a cleaner, not a cook.”
Breandan avoided asking more about Corbett Stackhouse. He knew from experience that given the opportunity, Michele would talk about her husband for hours. Rather, he steered the conversation forward. “Sookie is a hard worker. She has her part and I have mine.” With a grimace, Breandan picked up the next apple and started running his knife around it, the fruit peel coming off in one, long, even strip. “We understand each other,” he concluded.
“That’s good because she loves you,” Michele told him. She said the words lightly, but her stare was direct.
“She told you that?” Breandan asked. He marveled at the way the words felt, at once so dreadful and yet so welcome all at the same time.
“Not in so many words,” Michele smirked. “But a Mother knows these things. When you’re not around, she acts like she’s missing a part of herself.”
“You make her sound enthralled.” That was a Fae concept and a perfectly acceptable state for a human in his sphere.
“Hardly!” Michele snorted. “You know Sookie! She’s too strong-minded for that! Nope, it’s love, pure and simple.”
Breandan could tell Sookie had dropped her reservations toward him, but she hadn’t said the words. Breandan believed Sookie’s attachment was strong, but a part of him wanted to believe it was more. It was uncomfortable, this idea that someone not of his kind loved him. It wasn’t natural, but he also found the idea not as unwelcome as it should have been.
“When I look at her, I see myself twenty years ago. You remind me a lot of Sookie’s Father,” Michele repeated and held her hand out for the peeled apple Breandan had forgotten he was holding.
When he gave her the fruit, Breandan made a point of touching Michele’s hand. It was easy, giving her just a little of his spark, pushing her darkness back. The shroud of death was growing in her, but Breandan didn’t want his time here to end.
“It just makes me happy to be around you,” Michele was saying, “and I know you will take care of my daughter.” Michele’s words caught Breandan’s attention.
“I am fond of Sookie,” he side-stepped.
“And you will take her with you when you return to Ireland, won’t you?” Breandan could see Michele had come to the point of her remarks.
“We haven’t talked about it,” Breandan replied, “but I have considered taking her there.” He didn’t say it was his Father’s plan or that he daydreamed about never returning to Ireland, running from his Father and keeping Sookie for his own.
“I’m going to be blunt,” Michele pressed, “I’m dying.” When Breandan looked away, Michele persisted, “I am. I can tell and I think you can, too. You know my sister, Linda, is coming for the holiday. She’ll be here tomorrow and I know this topic will come up. Linda thinks Sookie should move back to Minnesota to live with her, you know…after.”
“Have you talked with Sookie about this?” Breandan asked, then picked up another apple at Michele’s urging.
“Of course not,” Michele shook her head. “She’d just get herself all worked up and try to argue me back into treatment.”
“You’re not going back?” Breandan asked.
Michele smiled as she said, “No, you see, there’s no point. I got a call and they followed it up with a letter. The cancer is back. The chemo didn’t make a dent. They offered me radiation, but I’d rather spend the time I have left enjoying things.”
“Why are you telling me this?” and Breandan set his knife down.
“Because,” Sookie’s Mother told him, “I want to know my daughter is settled before I go. I want to know she’ll be happy and I think you’re her ‘one,’ so, I’m asking. Will you take care of her?”
The words were all wrong. Michele was asking a favor, but she wasn’t making offerings. Instead, she was having him work and still, she was asking for a boon.
It went against everything he believed, but Breandan thought of Sookie. He thought of her smile and how being with her almost let him forget he was Fae and she was not. “I wish to keep her with me,” he answered, knowing he felt much more.
“Are you going to ask her to marry you?” Michele pressed.
“Any man would be lucky to have her as his wife,” Breandan replied, and then he sat back. He had said the right words, but in his heart, he saw that man as him.
Michele caught his non-answer and sighed. “I’ve said too much. I hope you’ll forgive me. Facing your own mortality is a scary business. I pushed you and I shouldn’t have.” Breandan was too confused to say more, so he focused on preparing another apple. As he neared the end of another long, perfect peel, Michele said, “I think she would be happier in Minnesota. Linda and her family are good people. They can give Sookie something to be part of. Goodness knows, with the way Corbett and I dragged those children all over the country, it’s no wonder Sookie doesn’t hate me the way her brother does.”
Then Breandan felt something he didn’t remember. His chest clenched and his throat got tight. He had been sure what he felt for Sookie wasn’t love. Fae didn’t love anyone but Fae, but he was at a loss to explain the possessiveness he felt. “She’s mine!” he exclaimed.
Michele didn’t bother to hide her triumph, “Well, if you feel that way, you better do something about it,” and held out her hand for the apple. “You might consider making it official at Thanksgiving. Nothing like good food, a little wine, and family to get a girl in an agreeable mood.”
Breandan was stunned. He opened his mouth, then closed it again. The hall door opened and he heard the noisy sound of bags being dropped and he rose swiftly, making his way to her. Sookie’s face was flushed with cold and exertion and she looked so lovely, he couldn’t help pulling her to him. They kissed until Michele called from the kitchen, “Come on, you two! I’m sure there’s groceries to be put away and this pie isn’t making itself!”
“Do you love me?” Breandan asked. Sookie’s eyes widened and her mouth, plump with his kisses became an ‘o.’ She took a breath and, in that moment, Breandan was sure his own heart had stopped, but then her eyes lifted and her hand rose to cradle his cheek.
“You’ve found me out,” she grinned. “Yes, Breandan O’Hara, I do love you.
Breandan took her hand to lay against his own chest, “I want to stretch you out, Sookie Stackhouse, and bury myself balls deep in you. I want to feel you surrounding me and breathe in every bit of you,” Breandan growled against her throat. He ran his teeth up the column of her neck in a way he knew made her shiver.
He could smell her scent, that mixture of fresh air and arousal and he felt himself growing hard. This was Fae, too, the need to mate, but she pushed against him. “Hold that thought,” Sookie whispered, kissing his ear. She reached behind him and tugged his braid, drawing his head back. “Mom can’t do this all by herself and I can’t leave this food sitting in the hallway.”
“I could be quick,” Breandan teased.
“Well, I can’t,” Sookie teased back, “and when I get you naked, Mister, I intend to take my time!”
As it turned out, Breandan didn’t get naked before dinner, then after dinner he had to leave to play fiddle with Sean’s band.
“Why don’t you go with him?” Michele urged Sookie. When Sookie looked as if she’d protest, Michele reminded her, “Don’t worry about Linda! She’s family! She’s not going to mind if the house isn’t perfect when she gets here!”
“We will have to pack you tomorrow morning anyway,” Breandan reminded Sookie. “We can put the room to rights then.” Linda was going to stay in Sookie’s room while Sookie and Breandan were moving to Breandan’s all but abandoned apartment. ‘Pajama party,’ Sookie called it, but for Breandan it was more. Even before he realized what he wished, he’d anticipated spending nights coupling with this woman in a truly large bed surrounded by sound-proof walls. Now, knowing he intended to keep her, he yearned for privacy.
The band was playing at the same bar in Cambridge where Sookie and Breandan had first met. “Should I show you what I had in mind for that bathroom?” Breandan teased as they walked by the door.
“No!” Sookie exclaimed, “Gross!”
“You don’t say that when we fuck in the shower,” Breandan pointed out.
“Yeah, but it’s a bathroom where I know everyone who uses it. Public restroom? Who the hell knows what’s living in there! Pass!” and she playfully pushed against Breandan’s chest.
Amelia was at the band table tonight and the two friends fell easily into conversation. They saw each other most nights at the Diner, but Sookie realized between the demands of her Mother’s illness and her time with Breandan, it had been awhile since she and Amelia had any kind of relaxed conversation, even longer since they’d seen each other socially.
“So…” Amelia smiled, sitting back and sipping her drink, “I guess this is as good a time as any to let you know Sean and I are moving in with each other!”
“Wow!” Sookie reached across to hug her friend. “That’s so great!”
“I guess with graduation right around the corner, Sean’s in a settling mood,” and Amelia didn’t bother hiding her smug satisfaction. “Most days I feel like we’ve always known each other. Did you know we grew up just a couple towns away?”
“I remember,” and Sookie did. It had been during her first date with Breandan that Sean and Amelia discovered that coincidence. As a result, she and Breandan barely got a word in edgewise as Sean and Amelia explored their shared geography. “You sound pretty happy about it.” It was a silly thing to say. The band started and they turned their attention toward the stage. Amelia blew Sean a kiss and he beamed back at her.
“You know he already has a job lined up?” Amelia gushed. “With his MBA and his connections, they are lining up for him,” which was news to Sookie, “and he’s agreed to start in investments.” Amelia named a large bank with offices downtown, and then she named Sean’s starting salary. “I figure we’ll start looking at houses right outside of town so he won’t have to sit in traffic.”
“I thought you said you were just moving in together,” Sookie asked. The story Amelia was spinning seemed to be on fast forward. “Next you’ll be saying you’re marrying him.”
“It’s Thanksgiving!” Amelia exclaimed. “We’re heading home to meet his folks, and then he’s meeting mine. We’re going to our high school football games together. I figure by Christmas we’ll be engaged.” Amelia ate the cherry from her drink before turning a high-beam smile toward the band. When Sean nodded and winked in their direction, Amelia turned in her chair and said, “Well? What about you? I mean, you’re already cohabitating and with your Mother, no less! So, what’s the deal? Is Breandan going to put a ring on it?”
“We haven’t really talked about it,” Sookie replied. Now it was her turn to face the band. Breandan was staring at her as he played and she felt his eyes like hands on her body. She loved how he could do this to her, but she thought of earlier when she’d told him she loved him, he hadn’t said it back, rather, he’d just wanted sex. ‘That’s what comes of rushing,’ she thought, her practical nature poking at the hurt she felt.
“But you want to, right?” Amelia was asking. “I mean, Jesus, look at him. He’s gorgeous, his family’s loaded, and he’s got a job waiting for him. You could be set for life and living in Ireland. Ireland! I mean, that would be great! Sean and I could come vacation there. You could come back here and visit us. We’d be like those sophisticated, cosmopolitan couples. Too bad he isn’t French or German,” and Amelia’s eyes narrowed a little, staring at Breandan. “Then we could have our kids learn two languages. How cool would that be?”
“I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself,” Sookie tried to laugh it off, but she added, “I’m really glad things are working out for you, Amelia,” Sookie pulled her lips into a smile. “The two of you look so natural together.”
“So do you and Breandan,” Amelia insisted. When Sookie didn’t meet her eyes, Amelia huffed, “What aren’t you telling me, girlfriend? Is he crap in bed?”
Sookie blushed as she exclaimed, “No!” She looked around her. They weren’t sitting alone. There were other band family members and friends at the table and they’d heard the conversation based on their frank looks. “I’m just not someone who moves quick. I have things going on and choosing who I’m going to marry is a really big deal for me.”
“For me, too!” and Amelia started to look huffy.
Sookie scrambled for the right words to mollify her friend, “I know, Amelia! You’re really lucky. I’m sure I’ll get there with Breandan, I mean, he is pretty well perfect for me, but… I don’t know.” Sookie looked back at the stage. She allowed her eyes to lose focus so she could see his otherness. She thought about the way Breandan rarely spoke of his family and avoided speaking of Ireland. While she knew a lot about him, she felt there was more she didn’t. The longer she stared, the more her instincts counseled her to go slowly and Sookie remembered the words her Father told her. ‘You will know what’s right for you, Peanut,’ he’d said, pressing his finger over her heart. ‘Listen to this. It will never steer you wrong.’
Still, when the set was over, it felt right to step into Breandan’s arms and turn her face up to his. Sookie didn’t think what was between them was purely physical, but she couldn’t deny she always felt better when she was in physical contact with the fiddler.
Once they were in the car, Breandan asked, “Is everything all right?”
“Fine,” Sookie shrugged.
“Nothing’s changed?” Breandan persisted. “You aren’t angry with me?”
“It’s not you,” Sookie deflected. “Amelia told me she and Sean are getting engaged this Christmas.”
Sookie didn’t mean it as a hint, but Breandan seemed to read something into it. He took her hand and kissed her palm. His eyes were warm and his voice warmer as he said, “I can see it would be the kind of news that might make you wish it for your own life,” he observed.
“I guess,” Sookie felt flustered and, the more unsettled she felt, the more intent Breandan looked. “Come on,” she said, pulling back from him. Aunt Linda will be here tomorrow and there’s lots to do. And then there’s that naked thing we talked about.”
“I was hoping you hadn’t forgotten that naked thing,” and Breandan laughed.
Later, as Sookie slept in his arms, Breandan made his plans. He would change his name and they would move far from the ocean. It had taken years to find Sookie among these humans. It was possible the Fae wouldn’t find them until Sookie’s days were over. He thought of her aging, and his heart wrenched again.
“I love you,” he said out loud, and then he waited, testing the feel of the words on his tongue. “I love you,” he repeated and, emboldened by this new feeling, he added, “and I will marry you so you are mine alone.”
As he played with her hair, the face of Mae, his Fae wife, appeared before him. He thought of what Claude would say about this. “I don’t care,” he whispered to Sookie. “I will defy them all for you,” but he didn’t believe the words. Breandan knew many things about himself, including knowing his pride wouldn’t long stand being an object of ridicule.
She snuggled against him, and he felt the dampness between her legs. “They can’t sneer if you trapped me in a wish,” he thought. He gathered the still sleeping woman to him and leaning into her ear, he whispered, “Wish for me, Sookie! Wish for me to be yours forever. I will be your Selkie and you will hold my skin. Even my Father couldn’t dispute that.”
Breandan knew his Sookie couldn’t be glamoured, but he hoped she would remember enough to say the words when the time came.
Aunt Linda wrapped Sookie up in her arms just as she had the first time she visited. When she pulled back, her head swiveled around, “Well, where is he? Did you bring him?”
“Who?” Sookie asked, reaching for Linda’s suitcase. “Breandan?”
“Who else?” Linda shrugged. “When your Mother calls, he’s all she talks about. Breandan O’Hara this and Breandan O’Hara that.”
“He is pretty special,” Sookie blushed. “But no, I left him home with Mom. She’s so excited to see you. When I left, they were playing cards so she’d stop pacing. She’s been driving me crazy!”
As they pulled into traffic, Linda asked, “How is she, really?”
“I’m not supposed to know,” Sookie clenched her jaw. “But it’s not good. They canceled chemo this month and the doctor’s office isn’t calling. Usually by now, they call. There’s no new prescriptions.” When Linda looked like she’d say something, Sookie cut her off, “I wasn’t born yesterday. I don’t think there’s going to be any more treatments, but I don’t think Mom wants to talk about it until after Thanksgiving. Just don’t bring it up unless she does.”
“And you’ve been walking around with these worries and holding them all to yourself?” and Linda reached over and squeezed Sookie’s forearm.
“Having Breandan around does help,” Sookie’s smile stole across her face.
“Sex usually does,” Linda snarked and then, ignoring Sookie’s bright flush, said, “I’m sorry! I’m sure he’s more than that. I do know that a kind man who makes you laugh can help get you through some pretty rough times. My Lars is like that. He doesn’t say much, but when he does, I remember all the reasons I love him.” They drove for a minute in silence before Linda asked, “And what about Breandan? Do you love him?”
Sookie nodded, “I do,” she told her Aunt, and then couldn’t help feeling alone. Last night there’d been a moment Sookie thought Breandan would say it, and then, when she woke up this morning, she was sure he had, but he hadn’t, and she felt foolish.
Linda was watching her with sharp eyes. “It could be it’s nothing more than a strong infatuation between you two,” she said. “Think about it. You’re in the middle of a crisis when you met him. These high stress times naturally make emotions run high. You would naturally feel stranded and here’s this big, strong guy who’s willing to save you and he’s nice to your Mom?”
“No!” Sookie protested, “It’s not… I do love him, Aunt Linda, I do, it’s just…” and Sookie didn’t know what else to say.
Linda looked out the window when she said, “You know I never liked your Father.” Sookie shot her Aunt the side-eye. She did know. “Nope, I didn’t like him and I hated the way Michele was with him. From the very first, she gave up anyone and anything to please him. She stopped being her own person and she threw away her family to be with him.”
“My Dad was really special,” Sookie said quietly, standing up for the parent she’d loved so much. “He and I, well, he never said, but we had a special bond.” Sookie thought of him teaching her to pull the air and the light to make whirlwinds in her hand and how he made her laugh. She couldn’t explain this to her Aunt nor to anyone else.
“You are special,” Linda assured her. “Your laugh is just like his, but when it comes to favorites? Your Mom was obsessed, enough so that I think I’d still be careful about saying too much about your Dad around her.”
It was an odd thing to say, but Sookie nodded, “We really don’t talk about him. Mom brings him up sometimes, how much she misses him, but you’re right. If I say I miss him, too, she gets competitive, so I just let it go.”
“Wise, on your part, but I can see that you are one old soul in that young body.” When Sookie snorted, her Aunt laughed, “That’s a good thing, Sweetie! It means you see trouble before it comes.” Linda let some time pass before she said, “I don’t suppose you’d consider making your home in Minnesota? We’d sure like to have you out there with us. It’s not a big house, but with my oldest off to college, you’d have your own room until you get yourself set up.”
“I don’t know, Aunt Linda,” Sookie sighed. “I feel like if I make those kinds of plans, it’s the same as saying I’m giving up on Mom and I just can’t.”
“I understand,” Linda nodded. “I don’t need any kind of answer from you. Just consider it an open invitation…always,” and Linda brushed her hand up and down Sookie’s shoulder.
Sookie thoughts swirled around her Mom and Breandan, the Diner and Amelia. “It’s all going to be all right!” Linda assured her. “Moving out to Minnesota doesn’t mean you have to give him up. You know, a man with his kind of money can afford to fly out whenever he wants and if he really loves you, he’ll do the right thing to court you. He’ll know he needs to give you time to mourn before asking you to start a new life.”
“How do you know what kind of money Breandan has?” Sookie asked. She wasn’t really curious, she just wanted Linda to stop talking about Breandan not being with her.
“I Googled him,” Linda snorted, and then snorted, “Didn’t you?” When Sookie shook her head, Linda huffed. “Romance is all well and good, Sookie, but I gave you more credit for being sensible. For all you know he’s some fly by night liar who’s just using you.”
“He doesn’t lie!” Sookie exclaimed, her heart hurting a little more.
“Well, he didn’t lie about the money,” Linda nodded. ““There’s quite a bit on the Internet about the O’Hara’s. The family even has a Wiki page. Mostly it’s about the hotels and their connection to the Brigants who own hotels in the southern part of the country.”
“Any mention of Breandan?” Sookie couldn’t help asking.
“No, not directly. The business is closely held and its always run by a family member. Oh, here’s something interesting…” and Linda waited for Sookie to look her way, “It says there’s a legend that their family is related to the Sidhe.”
“Sidhe?” Sookie asked. Her Aunt had pronounced it ‘Sid-hee,’ but Sookie was pretty sure she meant to pronounce it ‘Shee,’ and then Linda confirmed Sookie’s suspicion.
“Fairies!” Linda exclaimed and that made Sookie pause.
“Really?” Things around her felt quiet. She thought of the way Breandan looked when she allowed herself to see him. He did look like every picture in every fairy tale book she’d ever read. She had mostly convinced herself that it was her own imagination trying to see him as being more like her. Now she wondered and then Sookie thought about herself and her Father. She knew she was different, but her Father told her it was a secret. He never said it, but Sookie assumed it was just the two of them who were freaks. What if what she saw in Breandan was real and the reason she could see them as being the same was because they were? What if there were others in the world like her? What if they were…
“Isn’t this your street?” Linda asked, breaking Sookie out of her thoughts.
Sookie walked her Aunt up the walk, carrying her suitcase, and opening the door for her. She returned to the car and pulled it down the street. Her head was in a whirl and as she speed-walked past the empty playground, she remembered the black dog who had protected her. “I hope you found a good home,” she whispered, a quiet thought in the maelstrom that raged in her brain.
By the time she’d returned, Linda and Breandan had been introduced. Things seemed pleasant on the surface, but Sookie wasn’t fooled. Aunt Linda was watching the fiddler through narrowed eyes and her chin jutted forward.
“He’s all but cleaned me out!” Michele complained to her daughter, “And in no time at all!”
“Serves you right for playing Gin against him!” Sookie teased lightly. She turned to her Aunt Linda, “Breandan has the most unusual luck with cards! You have to be really lucky to win against him!”
“It’s the Irish in me,” Breandan replied using his most charming brogue. He half-bowed to Linda, and Sookie could see he wasn’t happy either. “It was a pleasure meeting you,” he told Linda, “but it’s late and I’m afraid visiting will need to wait.” He turned to Sookie, “Are you ready?”
“Sookie has to work tonight,” Michele explained to Linda. “It’ll just be the two of us!” and she looked excited.
“Fran and Pat at the Diner where I work go into overtime tonight. They make turkey dinners for folks to buy,” Sookie explained. It was a tradition at the restaurant. Once the ready-made feasts were finished, another twenty were prepared and delivered to a Church for distribution to poor families in the neighborhood. Pat would open the doors tomorrow morning for three hours and the line snaked out the door, and then they closed for the whole weekend.
“We’ll be back tomorrow,” Breandan repeated. Turning to Linda, he pasted on his best smile, “Sookie’s told me a lot about you…and Michele, too, of course!”
Breandan waited until they were in the car. “What was that about?” Breandan asked as they drove away. “She hated me from the minute she came through the door.”
“Aunt Linda didn’t like my Father,” Sookie explained. “I think she’s worried you’ll be like him.”
“And how’s that?” Breandan asked, “Does she think I’ll drag you all over the world?”
“No, it’s not that,” Sookie told him. “She said that my Mother loved my Father so much she stopped being herself. She became an extension of my Dad and she doesn’t want that for me.”
Sookie half-expected Breandan to tease her, but he didn’t. Instead, he said, “What is it you wish, Sookie? Do you wish me to make you mine?”
There was something in the way he asked it that made Sookie pause but, before she could answer, they were at the apartment. They parked in back of Breandan’s building and Breandan took Sookie’s suitcase, following her inside. Together, they headed into the bedroom and Breandan set the suitcase on the dresser. When Sookie stepped forward to start unpacking, though, Breandan wrapped his arms around her and set about unpacking her. He was so intent, Sookie couldn’t help the moan that escaped her. She reached up to remove the tie from his hair and basked in the feel of it, silky as it fell across her cheeks.
Breandan lifted her and together they fell onto the bed and in one, smooth motion he was in her, moving in a rhythm they always found together so easily. “What is it you wish of me, Sookie?” he whispered as he stroked her, drawing that tightening feeling with so little effort. “Tell me,” he persisted.
“This,” Sookie groaned, “This is enough,” and she reached down to cradle his balls, squeezing gently. He hissed and raised her legs, opening her so his strokes also rubbed across her clit. Her moans turned to groans and her groans to something louder. She was chanting his name as he came, and then he pulled out, replacing his cock with his tongue, using his fingers until she came, too.
Sookie lay still on the bed, trying to catch her breath. Breandan blew his cool breath across her sweat-sheened skin as he crawled up to lay beside her. He wrapped her in his arms and entangled his legs with hers. “Are you sure?” he winked. “Are you sure you don’t wish for more? Perhaps you wish for what your friend Amelia has?”
Sookie stilled. She turned so she could see Breandan’s beautiful face more clearly. His lips were perfect, and the blade of his nose was perfectly straight. His blue eyes were like lakes. It was too dark to see the flecks of green in them, but Sookie knew they were there, reminding her of green leaves and dark forests. She took a deep breath, strengthening her heart against the hurt of knowing she loved a man who didn’t feel the same way about her, or, at least, not yet. “Of course, I want that someday,” and she glanced away. “It’s just too soon, I guess. Jumping into things is okay for some people, Amelia…but for me? I guess I’m too much of a plodder. I’m happy with the way things are and I’m willing to wait to see how things develop.”
“So, if I were to ask you to marry me,” and Sookie stopped Breandan with a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t,” she said. “With how things are between us, how little we know each other, I’d turn you down.” Sookie was staring at Breandan’s chest so she didn’t see the flash of anger that crossed his face, narrowing his eyes. “It’s just too soon,” she concluded and kissed his chest, then tilted her head so she could rest her forehead against her.
‘You’d turn me down?’ The thought snaked through Breandan’s brain. It didn’t seem possible, and yet, she’d said it. Sookie Stackhouse thought so much of herself that she would reject him, Breandan Brigant, Prince of the Fae!
“You’re not mad, are you?” Sookie was asking.
“No, of course not,” Breandan told her. If he’d been truthful, he would have told her he was furious. He glanced at the clock, “You should take a shower,” he told her. “You have to be at the Diner in less than an hour.”
“Oh, cheese and rice!” Sookie exclaimed and jackknifed off the bed. She didn’t seem to notice that he hadn’t returned her gestures.
Breandan waited until he heard the water running before retrieving his phone to call his Father.
The night before Thanksgiving with Breandan became a breathless, sweaty marathon. He pushed her in ways he hadn’t before, leaving Sookie both sated and cold. Something had changed, but there was no time to consider it.
The next day was the holiday and between the work required to put food on the table and the party manners required of a family gathering, Sookie didn’t have one spare moment. Sookie couldn’t help noticing that Linda was kinder to Sam Merlotte than she was to Breandan. It made her even more tense and when it was time to leave, Michele seemed out of sorts. She was agitated and asked Breandan if he’d forgotten something. Finally, when she asked for what seemed like the hundredth time, Breandan wrapped her in his arms and hugged her.
“No, Michele, nothing that was important was forgotten,” he said pleasantly. It seemed an odd thing to say and Michele turned worried eyes toward Sookie. Then something strange happened. Breandan kissed her Mother’s head and for one odd moment, it almost seemed as if light was being drawn out of her Mother and into Breandan. Sookie blinked twice, then it was gone and Sookie shook it off, sure the tension of the day had her imagining things.
The next morning, Sookie’s phone rang. It was Linda. The ambulance was taking her Mother to the hospital. Three days later, Michele Stackhouse was dead, the tumor growing in her head finally pressing against the nerves that controlled her heart.
“Your Mom agreed to donate her organs,” Linda was scowling as they sat in the family sitting area, waiting for the official death certificate. “They’re going to cremate her right here and they want us to come back in two days for her ashes.”
“Ashes?” Sookie was numb.
“Perhaps it would be best not to speak of this now,” Breandan had his arm around Sookie. Sookie snuggled closer. There was still something off between them, but she felt better touching Breandan than being anywhere else. Even with the distance in his touch it was better than the numb nothingness caused by the loss of her Mother.
“It’s not Christian,” Linda carped. “We should be able to make arrangements and do this right.” She turned her frank, matter-of-fact eyes, to Sookie, “We should bury her in Minnesota. It’s the only home she’s ever known. There’s a family cemetery. I can make arrangements to get a plot for her near Mom and Dad. I’m sure Pastor Anderson would say a few words.”
“I…” and Sookie’s voice faltered. Nothing was the way it was supposed to be. Michele had been in and out of consciousness the first day, but, after that, she didn’t recognize them anymore. The last thing she’d done was lay Sookie’s hand in Breandan’s and say, “Follow your dream, Sookie. He loves you. Go with him.”
Sookie cried for a long time that night in Breandan’s apartment before she gathered herself enough to ask, “Was Momma right, Breandan? Do you love me?”
“Yes,” Breandan told her and although he could feel her happiness, he knew it was too late. Sookie Stackhouse had had her chance and now things would move forward according to his Father’s plan. It was hard to keep his face neutral, but the reality had returned. Breandan knew the idea of ever finding his happiness with this woman had been a fantasy, nothing more.
“Your Mother wished you to come with me,” he comforted her. “I have contacted my family. They have some influence. Your Mother told me you have a current passport. They are arranging for a visa. You still have your student status and there is an arrangement between our countries that will allow you to stay in Ireland for up to a year. Perhaps by the time your visa expires things will have changed.” He didn’t specify which things, knowing Sookie would assume he was talking about making her his bride.
When they told Aunt Linda the news, she was angry. “Sookie needs to be here with her family!” Linda snapped.
“Other than blood, how are you qualified as family?” Breandan challenged. “I have been the one who has been with them these months. I have been a part of their lives and I have not been shy about making my desire to have Sookie with me clear.” Breandan made sure his eyes were warm as he stroked Sookie’s back. “There is nothing left in this country for Sookie but sorrow. I will bring her to my house by the sea. She will have beaches and hills to wander. She will have all the time she needs to mourn and when she’s ready, I can offer her a new life. Can you say the same?”
“Minnesota is just as pretty,” Linda argued. “There are cousins…”
“Who are strangers,” Breandan finished. “She is no more familiar with what you offer than where I would take her. The difference that I see is that what I offer is a future with a man she loves.” Sookie had looked up at him then, her eyes watery.
“Will you come with me, my beautiful girl?” he’d asked again in front of Aunt Linda, and it was settled.