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.
They walked through Customs and on to Baggage Claim. Breandan had walked through these areas more times than he could recall but, for Sookie, these things were all new. Her eyes darted from one thing to the next, her face in constant motion, and Breandan found himself caught up in her excitement. She was like a bird and he smiled to watch her flight from windows to posters, and then back to his side. “We’re really here,” she said again.
She looked poised to take off when she spotted movement near the luggage carts, so Breandan snaked his arm around her to hold her in place. That’s when he caught it. There, buried under her curiosity, was something else. “Don’t be afraid,” he comforted her.
“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?” and Sookie nudged him a little. “I’m not afraid,” and when Breandan let her know he knew better, Sookie added, “At least, not much, but can you blame me? This has all been a whirlwind. I keep waiting for things to slow down, but they haven’t, and when they do…”
“I’ll be here for you,” Breandan assured her, hoping he was telling her the truth rather than knowing it.
The claxon sounded, the baggage belt starting with a jerk and a whine, and Sookie pulled away from him again, flying toward the door where suitcases were emerging, flashing her bright smile before turning to watch for their bags.
When they collected their things and walked through the final gates, they found themselves in a large lobby. Breandan’s eyes scanned, looking for the driver his Father promised. Breandan had suggested he just rent a car, but Rogan dismissed the idea. “You’ll be tired,” he told Breandan. “Why not ride to your holiday home in style?”
“There you are.” Breandan recognized the voice before he turned. He should have known his Father’s gift would have some uncomfortable edge and that mischief was now standing behind him.
“Hello, Mae,” Breandan greeted his wife. “It’s been a long time.” The last time he’d seen her was before the War of the Kin. It was the end of the humans’ last World War and Mae had told him she was interested in seeing something different. She said it was just a holiday trip to Scotland, but she never returned. Frankly, it had been a relief, which didn’t explain why she was back now.
“I can see you’ve been busy,” and her eyes fastened on Sookie. Hybrids weren’t unknown, but they were unusual. Fae considered hybrids to be accidents, abominations created by laziness and a lack of pride, and Mae wasn’t making much effort to hide her feelings.
On the other hand, Breandan could tell Sookie saw Mae’s Fae nature clearly and her delight in seeing another face like hers seemed to keep her from recognizing the rest.
“Mae,” Breandan started the introductions, “This is Sookie Stackhouse. She is my…” and he paused. He wasn’t sure what to call her, so he used the words that served when he was running his hotel, “special guest.” Breandan turned to Sookie, “Sookie, this is Mae…”
“Brigant,” Mae thrust out her hand. Breandan scowled and then he held his breath, waiting for what she’d say next. “And I’m Breandan’s…” and Mae flicked her eyes to Breandan’s before finishing, “cousin. Kissing cousins, you might say.”
“I’m pleased to meet you,” Sookie extended hand and shook, but she stepped a little closer to Breandan as though marking out territory. “It’s really nice of you to come out here to pick us up,” Sookie continued, ever polite. “Breandan’s told me some about his family. He didn’t mention you.”
“Didn’t he?” and Mae’s smile became more arch than pleasant. “I wonder why that is.”
“Probably because you’ve been away so long,” Breandan volunteered.
“So, you missed me?” and Mae was suddenly very close, almost rubbing herself against Breandan. “How tempting!”
Breandan pulled himself up, trying to decide what to say that would stop Mae from going further, but he was stopped by Sookie. She inserted herself between Mae and Breandan and pushed Mae back. Her lip was thrust out and her eyes were snapping, “I don’t know who you are,” Sookie’s tone was still polite, but there was a firmness to it. “I don’t believe for one minute that you’re his cousin. My guess is you’re some old friend, or should I say Lover, who’s come here to embarrass him.”
Sookie turned to Breandan, “Are you done with this woman?” she asked. Her chin was up and Breandan couldn’t help smiling at her.
“What we had was over long ago,” he told the short, blond spitfire standing in front of him.
“Then why don’t you see about renting us our own car?” Sookie ordered. She turned to Mae and held out her hand, which Mae took. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you. Breandan tells me Ireland’s a small country. I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other, but if you try to create problems between Breandan and me again, I’ll take you out!”
Breandan laughed. He couldn’t help it. Mae’s mouth was hanging open and her eyes flashed. “It was no insult,” Breandan pointed out to Mae, “because you started it. Sookie only ended it.”
Mae seemed to collect herself, pulling her calm, slightly bored expression back in place. “I can understand why you’re attracted to her,” his wife conceded before telling Sookie, “You’re brave. That’s admirable in any creature. I apologize. I didn’t realize the nature of your relationship with Breandan.”
Sookie waited a moment before saying, “Apology accepted. Everything has happened pretty fast between us. I can understand how some folks might not have heard.” Breandan couldn’t say anything. Sookie may have thought they were making peace, but Mae’s words were a clear warning and he had no doubt the report Mae delivered to Rogan would make his Father even more suspicious.
“Please let me drive you out to Killary. That’s where you’re staying, right?” and Mae smirked toward Breandan. She pointed toward the door and they walked to the street, Breandan wheeling the cart with their bags. “It’s a lovely little place,” Mae continued, then answered Sookie’s unasked question, “not that Breandan ever took me there.” Breandan hadn’t. He had shared the romantic house with Claude and he waited, half-expecting his wife to let that detail drop, but she didn’t.
“How far is it?” Sookie asked.
“An hour,” Mae shrugged. “Maybe more depending on whether there’s ice on the road, but there shouldn’t be. It’s been raining, but the real cold hasn’t moved in yet.”
“I’d better stop before we go,” Sookie announced, then took Breandan’s hand and pulled his head down for a kiss before heading off to find the restrooms.
“Does she pee on your leg, too?” Mae snarked.
“Rogan wants her to stay. Did he tell you that?” Breandan hissed. “If her heart’s broken before she’s even landed, it won’t be me you’ll have to worry about.”
“Are you really tapping that?” Mae’s lip curled. “She even smells bad.”
“I have served my King through more unpleasant assignments,” and Breandan let her know that he considered Mae one of them. “As Rogan orders, I obey.”
“You’re a bastard!” Mae hissed in return, “and don’t forget, you told me I was one of the best you’d ever had.”
“I’m generous in my praise,” Breandan replied, “and as pleasant as this stroll down Memory Lane has been, perhaps it would be best to focus on the assignment at hand. Why did Rogan recall you? Surely it wasn’t just to needle me.”
“No,” Mae rocked back on her heels, “I get to be one of the hybrid’s new minders. Rogan wants me in the hotel. He really wants me to befriend her, but we both know that’s not going to happen.”
“Jealous?” and Breandan couldn’t help the self-satisfied smile from forming on his face.
“A little,” Mae shrugged. “You haven’t come looking for me in decades. I see Claude more than I see you and it’s clear you’re fond of her.”
“I am fond of her,” Breandan nodded, “but that’s the extent of it. From the moment we landed, she became my Father’s hostage. I won’t forget that.”
“I admire her passion,” Mae glanced toward the restroom. “Perhaps you’d be willing to share her.”
“I don’t think her sense of adventure would extend that far,” Breandan replied politely, although he had a quick flash of what it might look like and he felt his cock stir. “Besides, you would have to overcome your aversion to hybrids. Disgust and orgasm tend not to be compatible.”
“If you believe that, you’re more sheltered than I thought,” Mae replied, then took a step away to intercept Sookie. “I think you should ride in front with me so we can get to know each other better,” she told the blonde, turning her head so Breandan could see her lick her lips.
Mae mostly behaved herself the entire trip. In fact, she often found herself pulled into Sookie’s enthusiasm. Each town sign they passed seemed to trigger another torrent of questions and anecdotes Sookie remembered reading from books as a child. As they passed Carrick and started climbing the hills that signaled their arrival onto the peninsula, Sookie asked Mae, “Are there many of us where we’re going? I mean, Fae?”
“You see me?” Mae was shocked.
“Sure,” Sookie shrugged and when Mae continued to look wary, Sookie asked, “Why? Did I say something wrong? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to break rules or speak out of turn.”
“You didn’t say anything wrong,” Breandan assured the blonde. “Mae is just used to hiding in plain sight. Our disguises and our ability to maintain them can be a matter of pride.”
“Oh,” Sookie nodded. “Well, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“It’s fine,” Mae said tightly. “It’s just you’re unexpected. I haven’t met many creatures like you…”
“What do you mean?” Sookie asked. She turned to stare at Breandan who quickly leaned forward to take Sookie’s hand.
“She means someone who isn’t fully Fae. Your Mother was human and it’s possible your Father was a hybrid, too. You see, the Fae here in Ireland tend to be clannish. They keep themselves among the Fae,” and Breandan stroked her hand, holding her eyes in an effort to sooth her.
“So, there aren’t many like me? There are plenty like you, but…” and Sookie couldn’t continue.
“I said it badly,” Breandan stammered, “but you’re no child. You know prejudice exists in this world and the Fae aren’t immune. There are some, like me, who see people for who they are…” Mae snorted and Breandan threw her a sour look. “What Mae is trying to say is that I have been known to avoid humans. For a time, I made an effort to hold them at arm’s length, but it’s been many years since Mae and I have seen each other and my feelings have changed,” and Breandan squeezed Sookie’s hand. “You’ve changed me.”
“I guess I thought I’d be coming someplace where I’d finally fit in,” Sookie’s voice was watery and a single tear slipped to fall down her cheek. In the close confines of the car, the scent flooded the air around them.
“Pull over,” Breandan ordered.
“Here?” Mae snapped, but Breandan could see his wife’s eyes were pupil-blown as well and she did as he asked.
Breandan threw open his door, breathing in the clean air. He opened Sookie’s door and helped her from her seat, sweeping her into his arms and holding her. She was crying now, her body shuddering against his, and he held her tight until she stopped. “I don’t know what came over me,” she apologized.
“You’re tired. You’re in a new place and my Father has conspired to make our first hours here less pleasant than they might have been,” Breandan soothed her. “Only another half hour and we’ll be home. Can you hold it together until then?”
Sookie nodded, but Breandan was taking no chances. He walked around the car and opened the driver’s door. “Get out,” he ordered Mae. Once his wife was in the backseat, they started on their way again. Breandan distracted Sookie with stories of fanciful things he said happened at the crossroads they saw and sang snippets of songs about some of the places they passed. He called on all his talents as a storyteller, having her alternately laughing and sighing. Even Mae seemed impressed.
It was past noon when they turned from a paved road to a hard-packed road running between two high stone walls that seemed almost too narrow for the car to pass between. When they emerged, it was to find themselves on the top of a small bluff with the sea stretched out before them. “Breandan!” Sookie exclaimed. Almost before the car was parked, she was out the door and running toward the sea.
“She is fetching,” Mae conceded. Breandan sat in the driver’s seat, watching Sookie take in the scenery around her.
“I want you to get the fuck out of here,” Breandan growled. “I want you to get behind the wheel and go back to whatever hole you crawled out of.”
“How dare you!” his wife hissed.
“Should I tell Rogan how you handled things today?” Breandan turned around so he could face Mae. “Should I tell him how you almost managed to make her turn right around and head back to the United States?”
“It wasn’t that bad!” Mae protested.
“It was worse!” Breandan snapped. “She will never trust you now. She knows you’re a jilted lover and you mean her harm. What’s more, you’ve introduced the idea that there’s no home for her here. She’s been an outsider her whole life. She believed she finally found a place where she’ll fit in.”
“So, what? You were going to send her into our world not knowing how she’d be treated? Rail against me all you wish, Breandan, but you’re the rat bastard! You’d build her up only to have everyone around her tear her down. You want her to stay? Try telling her the truth. At least then she won’t be surprised.”
Breandan opened his mouth, but shut it again. Mae was a stone bitch, but she was right. “It’s not as if she’ll be doing much wandering,” Breandan said, forming a plan as he talked. “If we keep her confined to the immediate area and the hotel in town, we can make sure she’s treated with kindness.”
“She doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman who’s going to stay put,” Mae observed.
“That may work to our advantage,” Breandan nodded. “Others she meets who aren’t under our sway will treat her badly. Naturally, she’d be happier staying where she feels she has friends.”
“I underestimated you,” Mae got out the car. She waited as Breandan lifted the suitcases from the small trunk and backseat. She didn’t offer to help. She climbed into the driver’s seat before saying, “I’ll report in to your Father. He’ll be expecting your call.”
“You can tell him to expect me, but not until tomorrow.” Sookie was still on the beach and Breandan felt the pull to join her. “Don’t torture her,” Breandan told his wife. “I won’t stand for it.”
“You’re making a fool of yourself,” Mae told him, but before he could ask what she meant, she closed the door and shifted into gear, threading her way between the walls and back to the main road.
Breandan grabbed two of the cases and walked to the door of the tidy, white cottage. It was white-washed stone, it’s door painted periwinkle blue. Once upon a time, it had sported a thatched roof, but that was replaced with slate shingles and a glassed sunroom with a heated floor had been added to the back. Breandan touched the lock rather than use the key and the door swung open for him. He set the bags inside, retrieved the others, and did the same before pulling the door shut and walking back toward the beach. Sookie had walked to the water’s edge. It was low tide and she was meandering back and forth, her eyes on the sand. Her hair had escaped and flew around her when a breeze caught it. Breandan reached behind him and freed his own hair, then allowed his masque to slip from him. He walked to her in his true form, reveling in her welcoming smile.
“What did you find?” he asked, lifting her hand and stroking her fist until she opened it to reveal several pieces of tumbled green and blue glass. “Tears from the sea,” he murmured. “They’re welcoming you to your new home.”
“Am I going to be happy here?” Sookie asked him.
“I hope so,” Breandan replied, pulling her against him so she couldn’t see the shadow that passed over his face. As he held her, she shivered. He looked down to see her sneakers were soaked. “I think I should get you inside,” and Breandan became all business. “You don’t want to be spending your first days in Ireland nursing a nasty cold. Nothing steals the heat from you like a brisk sea breeze, and you without a hat!”
They walked hand in hand but, by the time they got back to the front door, Sookie was shaking. Even inside, the house was chilly and Breandan nestled Sookie into a leather chair in the living room. He turned on the baseboard heater and then opened a chest to pull out a thick, woolen blanket. He draped it over her, “It will be warm in just a moment,” he promised. Breandan left to move around the house, turning up baseboard heaters in the kitchen and then running lightly up the stairs to turn up the heater in the upstairs bedroom as well. Returning, he found Sookie had dropped her shoes and drawn her knees up so she was completely under the blanket, her extremities pulled close to her body, but her lips were still pale.
Breandan leaned down to open the flue on the central fire place and stacked a couple firelighters and then peat bricks on top of them. It didn’t take long for the flame to start and the smell of peat to suffuse throughout the room. “That’s pretty,” Sookie sighed.
“Come,” Breandan went to her chair and, lifting her, situated himself with her across his lap and the blanket covering them both. “Better?” he asked.
“You’re warm,” Sookie agreed, cuddling into him.
“You’re not!” Breandan protested and shifted her again until they were both comfortable. The fire wasn’t large, but it made the room cozy as the light faded.
Sookie felt her eyes drooping. “Did I do the right thing?” she asked.
“No,” Breandan answered, but she was too tired to question him and, later, she thought that maybe she’d just dreamed it.
Light was falling across her face, calling her to open her eyes. Sookie stretched and realized she was naked and between sheets. As soon as she moved, Breandan reached out and pulled her against him, her back snuggled into his chest. He kissed her hair, “You’re up, then?”
“What time is it?” Sookie yawned.
“Almost nine in the morning. The sun’s been up over an hour,” Breandan whispered in her ear.
Sookie stretched, then rolled over, so she could face him. “Have you been up long?” she asked.
“Since before the sun rose,” he told her. “It’s being home. I feel too alive here to sleep for long.”
Sookie’s stomach grumbled and she laughed, “Maybe I should get up and feed us.” Breandan didn’t stop her when she pulled away. She looked around. They were lying on what was probably a full-sized bed, but it had a canopy and Sookie almost sighed. The bedspread was fluffy and white and the walls were white, too. Breandan rose and opened a door on a part of the unit that covered the whole wall. There were clothes hanging in two rows and he retrieved her robe and handed it to her.
“There’s a bathroom next door,” he told her. “I’ll see you downstairs and I can give you the tour, such as it is.”
The bathroom wasn’t big, but it had a tub with a shower. There was a skylight above and a fan for exhaust. The sink had some storage under it, but most things seemed to be in the tall, thin, open cabinet, including the towels. All the fixtures were white and the tile floor was cold under Sookie’s feet. She took care of her human needs and used her toothbrush, which Breandan had unpacked and placed in the holder next to his.
‘I’m living with him.’ She’d said yes. She’d come halfway around the world with him, but seeing their toothbrushes side by side in a place that was just their own made it real for the first time. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, looking for some change, but she looked the same.
“Sookie?” he was calling from downstairs.
“Coming!” she called, wiping the errant tear that had appeared from nowhere to fall over her cheek and she knew as she walked down the steep wooden stairs that her next life had begun.
“Okay?” Breandan asked. It was like yesterday. His hair was loose and he was revealed to her. She could see his slight glow and the way his hair lifted a little as though there was a breeze coming from somewhere.
“I’m fine,” Sookie answered, “Better than fine!” and she slipped off her masque, too. “Now, where’s that kitchen? I’m starved!”
Breandan made a point of showing her the small room on the first floor that was made into an office complete with a laptop and television and the half-bath beside it. They walked back past the stairs and into the living room Sookie remembered from yesterday. The wool blanket was folded across the back of the chair and Sookie glanced around the room. It wasn’t large. There was a small couch that was more of a loveseat and two matching leather chairs. Along one wall were built-in bookshelves loaded with books and Breandan’s fiddle was in its case on the table next to the fireplace. Sookie realized she’d just walked from one end of the house to the other and she was charmed. “I love it!” she told him.
“It’s a bit old-fashioned,” Breandan acknowledged, “but I never saw the need for more. And back here,” he motioned toward a doorway, “is the kitchen.” The room was windowless on three sides, but above there was another skylight and the side wall was glass, allowing entry into the sunroom she’d seen from the beach yesterday. There was a small table and a couple chairs inside, but the sunroom held the larger table with six chairs. The kitchen itself was pleasantly modern, black appliances fitting in nicely with white cabinets and stone counters. Breandan opened a door that hid a pantry, and then another that held a washer/dryer unit. “All the amenities,” he shrugged.
“Too bad the larger table is out there,” Sookie glanced at the sunroom. “It will make eating with Amelia and Sean pretty cozy.” When Breandan looked confused, Sookie explained, “It’s December and that’s glass. The floor looks like stone. I’m sure it’s freezing.”
“We’ll see,” Breandan laughed and opened the door, pulling Sookie after him. The room was a little chillier than the kitchen, but the floor was warm under her feet. “It’s heated,” he explained. “The warm rock keeps the room comfortable year-round. It lets you enjoy the ocean, no matter the weather.”
“Did you build this place?” Sookie asked, her eyes shining.
“No, it was my Mother’s,” and Breandan looked around. “It’s been mine for a very long time and as technology has improved, I’ve introduced changes.”
“Like heated floors and running water?” Sookie asked.
“And electricity and gas stoves, yes,” Breandan agreed.
“I think someone else is hungry, too,” Sookie laid her hand alongside Breandan’s handsome face and he kissed her palm.
“It’s true!” he told her, nipping her palm before releasing her. “And I’ve got to drive into Slievemore soon to see my Father.”
“He won’t be happy about me, will he?” Sookie asked.
“It’s not what you think,” Breandan replied. “He is happy you’re here,” he continued, telling truths that he knew sounded like something else to Sookie. “He’s been hoping someone like you would show up for some time.”
“Like me?” Sookie asked. “You mean…”
“I’m sure Mae has already told him how attached we are,” Breandan supplied.
“You think she went to your Father last night?” Sookie was beginning to feel worried, although she wasn’t sure why.
“He sent her, after all, doubtless to get a critical opinion of what this is about,” and Breandan motioned to the two of them. He could see that his answer satisfied Sookie because she pulled up on tiptoe to kiss him before heading into the kitchen to see what food was available. Breandan watched her, opening the refrigerator and pulling open cabinets. His chest hurt. She was humming, pulling out eggs, and she flashed him her sweet smile.
“I should get dressed,” he told her as he walked past, anxious to escape upstairs. ‘I am Fae,’ he chided himself, standing under the water in the shower. ‘I live in the moment and this is no different,’ but he thought of his simple happiness in Boston and the sneering disapproval Mae showed Sookie and he felt the pain in his chest tighten, then bloom.
She’d made him French Toast. She’d used cinnamon in the batter and since there was no syrup, they scraped butter across the slices. An uneasy tension fell across them and when they were finished, Breandan glanced at the clock on the wall, “I should get going. There was fog last night and it may have made the roads icy.”
“We have a car?” Sookie asked.
“Yes,” Breandan answered, taking his plate and cup to the sink. “In the shed out back. I keep it here for when I visit. There’s bicycles, too, but I wouldn’t recommend using them this time of year.” He turned to her, “You’ll be all right here by yourself? I’ll be back before dinner.”
“I’ll be fine,” Sookie assured him. “There’s the beach and all these books. I’ll probably take a nap.”
Breandan noticed her kiss wasn’t so giving this time and her smile held a trace of sadness. He realized it had been over twenty-four hours since he’d had her and it surprised him. Coupling was like eating for him and the thought that they’d come here and not made love once was troubling. ‘Not love,’ he corrected himself. ‘I haven’t fucked her,’ but even he thought, the words sounded wrong.
“Good grief!” Sookie exclaimed. She was standing beside the sink, looking around.
“What is it?” Breandan asked, happy for the distraction.
“No dish soap!” she told him. “I don’t suppose there’s a store nearby?”
“You can see it from here,” Breandan told her. “If you stand on the beach, you’ll see the town at the far end, but there’s no need.” He turned to the sink and turned on the faucet, then smirked as he made the dishes rinse and clean themselves.
Sookie stood beside him, open-mouthed, as counters cleared and pans became shiny, the whole kitchen obeying his wish. “Wow,” she huffed, “That’s all a little Disney for me!” Then her eyes narrowed, “Is that what you were doing all along? Using your…”
“Magic,” Breandan supplied. “Of course! What good is being Fae if you don’t use your gifts.”
“And your gifts are housecleaning?” Sookie’s eyes tilted and her lip curled. “Damn! I’m keeping you forever!” and the easy happiness between them was restored.
Still, as Sookie watched Breandan drive away, she felt the heaviness that was her Mother’s passing settle back in place. Sighing, she tried to distract herself by doing a more thorough exploration of the cottage. It was simple, but beautiful at the same time. There was a second bedroom across the narrow hall from their own bedroom upstairs. It held the same built-in wall unit for clothing, and Sookie wondered if even something that large would be able to accommodate all of Amelia’s clothes. There were built-in cabinets downstairs, too, that Sookie hadn’t noticed and she spent the next hour slowly opening doors and searching drawers, learning the cottage’s secrets.
All too soon, though, it was nearing lunch and Sookie found herself at loose ends. Suddenly the cottage seemed too small and her memories too close. “Wonder how far town is,” Sookie said to the empty house.
Her shoes were almost dry. She had a pair of heels and a couple pairs of flats, but only her sneakers were halfway reasonable for the walk to town. She figured she’d stick to the beach. She’d noticed the cluster of buildings in the distance yesterday and she estimated it was a mile or more from the cottage. The beach was wide and it looked firm. There was no snow on the ground and the sun was bright, even if it looked a little windy. “I’ll be fine,” she told herself and she ran upstairs to get dressed.
Sookie found a closely knit wool sweater in the wardrobe and she wore it under her own winter coat. She found a flat brimmed wool hat to pull over her hair and soon she was marching down the beach. She noticed the seagulls and praised her foresight in bringing mittens for her hands. The tide was going out and from time to time, Sookie had to jump over small rivers of water running from the land to the sea. She’d glance up at regular intervals, using her slow, but noticeable progress, toward the cluster of buildings to keep her moving forward.
Before they’d left Boston, Sookie had insisted on changing some dollars to Euros. Breandan had laughed at her, telling her there would be plenty of time to handle that once they arrived, but now Sookie was happy she’d thought of it. It took over an hour before Sookie was climbing the concrete stairs to the road and buildings above. The buildings right along the road looked as if they were for the tourist trade. They were boarded up but, Sookie figured during the summer, the beach would be a big draw.
She crossed the street, noticing a couple offices and the bank. She didn’t see a market, but there was a gas station and the building seemed to have groceries. There weren’t any other customers, and Sookie quickly moved up and down the aisles, finding dish soap and a sponge. When she went to the counter, she said, “Hi,” to the woman standing by the register.
“And a good day to you,” the woman answered. “American?”
“I guess it shows,” Sookie nodded.
“Strange time of year to be sight-seeing,” the woman replied, openly curious.
“I’m not,” Sookie answered. “I just moved here. Yesterday, as a matter of fact.”
“Here?” the woman asked, “In Killary?”
“Well, down the beach,” and Sookie glanced out the front windows in the direction she’d come.
“What? You’re living at the farm, then? I hadn’t heard Brady was hiring and not this time of year.” The woman’s face was starting to look a little less welcoming.
“It’s not a farm,” Sookie stammered, “more a cottage.”
“O’Hara is back?” It was a man who walked in the front door. He apparently worked here, too, because he walked behind the counter to join the woman.
“Breandan O’Hara,” Sookie nodded. “Yes.”
“So, that’s his name this time,” the man told the woman.
The woman’s expression had changed. She looked sympathetic, which was puzzling, “And you walked all this way? I take it he’s gone.”
“He went into Slievemore,” Sookie told them, but their reactions seemed odd. “Look, I just walked over here to buy some soap. We arrived yesterday, like I said, but we were missing some things,” and she pushed the dish soap forward a little.
“Of course,” the woman was business again, but she turned to the man and said, “Why don’t you pour this young woman a nice cup of hot tea?” She turned to Sookie and said, “Ned would be happy to run you back. No need to walk all that way in this wind.”
“That’s real nice of you,” Sookie stammered. There was something strange about how they were looking at her. It was as if they were anxious to be nice to her, but feeling sorry for her all at the same time. “I’m just as happy walking. It’s great exercise and it isn’t that far.”
“It’s farther than it looks,” Ned told her. “Won’t take a moment to get the car.”
“I’m fine!” Sookie told them. She was sure she sounded rude, but she suddenly wanted to get away from here.
“At least take your tea,” the woman told her. “And if you’ve a mind, you might tell the O’Hara of our kindness to you.”
Sookie thought about the couple’s reaction for a long time as she trudged back over the wet sand. The surface was firm, but still, it took extra energy and as she walked, her feet became colder and colder. Her sneakers were soaked through and the cotton socks she’d worn were wet against her feet. When she was halfway back, a quick rain shower blew over her. Sookie’s coat managed to shed the water for a bit, but soon it became heavy. The sweater she’d pulled on was wet, too, but at least it stayed warm.
By the time Sookie stood in front of the cottage door, she was shivering even worse than yesterday. Her nose was running and her fingers shook so much, she dropped the keys. She stood in the small entry way and stripped off her wet clothes. She was making puddles on the polished wood floor. She picked up her things and ran them through to the kitchen, dumping them on the tile, then grabbed the wool blanket as she ran back through the house and made her way upstairs to the bathroom. She turned on the shower, tears running down her face as she waited for the water to warm up, then cried harder when she had to take more time to adjust the heat so it wouldn’t burn her chilled body.
Standing under the shower felt so good, Sookie plugged the tub and just stood there, letting the water slowly fill, covering her feet as she stood under the spray. That’s when she noticed the pain. Turning the water from shower to tub, she sat down so she could look at her feet. The cotton socks and sneakers had rubbed raw patches at the backs of her heels and over several toes, but she’d been so cold she hadn’t noticed. “Shit!” Sookie exclaimed and as her feet warmed and the sting increased, she swore again.
There weren’t any first aid supplies in the bathroom and Sookie suspected that, like the dish soap downstairs, Breandan simply didn’t need them. Fortunately, Sookie had some band aids in her cosmetics case and she did her best to cover the worst of the raw patches. She hobbled back into the bedroom and opened the wardrobe doors and drawers, finding where Breandan had stored her clothes. “Probably another Disney display,” she grumbled, pulling out sweat pants and a fleece pullover. She glanced at her socks, and then looked through Breandan’s, finding a thick pair she could roll over until they fit. There were still tender places that rubbed, but the warmth was worth it and as she smoothed them in place, Sookie felt her grief overwhelm her again. She remembered her Mom’s face and she thought about being here, so far from everything she knew. “It doesn’t matter,” she said out loud, “There’s nothing left there,” and Sookie finally allowed herself to mourn.
“It’s unacceptable,” Rogan’s eyes narrowed.
“To whom?” Breandan snapped back.
“You are fighting me because you’ve become infatuated with her!” the King accused. Preston Pardloe was standing nearby and he didn’t bother hiding his interest. Breandan couldn’t help but notice Pardloe’s curled lip. He opened his mouth to protest, but Rogan cut him off, “Don’t bother to dispute it! Mae’s account was compelling. You have her secreted out there in your Mother’s favorite home. You have only taken Claude there before and that was when you loved him. She fought Mae for you and I have no doubt that drew you in, but she is a hybrid and my prisoner. You will not deny me access to her!”
“Did Mae tell you why Sookie decided to fight?” Breandan asked. “Sending my wife could have cost you everything!”
“Me, son? I’m sure you meant to say, ‘us,’” and Rogan looked triumphant to have caught Breandan out.
“Of course,” Breandan conceded, then reasserted his argument, “It is only another month. She’s here, on Irish soil. The cottage is, as you say, a comforting place. Her friends will arrive and she will be happy showing them her new home. Surely you see the ties that kind of thing can create.”
“I want you to come back to work starting tomorrow,” Rogan demanded.
“Next week,” Breandan countered. “There are things she needs. It will allow me to acclimatize her.”
“I will meet her tomorrow night,” Rogan said and it wasn’t a request. “I want you to bring her here.”
“Come to the cottage,” Breandan offered, “She will cook for you.”
Preston hissed and Rogan’s attention shifted. “Get out!” he snapped and Breandan smiled, seeing his Father wasting his wrath on someone other than him. When the door closed, Rogan turned back to his son, “Why do you think I would welcome the idea of taking food from her? Do you think to soften my heart the way yours has so obviously been corrupted?”
“I think that she is your guest, Father and as such, she should become accustomed to serving you.” It was a good answer and Rogan’s eyes became less hard.
“I suppose,” Rogan agreed. “She will feed me and take care of any other needs I have.” Breandan didn’t realize how closely his Father was watching him, but he knew the statement had been a trap when Rogan continued, “You think I would touch her? I know what I am and I will always remember exactly what she is! I wouldn’t soil one tip of my finger on that!”
“And yet you sent me to do it,” Breandan said bitterly. “’Cover your mare.’ Weren’t those your words?”
“You are my son,” Rogan shrugged. “It is your duty to serve me, no matter how distasteful the task, but I don’t hear you telling me how hard it’s been, how you’ve struggled to perform.”
“I can’t lie to you, Father,” Breandan conceded.
“I am not unsympathetic,” Rogan softened his voice. “I miscalculated in sending Mae. I thought seeing her would be welcome after spending so much time with the hybrid. I didn’t realize how far apart you’ve drifted.”
“We were never more than fond of each other,” Breandan told his Father. “Our failure destroyed even that.”
Rogan nodded, “I, too, was disappointed you were not able to produce children. A sad blow to us all.” Breandan’s jaw tightened, knowing his Father’s words were motivated by pride, rather than any true concern for his son. “I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I will make certain that Mae minds her manners and you can watch her dance court on the hybrid. That will be her punishment.”
“I’m not sure Sookie will welcome that,” Breandan shook his head.
“That will be Mae’s problem.” Rogan stood up, “You will return to work next week. I will come for dinner and I expect to be welcome any time I choose to visit. Once her human friends leave, you will move her to the hotel here in Slievemore and I will free you from your assignment.”
Breandan found he couldn’t speak. He stood and bowed his head. As Rogan was leaving, he turned, “Don’t think I don’t appreciate what you’ve done. She’s here and she’s clearly attached to you. You are making my revenge possible and I am grateful.”
Once those words would have filled Breandan with pride. Now, they just made him cold.
Sookie was sitting on the couch, the blanket pulled over her. He could see the book in her hand as he walked into the living room. It was dark. The visit with Rogan had dragged on longer than he’d expected and he worried that she’d be angry with him, but she wasn’t. “I’m sorry,” he told her.
“No need,” Sookie shrugged. “It was nice out here. Quiet.”
“I didn’t mean for you to spend your first day alone,” Breandan continued to apologize. “Perhaps I can make it up to you.”
“You’re worrying over nothing,” Sookie assured him. “I found some lamb chops in the freezer. There were potatoes and some old parsley, but they smell good. I pulled together some wilted greens to go with them. Why not go upstairs and clean up and I’ll heat the skillet?”
Sookie was getting up, but there was something about how she was moving that made Breandan hesitate. “Are you feeling all right?” he asked her.
“I’m okay,” Sookie replied, but when she started to walk she winced.
“Why are you lying to me?” Breandan hissed. He was on her in an instant and picked her up, depositing her back on the couch. “What happened?” he demanded.
Sookie rolled her eyes, “I walked into town,” she sighed. “It was farther than I thought. I must be out of shape because I’m a little sore now.”
“That doesn’t explain why you’re limping,” Breandan pressed, holding her in place.
“My feet,” and Sookie rolled her eyes. Breandan raised one of her feet and rolled the sock from it. Sookie’s foot jerked away and she drew in her breath through clenched teeth. The fiddler could see the patched of raw, angry skin and the places where blisters had popped, leaving open sores.
“How…” he asked, but he didn’t wait for her explanation. He ran his hands over her feet, healing them, and Sookie let out her breath as the pain receded and then disappeared. Breandan took her other foot and repeated the process. When he finished, he looked into her watery eyes, “Better?”
“How was your Father?” she asked instead.
“Rogan is always the same,” Breandan replied, preferring to look at her feet than meet her eyes. “He has agreed that I can hold off on reporting to work until next week and I know the first thing we are doing tomorrow.”
“What’s that?” Sookie asked. She was leaning forward, her fingers smoothing back his hair.
“We are going to find you a pair of decent boots,” Breandan told her, lifting her foot so high she fell backward. His fingers slipped over her instep and Sookie yelped. “You’re ticklish?” Breandan said delightedly and he attacked her feet. Sookie kicked and bucked to get away from him and she fell off the couch and onto the floor, scrambling to crawl away from him. Breandan captured her and she turned on him, intent on inflicting her own wounds in this tickle war, but her mouth was so close to his and she kissed him instead, taking, demanding, pushing him backward, and reaching to unfasten his pants.
Fingers flew and they jousted for position, but it was Sookie who won, sinking down on him as he lay on the floor beneath her. Breandan held her lips apart so he could watch himself enter her. “Yes!” she hissed, her head thrown back. Her nipples were hard and her chest was pushed forward. She looked like a pagan goddess and Breandan couldn’t remember anything so provocative.
“How will I ever let you go?” he asked as she rose over him, only to fall again, leaning so he dragged across that place within her that made her hiss and squirm.
Sookie didn’t answer, but she looked down at him with wide eyes and Breandan couldn’t stand it. “Mine!” he roared and he sat up, reversing their positions. He grabbed a cushion from the couch and pushed it under her hips before grabbing her wrists and pulling them over her head. “Mine!” he said it again. He moved over her, increasing his speed, pushing her, adding fingers to cock to stimulate her more. He meant to make his mark on her, but as he felt his completion take him, he realized he didn’t own her. Rather, it was the other way around.
As he lay across her, his breath returning to its normal rhythm, he closed his eyes. Her fingers stroked his back, nails running lightly from buttock to shoulder and back again. They were drunk on each other and Breandan never wanted to be sober again.