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.
“I feel like I should be bringing you home with me,” Amelia whispered, her arms wrapped around Sookie, holding her close. Breandan had stayed in Slievemore, leaving Sookie to drive the couple to the airport.
“This is my home now,” Sookie reassured her.
“The wedding is in July. I expect you to be there!” Amelia pressed. “No excuses!”
“You know I’ll do my best,” Sookie nodded. “I’ll tuck away my money. A plane ticket doesn’t cost that much. Just save me a place to sleep.”
“Tell Breandan goodbye for us,” Sean was peeling Amelia from Sookie’s arms, herding her toward the gates. “Really, thank you! It was the best!”
Sookie stood in the airport lobby until she couldn’t see her friends anymore. When Amelia finally stepped past the wall and out of view, Sookie experienced an almost overwhelming sense of loneliness. She talked to herself, reminding her ratcheting anxiety that she’d been in these places before and this was just her emotions taking charge. Still, even with slow breathing and focusing on the floor tiles, it took a long time to get her feet to move.
Tomorrow, Breandan intended to move them both to The Grand Hotel. There would be one day to settle in, and then Sookie’s lessons in running an establishment boasting fifty rooms and two restaurants would begin. When Sookie asked Breandan questions, trying to get a sense of what to expect, he’d deflect. “Enjoy your time with your friends!” he’d say, dismissing her worries. “It will be all work for you soon enough!”
Now, with nothing ahead but unknowns, Sookie started to doubt her courage. “You can do this!” she said out loud, earning her a startled look from a woman walking past, so when the woman literally stepped aside, placing space between Sookie and herself, it made Sookie laugh!
“Damn straight!” she said out loud again, “I’d give me room, too!”
“Tell me again, Brother, how your son found her,” Niall was sitting in the restaurant in Carrick. His hair was neatly pulled back, his hand restlessly turning the curved head of his cane back and forth.
“Purely luck,” Rogan smiled tightly. He knew Niall didn’t believe him, but he didn’t expect it. Telling his brother stories and making Niall work for the truth was part of Rogan’s enjoyment. “Breandan was in Boston on business and there she was! He tells me she approached him. Had I realized she was Adele’s kin…”
“Stop your lying!” Niall hissed. “You found her. You have her. I am told this girl, Sookie, is in thrall to Breandan.” It wasn’t true, it couldn’t be. Claudine told him that Sookie was immune to glamour, but he needed to see how far Rogan was willing to go.
“Alas!” Rogan sighed. “All true! You know how susceptible the non-Fae can be.” Rogan didn’t bother hiding his satisfied smile. “He uses her with her full consent. Breandan tells me she is quite amenable to his every request. Have you seen her picture?”
Of all the things Rogan had anticipated for today, having his brother show up in his office was not among them. Rogan had planned on telling Niall, but not just yet. There was something troubling about the arrangement between Breandan and Sookie. Rogan couldn’t quite put his finger on it, which was why he had determined to wait until Mae sent her assessment. The couple was scheduled to move into the Hotel within days, but now Niall had found out, so the more formal plan would have to be abandoned.
‘How did he find out?’ It was the question that kept pushing to the forefront. It could only mean one thing. Someone in Killary or Slievemore had informed his Brother, but who? As Rogan pushed the buttons on the device, opening the screen, he ran over the possibilities. It would have had to have been someone with both knowledge and contacts and when Rogan framed it that way, the list of possible traitors became shorter.
Rogan thought it possible Niall had seen a photograph of the girl, but he hoped it was not the case. He thumbed through images until he came to the sequence of photos Mae sent him. They showed Breandan and Sookie together. Mae had described how she staged the photo shoot. There were pictures of Sookie staring up at Breandan and several of Breandan tickling her, but with the angle and her expression, Sookie looked to be in pain.
Niall’s reaction was even better than Rogan hoped. He audibly moaned. Rogan had been certain Sookie was a doppelganger for her Grandmother and now, he knew he was right. “She’s under my sword,” Rogan hissed, leaning forward to wrench the phone from Niall’s hand.
“Why are you doing this?” Niall asked.
“You robbed me of my revenge, Brother! You left me unable to extinguish the anguish I feel and now, you will know my agony! You will know that this woman,” he thrust the picture at Niall again, “is in my territory. Breandan can make her dance to any tune. He can make her life pleasant or he can make her life hell. Look at her!
“What do you want?” Niall asked, his chin sunk into his chest, the picture of defeat.
“It should be obvious,” Rogan purred. “I want you to know she’s in danger and beyond your reach to help. Perhaps you thought abandoning them would keep them safe. Well, you were wrong! Your son died there. Did you know that?” and Rogan waited, allowing that blow to sink in. “I’m told he was quite handsome, but you’ll never know. And your Adele? She never remarried. She died alone in some windy wasteland in the middle of their country. It made me wonder whether you’d lied to me all those years ago about loving her, but I see now you didn’t.”
“So, it that it?” Niall asked. “This is about making me suffer?”
“It seems too easy, doesn’t it?” Rogan purred. “We both know revealing her would create schisms among your people. It’s one thing to take them as lovers, Brother, but another thing altogether to create freaks with them. Suffering is good, but you will need to pay me as well. We’ll call it boarding fees for keeping your dirty secret.”
Rogan was triumphant, announcing his intention to send along his demands through Niall’s main office. For his part, Niall played along but, as he walked back to his car, his mind sifted through the words that were said and the lies that were told.
Claudine told him that Sookie declared her love for Breandan. The consent born of love was a powerful tie. It would hold her within Rogan’s dominion for as long as she believed it. What was more telling was what Rogan hadn’t offered. It would have been to his benefit to crow about her magical tendencies. Hybrids were an embarrassment, but hybrids with any trace of the spark were worse. With their almost total inability to procreate, any offspring from the wrong side of the gene pool was taken as a slap in the face by the Fae. There were some who were beginning to argue the Fae had to bend their pride and embrace cross-species breeding or face extinction, but those voices were still too few.
Niall knew if Sookie were to be found and it were to turn out that her powers were substantial, Rogan was right. He could see revolution within his own kingdom. It was a puzzle. She was in danger with Rogan, but, in some ways, until Niall could come up with a plan, there was nowhere his Granddaughter was safer.
Sookie’s days started by crawling out of a warm bed. Breandan didn’t go on duty until after lunch, but he didn’t return to their room until midnight. He explained it was better this way. Sookie would have a chance to learn without being distracted by him, but it also meant that they no longer had breakfast together or dinner. She met Breandan for lunch, most often in the employee dining room downstairs, removing any chance for privacy.
At first, Sookie tried to stay up until Breandan got off duty. They’d make love and she’d slip into sleep with his arm draped over her, but she found she was so tired in the morning, she would shuffle through things, making mistakes. The first time she slept through his getting into bed, she felt guilty. She asked him to wake her when he got in, just so they could talk a little, but even that didn’t really work and after a week, they gave up.
They did get weekends, though. Both Friday and Saturday were their days. Sookie asked Breandan to take her into the country that first weekend. It was a frigid February morning. There had even been a little snow, but Sookie was so happy to be away from town, out in the open, crisp air and she could see Breandan felt the same way. They took a long ride, stopping and tramping around, looking for good views or historic landmarks. They found a pub for lunch and that night, instead of returning to the hotel, they went to the cottage in Killary and made love all night in front of the peat fire.
“I miss you,” Sookie told him as dawn stole through the windows.
“This is harder than I thought,” he replied.
Then Monday came and Sookie once more pulled on pantyhose, pushed up her hair, and strapped on her best smile for the slow trickle of guests who found their way to Slievemore in the dead of winter.
The work wasn’t hard. Learning registration was easy and check-out was a snap. The Hotel’s system was only recently computerized, so part of every day was spent typing in the names of guests and their stays from past seasons into registers and reports, so The Grand could track regular visitors. Then, there was housekeeping. Sookie spent an hour or more every day shadowing the housekeeping staff, learning what was expected in turning down a room and that standard expected in freshening up after they left.
Sookie’s favorite time was spent in the kitchens. Preston Pardloe, the Assistant Manager and Sookie’s nemesis, was critical of any time she spent there. “You will never be a chef, so why waste our time? You can barely put one foot in front of the other without tripping. Our kitchens require artistry, not your brutish manners!”
Sookie assumed Preston was gay and a bottom. He was bitchy from the word ‘go’ and there was nothing she could do that would ever be good enough for him. He picked apart her appearance, her gait, and the way she smiled. He was brutal about her accent, switching to Gaelic whenever possible to cut her out of the conversation. At first, Mae was Preston’s confederate, but Sookie’s willingness to fight fire with fire had won Mae’s grudging approval.
As Sookie walked out from the back hall into the lobby, Preston was waiting for her. “Do you even pick your feet up off the floor? We don’t clomp around here! You’re not on your farm, Clod-Hopper!” Preston sniped.
“What’s wrong, Preston?” Sookie shot back. She made a point to add her sweetest smile before saying, “Have a little trouble with your eyeliner this morning? I can understand it might be hard to get right, seeing as your head’s so far up your ass!” Mae, who was standing next to the desk laughed, and then caught herself.
Mae might have been all right if she didn’t make it so obvious she considered Sookie to be some kind of infection. At times, her efforts not to physically touch Sookie were almost comical, but Sookie was learning to ignore it. She’d called Mae out on what she was doing and Preston heard about it. For days, he gleefully dropped things just short of handing them to Sookie, laughing at her attempts to catch them before they dropped. Finally, Sookie decided to stop playing and just let a heavy dinner plate drop. It exploded, sounding like a gunshot when it hit the floor. It was after lunch, so Breandan was on duty and he came out of the office to see what happened. Preston ended up the worse for the encounter, but Sookie wasn’t fooled. She knew it just fueled the Assistant Manager’s hatred for her.
“They have a hard time accepting anyone new,” Breandan told Sookie later. “You are American and you are acknowledged as my woman,” and he gave her his boyish grin. “Preston is an ass, but our guests love him. Just wait him out. He’ll stop!”
Breandan remained Sookie’s one bright spot. He made a point of casually checking in from time to time, letting her know he was thinking of her. During those first days, when both Preston and Mae had been so cruel, he would turn up unexpectedly, presenting her a flower or some small treat. “You are magnificent,” he told her or “You are doing well. Just be yourself!” It kept her from breaking.
And things did settle down. Sookie became a favorite with the human staff and even some of the Fae began to warm toward her. If Mae was a frenemy, there were others who were actually kind, but Sookie came to realize that the kindness was as much about her being Breandan’s as it was for being herself and that put a damper on any thoughts of real friendship.
Sookie spent that first month sitting at the small table in the manager’s apartment she shared with Breandan, eating dinner alone. When that became too much, she tried eating in the employee’s dining room. Most of the people she worked with during the day had already left by the time she was eating dinner. Sookie didn’t know the night shift and they didn’t know her, so eating with the employees was just as lonely.
Finally, Sookie decided to start eating dinner in town. At least in the pubs she was surrounded by people who were laughing and more often than not, would start a conversation. In a way, it was inevitable she gravitated to The Ghoul’s Kiss.
Sometimes the music had started by the time she arrived, but most often it was quiet. Pam was still in town and she started to join Sookie at her table. After the second time this happened, Pam said, “I think I’m starting to like you, Stackhouse!”
“Well, don’t look so surprised!” Sookie answered and from that evening on, Sookie didn’t go anywhere else for dinner. Some nights Eric joined them, but most nights he stayed behind the bar, watching his bartenders and his business. When Sookie caught him staring at her, she would smile and wave.
“You shouldn’t encourage him,” Pam told Sookie one evening after she’d flashed the vampire a smile. It was almost March and the weather was wet now. Although the temperature wasn’t as cold as February, the rain brought with it a raw wind, the kind that chilled you to the bone.
Sookie was shoveling chowder and wrapping her hands around the bowl. There was something about being inside, eating warm food, and laughing with a friend that made Sookie’s heart lighter, so she grinned as she answered, “I’m just being friendly. I don’t mean anything by it.”
“He knows that,” Pam nodded. “Things between you and Breandan are well?” Pam didn’t ask about Breandan often, so Sookie felt her defenses come up.
“Great!” she said a little too loudly. “Better than ever!” After that, Sookie tried harder not to flirt with Eric, though. Instead, she started asking Pam questions about the Fae.
There were things Pam would tell her, but there were other things she avoided. For example, she told Sookie about the way the Unseelie, of which she was one, viewed the Seelie. “We’re rivals, you might say. There are more of us than there are of them, but unlike the Seelie, we’re what you might call separate kingdoms. For example, we vampires? We have our own Kings and Queens. Selkies do, too, but leprechauns? They hold an annual gathering and elect leaders there, but once the gathering is over, so is their leadership. And Banshees? I’ve never heard of them organizing.”
“Breandan said his Father was a King,” Sookie fished.
“Rogan,” Pam nodded, taking the bait. “He rules the northwest coast. His brother, Niall Brigant, rules most of the South.”
Sookie started. She recognized the name Niall from her Grandmother’s wedding certificate. “Are there many Brigants?” she asked.
“Why don’t you ask Breandan these questions?” Pam scowled and Sookie realized she’d need to move to another topic.
“So, what’s it like being a vampire?” she asked instead and was rewarded by Pam’s lazy smile.
“The best!” her friend answered. “For one thing, there’s the immortality. You’ll never hear me complain about that! So, what if we have to move from time to time? Every day I wake up and I look like this! And no one orders me around…well… Except for Eric and he really doesn’t do that anymore.”
“Why would he order you?” Sookie asked. She couldn’t help herself. Her eyes drifted to where he was standing. He really was handsome, the exact opposite of Breandan. Where Breandan had long, dark hair and those soulful brown eyes, Eric was blond with eyes of the truest blue. Where Breandan was lean, Eric had muscle, his chest broad and his arms defined.
“Stop eye-fucking him!” Pam shook her head. “He’s my Maker.”
Sookie’s head snapped back to stare at Pam, “What does that mean?”
Pam stared at her nails, but she couldn’t keep the small smile from playing around her lips, “It means he found me close to two hundred years ago and turned me into a vampire. He’s freed me now, but he’ll always be my Maker and that means there’s a connection between us.”
“Oh!” and Sookie thought about what Pam had just told her. “Oh, well, I guess I can understand why you’re sensitive about me looking at him. I didn’t mean to step on your territory. I didn’t realize…”
“Relax!” and Pam laughed out loud. “You really are my favorite breather! I’m not jealous! I just care about him and I don’t want to see him hurt. You belong to someone else.”
“I do,” Sookie nodded, then added, “Breandan,” although it wasn’t necessary. It occurred to Sookie that the reason she said it was to remind herself. It didn’t help. The idea that Eric Northman was interested in her took hold and Sookie found that although she was in a committed relationship, her daydreams were starting to include the tall vampire.
It was almost April when Breandan announced he was being sent on a trip. “I thought my Father would insist I go away sooner,” he told Sookie, holding her close, “but I told him I couldn’t leave you yet.”
“How long?” Things here were better here now, but Sookie wondered how Preston and Mae would behave without the threat of Breandan being nearby.
“Not long. Only a week. Father wanted me gone longer, but I told him I wouldn’t.” Breandan gathered her to him and kissed her. “I find I don’t wish to wake up without you beside me,” he whispered.
Sookie didn’t care that she’d be late. She stroked him through his pants and they soon discovered that the table in their sitting area was plenty sturdy. “How do you do this to me?’ he asked, turning her away from him and entering her again. “I am never so happy as when I’m in you.” His voice was strangled and he slapped her cheek, which was a new development. It made Sookie clamp down on him and he grabbed her hair, but, at the same time he reached beneath her, rubbing her clit and the sensation of pleasure with just an edge of pain had Sookie tumbling, taking Breandan with her. He continued to massage with his fingers, moving slowly within her, draped across her back. The motion was making the table edge dig into her thighs, but Sookie didn’t care.
“I love you,” she gasped. “I’m going to miss you.” By the time she got off work, he was gone.
That night as she sat at her table in Ghoul’s Kiss, Eric walked over and sat down. “Where’s Pam?” Sookie asked.
“She’s in Carrack tonight. She’ll be back tomorrow,” and then Eric glanced at her dinner. Sookie was pushing it around the plate with her fork. “Is something wrong? Would you like something else?”
“No,” Sookie smiled. “I guess it’s just a traveling night for some folks.”
“I heard Breandan left town,” Eric told her. He just said it, but the way he was staring at her made it sound like more of a question.
“Business trip,” Sookie nodded. “Just a week, still, it’s the first time we’ve been apart for this long.”
“You are connected to him…” Eric nodded.
“In love with him?” Sookie clarified, then without waiting for an answer added, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“You don’t sound enthusiastic about it,” and Eric raised his eyebrow, almost as though he was laughing at her.
“Being left alone in Hotel Hell with Team Hospitality? No, not too enthusiastic,” and Sookie found her good humor returning.
“Are they really that terrible to you?” Eric asked.
“No, not really,” Sookie told him. “They were pretty snarky at first, but we’ve all come to an understanding.”
“I’ll bet you’ve put them in their place,” Eric was smiling. “I can’t see you remaining silent and suffering.”
“I can hold my own,” Sookie agreed, finding her appetite had returned. “This fish really is good,” she told him.
“My cook will be pleased,” Eric said solemnly, then, “What will you do with your free time while Breandan is away?”
“How come I think you have some suggestions?” Sookie found herself flirting, but then, remembering Pam’s words said, “Seriously? I’m working on getting my citizenship and there’s some paperwork I have to get finalized.”
Eric looked surprised, “What does Breandan say about that?”
“I don’t really know,” Sookie shrugged, “I didn’t tell him I was doing it.”
Eric didn’t question her further, but his posture as he leaned back in his chair, his arms crossed, spoke volumes. “What?” she finally asked.
“I’m just wondering why you are keeping things from the man you love,” Eric shrugged.
Sookie felt caught out, “I wanted it to be a surprise,” she lied. Folding her napkin on the table, she stood, “I should really be getting back. It’s late and the forecast is calling for more rain.”
Eric stood, “I’ll walk you back,” he said. Sookie was about to protest, but the vampire’s mouth was set in a straight line. “I’ll be right back,” he called to the bartender and took Sookie’s arm.
“I’m not a child!” she protested, pulling her arm away. Still, when Eric gestured the opposite direction they usually took, Sookie followed. “Where are we going?” she asked as they turned the far corner.
“There are fewer people on these streets,” Eric told her. “Fewer people to see me walking with you.”
They were passing a little park Sookie remembered seeing once. There was a tall tree in the middle, surrounded by benches and bricks and Sookie stepped toward the tree, determined to read the plaque set near it. It was in both English and Gaelic and identified this as the site of the town hanging tree. Without thinking, Sookie shuddered.
“How are you really doing, Sookie?” Eric was standing well behind her, but she heard him perfectly. It occurred to Sookie that it had been a long time since anyone had asked her about herself and it struck her dumb. When the silence between them stretched, Eric broke it again. “Are you happy here?”
The tear that slipped over her cheek came from nowhere. She didn’t consider herself unhappy, but she hadn’t dared explore this question. Sookie drew a deep breath and centered herself, dashing the tear, and the one that followed. “I don’t know why I’m doing this! I have no good reason and I’m no crybaby.”
Eric stepped closer, “I won’t deny your tears make me uncomfortable,” he told her. His hand reached out and seemed to encase the entire side of her face. For a large man, his touch was unexpectedly gentle. “You just lost your mother,” he said softly. “You have moved to a new place where you know no one. I think you’re entitled to your tears.”
Then Sookie kissed him. She reached up, pulled his face toward hers, and he willingly came. It wasn’t a friendly peck either. Maybe it was the combination of hearing words that sounded as if this man genuinely cared about her, a man who also happened to have a killer body or maybe it was something else, but Sookie couldn’t fool herself later about who initiated it. She did.
His arms were around her and she was nipping his lip, and then she was sucking a tooth she realized was a fang! Eric seemed pretty happy about this development, if the log pressing against her was any indication, then her good sense kicked in. She shoved away from him, “Oh, my God! I am so sorry! I don’t know what came over me. This was… It was really unfair of me. I’m sorry!”
For the first time Sookie saw Eric’s fangs extended and she didn’t find it upsetting, not at all. If anything, that small, stupid voice that made her look at every handsome man was ringing the bell, calling for seconds. Instead, Sookie clasped her hands behind her back and took a step away from him. “I should get back.”
“I’ll walk you,” Eric offered. He didn’t look upset. His fangs retracted with an audible snap.
“That’s okay,” Sookie stumbled. The more she thought about what happened, the more upset she became. “This was a mistake. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t do this kind of thing. All I can tell you is I’m ashamed of myself and I apologize.”
“There’s no need,” Eric assured her, giving her a flirty leer, “I’m happy to take advantage of any of your weak moments.”
“That’s what I mean,” Sookie cried, even more miserable. “You think I was playing with you. I’m no player. I’m a one-man woman and I’ve just done something terrible.”
“Go home, Sookie,” Eric wasn’t looking amused anymore. “You acted from some natural impulse, but soon you’re going to convince yourself otherwise.” His face was suddenly very close to hers and she could smell his wonderful fragrance, like sand and sea, “There’s a reason you kissed me,” he told her. “You should figure out why, and then come see me,” and he turned on his heel and was gone.
Sookie walked the rest of the way back to the hotel in a daze. Preston was on duty at the front desk and she didn’t react to his usual insult. Instead, she walked back to her apartment, locked the door, and ran a hot bath. As she sat, her arms wrapped around her knees, she made a number of resolutions. She would stop going to Ghoul’s Kiss, she would stop searching for Eric Northman, and in the morning when her head was clear, she would think long and hard about why she’d been so quick to cheat on her boyfriend.
When Breandan drove away from The Grand, his heart was in turmoil. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and certainly not to him. When he agreed to take on this job, he thought it would be easy. Human women were simple, but, ultimately, boring. They giggled and fucked and soon became tiresome. For the first time, Breandan wondered if part of the reason he became so quickly bored with his former human lovers was because he had glamoured away their free will.
Sookie’s independence was a powerful draw. She did unexpected things and she didn’t easily agree to everything he wanted. It made her open-hearted way of loving all the sweeter because he felt he earned it.
When it was just the two of them in Boston, Breandan found he didn’t notice that she wasn’t fully Fae. The roundness of her face and the lack of clarity in her essence didn’t matter. Instead, he noticed her sincerity and the purity of her feelings for him. She didn’t hide from him, she didn’t hold things back. Breandan’s relationship with her wasn’t a bargain to be struck or payment to be made. Instead, she gave herself in a way that stole his breath away. He couldn’t see anything but her beauty.
And then, they came here.
Breandan had no illusions that the difference was of his own making. Sookie hadn’t changed. She was the same woman, offering the same balance of generosity and humor. She still stood up to him, and then gave herself to him with abandon in a way that called to his heart, but he struggled to see the beauty and not the deficits. It was in the way Mae’s lip curled when she saw Sookie or the way Preston stepped aside when she entered the room. It was in the sympathetic looks the other Fae gave him, murmuring about how hard it must be to do his Father’s bidding.
At those times, most times now, he saw all her flaws. She laughed too loud and her nose was not quite straight. Her eyes weren’t truly slanted and her body shape was rounded, not the long, lean lines of a true Fae. She had almost no magic that he could see. When she asked him about himself, something he’d found charming in America, it now sounded grasping, an inelegant attempt to connect with him.
But then Sookie would say something wonderful or he’d feel her, usually when he was buried within her and he’d forget his friends’ objections. He’d allow himself to just be with her. ‘You’re obsessed,’ he told himself, but he feared it was something much worse.
When they made love before he left, he almost broke down. He wanted to turn her around and take her in his arms. He wanted to confess what he was doing and beg her to run away with him, somewhere they wouldn’t be found. They could live happily far from the Fae and he could forget he was Rogan’s son and she was his Great-uncle’s mistake. Then, his heart slowed and reality returned and he knew it would never work.
Claude made a point of hanging around when he knew Sookie wasn’t. He teased and tempted, reminding Breandan of better, less complicated times. He made slighting comments about Sookie, too, but always framed as a compliment for Breandan. Claude lamented his own inability to fulfill his duties to his Father as Breandan now fulfilled his. He praised Breandan’s persistence and his ability to put aside any natural distaste he would feel. He encouraged Breandan to consider rewarding himself for getting so far. “You deserve a break, a short one, to get your feet back under you,” Claude crooned. “I can understand how unsettling this must be! Most assignments like this one are over already and you’ve put up with your project for months! She can’t be glamoured? How tiring!”
It was tiring. Breandan felt most days as though he was exhausted, but he also knew it wasn’t Sookie who made him feel that way. It was his own guilt. Sometimes that realization left him sad, almost depressed, but other days, it made him angry at her. Why couldn’t she be like other humans? Why couldn’t she just go along, sucking up his every word, and bending herself into knots to please him?
It was this turmoil that was behind Breandan’s rejecting his Father’s demand to start traveling in February. “She needs to form other attachments,” Rogan insisted, but Breandan knew Sookie not making other friends here wasn’t due to a lack of trying. Rogan insisted on having Mae in the hotel because he trusted her more than his own son to keep him informed. What Rogan failed to accept was that Mae couldn’t set aside her prejudices and petty jealousy long enough to become the friend Sookie needed. If anything, Mae was amplifying Sookie’s feeling of alienation, leaving her nowhere to turn but Breandan.
It was a vicious circle. Breandan knew he needed separation from Sookie if he was to return to the Fae he was, but he found himself unable to bear the idea of leaving her alone among people who would torment her.
Finally, he agreed to take a week away. He only told his Father he was manufacturing a trip, but that he wouldn’t be going far. “I need a break,” was the only explanation he offered.
And so, here he was, driving down familiar roads. He wanted to go farther away, perhaps Carrick, but, in the end, he was convinced to return to Killary. He pulled up to the little cottage, and then almost didn’t get out of the car. He could see her face as she’d been that first day, her eyes alight with joy, running to the sea. They had been happy here. He had been happy.
The front door opened and Breandan knew it was too late. Claude was waiting inside.
When Breandan stepped through the door, he saw Claude seated in the living room. His cousin was already naked, his erection straining, a cock ring in place. He smiled in that way Breandan had seen more times than he could count and he held out his hand, saying, “Come to me, Lover, and let’s help you remember who you truly are!”
Sookie sat at the small table in the manager’s apartment, staring at the paper in front of her. ‘Reasons to Stay’ was written at the top of one column and ‘Reasons to Leave’ was at the top of the other. Top on the list of Reasons to Stay was Ireland. “I like it here,” Sookie said out loud and then she wrote that down. She added other things like, ‘Nothing back there for me’ and ‘Can earn money here.’ Reasons to Leave included Mae, Preston Pardloe, and The Fae.
“Where do I put Breandan?” Sookie asked out loud. Breandan could be kind and funny, he made her feel wonderful and he was amazing in bed, but these days Breandan was often distant and Sookie saw the same expression on his face that she saw on the faces of the other Fae at the hotel. It made her feel bad about herself, “And no one who says they love you should make you feel that way!” she declared. She ended up compromising by writing his name straddling the line between the columns. “Which says something,” she sighed.
Sookie got up and dressed. She walked through her duties, but her mind kept returning to the list on her table. Sookie pulled out her phone and checked it. Breandan had been gone since yesterday and Sookie thought he’d at least text her, but nothing.
“What’s wrong with you?” Mae was suddenly standing too close, making Sookie jump and fumble with her phone.
“Nothing,” Sookie snapped back, but Mae’s lip was curling as if she was smelling something bad and Sookie had a terrible urge to use her fist to push that sneer up further up the Fae’s face.
When she woke up the next morning, Sookie rolled over and checked her phone again. ‘Did you arrive safe?’ she texted. She waited. Nothing.
Sookie made herself some breakfast and showered. She dressed. No response. “Asshole!” She realized Breandan had been vague about where he was going. ‘Europe,’ he said, followed by, ‘It’s only a week.’ No address, no destination. At the time, she’d been thinking so much about him being gone, she hadn’t paid attention.
All day Sookie checked her phone. Around dinner, she texted again, ‘Please let me know you’re safe.’ When she got up the next morning, nothing had changed. Her text bubbles hung on the screen like orphan children.
As she walked by the front desk, she asked Preston, “Do you think Mr. O’Hara may have lost his phone?”
The Assistant Manager rolled his eyes, pulled out his own phone, and started poking with his thumbs. “No,” he announced, holding his screen toward Sookie so she could see the answering text, “Breandan is just fine. What’s wrong, Princess? Your sweetheart too busy to send you your morning wake-up call?”
It preyed on Sookie for the rest of the morning. Three days. It started her thinking about their whole relationship. She remembered those early days in Boston when he’d find wonderful places to take her. She remembered the one time she was pretty sure he’d told her he loved her. She remembered those first days in Killary, lying in front of the peat fire and how she was sure she and Breandan were headed for something more. She fingered the necklace he’d bought her their first weekend after moving into the hotel. It was a piece of rock strung on a thin, gold chain. Breandan laughed at her, teasing that she was forcing him to be a tourist in his own country, and then purchased her a souvenir from the shop since that’s was tourists did. “Only gift you ever gave me,” Sookie said sadly.
“Are you listening to me?” It was Mae. She’d leaned over, almost yelling in Sookie’s ear. It startled Sookie so much, she dropped her fork. It clattered on the table and the others eating turned to look, then stood and scuttled away.
It was lunchtime, so Sookie was in the employees’ dining room. Her thoughts had started to turn from melancholy to moody and the last thing she needed was another testy conversation with the female Fae. “Were you talking? I hadn’t noticed,” Sookie shrugged.
Mae fastened her most disdainful sneer in place, “I have been talking for some time. Did you hear a word I said?”
“Nope,” Sookie shrugged, “Can’t say I did. Guess I have more important things to think about at the moment.” Sookie wasn’t usually so rude, but it was an unusual day. She felt off balance and that added to her growing annoyance. Mae had her moments when she could be almost nice, but mostly she still acted as if she was Top Cat in any room and anyone who was a human, ‘or hybrid,’ Sookie’s mind added, should fall on their knees if Mae chose to pay them attention.
“Well, I want you to…” and Sookie stood up, picked up her plate, and walked away. It felt great, turning her back on Mae. “Where are you going?” Mae was angry now.
“Don’t know,” Sookie shrugged, “but I’ve just decided to take the rest of the day off.”
“What does that mean?” Mae caught up to her. She was pressing her anger against Sookie as if that would make a difference. The only thing it did was make Sookie see red.
“You’re not the boss of me,” Sookie told her, “and I’m done with putting up with your bullshit. You don’t like it? Fire me!” She didn’t say it mad. She didn’t say it loud, but Sookie Stackhouse was well and truly angry!
“Oh,” hissed Mae, “You think you’re so special? Why? Because Breandan’s letting you live in his quarters? You need to learn your place! You’re nothing but his pet and his interest in you is waning. You think you’re the only one he fucks? Surely, even you aren’t that stupid!” Mae’s eyes shone and she leaned in toward Sookie, her cruel smile tilting her lips. “I had him before you and I’ve had him since. Now, get back to work!”
Sookie felt her backbone stiffen and the fire of pride ran through her. She put her plate in the bin and carefully, head up, she walked past Mae. She walked into her apartment, leaving the door open. She found her purse and made sure she had her wallet. She looked at the pad of paper still on the table, drew a big circle around Breandan’s name, and made angry arrows pointing to the ‘Leave’ column.
Sookie could feel her throat closing, but she wasn’t going to give anyone under this roof the satisfaction of seeing her hurt, and so without another word to anyone, she squared her shoulders, walked through the lobby, and out the front doors.
“I have money,” Sookie told herself. “There have to be other places to live and other places to make money. I have a work permit. I’m getting my citizenship. Everyone says the walkers will be here in another few weeks and the tourists. I just need to make enough money to tide me over until I figure this out!” Sookie walked down the street, aimlessly turning corners while her brain repeated Mae’s words.
One part of her wanted to believe Mae was lying, that Breandan was faithful to her, but another part, the louder part, asked if Sookie was kissing Eric Northman, why wouldn’t Breandan be fucking ex-lovers? “We really don’t belong together anymore,” Sookie mumbled.
She walked for almost an hour, debating what to do. “I can’t go back there,” she decided. “Maybe she’s lying about Breandan, but I’m not waiting around until he decides to return to figure it out.” The very idea of another three days at The Grand, putting up with Mae’s gloating and needling, was too much.
Slievemore was a small town during the off-season, so Sookie knew that if you wanted something, a lawnmower you could borrow or an apartment coming up for rent, you went to Murphy’s and talked with Brian behind the bar. When she walked into the place, she was relieved to see him. When she told him what she wanted he was reluctant to help her, but Sookie promised she wouldn’t tell anyone who helped and she added, “I can’t live there anymore. You know how they are!” and he nodded. She figured like most of the town people, Brian accepted the O’Hara’s different from them and that, combined with a tear or two, seemed to do the trick.
Clutching the name and address Brian provided Sookie headed out of town, walking along one of the main thoroughfares until she came to a sign that read Seacoast Shores. It was a modern-looking place, set back from the road and just atop a small rise. As Sookie stood on the front porch about to ring the bell, she turned around and there, right across the street, was the whole harbor laid out in front of her. It hadn’t seemed as if she’d walked that far, but from where she was standing, she could see all of Slievemore and if she squinted, she could just make out the peaked roof of The Grand.
After the second time she rang, the door opened. It was a woman her own height. She was blond, like Sookie, but her hair was cut short and curled around her head. “Are you Maryann?” Sookie asked.
“Why are you here?” Maryann answered and Sookie’s heart sank. This woman knew who she was and Sookie figured the impression wasn’t good.
Still, she’d made the walk, so Sookie soldiered on, “I heard your regular helper got married and has moved out of town. I was wondering if you were looking for someone to take her place.”
“Tired of The Grand?” Maryann asked. “Or did you have a fight with your fancy boyfriend and figure to bring your troubles to my doorstep?”
“I am tired of the Grand,” Sookie nodded. “As for Breandan? I won’t say I’m done with him, but I’m done living with him. Things work differently here than in the States. In the U.S., a woman can live with a man and not lose his respect. I don’t think things works that way in Ireland.”
“I suppose you’d call us quaint or traditional,” Maryann agreed, “and you should know I’m all of those things. I don’t hold with a woman living with a man not her husband and neither do the local people around here.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Sookie pulled out her best manners. “I guess that’s right. When I came here I believed Breandan and I would spend a little more time getting to know each other, and then we’d be married, but now? I’m pretty sure I made a mistake.”
“And you’re not going back to America?” Maryann asked.
“There’s nothing and no one left for me there,” Sookie answered. “I came here with Breandan when my Mother died. She’s all the family I had left,” and Sookie bit her lip and kept her back straight.
“Folks say you know how to work,” Maryann watched her. “They say you have a pleasant way about you, always a kind word for everyone,” and she stepped back, letting Sookie cross into the house. “You better come in.”
Maryann took Sookie to the kitchen in the back of the house. She made Sookie a cup of tea and placed a plate with some cookies on the table. It was a good-sized kitchen with an oversized stove and a large double-sink. “This is where we cook breakfast for the guests,” Maryann explained. “I have ten rooms here and I can have thirty people at a sitting. They all need breakfast within a couple hours. Do you know how to cook?”
“I do,” Sookie nodded. “Besides cooking for my family, I worked as a waitress back in the States and a neighbor taught me how to make brown bread when I first came here.” The thought of her first days with Breandan in Killary sent a sharp pain through Sookie’s chest.
“I’d want you to live here,” Maryann said carefully. “There’s an apartment over the garage out back. It’s not fancy, but it’s comfortable. The hours are long, but I’d pay you 275 euro a week.”
“I’d need 300,” Sookie told her, “and two days off.”
“Well, you have cheek, I’ll give you that,” and Maryann nodded, “That’s fair, but not two days together and one night you’re here for desk duty until everyone is checked in. That means you wait up in the front room until they all get back from their bar-hopping and sight-seeing.”
“Deal,” Sookie grinned.
“I’ll need your papers,” Maryann told her, and then asked, “When can you start?”
“How about tonight?” Sookie asked. “I’ll go back right now and pack up.”
“And what are you going to do when himself comes walking up the path with a ring in his hand?” and Maryann gave Sookie a hard stare.
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Sookie said sadly and she was pretty sure she was right. “But even if he does, I give you my word I’ll be here through the season. I won’t leave you hanging.” Sookie stared at her tea for a moment. She felt foolish saying it, but she figured she needed to get it out in the open. “Breandan’s Father won’t be happy I’ve left. There are some around here who worry about crossing the O’Hara’s.”
“You mean am I one of those superstitious lot from town? No, it doesn’t bother me what those people think as long as it isn’t a legal matter.” The innkeeper waited until Sookie assured her there would be no police, then said, “Well, I suppose I should show you the apartment.”
It wasn’t big nor nowhere near as luxurious as the apartment at The Grand, but Sookie thought she would be happy there. The women shook hands and Sookie started back down the street, dreading the reception that awaited her back at The Grand.
It was already dark, so Sookie decided to take a chance. She called Pam and was relieved when her friend answered right away.
“What did you do to him?” Pam asked.
“Who?” Sookie asked.
“Eric,” Pam snapped.
“Eric? Nothing! Look,” and she stopped walking. “I’m leaving The Grand. I’m going to work at Seacoast Shores up the street. I’m moving over there tonight and I was wondering if you’d mind giving me a lift. I could walk, but my suitcases will be too heavy and I don’t want to make more than one trip.”
The line was very quiet. “Pam?” Sookie asked when the silence stretched.
“You’re leaving him?” Pam finally said.
“Not exactly,” Sookie answered. “More like I’m leaving my job at The Grand. I’ll figure out Breandan later.”
“Is he going to be there?” Sookie figured Pam wouldn’t want to be involved if there was a chance there would be a scene.
“Breandan’s out of town. He left three days ago and he’s not due back until after the weekend,” Sookie told her.
“Too bad,” Pam sighed and Sookie realized she’d been wrong about Pam.
“So, you’ll do it?” Sookie asked again.
“Wouldn’t miss it!” Pam laughed.
It gave Sookie the extra shot of courage she needed to sail back through the front doors. Preston was at the front desk. He looked worried and pulled out his phone. He called to Sookie, “Mae is looking for you…”
Sookie rounded on him. There were only employees in the front lobby, but Sookie realized she wouldn’t have cared if there weren’t. “If you call her, Preston, you better call the police, too, because I’m going to knock her all the way to Dublin. The best thing you can do is stay out of my way and keep that bulimic piece of crap out of my way, too!” Preston’s face went white and his mouth opened and then closed. Sookie almost laughed, but then she put her chin up and walked down the back hall, opening her door.
It didn’t take long. The suitcases were in the closet where she’d left them. All her clothes, even her new ones, fit in the bags. It was quick work collecting her toiletries from the bathroom and the shoebox with her papers and photographs. She reached behind her to unclasp the necklace she was wearing and let it drop over itself on the table. “I won’t come so cheap for you ever again!” she said, glancing at the gift.
She took another walk around the apartment. There were a couple photographs she’d framed of her and Breandan together. He was wearing his human face, not the one she saw, so she left them. “They’re nothing but lies,” she shrugged. There was a photograph next to the bed of she and Breandan with her mother. It was taken that last Thanksgiving in Boston. Sookie took it from the frame and carefully folded it so Breandan’s face was obscured, then she tucked it into the shoebox along with the others.
There was a knock on the door and Pam walked in. “There are people in that lobby who look as if they could chew nails,” she laughed. “I can’t wait to see their faces when you walk out!”
“Is Mae out there?” Sookie asked, her temper rising and her fists forming.
“She is, but she’s looking a little green,” Pam laughed again. “What did you do to her? Dress her down in front of her bitch club?”
“She told me she’s been sleeping with Breandan,” Sookie said and just hearing it made her deflate. “But I’m not going to think about that right now,” she said just as quickly, firming her stance and swallowing back her emotions.
Pam nodded. She squeezed Sookie’s arm in support, then said, “Come on, Miss Scarlett, time to exit Stage Right.” Pam lifted one of the suitcases like it weighed no more than a feather and walked through the door, apparently ready to lead the way.
Preston was standing in the middle of the lobby. Mae was beside him. They didn’t look happy as Preston said, “Mr. O’Hara will be here shortly. You should stop immediately and wait for him. There has been some kind of misunderstanding. You can’t leave!”
“I’m sorry for what I said,” Mae stammered.
Sookie set down her suitcase and walked right up until she was standing almost nose to nose with Mae, “Were you lying?”
“I wasn’t thinking…” Mae deflected.
“That’s not what I asked you,” Sookie raged.
Pam stepped next to Sookie and smiling sweetly, asked, “Mae? A simple yes or no. Have you fucked Breandan Brigant since he returned from the United States?”
Mae looked trapped. She looked to Preston, and then back at Pam. “She can’t answer,” Pam told Sookie. “Fae are incapable of lying and she doesn’t want to admit what she did.”
“Time to go,” Sookie nodded, feeling her heart contract just a bit more.
“You can’t!” Preston protested and moved to block Sookie’s way.
“Is she a prisoner here?” Pam challenged the Assistant Manager. It was an odd choice of words and it gave Sookie a bad feeling, but then Pam turned to her and asked, “Sookie, are you leaving of your own free will?”
“Yes,” Sookie replied and for some reason, Preston stepped away. Outside, the car was waiting and in no time, they were loaded and driving away from The Grand Hotel. Sookie pulled out her phone and looked, but there was no message from Breandan.
“Are you okay?” Pam asked her.
“Right as rain,” Sookie told her friend.
Inside the lobby of The Grand Hotel, Mae felt ill. “What am I going to do?” she asked no one in particular.
“Run,” Preston told her before walking away, leaving her standing by herself.