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.
It was aggravating, like something stuck in her tooth she just couldn’t extract. Sookie was angry at Eric, but, still, she found herself watching the door of her apartment every evening, hoping he’d be the one to drop off receipts. On the nights she waitressed at Ghoul’s Kiss she made a point of avoiding him but, she did it so well, her eyes seemed to follow him. ‘Just to make sure I have distance,’ she told herself. She was lying, which pissed her off. She knew she was making bad choices, and that pissed her off more. She knew that everyone wanted her to find a clear path to Breandan, and she wanted it too, but, it seemed, just not enough, which pissed her off most of all.
Every morning at Seacoast Shores started the same way. Sookie could have brewed coffee in her apartment, but she didn’t. Instead, she shuffled down the stairs, her eyes gummy, and walked into the kitchen of the main house. She fixed the pot there with fumbling fingers and clumsy stumblings. By the time the coffee was dripping, Maryann found her way to the kitchen, and together they moved in the dance they’d perfected to ready what was needed, whipping bowls of eggs and placing loaves of brown bread in the oven.
Maryann chopped fruit and Sookie carried the yogurts and condiments into the dining room. Tables were set and flowers placed in vases, each move efficient, engineered to get them ready for the rush of guests in the quickest, most painless way. By the time the coffee had brewed, what could be done ahead of taking orders was complete, so Sookie and Maryann had a half hour to sit and chat.
During June, the talk was mostly about the new bookkeeping system Sookie set up for the B&B, but, as Maryann became more comfortable with it, the morning chat turned more personal. Maryann shared that she was seeing someone, and she was very happy with the situation. She wasn’t sharing who the someone was, but Sookie knew she was female. Sookie figured if Maryann wasn’t comfortable enough to say, it was best that Sookie didn’t know, but she did spot Pam walking straight from dropping receipts and invoices at her apartment across the lot to knock on the back door of the main house a couple times.
“What do you think your beau will be sending you today?” Maryann asked. Of course, Sookie’s beau was Breandan. They never lacked for flowers, and Sookie usually received a letter or lengthy email from him as well. Toward the afternoon, Breandan would appear, planting himself on the small patio out front to play fiddle. The guests loved it and Maryann had to add chairs. She’d even started stocking a small table just inside the door with wines and soft drinks.
It was becoming a major selling point; that Seacoast Shores offered an afternoon on the veranda overlooking the sea, sipping wine, and listening to authentic Irish music. To top it off, Breandan went out of his way to be charming. He joked and gave recommendations. He didn’t hide he was the owner of the big place in town, but he talked as though Seacoast Shores was the more relaxed alternative. The online reviews reflected the B&B’s added charm and, for the first time, Maryann confided to Sookie she had repeat bookings from customers, promising to return the next year as well.
Sometimes Claude came to sit in the afternoon sun, too. He was on his best behavior, not looking the least embarrassed after he told Sookie he would find a way to change her poor opinion of him. He was a wealth of knowledge about Slievemore and the surrounding countryside and he knew many of the local legends. Breandan was a talented storyteller, but Claude was in a class of his own! He could keep groups enthralled for hours and sometimes he did, making them miss dinner reservations or appointments with friends. When Sookie scolded him, he’d laugh, throwing his too handsome head back and somehow making everyone else laugh with him. They didn’t see the way his eyes slanted or the cruel shape his mouth took when he thought no one was looking. Sookie could see these things but, as she got to know him better, she found she started ignoring the parts of Claude that had bothered her before. She even started to appreciate Claude’s dry, sarcastic sense of humor.
Sookie had to admit it. Breandan was making a real effort. He took walks with her along the sea. He invited her to dinner, taking her to local places where the atmosphere was more charming than impressive. If only Sookie hadn’t remembered how Breandan was in Boston, she would have been won over. She would have only known this Breandan and maybe she wouldn’t have sensed how each move, each gesture, seemed to have the flavor of trying too hard.
July was another month of full bookings at the B&B. It hurt Sookie’s heart to have to decline Amelia and Sean’s wedding invitation. Sookie had promised her friends this past January that she would attend, but faced with the reality of working three jobs, the money needed for her citizenship, and the costs of airfare and lodging at Amelia’s ‘destination’ venue, it was impossible.
On the night of the wedding, Pam brought Sookie the receipts from the pub. Instead of making small talk and then leaving for Maryann’s though, Pam sat down. “You know your friends understand,” she told Sookie.
“It’s just it’s been a long time since I’ve had friends longer than a year, and Amelia and I have kept in touch,” Sookie replied, picking at the table runner and trying not to look too hurt. “I feel like I’m failing in the friend department. I keep thinking if I’d really tried, I could have found a way to make this work.”
“Amelia and Sean have a lot more money than you,” Pam pointed out reasonably. “They can afford the luxury of choices. When you live a little closer to the bone, your choices are more limited.”
“I guess,” Sookie shrugged. She couldn’t help it. “Don’t mind me,” she smirked. “I’m just having a pity party. I’ll get over it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with feeling disappointed,” Pam assured her. “But maybe you could invite them here, kind of a second honeymoon. They liked Ireland. I bet they’d love to visit again, and I’m betting Maryann could find a room for them.”
“They did like Ireland,” Sookie looked up at Pam.
“They have plenty of money to buy plane tickets,” Pam nodded.
“Breandan would probably give them a room,” Sookie said hopefully, ignoring Pam’s earlier suggestion. Sookie remembered the suite that couples used for honeymoons at The Grand. It probably wasn’t as romantic as the one in the Bahamas, where Sean and Amelia were getting married, but it was nice.
“Sure,” Pam’s voice dulled out a little, “the Fae would probably love to do you a favor.”
“Don’t say it like that!” and Sookie rolled her eyes. “They’re Breandan’s friends, too!”
“And Claude’s. Don’t forget Claude!” Pam looked annoyed, then seemed to make a decision. “I’ve been trying to stay out of it. Eric has been clear that your decisions are your decisions but, I need to tell you, Sookie, I’m worried about you! You know what Breandan is and if you don’t already, you should know that Claude is bad news.” Sookie opened her mouth to protest, but Pam held up her hand, “I know! It’s not my business, but there was a reason you decided to walk away from Breandan the first time. I think you need to ask yourself if anything has really changed.” Pam rose, “I’ll respect your decision either way, but I just wanted you to know how I felt about it.”
Pam was turning to go when Sookie asked, “How is Eric?” She hadn’t meant to ask, but then the words were out of her mouth.
Pam stopped, stared, and then allowed a slow smile to curve her lips, “Missing you,” she said. “Working so hard to pretend he isn’t, it’s like a third person in the room.” Pam looked as if she was done, but then she seemed to change her mind, “You might be a little kinder to him, and maybe to yourself.”
“How?” Sookie asked.
“I’m not giving you that kind of advice!” Pam laughed. “You’re a big girl! I think you can figure it out!”
Sookie blamed Pam for what happened next. She found she had all kinds of idea of how to be nicer to Eric, and most of them didn’t involve clothes. “You are crazy!” she scolded herself, and pulled up her email account, composing a note to Sean and Amelia, proposing they come for a second honeymoon to Slievemore. Sookie picked up her phone and for the first time since she’d moved out, she called Breandan.
“Sookie!” he answered before the second ring ended.
“Hi,” she stammered, “Look, I’m sorry to bother you…”
“You’re not bothering!” he interrupted. “Not at all!”
“That’s nice of you to say,” and Sookie got to the point. “You probably know that Sean and Amelia got married today.”
“I wondered why you didn’t go,” Breandan replied. “I thought she wanted you in her bridal party.”
“She did,” Sookie answered, “but I just didn’t have the money…”
“And you wouldn’t ask me.” His voice was hurt and for some reason, it made Sookie’s chest hurt, too. She remembered how she’d been sure, looking out the plane window, that Breandan was the man she’d be with for the rest of her life. She remembered how kind he was, and then she thought of how nice he’d been lately.
“You know how I am; I need to support myself. I have other priorities. Amelia understood,” but Sookie felt guilty all over again.
“Of course, she did,” Breandan assured her. “But you called me. It’s the first time, don’t think I didn’t notice. Is there something I can do for you? A favor?”
She couldn’t help it. There was something about the word choice that almost had Sookie saying ‘no, that’s okay,’ but she stopped. Instead, she said, “I was thinking maybe Sean and Amelia would like to come back and visit. They had such a nice time here.”
“A second honeymoon,” Breandan said, knowing exactly what Sookie intended.
“Yes, that’s it!” she agreed.
“Would you mind if I offered them a room?” Breandan seemed to be reading her mind.
“At The Grand?” Sookie finished.
“Actually,” Breandan told her, “I was thinking of my other place.”
Sookie had heard about the place on the other side of the bay, but she hadn’t asked about it, and Breandan hadn’t mentioned it before. Maryann told her it was posh, catering to the rich and famous. “Are you sure?” Sookie asked. “From what I hear, it’s pretty pricey. You sure you don’t want to…”
“We could offer them a week, but on one condition,” Breandan told her.
“Here it comes…” Sookie thought. “What would that be?” she asked out loud.
“You take one night off from all that stuff you do and come sailing with me.” It was the last thing Sookie expected.
“Sailing?” She knew she sounded like she was interrogating him. “On the water?”
“I have a boat,” Breandan told her. “I’m a good sailor and it’s been a long time. I think you would like it, being out in the harbor. We can pack a picnic lunch.”
“Alone?” Sookie asked. Somehow, she had a vision of Breandan showing up with Claude in tow.
“Just us,” Breandan assured her. Although he was on the other end of the line, Sookie felt that little thrill she used to when they’d been together before. It felt…nice.
“I think I can handle that!” she sassed, and so it was agreed.
Sookie pulled up the email she’d written to Amelia and Sean and hit the send button. She sat back, thinking of her friends, and then, she thought about Breandan. He was being nice, but… “You’re not Eric,” Sookie said out loud.
Sookie wore long pants and a windbreaker. “Even on the warmest of days, it’s brisk on the water,” Breandan warned her. Of course, she’d been the one to make their late lunch, and she’d packed it in a canvas bag. Breandan pulled up, right on time. He looked different, more carefree somehow. He wore canvas shorts. Sookie expected his legs would look pale, but, of course, they didn’t. Breandan looked like Breandan, which meant every movie star she’d ever imagined. His hair was pulled back in a simple ponytail today and Sookie found herself imagining how it would feel to have that hair brushing past her cheeks.
“You’re ready, then?” Breandan asked. He reached down to pick up the picnic bag with one hand, and then scooping her toward him, took a kiss. They’d kissed before on their excursions, polite kisses, but this wasn’t one of those. Breandan’s high spirits caught Sookie and she threw her arms around him, welcoming him back. His lips moved over hers and he pulled her to him more fully. There was no denying there was chemistry between them, and Sookie warmed a little more to the idea of reconciling. ‘Just because everyone is pushing you, doesn’t mean it isn’t right,’ Sookie thought to herself as she lowered herself to the seat in Breandan’s car. ‘You didn’t leave him because you were being pushed,’ that other voice within her warned, but Sookie shushed it. Breandan was grinning like a loon and he backed out and then gunned the engine, racing toward the harbor.
The sun was high overhead, bright when it peeked out from behind scudding clouds. There was a brisk breeze and the harbor was alive with the sounds of lines slapping against metal masts, the ringing in counterpoint to the bells clanging on buoys in the harbor. Breandan walked them down to the pier and then through the metal gate that led out to a dock. There were large sailboats moored on both sides. ‘Of course,’ Sookie thought, ‘Figures he’d have a big boat!’ but Breandan didn’t stop near any of them. Instead, he stopped near a ladder. Sookie looked down to see a little, rubber boat tossing on the waves.
“We’ll have to run out to it,” Breandan said by way of explanation. “I’ll climb down, and then I’ll help you step in.” The little dinghy had a small motor and as soon as Sookie was seated, Breandan untied the rope and started the engine. He turned them until they were facing into the sun and then opened the throttle. They probably weren’t going that fast, but it felt wild and free as they slapped over the small waves. Sookie held the rope and found herself laughing, the boat lifting a bit as it crested each wave, Sookie lifting from her seat as well.
“There she is!” Breandan shouted and Sookie twisted around to see a sleek, wooden boat lying low in the water.
“Does she have a name?” Sookie asked.
“Seala Fein,” Breandan told her. “She’s the Seal’s Own.” They were pulling up alongside, and Breandan held onto the side to steady them so Sookie could leg over and into the cockpit. He handed her the picnic basket and then moved himself forward, tying off the dinghy to their anchor buoy. It took him no time to hoist himself up and he moved past Sookie, opening seats and pulling out sail bags.
“Seal’s Own?” Sookie asked, trying to stay out of the way.
“I told you the story,” Breandan grinned. “Do you remember? My ancestress who was from the sea?”
“Do you believe that?” Sookie’s eyes widened.
“Can you believe you would ask?” Breandan laughed at her. “We’re Fae, Sookie! We live in a world that is richer than these poor creatures around us! We see things as they are! You know of the Selkies, you’ve seen them,” and he wrapped his arm around her and kissed her again. For the first time in a long time, Sookie felt her toes curl and her breath catch. When Breandan released her, his eyes were sharp. “Of course, I believe it,” he told her. “I know that it’s so, just like I know what’s between us is real,” and he kissed her again.
When they came apart, Sookie was panting. A part of her wanted to stay right here, exploring a different kind of geography, but instead she said, “If we keep that up, we aren’t going sailing!”
“And I want to sail!” Breandan smirked. He nipped her lips quickly before pushing her down on a seat. “If you stay there, you’ll be out of the way,” he told her. He reached over them to unlace the covering from the metal bar that passed over the middle of the cockpit. “The boom,” he explained, tossing the words over his shoulder. “Once we get underway I’ll show you, but when I say, ‘Helm’s A-Lee,’ you need to duck! If you get hit with this, you’ll understand why it’s called a boom!” He laughed at his own joke, loosening lines and starting to pull the sail he’d revealed halfway up the mast. He ran forward with another bag and soon a second sail was clipped in place and more lines run back toward where they were sitting. Once things were stowed, Breandan gave Sookie a quick lesson in how to winch in lines and basic sailing.
The boat didn’t have a wheel, like the larger boats. Instead, it had a tiller. Breandan started a small engine and they motored away from their mooring, heading toward the mouth of the harbor and the glistening water beyond. “Once you learn a bit, we’ll sail from harbor,” Breandan told her. “There’s nothing quite like the feel of threading toward the sea under sail. This is safer, though,” and he nodded toward the engine that hummed beneath them.
Once they’d reached the water Sookie found herself scrambling a bit, but soon she had the feel of things. She had worried she might be seasick, but she didn’t feel even a twinge. Instead, she felt a growing joy as they scudded across the water, the wind playing over the sails, and the telltales flying in the breeze. “It’s like flying!” she exclaimed and Breandan pulled her against him so they could both stand, looking forward at the horizon that stretched before them.
Breandan’s destination was a small island that sat off the coast and before Sookie knew it, they were lowering sails and motoring up to a permanent mooring set in a small cove. “No one lives here,” Breandan explained. “It was too dangerous in winter. The seas can get so high, no one can reach this place.” It was hard to imagine, seeing how green and peaceful it was now. There were birds flying around the rocks and the water beneath them was so clear, Sookie could see to the rocky bottom. She saw fish swim below them, and then, fast as lightning, a larger, dark shape. It made her jump back, a scream caught in her throat.
“You should see yourself!” Breandan laughed. “Surely you’ve seen a seal before!”
“Not this close up!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Then, it’s past time!” Breandan announced. He stood up and started stripping. Sookie had seen him naked before, in fact, lots of times, but, now, outside, after all these months, she felt herself blushing. “Come on!” he urged. His face was lit up like a small child and Sookie caught his enthusiasm.
“Are we really going to swim with them?” she asked.
Breandan laughed aloud and pulling her up, started tugging at her shirt. “We didn’t bring extra clothes,” he explained, but his eyes were twinkling. He jumped first and Sookie followed. The water was chilly, but she became accustomed after swimming a bit. When she finally looked around for Breandan, she saw him a bit away from her and when she turned her head, it was to find a seal almost nose to nose with her.
“Cheese and rice!” Sookie exclaimed, and then she looked a little closer. This was no mere seal. This was something else. She was female, under her skin, and almost simultaneously with the moment Sookie realized this was a Selkie, the seal winked at her. When Breandan drew up beside her, he used his hand to drag his long hair back from his face, effortlessly treading water. “Are they all Fae?” she asked him.
“They prefer to be called Selkies,” Breandan told her. “Technically, we are all Fae, but Selkies are different. They can live on land, but this is where they are most at home,” and Breandan looked around them at the sea.
“They are so friendly,” Sookie’s eyes were getting rounder. There were many seal heads around them now, and real seals as well.
“You remember my story,” Breandan grinned, “The one I told you about my ancestor?” When Sookie nodded, Breandan told her, “I am that one, the one from each generation who carries the memories of my ancestress.” He looked at the bobbing heads with their soft, brown eyes. “They like it when I return to them and I am at home here,” and with that, Breandan ducked under the water and seemed to disappear.
Sookie twisted one way, and then the other. Seals bobbed around her, watching, then disappearing under the waves only to appear again. It seemed too long for Breandan to be gone, and Sookie started to worry. She headed for the white sand beach that lay just one hundred feet from her. Seals played to either side, but Sookie never felt as if she was in danger. In fact, it felt just the opposite. She felt if she did run into danger, the seals would help her. It was odd. They couldn’t communicate exactly, but Sookie was sure she could hear their words.
Something snaked out and grabbed her ankle and Sookie gave a good kick, connecting hard. “Oof!” came from behind her, and Sookie turned to see Breandan rubbing at his shoulder.
“Serves you right!” Sookie half-laughed. “You scared the pants off me!”
“I thought those pants were on the boat!” Breandan teased back and he grabbed her ankle again, this time smoothing his hand up her leg. They weren’t far from the beach, and Breandan stood. The water was still deep, he was almost up to his shoulders, and he drew Sookie back toward him, pulling her against him and then pulling her hair back from her face. He didn’t look in her eyes, instead he seemed to rest his eyes on other parts of her body, her shoulders, her cheek, and her arms. “You are so beautiful!” he whispered. “I have missed you,” and now he did look in her eyes.
Sookie found her heart warming. Breandan had dropped his masque and stood before her, as he was. Their bodies were pressed against each other and, despite the chill, he was hardening. He had that open, happy smile Sookie remembered so well from their jaunts in Boston. He was her Breandan again, so when he dipped his head to hers, she readily returned his kiss.
“Nature really is where we’re best,” Sookie told him.
“You were meant to be here,” he answered, and then he picked her up, bridal-style, and carried her from the water and to the beach.
The sands were warm and he followed her, covering her quickly, trading the chill of the breeze with the warmth of his body. His mouth felt hot as he sucked the salt from her breasts. Sookie moaned and it was all the invitation Breandan needed. He slipped within her, bringing her legs around him, and finding their rhythm. “Love me,” he panted. “Please, Sookie! Please!”
She couldn’t say anything. Sookie could see his sadness, she could feel his want. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to say, ‘yes,’ but her practical self wouldn’t let her. Instead, she focused on the growing tension within her. She thought of the eyes of the seals watching, and the way the sea breezes made her nipples so taut they ached. He found that place within her, stroking in shallow thrusts, dragging his head over it, again and again. His fingers found her clit and his mouth drew in her breast and she was flying! She chanted his name, her voice loud and sure, and as she spasmed around him, he threw his own head back, moving deep and fast, finding his own voice as he came within her.
They lay still for some time. Their skins were dry and the afternoon sun warmed them. Breandan flipped over on his back and threw his arm across his eyes. “Will you ever come back to me?” he asked.
“If this was the Breandan I saw every day?” Sookie told him, “I never would have left you.”
‘It’s hard,” Breandan nodded, “My Father…”
“Someone told me that when we met, you were already married,” Sookie interrupted.
Sookie could feel, rather than see his stillness. The silence stretched between them before he said, “I’m not now.”
Sookie rolled over on her side, raising her head on her elbow, “But you were when we met.”
“Yes,” he said, looking her straight in the eye.
“And you didn’t tell me,” she persisted.
“It was a marriage in name only,” Breandan assured her.
“Did I meet her?” Sookie asked.
“You’re so sure it’s a female?” Breandan didn’t sound as if he was joking.
“Yes,” Sookie told him. “I was told that marriage among Fae is for children and that your marriage was arranged.”
“Someone has a good head for details,” Breandan’s voice became drier. He sat up, his muscles rippling, “I assume the vampire gave you all the details.”
“It wasn’t Eric,” Sookie’s lip jutted out. “Not Pam either. So? Did I meet her?”
Sookie could see his brain was racing, trying to figure out who her source was, and then he looked away. “Yes,” he told her. “You did meet her.”
Sookie thought about it. She could ask for the identity of this person and, in fact, she was pretty sure she knew. But then she thought of what truly knowing would gain her, and she decided it would be better to simply accept that Breandan was free. “Do the Fae divorce often?” she asked instead.
“No,” Breandan told her. “We almost never do. We may not live together anymore, but unless something happens to break the agreement, we remain tied to each other.”
“And is that what happened to your wife?” Sookie asked. “Something broke the agreement?”
For a brief second, Sookie wondered if that something was her and she felt a strange exultation, but it was gone in the next second when Breandan said, “In a manner of speaking. You see, she’s dead.”
“Oh!” and Sookie’s face fell. “Oh, I’m sorry!” She was sorry. The idea that Breandan had lost yet another person in his life touched her heart, pushing away any questions about how that death might have happened. It recalled her own loss and almost without warning, tears were running down her cheeks.
Breandan gathered her to him and Sookie brushed helplessly at her cheeks, scratching her skin with sandy hands. Finally, laughing in spite of herself, she proclaimed, “I’m a mess!” She rolled to her feet and padded to the water’s edge, washing away the sand so she could swipe at her face. She looked back over her shoulder. Breandan was still there, lying on the sand, propped on his elbows. “I am sorry,” she told him again.
“I am, too,” Breandan told her. “Our feelings for one another had long run out, but, still, she was a remarkable woman in her own way. I will miss knowing she is in this world.”
Sookie sat down next to him again. She took his hand in hers. “What do you really want with me?” she asked him, determined to have the truth.
“Truly?” he whispered. He drew their interlinked hands to his lips and his eyes lingered on the place he’d kissed. “I wish we could go away together and be like this forever. I wish we could stay on this island.” He looked up at her, so vulnerable, “I would marry you, Sookie, if you wished it.”
“If we were like this together, every day, I’d say yes,” she told him. He started to lean forward, altogether too hopeful, but she planted her hand against his chest. “But you aren’t, are you? Sure, when we’re alone, you are happy, but when there are other Fae around? You’re ashamed to be seen with me!” When Breandan made to protest, Sookie shook her head, “Don’t try to tell me I’m wrong. And then, there’s the sex thing! It may not be a big deal to you, but monogamy is a big deal for me. I can’t accept that the man I marry sleeps around.”
“Many human men and women sleep with others after they are married!” Breandan protested.
“Not where I come from!” Sookie protested. “Not if they want to stay married!”
Breandan looked out to sea. He was silent so long that Sookie looked out as well. The seals were still there, bobbing and swimming. She didn’t expect it when he said “If I promise you my fidelity, will you return to me?”
“I promised Maryann I’d stay for the season,” Sookie stammered, playing for time. She bit her lip, thinking of the way they’d been together these past few months. It was easy, sitting here in the sun with this Breandan to forget those moments she’d felt uneasy. She could overlook the times his stories had seemed too contrived and his compliments too easy. “But I will agree to return when the season is finished,” Sookie found herself saying.
“Will you pledge yourself to me, now?” Breandan asked.
“What are you asking?” Sookie thought she knew, but she wanted to be sure.
“You will agree to remain with me. I will marry you according to your customs. You will be mine,” Breandan clarified.
There were a hundred reasons Sookie should have said ‘no,’ but she looked in his brown eyes, his seal eyes, and she found herself saying, “Yes,” instead.
The sail back to the harbor seemed to go faster than the way out. Breandan was in high spirits, laughing and promising they would return to Killary. “We don’t have to live at The Grand all year,” he told her. “Just for the season. Once the tourists leave, we can return to our cottage. We were happy there!”
Sookie found when Breandan looked at her, she felt happy, too. It was what her Mother had wished for her and what she, herself, had dreamed about, coming here. Her Grandfather seemed to think it was a good idea, too, but, then, Breandan would look away, checking their course, or scanning the horizon, and Sookie would feel a small, coldness steal into her heart. ‘You’re being silly!’ she chided herself, and to make the feeling go away she made herself busy, quizzing Breandan about the parts of the boat and how to navigate.
Breandan was feeling so confident of Sookie’s new-found skills, he took them into the harbor under full sail, complimenting her when she doused the jib at his command. The little boat drifted up to its mooring, and Breandan snagged it the first time around. It was hard not to catch his happiness and Sookie laughed with him, wrapping her arms around him as he kissed her.
When they climbed up the ladder onto the dock, they found Claude waiting for them. His face was smiling, but his eyes were not. “I didn’t know you were going sailing,” he said to Breandan.
Sookie felt it, the slight pulling away from her. Breandan shifted, his fingers that had held hers so tightly, going slack. “It was a beautiful day,” he said companionably. “I wanted to share it with my…” and he hesitated.
Sookie felt her heart drop. Claude was watching her with ill-disguised anger, but then, Breandan’s hand tightened. He pulled Sookie against him, “And I have good news,” he said, his voice more confident. “Sookie has agreed to join with me. She will return to me at the end of the season.”
Claude didn’t look at all pleased, but he said, “You’re right. That is good news.” He glanced at Sookie, and his face settled into something more carefully pleasant, “Congratulations! I know this is what you hoped for!” Claude’s lip curled as he added, “I’m sure Northman will be thrilled to hear about this latest development!”
It was exactly the right thing to say. It made Sookie’s moment of pleasure in Breandan’s declaration turn to ash. She thought of Eric and she imagined how his blue eyes would narrow, not quite hiding his disappointment in her. ‘Maybe it’s that you’re disappointed in yourself!’ she thought. She realized it was quiet. Breandan and Claude were both staring at her, and she knew she was expected to say something. She pasted her best smile in place, looped her arm around Breandan, and smiled up at him, “He won’t be half as thrilled as I am!” she declared.
She had managed to hit the right note and Breandan’s worry cleared, the happy-go-lucky man who took her to the island back again. “I should take you home,” he told her. “I will bring you dinner and we can talk,” and he pulled her against him so he could kiss her once more.
They left Claude at the pier, walking hand in hand to Breandan’s car. He was laughing and she laughed with him. When he dropped her at her door, he promised to return with food in two hours. “I’ll be waiting,” she promised.
She ran upstairs, and the thrill she felt lasted almost all the way through her shower. As she reached for the conditioner, she asked no one in particular, “What have you done?”
“What are you talking about?” Claude was in a cold fury. “Of course, I’m pleased you convinced her to marry you! That was the plan all along, my plan if you remember! Now you’re telling me to leave?”
“I promised her my fidelity,” Breandan said evenly. He was sitting in the armchair in his apartment. Claude was pacing. They had been openly cohabiting for weeks, and Breandan remembered he’d need to ask housekeeping to be especially thorough in cleaning things. He didn’t want Sookie to find any vestiges left.
“Since when did you become a human?” Claude sneered. “I can’t believe this! Where are your balls?” Claude dropped to his knees, caressing Breandan through his pants, “You know she can’t do for you as I do! You know you will be missing me! Don’t you remember how pale it was to be with Mae…”
“Don’t you say her name!” Breandan growled. “There are times I blame you for what happened!”
“I had nothing to do with her death!” Claude protested.
“Not that,” Breandan replied. “How she stopped trying with me!”
“She couldn’t give you what you needed,” Claude said reasonably. “Even sharing her wasn’t enough! You needed me,” and Claude ghosted his mouth over Breandan’s zipper, “As I need you!”
“I promised!” and Breandan stood up and walked away, the hard line pressing against his pants betraying him.
“The hybrid is not entirely unattractive,” Claude shrugged, rising gracefully to his feet. “You’re persuasive. If she agrees, then it isn’t breaking your promise.”
“Sookie would never agree,” Breandan told his cousin. “I can’t glamour her.” Breandan found himself looking at the small necklace she’d left behind. It was hanging over a small statue on the bookcase. “In truth, I don’t think I wish to share her.”
“This isn’t right!” Claude hissed. “You will make yourself a laughingstock! And what do you think Rogan will say? You need to keep me around, if only to keep him from finding out. You know what happened to Niall! If you give her power over you, you will never inherit the kingdom! You’ll be lucky if Rogan doesn’t banish you and lift all protection. How long do you think you’d last if that happened? Or her?”
“She makes me happy,” Breandan told his cousin.
“Then you are a fool!” Claude snapped. He grabbed his coat and left. He knew Preston had overheard them arguing. It was in the too-pleased simper the Assistant Manager gave as Claude stormed across the lobby.
‘If she is this kind of threat,’ Claude thought, ‘there’s only one thing to do! It would be better if Sookie Stackhouse was a sad memory!” Claude knew he couldn’t do the deed himself. He would need a plan, one that didn’t lead back to him. To make the hybrid fall would enrage both his father and Rogan. Breandan, on the other hand, would be sad, and Claude knew from experience that Breandan nursed his hurt feelings best in Claude’s bed.
“I’m happy for you,” Pam told Sookie. “It’s just…” and she drew an unnecessary breath, “Are you sure?”
“Mostly,” Sookie admitted, and then, when Pam started to talk, she added, “You should know, from the time I was little, my Mom used to say I was the thinking-est girl she’d ever met. She’d tell me that I could think the sun from the sky.” Sookie laughed a little, thinking of the way her Mom meant it as a scolding. “But she was right. I can keep turning this over and over, but if I don’t jump in and give it a try, I’ll never know!” Pam wasn’t looking convinced, so Sookie said, “I know! Doesn’t sound like any big declaration, but maybe that’s who I am! Maybe I’m not a big love kind of girl. Maybe I’m a girl who finds good enough and lets it grow.”
Sookie stared out into the night. Breandan was due any moment. “He’s different when we’re alone,” Sookie told her friend. “I can see the man he can be and I know he likes himself that way, too. Maybe, if we’re really together, married, he will be that man all the time.”
“I think the notion of a man truly changing for a woman is a fairytale,” Pam told her. “All I can say is I’m glad you have another couple months to test your theory.”
There was a quick knock from below and the sound of steps on the stairs. Pam rose to leave, “Are you going to keep waitressing?” she asked.
“Sure,” Sookie shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because if you’re going to live with Breandan, you won’t be buying that B&B,” Pam replied. It was the first time Sookie had put that together and she felt as if the walls of her little apartment closed in, just a bit.
“I’ll still work,” Sookie answered. Breandan opened the door, a brown bag in his hand. Sookie was pretty sure it was fish and chips from the place in town she liked.
“Breandan,” Pam bowed her head. “I hear congratulations are in order. I wish you the best.”
“I am a happy man,” he said civilly, but after the vampire had shut the door, he turned to Sookie. “I don’t want you consorting with them anymore!”
“Pam and Eric?” Sookie exclaimed and her temper caught her. “Now, you look here, Breandan O’Hara, or should I call you Breandan Brigant?” Breandan wasn’t backing down, but he didn’t look quite as confident. “If this is going to work between us, we’re a partnership, and partners don’t dictate what the other one does! I have commitments which include bookkeeping and waitressing, and I’m going to keep those commitments! When the end of the season comes, we’ll figure things out, but if you want to stay on my good side, then you’ll take that army sergeant tone out of your voice!”
Sookie knew her jaw was jutting forward and her hands were on her hips. Breandan stared at her for a long moment, and then he laughed. It was so joyous that Sookie’s face broke in a smile. He caught her up in his arms, saying fondly, “You fight for what you believe, my Sookie. I only hope that when the day comes, you fight for me as hard as you fight for yourself!”
Breandan reached in his pocket and then took her hand. When she took her hand back, she was wearing a diamond ring. The stone didn’t look large, but it caught every bit of light and the band was encrusted with small diamonds. “It is like the stars in the sky,” Breandan told her. “It reminds me of you, both beautiful,” and he grabbed her to him, “and oh, so hard!”
Breandan stayed that night, keeping Sookie from sleep. When morning came, it was doubly hard to rise from her bed. She looked at his clean profile, outlined in the early morning light. ‘I will be yours,’ she thought, but she wondered why the thought of it didn’t fill her chest the way she anticipated.