Chapter 22 – The First Step

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.

Two days had passed since Breandan gave her the ring. Maryann told her at least twice a day how happy she was for her friend. Pam wished her well. “Like I said before,” the vampire told Sookie, “I’m behind you, whatever your decision. You’ve committed yourself to Breandan? Then, I’m happy for you!”

Sookie didn’t believe it and when Pam showed up the second night in a row to drop off receipts, Sookie was pretty sure Eric wasn’t all that happy for her, either. Pam didn’t have to drop the receipts since it was Sookie’s night to waitress, but it had become a tradition. Eric usually showed up to give her a ride into town, and then, when the pub closed, he drove her home again. Tonight, it was Pam sitting in the driveway. “Eric too busy?” Sookie asked.

“Something like that,” Pam shrugged, then “Come on! Jump in!”

It was August, so the temperatures were the warmest they would be all year, but the rains were starting. From now through January, the number of rainy days would increase, and truly sunny days would start to become few and far between. Although there were still plenty of hikers, the pub was just a little less crowded than it had been a month ago. Sookie walked behind the bar and picked up her apron. She nodded to Mick, the lead bartender. He was a vampire, but it was just him. The other bartenders who rotated in and out were all humans from Slievemore.

“Looking good!” Mick called, and held up his hand to signify he’d seen her ring.

Sookie found herself blushing, “Thanks,” she told him. “It’s still pretty new.” She couldn’t help it. She looked around.

“He’s in the office,” Mick winked.

“I wasn’t looking for Eric,” Sookie lied.

“Didn’t think you were,” Mick laughed, “but he’s in the back all the same!”

Sookie scowled, but she knew Mick didn’t take it seriously. It was only a few steps down the hall and the door was slightly ajar, so Sookie knocked and went in. “Eric?”

He was seated in back of his desk. He looked up and smiled the same way he smiled at the rest of his employees. He didn’t say anything. He leaned back, apparently happy to allow the silence to stretch between them. “I guess you heard,” Sookie said, not sure how else to start.

“That you are wearing Brigant’s token?” and Eric gestured toward the ring.

“Yup,” Sookie nodded, “Then you did hear!”

“We’re Fae,” Eric smirked. “We gossip. In the old days, it took a day or two for news to travel. Now, with cell phones, we hear all the news in real time. Half the Fae are appalled he is stooping to give you any kind of status, and the other half are betting his Father is paying him extra to tie you here.”

“That’s a pretty nasty thing to say!” Sookie frowned. She’d meant to check in with Eric and somehow make this all okay, but now she felt stupid. “I was worried when I didn’t see you tonight, but I can see that you are exercising your asshole muscles! I’ll come back later!”

She was turning to go when Eric started laughing. “Do you mean that literally or figuratively?” he asked.

“I mean that you are being a total…“ Sookie started, but Eric interrupted her.

“It could mean my attitude,” he quipped, and then he stood and walked around the desk. Looking rather flirty, he turned around and leaned over, and then, he deliberately flexed his rather impressive ass. “Or,” he smirked at her, “It could mean your obsession over my glutes.”

“I’m not obsessed!” Sookie exclaimed. “You’re delusional!” but she couldn’t help it. Her eyes were fastened on his flexing posterior, and she blushed furiously, knowing Eric had her dead to rights.

“Well, okay, then!” Sookie waved her hand, “Have your little fun. I’ve got work to do!”

“You call this little?” Eric smirked some more. He was flexing first one cheek, and then the other, which was kind of impressive.

“You know what I mean!” and Sookie dragged her eyes away, but as she was reaching for the door, it swung open and two vampires stepped in. Sookie jumped back, and Eric was turned around, sitting on the edge of his desk so quickly, Sookie didn’t even see him do it.

“Greetings, Sheriff!” the lead vampire bowed from his waist. His eyes shifted to the side, and Sookie felt caught by them.

Eric was looking from one vampire to the other. “Gregor,” he tilted his head. “It’s been many years. What brought you to Ireland?”

“I’m sure you recall Kurt,” Gregor said instead of answering Eric’s question. He jerked his chin toward the tall, big-shouldered hulk standing behind him.

“Kurt and I have met,” Eric acknowledged. There was something in the way Eric said it that gave Sookie the impression the meeting hadn’t been cordial, and then, “I’m surprised to see you out of prison so soon,” which confirmed Sookie’s bad impression.

Suddenly feeling like a stranger in a strange land, Sookie headed toward the door, “I’ll get back to work!” she smiled brightly. “Would you like me to have Pam come back?”

The one named Kurt took a step to the right, placing himself right in Sookie’s path. “You stay.” It didn’t sound like an order, exactly, but Sookie stopped just the same.

Eric pushed up from the desk, his arms falling to his side, and Sookie could feel the tension level spike. She glanced at Gregor and saw the blade in his hand, “Knife!” she yelled and dove for him, grabbing his arm.

Things seemed to move very fast, and then, suddenly, everything started moving very slowly. Sookie was looking up, the florescent lights overhead going in and out of focus. There was a pressure in her side and she was fumbling to press her hand against it, but she was having trouble making that happen. Her knees were turning to jelly. She saw Pam cut Kurt’s head right off with a sword. There were sounds, but they kind of came in and out, and Sookie thought, ‘I’m in shock,’ as her head fell forward. Eric was in front of her and his mouth was bloody. “You never tasted me,” Sookie said, but she wasn’t sure if she said the words out loud, or just thought them.

It was odd. Every once in a while, Sookie had a glimpse of ceiling tiles. Each time her eyes opened, they were different, and she seemed to be flying. “Sookie!” It was Eric. He was shaking her. It was harder now to open her eyes. “Sookie!” and there was something pressing against her mouth. “Drink!” he was yelling at her.

It was in her mouth, cold and thick, and she wanted to spit it out, but then she tasted it, and it tasted wonderful. “Good!” he was telling her. The pressure on her mouth disappeared, and then it was back. “Drink!” he was ordering her again. It wasn’t so hard this time.

She was laying down. Her arms felt heavy and she couldn’t feel her legs at all. She jerked upward. There was the sound of ripping, and then Eric’s head started down toward her lady parts. “Better not!” Sookie whispered. “I promised.” There was a place on her side that was hurting, but when Eric leaned over it, it hurt a lot more. It felt as if he’d sunk his teeth into her, and Sookie couldn’t help the scream that ripped from her throat.

Pam was there. She took Sookie’s hand and leaned over, stroking Sookie’s forehead, “It will just be a minute,” she said, “and then you’ll feel a lot better.” She looked away, toward where Eric had headed, and said, “Did you get it all?”

“She’ll have a scar,” Eric replied, “but the iron is gone.”

“Who did they come for?” Pam asked.

“I will find out,” Eric replied, and then his face was back. He smiled that beautiful smile of his. “Sookie? Can you speak? Do you feel better?”

“Weak,” Sookie whispered. “I hurt!”

“I know, Älskare, but soon, it will be better.” He pulled back her eyelids and checked her pulse. “Sookie?” He pulled her back from her drifting. “Sookie? I’m going to give you some more of my blood. You lost quite a bit.”

“You’ve given her plenty!” Pam scolded.

Eric shushed her, “She can’t return home like this and if it becomes known that she was damaged here, it could make problems with Rogan!”

“What about you?” Pam asked. “You could end up…”

“I know how much I’ve given her!” Eric snarled. He lifted Sookie into his lap, holding her against his chest as though she were a child. “We aren’t close to bonding. I could feel it if we were.” There was a crunching noise and Eric’s bloody wrist was in front of her. “Drink, Älskare. Drink until there is no more.”

Holding his eyes, Sookie used her tongue and lips to suck the blood. She could feel it, almost a living thing, flowing through her. She felt her toes tingle and her hair lifting. After a little bit, there was no more blood. Sookie could focus now, and she found herself looking at Eric’s wrist. It was as though he’d never been injured. She let her head drop back so she could ask, “What does Älskare mean?”

“Did I call you that?” Eric’s eyebrows drew together, and Sookie realized again how clear and deep his eyes were. Eric paused a moment before saying, “Trouble! It means trouble, which you are!”

“What happened?” Sookie asked. She struggled a little, but Eric held her until she stopped.

“Rest, now. Regain your strength,” he soothed her. “Give the blood enough time to do its job. Soon, you’ll be good as new.” He glanced over to where Pam was standing. “Make the call. Alert Sophie-Ann to what happened. She’ll find out if these two were here on official business or if they were free-lancing.” He smiled at Sookie who was starting to shiver a little. “And find Sookie a new shirt. She can’t go home in her underwear.”

“Oh,” Pam snarked, “I don’t know! She looks pretty cute that way!”

Pam left and it felt too wonderful to simply close her eyes and enjoy being held in Eric’s arms. He gathered her to him and when she sighed, he started to hum a tune she didn’t recognize. “If you make me any more comfortable, I’ll be falling asleep,” she told him.

She figured she must have fallen asleep, then, because when she woke up again, she was in her own bed. She felt warm and realized she was under blankets and spooned into a very large person. Startled, she tried to turn over, but the arms around her pulled her closer, “You’re safe,” Eric’s voice said from behind her. “I have you.”

“You’re in my bed!” Sookie stated.

“I told you I’d get here one day,” Eric chuckled, and then he released her. Sookie started to roll, but her side twinged, causing her to gasp. “You’ll probably be sore for a day or two,” and Eric sat up and against her headboard. He had taken his shirt off, but he was still wearing his pants. When Sookie make an ‘eep’ noise, he said, “Disappointed? I know you’ve been looking forward to seeing my ass, but since you did throw yourself on a knife tonight, I’ll drop my pants if you ask nicely.”

“Screw you!” Sookie scowled, and Eric threw his head back and laughed. When she winced again, though, he stopped and helped her sit up. He drew her against him, and although she wasn’t sure this was a good idea, she felt too weak, and Eric felt too good to overthink it much.

Once she was settled, Eric said, “I must leave soon. The sun will be up in a few hours, and I need to return to my house. There’s some things you should know about what happened tonight.”

“Like I got stabbed?” Sookie asked.

“Yes, you were stabbed,” Eric grinned, then more seriously, “And the knife was iron with a core of silver. It could have been meant for me, but it could also have been meant for you.” He pulled her head back so he could look into her eyes, “Did you know you react to iron?”

“I know there’s some metals that give me a rash,” Sookie shrugged.

“This one was burning your flesh,” Eric told her. “When you take a shower in the morning, you’ll find a new scar. I had to remove the infected flesh. It left a hole. It’s healed now, but the scar will remain.”

“That sucks!” Sookie sighed. “Is it really big?”

“You’re vain!” Eric teased her. “I tell you how close you came to death, and all you care about is how marred your body has become?”

“That’s me!” Sookie sassed, “My body and I can be as vain as I like!”

“There’s other things I can think of doing with it,” Eric told her, but he didn’t follow up his remark. Instead, he looked away. “There’s more. I gave you my blood tonight, a great deal.”

“Uh…” Sookie processed what he was telling her. She remembered things in a kind of murky way. “I guess,” she said out loud, and then, “I have to tell you, I’m surprised how calm I am about all of this. I’m sitting in bed with you and by the way, you shouldn’t be here! You’re telling me I almost died, and that now I look like some escaped victim of a serial killer, but I’m just not that worked up about it!”

“That may be me,” Eric said.

“What are you talking about?” Sookie asked. “You know you can’t glamour me!”

“This is different,” Eric seemed to be serious. “You are feeling me. With the amount of blood I gave you, and the blood I drank from you when I healed your wound, we have formed a tie.”

“A what?!” Sookie exclaimed.

“It’s temporary,” Eric assured her.

“A tie? What the hell is that?” Sookie wanted to be worked up, but somehow, the more she tried, the harder it was. It was as if a soft blanket kept getting thrown over her emotions, leaving her punching at thin air.

“You feel it?” Eric asked. “I am sending you calm. I can feel your emotions too, your… drama,” and he smirked. “This is what a tie does. It allows the other person to feel the emotions of their… well, the other person in the tie. I can send you emotions to help you, and you can do the same for me. It’s not telepathy, but…”

“How long will this last?” Sookie interrupted.

“A few weeks? A month?” Eric shrugged. “It isn’t an exact science.”

“But it will go away?” Sookie asked.

“Yes,” Eric assured her. “It will fade.”

“That’s good,” Sookie nodded. She couldn’t help it. She found herself exploring her emotions, figuring out which aligned with how she was feeling and which were not quite her. “Do vampires do this often? Make ties?” she asked.

“No,” Eric shook his head. “Usually, a vampire takes blood from a person as a way of keeping track of them, or influencing their emotions, but it’s rarely mutual.” He half-smiled, “But you are, as always, the exception to every rule.”

Sookie squinted, “You know that you glow?” she asked.

“Because of the amount of blood I gave you, you can see our magic more clearly,” Eric nodded. “There’s something else you should know. My blood gives you a distinct scent. It’s how vampires mark their blood partners, or their mates. Other vampires will clearly smell me in you. It signals to them that I will defend you.”

Sookie was feeling better, so she started to sit up. Her head was still whoozy, but she slid from Eric’s lap and slowly stood, holding onto the bed and then the wall to make sure she wouldn’t fall. “And what about you?” she asked as she navigated toward the bathroom. “You smell now, too?”

“Yes,” he told her. “Breandan, in fact, most Fae, will also smell that we have exchanged. He is not likely to be pleased about it.”

“Well, I’d think he’d be less pleased if I was dead, don’t you?” Sookie asked. She’d reached the bathroom door and said, “Hold that thought!” as she closed the door behind her. When she emerged, Eric was standing near her door, his shirt back in place.

“I will call Breandan on my way home,” Eric told her. “I will explain what happened. That way when he smells me, he won’t…”

“I can handle my own fiancé!” Sookie snapped, “Thank you very much!”

“Sookie!” Eric scolded, “You don’t know enough about our world. Breandan would be within his rights to demand retribution.”

“For saving my life?” Sookie shook her head. “I get that you are all old as dirt, but these are modern times. I’m not anyone’s little woman! I have a brain and I can take care of myself! If the man I’m going to marry won’t stop to listen to me, then it just goes to prove that I picked the wrong man!”

“As you say, then,” and Eric smiled all too widely.

“You’ll see!” Sookie promised, but, as usual, Eric was right.

xxxXXXxxx

“You say you never saw these vampires?” Breandan’s voice was tight and he was standing just a little too close. Sookie noticed he hadn’t touched her from the moment he walked in her apartment.

He’d shown up with his fiddle and Claude, all ease and laughter, visiting with the guests on the patio. It was a rare, sunny day and everyone was happy, but when Sookie walked out the door, Breandan stopped. He stood up. He wasn’t laughing, in fact, his face was stormy.

“You exchanged with Northman?” It was Claude who asked it, and he sounded appalled.

“Where is he?” Breandan hissed.

“Exactly where he belongs!” Sookie felt her temper rising. “I think you’d both better come with me so we can discuss this in private!”

“You have violated your pledge!” Claude exclaimed. He laid his hand on Breandan’s shoulder as if comforting his friend, but Sookie was sure she saw more triumph than sympathy on Claude’s face.

“I did no such thing!” Sookie protested. “I, for one, am going to my apartment where I will be perfectly happy to talk this out in private. If you two want to continue making a show of yourselves, you know the way back to town!” and Sookie spun on her heel and walked up the drive and then up the stairs that led to her apartment.

It was Claude who was up the stairs first. Breandan was looking a little less sure, but Claude immediately went on the attack. “What kind of woman are you? Do you have any idea what Breandan has sacrificed to stand by you? Every day he faces the ridicule of our kind! Once his Father understands, he will brand his own son a fool! And how do you reward my cousin’s strength of character? You give yourself to a vampire! An Unseelie!”

“Why are you even here?” Sookie demanded. Her chin jutted forward and she went almost chest to chest with him. “This is private business between Breandan and me! You need to turn around and take your skinny ass right back down those stairs!”

“At least I have a skinny ass,” Claude snarled, “Not some bubble butt like…”

“Enough!” Breandan finally spoke up. “Claude,” and he laid his hand on Claude’s shoulder, “Sookie is right. This is between us. I thank you, Cousin, for taking my part, but now, you must leave.”

Claude laid his hand over Breandan’s. It was an intimate gesture, and it gave Sookie an uncomfortable moment. She had been sure when she met him that Claude and Breandan had been lovers and now, she was getting that feeling again. “Is she really worth it!? Claude’s voice was sad. “She will destroy you, Cousin! You will fall so far, you will never be able to regain your place!”

“Sookie is important,” Breandan replied. He was looking at the floor, and Sookie thought that he wasn’t meaning that she was important to him, exactly, and it twisted at her heart.

Claude made another token argument, reminding Breandan again of Sookie’s failings, before the door finally shut behind him. Sookie felt drained, but she remained standing, waiting for Breandan to finally look at her. It took a while. “What happened?” he asked.

When she’d finished the story and showed Breandan her scar, still stark surrounded by angry, red flesh, he sighed. She kept hoping he’d open his arms to her, but he didn’t. Instead, he sat on one of her kitchen chairs. “You shouldn’t have taken his blood,” he told her. He wasn’t looking at her again.

“What? You’d rather I died?” Sookie huffed. She could feel her tears threatening, but she bit down on her lip hard. “Is that really what’s most important to you right now? How things look?”

“There’s more to it than that,” Breandan was speaking to the table. “He is in you, now. You can feel him. He can feel you.”

“What are you going on about?” and one, runaway tear fell down her cheek. “He saved my life. Yes, there is some weird side effect, but he told me it’s temporary. He explained it to me and he apologized. He even offered to explain what happened to you, but I told him that we’d be fine. Guess that’s another time Eric Northman was right! Fine thing when you find out a vampire knows more about your fiancé than you do!”

“I told you I didn’t want you consorting with them anymore,” Breandan reminded her. “If you’d done as I said, you wouldn’t have been injured.”

Sookie opened her mouth and then shut it again. He had a point, but Sookie was certain it wasn’t a good one. “You might as well say ‘stop walking down the sidewalk,’” she replied. “Eric said they could have been after me. He said since the knife was iron as well as silver, there was no guarantee that he was their target.”

That brought Breandan’s head up. “Tell me again what happened,” he asked, and Sookie sat down and did, recounting the words and movements as close as she could remember. When she finished, Breandan stood up and walked to her. He pulled her up, sat in her chair, and drew her into his lap. “I am going to double the guard on you,” he told her.

“What? What guard?” Sookie tried to get away, but Breandan’s arm tightened.

“I am happy to hear you haven’t noticed,” he told her, “but since you moved out here, there have been watchers, Selkies. They stay near the sea, but they make sure no one disturbs you out here. I will have to ask that they follow you at other times, too.”

“What? Why would you do that?” Sookie protested.

“You have just told me that you could be in danger,” Breandan loosed his grip on one arm so he could stroke her. “You are precious to me.”

“So precious it took all this time to get you to believe me?” Sookie snapped. “So precious that you let your Cousin say shit about me, and you didn’t defend me once?”

Breandan actually did look embarrassed, “You are right…”

And then Sookie leaned forward, “And if you didn’t know I was in danger until today, why were your Selkies here? Protecting me? Spying is more like it! You really are a piece of work!” Sookie struggled out of his lap and started tugging at the ring on her finger.

“It was my Father!” Breandan stammered, standing up. “He…”

“Is this how it is, then?” Sookie hissed. “Whose man are you, Breandan? Your Father’s or mine?”

Breandan didn’t bother to hide his misery, “He is my King,” he told her, “and you are…” and he laid his hand over hers to stop her from removing his token. “You are the woman I love.”

It was the first time he’d said it so she’d heard, and Sookie’s mouth fell open. She hadn’t realized how sweet it would sound. She smiled, and she stepped forward when Breandan drew her to him. “I love you,” he murmured in her ear and if his voice was sad, Sookie didn’t notice.

xxxXXXxxx

 

“Is it ever sunny here?” Amelia asked. It was already September by the time the newly-married Callahans arrived. Amelia, Sean, and Sookie were all together in Breandan’s car, driving slowly along the seacoast, trying to see the islands through the mist and fog.

“Well, according to Google, you only pick the rainiest months of the year to visit,” Sookie laughed. “Your timing stinks!”

“Any time I get to see you is the right time!” Amelia laughed. She laughed a great deal, her happiness with Sean apparent. It was subtle, but Sookie couldn’t miss the change in her friends. Amelia already had that faint sheen of country club wife. She wasn’t working at Pat’s Diner anymore. She’d graduated from college with good grades, but had no plans to go on for her Master’s. Instead, she was looking for a job ‘doing good.’ While her friend was vague, Sookie figured out that meant working in the office of a Soup Kitchen or doing part-time work for a social services organization, in short, a job that was more about photo opportunities than mixing with the people the organization served.

Sean had changed, too. His hair was cut differently and he held himself more upright. His easy smile had been more of an amused grin the first few days here, but nights playing music at Ghoul’s Kiss, drinking, and dancing had found his pre-wedding self again.

One thing that hadn’t changed was Amelia’s hatred for Claude. If anything, it was more pronounced. Amelia couldn’t explain it, but Sookie didn’t mind. She felt the same way about Claude, and she was happy to let Amelia tell Breandan how little she wanted to see him.

Nights they all spent together. True to his word, Breandan arranged suites for all of them in his beautiful hotel across the bay.

With the change in season, Sookie’s hours at Seacoast Shores were scaled back. She was able to take time off from Ghoul’s as well. There just weren’t that many tourists coming through. Her evenings were freed up and she was only working two mornings a week. While she mourned her reduced cash flow, it did leave her with plenty of free time to spend with her friends and even allowed her to stay overnight at Castle Linford.

Sookie had been told the hotel had been converted over from the original English Lord’s castle, but she still wasn’t prepared for the luxury. The ceilings vaulted to carved, gilded wood works of art. Oil paintings and tapestries hung on paneled walls. Windows were thermal and triple-paned, but still fit the original openings. Those windows that were original were encased in glass, almost as though the leaded glass was a work of art in and of itself.

Every turn seemed to reveal a new treasure or delight, and Sookie found it took her three times as long to get anywhere, her eyes were so busy! “I had no idea!” Sookie whispered to Breandan on one of their first nights staying there.

“Surely, you’ve heard about Fairies and their love of gold!” he teased her back. His words were light, but, with every day, as Sookie saw more and more, she began to believe that he had revealed some truth about himself to her, if she was clever enough to see it.

Now that she had free time, Sookie was able to go touring with the Callahans, searching for landscapes or points of interest. Amelia and Sean had worked a deal. Amelia got a sight-seeing opportunity, and then Sean got a stop at a local pub where he could listen for local tunes and play his mandolin. It was a happy compromise, and left all three of them with plenty of stories to share with Breandan when they returned to the Castle each night.

Breandan apologized for not taking any days off, and it pissed Sookie off. “Don’t you own these places?” she asked him one night. “Surely, you could take one day to spend with your friends!”

He made his apologies, but there seemed to be some new emergency each day that required his attention and so, Sookie would find herself with her friends, as they did today, driving down country roads, singing songs, just the three of them.

They rounded the curve that led them back to Castle Linford and Sean said, “Isn’t Breandan working in Slievemore today? Why don’t we go into town and pick him up?”

“I don’t know…” Sookie started. Breandan and she had had another tense conversation last night, and it hadn’t resolved anything, except to have them sleeping on opposite sides of the bed again.

“Why wouldn’t he want to see us?” Amelia pushed. “It’s almost quitting time for him anyway, we’ll stage a rescue!”

“We’ll just stay in Slievemore,” Sean continued. “We’ll swing up to The Ghoul and play a few sets, and then grab something to eat in town.”

“That would be great!” Amelia rushed on and without asking Sookie, they were driving down the left fork. Sookie considered texting to let Breandan know they were on their way, but town was coming up so quickly, she decided to just let things play out.

They pulled up in front of the hotel, and Sean tossed the keys to the valet who hustled out from the lobby. Amelia led the way and they breezed in, looking left and right.

There weren’t many guests in the front lobby, but Sookie could see the small restaurant to the side was busy. She didn’t see Breandan right away, but Preston was behind the front desk. “Where is he?” she asked.

“I’ll find him,” Preston said. He was wearing his best concierge face, but Sookie could tell something was off about him.

“Who’s he with?” she asked and she saw it, that brief flash of guilt.

“I don’t know that he’s with anyone,” Preston said, all too smoothly. He was texting away on a phone; their preferred method of reaching each other, and then a moment later, “He’s on his way.”

Sookie glanced at the stairs, and then back at the door that led to the manager’s apartment, which was behind the lobby. She was half-guessing which direction he’d come from when the door to the apartment opened, but it wasn’t Breandan who walked through. It was Rogan.

He walked directly toward them, but he didn’t say a word. It took Sookie a moment to realize that since he was King, she was expected to make all the effort. She sketched an awkward bow before saying, “Charles!” Sookie greeted him, using the name he’d used in Killary, “It’s a pleasure to see you again. Breandan didn’t mention you were in town.”

“You say the most delightful things,” Rogan returned, “almost as if you mean them.”

Eric’s scent from their blood tie had worn off, as the vampire had promised, and Sookie was pleased that it had. She hadn’t seen the Fae King since the night she’d fed him dinner in Killary. She was aware Breandan communicated with him, but she was equally aware that Rogan avoided her. She knew, without asking, that if she’d smelled of Eric Northman, it would have caused trouble. Sookie thought of the wish the King still owed her from the dinner she made him, and she wished she could use it to change how things were between himself and Breandan. Breandan told her that Fae wishes couldn’t change the fundamental truth of who a Fae was and Sookie could tell that the casual cruelty Rogan showed his son was a part of his character. Wishes wouldn’t change that.

Sookie gestured toward her friends, “You’ve probably heard Breandan mention our friends from America. This is Amelia and Sean Callahan. Breandan played music with Sean while we were both in Boston.”

“You work in banks,” Rogan said to Sean.

“I do,” Sean answered.

Sookie could see her friends were puzzled, so she soldiered on, “Charles is Breandan’s Father. Since this is a family business, all the hotel properties belong to Charles, as head of the family, so, I suppose, technically, we’re his guests!”

Amelia’s eyes widened, and then her lips pursed. Sookie knew that look; her friend was not impressed.

“I really like your family’s beer,” Sean said readily, more on board with the introduction.
“It is an old recipe,” Rogan acknowledged.

“We came to pick up Breandan,” Sookie volunteered. “We thought since we were driving by and it was almost time for him to join us, we’d save him the bother of getting a ride around the harbor.”

“Yes,” Rogan smiled thinly, “I was only just told my Son chose to tie up rooms for his friends. Most generous.”

“It’s a wedding present,” Sookie said, her smile stretching almost painfully across her face. “Sean and Amelia were only just married, and they’ve come here as our guests for a second honeymoon.”

“And we’re looking forward to doing the same for Breandan and Sookie when they get married!” Amelia gushed. “It’s so romantic! I’m sure you’re very happy!” Amelia put her arm around Sookie and hugged her, “After all, Sookie is the dearest person in the world! Any family would consider itself lucky to get someone like her as a daughter-in-law!”

“You are a most enthusiastic friend,” Rogan observed. “And I’m sure you’re right, any family would consider itself lucky.”

Just not your family,’ Sookie thought sourly, not fooled in the least by the King’s words. Rogan smiled tightly in Sookie’s direction, and an awkward silence descended.

At last, Breandan came down the stairs, “I just saw the text!” he exclaimed. He bowed formally to his Father, then extended his hand to Sean. “Nice of you to come get me!”

“Grab your fiddle!” Amelia told him. “Ghoul’s, and then wonderful Irish fish!”

“You patronize Northman,’ Rogan’s smile never changed. “How democratic of you!”

“It’s open session tonight,” Breandan seemed almost apologetic.

“I’m sure it’s the highlight of every local tradesman, to see you performing,” Claude said from the stairs.

Sookie couldn’t help it. Her smile fell, and she saw Amelia’s mouth pucker as well.

“Claude has a point,” Rogan sniffed, “The O’Hara name stands for something. I’m sure many find it confusing that you would perform for them, like any common…”

“I enjoy it,” Breandan interrupted. He glanced quickly at Sookie, and then Sean, “And we should go.”

Sookie snuck a glance at Claude. The Fae stared back at her and then made a show of tucking his shirt into his pants. His lips curled up in his cruel smile and the look he gave her was knowing. Sookie couldn’t help it. She wondered what Breandan and Claude had been doing upstairs. Why had it taken so long for Breandan to come down? Sookie knew that the suspicion she was feeling was the point of Claude’s actions. It was something she could dismiss in her head, but not entirely. She found herself leaning closer to Breandan, trying to see if she could catch a stray whiff of something that didn’t belong.

“What are you doing?” Breandan asked.

“Nothing!” Sookie exclaimed, then taking his hand and squeezing it, said, “Just getting closer to you!”

“You two are so cute!” Amelia added. “I can’t wait to see you boys on stage. I love listening to you!”

Sookie grinned, but then her grin faded. Rogan was staring at her, and she could see the King saw nothing ‘cute’ in what was being said.

Breandan stepped forward and gave his formal bow, then made it clear the introduction was at an end by saying, “I thank you for your visit, Father.”

Sean’s look said it all as he stepped forward, thrusting his hand toward Rogan, saying, “It was a pleasure to meet you, Sir.”

Rogan stared at Sean’s hand until he dropped it, then managed a polite smile as he said, “And you. Always a pleasure to meet Breandan’s friends.” His glare at Breandan wasn’t kind, “I will expect to see you early,” and then, as if he’d almost forgotten, he inclined his head slightly toward Sookie, and, “Also nice to meet you,” to Amelia. No one had to say it. In the end, it had been Rogan that dismissed them, and they all felt it.

“Jeez, I feel sorry for you,” Sean told Breandan as they got into the car. “My Dad is tough, but yours?”

“Do yourself a favor and give him a baby right away,” Amelia tossed from the backseat. “Old dinosaurs like that get all gooey when they hold their first grandchild!”

Sookie saw Breandan’s face still. She knew he was thinking of the night in Killary, as she was. “Don’t be holding your breath,” Sookie said, trying to lighten the moment. “Breandan and I have a lot of playing around to do first. I don’t think either one of us is anxious to be tied down with a baby right away!”

“Lucky!” Sean grumbled.

“It’s not like you’ll be inconvenienced,” Amelia tapped Sean’s arm. “Between your mother and mine, we’ll never see it!”

They parked down the hill from Ghoul’s Kiss. The pub was busy, as usual. Sookie couldn’t help it. Her eyes automatically scanned toward the back. Although the tie had faded, something had happened during the time she could share his emotions, and it changed how she saw him.

“Who you looking for?” Amelia whispered in her ear. “Tall, blond and gorgeous?”

“No!” Sookie lied. “I was wondering if Pam was here.”

“Not likely,” Amelia purred, wrapping her hand around Sookie’s arm and leading them both to a table. Breandan and Sean had immediately peeled off toward the small group of musicians, and so the two women could speak without being overheard. “If Pam’s in town, she’s up the street with your boss, and we both know it!” Amelia asserted.

“Well, you never…” but Amelia stopped Sookie.

“What is going on with you and Breandan? You agreed to marry him, but you just don’t look like you should. You should be transcendent, glorious, shining! I mean, don’t get me wrong, you have moments you look happy together, but mostly? Mostly, you don’t!”

Eric chose that moment to walk behind the bar, and Sookie couldn’t help it. Her breath caught, and when he smiled at her, she smiled back. “See!” Amelia punched her arm to get her attention. “That look? That’s the one that’s married material, not the simpering, lukewarm thing you share with Breandan O’Hara.”

Sookie blushed, “I don’t know what to say.”

“I do,” Amelia nodded. “Married is supposed to be for life, Sookie, and here, in Ireland? As Catholic as they say they are, the laws could be serious and you really could find yourself bound to him with no chance for parole!” They ordered and waited for the waitress to leave before Amelia continued, “Look, I want you married and settled here so I can have my ready-made vacation spot as much as the next selfish gal, but, Sookie! If this isn’t right, you need to end it now! Don’t lead him on, or get yourself trapped in something you’ll regret.”

“Maybe we’re just having a low time,” Sookie shrugged. “I mean, we had a low time after we left America, and then, he tried so hard! He took me sailing, and I can’t explain it. It was magic and I felt like I had my Breandan back again. But now, it’s back to…”

“Reality,” Amelia nodded.

“You don’t have those magic moments with Sean all the time, do you?” Sookie asked.

“Pretty much,” Amelia shrugged. “It’s not big, romantic things. It’s everything! I feel giddy just having him smile at me,” and Amelia looked back at the bar where Eric was talking with Mick. “You know, the way your heart stutters every time you look at Blond Boy.”

“I’m a terrible person,” Sookie sighed.

Amelia looked toward the circle of musicians. Sean was playing well, his handsome face shining, but Breandan was, as usual, the strong lead to them all. “It’s not always what’s on the outside,” Amelia was saying. “When you met Breandan, it was like a fairy tale. Your Mom, well, she was so sick, and you were lonely. He came riding in with his GQ attitude and his fiddle music. What red-blooded gal could resist that? But, true love is a lot more.”

Sookie took a drink of her gin and tonic. She didn’t want to think it, but some part, maybe a big part, of what Amelia was saying resonated with her. She glanced at Breandan, looking so boyish, as he always did when he was playing. “I think it was the music that finished me,” she said. “I see him playing, and it’s as if his music pulls me to him!”

“He can’t play forever,” Amelia said sympathetically.

“I wish he could,” Sookie answered.

“What are you going to do?” Amelia asked.

“Think about things, I guess,” Sookie shrugged. “I don’t want to throw everything away based on one night. Could be I’m hormonal. Could be that it’s like I said, a rough patch that we can talk through. He’s a good man, Amelia, and I know he cares for me. He loves me.”

“And you love him,” Amelia agreed, “But are you in love with him? Is he really your one, Sookie?”

“I guess I’d better figure that out,” Sookie told her friend, and then she changed the subject, asking about the new house in Massachusetts and the country club Amelia’s Mother was pressuring them into joining. Breandan and Sean finished up, and they gathered their things to head to dinner. Sookie smiled up into Breandan’s face, and he smiled at her, but, in that moment, it felt more like love by numbers, and not the happy, slightly dangerous love that made you want to hold onto someone, knowing he’d keep you from falling away forever. It wasn’t the way she felt when Eric Northman smiled at her.

 

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31 thoughts on “Chapter 22 – The First Step

  1. Wow! Major changes. I suppose it wouldn’t bother a fairy to hire vampires to kill Sookie. Of course, I suspect Claude. He wants Breandan completely for himself and Sookie is in the way. That he is in the territory of a king who wants to keep her as a hostage doesn’t seem to matter. There was much truth in what Breandan said about fairies coveting gold. There was also a truth when Sookie asked Breandan whose man he is. She is hearing it slowly. When Claude gets Breandan to break his promise, if it hasn’t already happened, she will be ready to give him back his ring. I think she is nearly at that point. Besides, she is falling in love with Eric. Great chapter. Congrats on getting moved in. I hope it is a wonderful home for you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The house is kicking my butt, but coming along. Flooring gets delivered today. Most of my stuff is still jammed upstairs or in the garage, but once everything’s installed, I can start the second flurry of settling. (Aren’t you glad you asked?)
      It was Rogan who sent Eric, so your idea that fairies might hire vampires would track. Was the target Sookie? Could be. The knife had both silver and iron – kind of a ‘one size fits all’ weapon. Claude is the obvious choice. He has grudges against them both and he doesn’t seem long on finesse, but caring about Breandan? Claude doesn’t really care about anyone but Claude! And you are right, Breandan is on his last legs. He either pulls it together now, or Sookie will kick him to the curb.

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  2. Too bad Sookie didn’t go looking for Breandan and catch him and Claude in the act!

    I hope Sookie really listens to Amelia and does some soul searching about her true feelings for Breandan and Eric.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. She probably should have. It would have ended her doubting. Amelia does see things more clearly, as those from the outside generally do. Sookie should listen to her, and in some ways, she is.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Breandan’s reaction when he noticed Eric’s scent on her was telling, No concern for what might have happened, even after she told him about it, he stil blamed her (stay away from vampires and things like this won’t happen). She is seeing thing more clearly now, so a step in the right direction..

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yup, ‘if only you’d listened to me in the first place…’ He does miss the point. He wants what he wants, and when he gets it, he treats it like trash, and that apparently includes the people in his life too.

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  4. The scene following her stabbing- the way it played out was soooo good. I love how you reveal little bits of understanding at a time. It kept me on the edge of my seat. 🙂

    I know that I expected Breandan to be upset at Eric’s scent in Sookie, but it was still shocking to have him react the way he did- for her and for me. Had I been her, I might have hoped for concern- even if he was angry. I mean, she almost died! She would have died- I don’t think I could have forgiven his reaction. But, Sookie is a stubborn one, isn’t she? She is trying to make it work. She keeps gathering all kinds of evidence about how Breandan truly feels about her and how she truly feels about him, yet she is slow to put it all together and see what it all means. Especially with Claude still being around… but I think her gut is trying to tell her something. Why would she be unsure whether to surprise him? Immediately she thought of their tense conversation about not spending time with her and their friends. Instead of, “This might be fun,” she has an “uh-oh” feeling. Is it because she might find out something that would shatter her current reality? Maybe she doesn’t want to see the truth b/c it would mean her fairytale isn’t real.

    And did she forget he was having her watched… ? I wanna tell her to just run (fast!) toward Eric. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I believe that Sookie doesn’t want to press too hard to see the truth because it would mean everything she believed, the reason she came to Ireland, was based on a lie. She is building confidence in her sense of place, one that doesn’t require Breandan, but she’s still on shaky ground. She should see more clearly, but what would that mean? Where would she go? (Eric, I know, but she isn’t quite there yet),
      And then, there is Eric. He is more personally involved than even he appears ready to admit. She senses that, of course, and wants to delay if only to see how this will play out. It’s not particularly noble, playing along with one while waiting to see with another, but on some level, it is what Sookie is doing, otherwise, she wouldn’t look for Eric at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So much happening. Wondering what Eric will find out about the attack? Loving Amelia for speaking her mind to Sookie. Hope Sookie takes in everything said and realky soes some major thinking on her life.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Don’t look for too many outcomes from that search too quickly. The knife did have a double-core, and both vampires are finally dead. As for what Amelia said, Sookie will listen and file it away. Deep down, our girl knows where she should be.

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  6. Thank god Eric was there when Sookie got attacked!!!
    But I do not understand why those vampires atttacked her in front of the Local Sheriff!?
    They really thought that Eric or Pam wouldn’t have done anything!?
    Wonder if Eric will find out that Claude sent them…
    Loved Amelia here…hope Sookie starts to listen to her friend.
    She isn’t in love with Breandon and she shouldn’t settle.
    Too bad she didn’t catch Breandon &Claude together…
    Thanks for this amazing story natsgirl, wishing a great week!
    See ya next Sunday!
    XOXO
    Jackie69

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Why would they attack in front of the Sheriff? What if the attack was aimed at him? The knife had silver as well as iron. Could have been, and even if the attack was ordered by Claude, he hates Eric, so it’s possible. Sookie might have been collateral damage. Amelia is a good friend, and coming from the outside, she sees things more clearly. She sees the vibe between Sookie and her would-be suitors, and she tells Sookie what her heart already knows.

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  7. This chapter was amazing. I don’t know where to start. I love that Eric said ‘dear one ‘ meant trouble maker’ that made me laugh. I like how Eric took care of her and was honest about everything. Breandan has not been honest. I don’t think Sookie will believe that Breandan is cheating on her until she catches him in the act. Sookie is there in her head but her heart is not over Breandan. The feeling of happiness with eric and the smile would be enough for me. The last line was the best!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It would appear even Eric isn’t ready to admit what his non-beating heart is telling him. Breandan is not honest. He got what he thought he wanted (Sookie) and is already treating her like yesterday’s news. Sookie does need to see things to believe them, especially in this instance. She has started to walk away and returned so often, she is beginning to doubt herself.

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  8. The fact that Kurt would not let Sookie go out of the office is very telling. She was the target. I hope that Eric finds out for real who sent him. Of Course the fae would consort with vampires to do their dirty work. Isn’t that what Rogan did getting Eric to go to America to watch over Sookie and if Breandon had not romanced Sookie would he have had Eric kidnap her? I think so. Of course Breandon was mad that Sookie had Eric’s blood. It just might give her some much needed clarity in thinking of him and their relationship. Sookie is starting to see the light. She is putting it together. I have faith in her. I am not mad at her at all. She is new to relationships. Hell I dated a lot of frogs that I thought I loved that did not turn out to be princes. Now Sookie is dating a prince who is turning out to be a frog. LOL

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sending a vampire to do his dirty work was exactly what Rogan did. Still, doesn’t mean that Sookie was the only/the target. Could have been Eric. He is a sheriff, after all, and that can draw enemies. Is Breandan angry/jealous that Eric’s blood is in Sookie? You bet, and with cause. I do mention that Sookie is seeing Eric differently now that she’s shared his blood, and she’s not altogether unhappy with sharing emotions, either. Too true! Breandan is a prince who is turning out to be a real toad.

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  9. I’m truly am curious how long Eric spent looking in the mirror, working on how to get each butt cheek to flex in rapid succession. Lol.
    Holy monkey balls! The dudes came with iron?! They were looking for Sookie!
    Sookie’s such a lucky bitch! Waking up with Eric in her bed!
    Now that she has Eric’s blood, I wonder if Breandan’s ‘glamour’ will have any sway on her. Freaking hope not. Time for her ass to move on to bigger and blonder things!
    Sookie’s spark is DEFINITELY getting stronger! If iron use to give her a rash and is now flat out burning her skin I’m going to say she’s a bit more Fae than she used to be.
    Damn! Claude has got some crazy deep claws in Breandan.
    How can Sookie not be more upset about the whole spying thing! What the hell!
    Nice to see Amelia and Sean again. Glad Amelia still hates Claude. She can join the freaking club.
    Rogan is such a pleasure to be around…NOT!
    Phew! Looks like Sookie is getting that reality check! Thank the Gods!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A thousand years is a long time. Apparently he found time to practice his ‘little’ skill set. As for the vampires, they came with a knife made of both silver and iron, kind of a two-fer, but makes it difficult to figure out just who was the target. Maybe it was both of them.
      Sookie’s spark is getting stronger, as she’ll soon figure out for herself. More Fae is more power, and soon that will be enough to change things for her.
      Amelia is a good friend, and even if she is falling under a country club spell, she sees things clearly enough to tell Sookie was she should already know for herself.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. She’s getting there! It’s always so easy when we read things, knowing what the character should or shouldn’t do, but if she was that smart, it would be a pretty short story!

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  10. Sookie is very loyal and you can’t fault her for that! Eric is so amazing and he is showing her what a man will do for his woman! She will never forget what he did for her! So glad Amelia and Sean are there to show Sookie what a true couple in love looks like. The same thing happened to me with a friend of mine and her husband, it made me realize that I did not have what they had and I wanted it! Did Breandan go back on his word and sleep with Claude? I can’t believe he would do that since he gave his word, right? Congrats on the move, I have had bamboo floors for 10 years and just love the beauty and durability!

    Liked by 1 person

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