Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Breandan lay still. His heart was pounding and his limbs were growing heavy, his body relaxing into the afterglow of good sex. He was sure he was crushing Sookie, but he didn’t want to move his head from where it rested on her. He could feel her, the fresh, pure joy of her, and it felt like Spring.
She wasn’t like humans. You couldn’t feel them. You could see them and experience them through their words and their body language, but you never felt in the moment with them as you did with Fae. Yet, Sookie wasn’t quite Fae, either. The sensation he received from Sookie was purer, somehow. With Fae, even in moments like these, there were so many layers. You shared in this way, but with the knowledge that just beneath the surface there were emotions and flavors being withheld, private things not meant for you.
This wasn’t like that. The emotions and essence Sookie shared with him were pure, unadulterated. He felt her joy and he felt her acceptance of him. He knew she harbored reservations, yet it still felt open and honest. Mostly, Sookie was happy and, more specifically, she was happy with him and Breandan basked in how it made him feel about himself.
“Breandan?” her voice was a little tight and she tugged his hair. “You are going to have to move.”
“I don’t want to let you go,” he whispered against her sweet-smelling skin.
“Well, you won’t have to!” Sookie laughed, “Just roll over a little so I can hold you back.”
With a sigh, Breandan obliged. He was careful, shifting her closer to the wall on her too-narrow bed. She rolled with him and brought her head close to his shoulder, her breath blowing across his skin, and then she surprised him by gripping him in her hand and pulling him closer.
“You’re very good with this,” she teased, tugging a little so he knew what she meant. He couldn’t hide his delighted surprise. He expected some embarrassment from her. That’s what humans did. They enjoyed the experience, then felt some mild shame in the morning, but not Sookie.
Breandan was hardening in her hand, “You haven’t had enough?” he asked, half hoping.
She ran her thumb over the head and he twitched, “Of this? Not hardly!” and the way she said it had Breandan laughing. He pulled her toward him so he could kiss her, but she made a face. “Hold that thought! I can taste my mouth and I’m pretty sure my breath could peel paint.” With a saucy smile, she used her hand on his hip as leverage to crawl over him. He couldn’t help slapping her round rump as she scrambled past, so she reciprocated by pulling his hair and then skipping out of range so he couldn’t grab her back.
Sookie picked up his shirt from the floor and pulled it around her. The sun caught her, golden hair and pale limbs, and she looked more perfect to Breandan than any creature he’d ever seen. He felt his heart clench and he knew he was grinning in some mindless way.
He heard the sink running, then after a bit, the toilet flushing. She was humming and then singing next door and he didn’t want to miss any part of what she was doing. He opened the bathroom door to find her holding her hair with one hand, spitting into the sink, and sashaying her hips from side to side in time with some tuneless song that could have been the jig he’d played last night. She saw him in the mirror, “What is it about you and bathrooms?” she sassed. “You telling me something about yourself?”
Breandan advanced on Sookie and she never wavered. She opened her arms to him and he was captured again. He lifted her to the vanity counter and she pulled him to her, his shirt falling open and he was undone.
It didn’t take much time and he apologized for being so fast, but Sookie caught his lip between her teeth to stop him from talking. “You could make it up to me in the shower,” she whispered, giving him an arch look and his breath caught.
“What is it about you?” he asked. She’d pushed past him to start the water.
“What do you mean?” and he felt her mood shift to concern.
“You’re so different,” he told her, but instead of looking pleased, she bit her lip and her face fell.
“I hear that a lot,” she told him, and the easy joy he’d felt from her dampened. “I guess I am different than most women. Not ladylike,” and she turned to fuss with the water temperature. “You don’t need to stay if you don’t want to. Someone like you, you probably have things to do this morning. I can’t offer hot breakfast. Mom will be up and I have to be careful about…”
“You mistake me,” Breandan was desperate to stop her. He could feel her moving further and further from him with each word. He wrapped his arms around her, “You are different, a revelation!” He closed his eyes, amazed once more at how wonderful just holding her made him feel. “I’m not sure I ever want to leave here,” he told her. “I am charmed by you, Sookie Stackhouse. I never want this to end.”
He could feel her happiness return and it was like the sun came out, and her voice was light when she answered, “I don’t know about that, Breandan O’Hara, but how about we start with a shower and see where it goes from there?”
The tub was small and they took turns standing under the water. Sookie insisted Breandan stand under the water first, then switched positions, and ordered, “Arms up!” She rubbed her hands together until she had a good lather and soaped him in a very efficient way. When he started to react to her stroking, she jutted her lip, and said, “None of that! This is important business!”
“As My Lady commands,” Breandan laughed. She was adorable, her face intent, her hands stroking the long planes of his body.
“Do you want children?” she asked him.
Breandan stilled. He had been basking and now, he wasn’t. He realized that perhaps the look on her face hadn’t been teasing. Perhaps she had been working up to this, but he was so drunk on his own happiness he hadn’t detected her direction. “I did once,” he told her. “But I was unable.”
“We didn’t use protection,” she said quietly. She wasn’t looking distressed, but she wasn’t meeting his eyes either, and Breandan lowered his arms so he could lay his hands over hers. When she realized he wasn’t going to let her hands go, she set her face into something pleasantly neutral and looked up at him.
“If you wish for children, I am a poor choice,” he told her, tilting his head so he could more clearly see her.
Sookie really looked at him and Breandan felt it again, the purity of being with someone in the moment. “I’m sorry,” Her sympathetic words poured over him like a healing balm. He recalled his bitterness at his failure to procreate with his wife, Mae, and, for a moment, he considered telling Sookie Stackhouse of his barren marriage, then just as quickly dismissed the idea as foolish.
Instead, Breandan thought of his Uncle Niall. He thought of Niall’s Fae wife, Branna, who actively fought her husband. In some ways, Branna’s hatred was more honest than the bored indifference Breandan received from his own wife. Breandan closed his eyes, allowing the joy he felt from the woman in his arms to wash over him again. When he’d heard about his Uncle Niall’s attachment to his human, Breandan found his Uncle’s actions inexplicable, but now? Lost in his thoughts, Breandan said, “I understand now,” out loud.
“What do you understand?” Sookie asked but, before he could answer, they were interrupted by the sound of the bathroom door opening.
“Sookie?” her Mother called from the other side of the curtain. “It’s just me. I’m sorry, I couldn’t wait. I’ll only be a minute.”
Sookie’s mouth dropped as she turned shocked eyes toward Breandan. When he opened his mouth, Sookie’s eyes widened and she shook her head, warning him to remain silent. They both stood there, stock still, unable not to listen to the sounds, and then, Michele flushed the toilet.
“Oh, shit!” Michele exclaimed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
The water suddenly became ice cold and Sookie squealed, jumping against Breandan so hard he let out an “Ooof!” as the air was knocked out of him.
“Breandan?” Michele asked. “Are you in there, too?”
“Go back to bed, Mom!” Sookie called out, and she blushed as Michele left, chuckling. “Sorry about that,” Sookie sighed. “I didn’t hurt anything, did I?”
“My pride,” Breandan told her, “but I know how you can make it better,” and he turned her away from the water so he could wash the soap from his own body and lather hers in return.
Michele was sitting at the kitchen table when they emerged. “Did you two get any sleep?” she asked and then pointed Breandan to the cup on the table, “I made you tea.”
“Thank you,” Breandan smiled before asking, “Are you feeling better?”
“I’m drinking tea, so that’s something,” Michele replied. Sookie was moving around the small kitchen. She sliced bread and put it in the toaster, then poured a bowl of cereal and set it along with a milk jug in front of Breandan.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” Sookie answered. “I figured it would be your favorite.”
“I’ve never had it,” Breandan replied. There was something a little off-smelling about the food product, but then he caught the scent of sugar and cinnamon and popped a square into his mouth. It did taste of chemicals, but the sugar overwhelmed it. He poured on the milk and dug in. It was a well-known fact the Fae were attracted to sugar, and whatever this was hit the spot!
Sookie set dry toast in front of her mother and then another plate with toast buttered and spread with some kind of jam for herself. She had a cup of coffee in her hand and she sat down between her mother and Breandan, then shifted so her knees were touching his.
“What do you have to do today?” Michele asked Breandan and he opened his mouth to answer. It was so easy! They had accepted him! He was suddenly a member of their family, the man at their table, and it was wonderful.
“I didn’t have any particular plans,” he answered. “Perhaps there’s something I could do to help around here? Run errands?” and he glanced at Sookie, “I was also thinking that if you’re not too tired of having me about, we might take a walk this afternoon. The weather is still fine and there’s a walking path not far from here.”
“Check the calendar,” Michele told her daughter. “I don’t think I have any appointments today and I am feeling better. I’ll be okay alone for an hour or two,” and she winked at Breandan.
Breandan took Sookie to Cold Spring Park. It wasn’t a large place, but there was a decent hiking trail that cut through woods and featured a small, open field. The trees were starting to lose their leaves, only the oaks holding on with their reds and russets. Sookie slipped her hand in his and Breandan closed his eyes, immersed in the double pleasure of her happiness and having nature all around him. When he didn’t filter it out, Breandan could feel growing things as if they were extensions of himself. It was hardwired for creatures like him.
Back home, people had lived on the land for so long, even the wild places were tame, but it wasn’t the same here. There was an abundance of growing things overrunning the land. In Ireland, the brush and trees were confined to the borders between fields or the areas around the old forts. Here, in this New World, the wildness was all around him and for Breandan, it was intoxicating. As they reached the former farm field, the weeds growing hip high, goldenrod swaying among sweet fern, Breandan closed his eyes, drinking in the smells and sweet drowsiness of the surrounding forest as it slowed for its winter dormancy. When he opened his eyes, he glanced at Sookie. She had the same blissful look on her face as him. Her mouth was slightly open and her eyes were closed. Her face was upturned and he could almost feel her life pouring through her. “I want to make love to you,” he whispered. “I want to love you.”
Her eyes flew open and her face broke into a grin. “You are the most winning man!” she exclaimed, but instead of replying to him, she pulled his hand, saying, “Come on, let’s see what’s further down the path!”
When they were back in the car, Sookie said, “I’m guessing you blew some stuff off for me today. Thank you.”
Breandan thought about his current idle life. He had told Sookie his purpose in the United States was to explore opportunities for his family’s business, but, since arriving, he’d done nothing to advance that. Instead, he’d spent his days drifting down city sidewalks and spending evenings playing music.
Breandan knew Sookie would not be impressed. The Sookie Stackhouse Breandan knew wasn’t a shirker. She took pride in earning her own way. If something needed to be done, Sookie didn’t sigh or find excuses, she simply stepped forward and did it. Breandan knew if he told her the truth, she would think twice about keeping him.
Being Fae, lying was difficult, if not impossible. That didn’t mean Breandan couldn’t use words to fool his audience. It was something the Fae took great pleasure in doing. Breandan also knew he couldn’t tell Sookie his Father sent him to procure her. “I am at a slow time,” he said instead. “I was in some talks, but they didn’t go anywhere. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to stop by my apartment to pick up my paperwork and contacts so I can get started on the next round.”
“You’ll be coming back to my place?” Sookie asked and, for a moment, Breandan thought she was telling him she didn’t want that, but then she looked at him with such glowing eyes he didn’t doubt any more.
“We need to do something about your bed,” he told her once it was settled.
Her reaction to his apartment was as he predicted. He gathered papers and his duffle bag, throwing extra clothes into it. “You live very well,” she whispered as she wandered through his rooms.
“This isn’t my place,” Breandan reminded her. “Most nights I spend across the hall at Sean’s. I suppose I feel more comfortable there.” He gathered her to him, breathing in her breath. “Now, I have another place where I feel best.”
“It’s not anywhere as nice as this place,” Sookie told him.
“But your apartment has everything I want,” he assured her.
Sookie had to work that night. “You’re sure you don’t mind staying here with Mom?” she asked Breandan again.
“Stop worrying,” Breandan lay on the bed, watching her dress through half-open eyes.
“I don’t know why you’re staring,” Sookie huffed. “You’ve seen all this before!”
“But I like watching you,” Breandan teased. It wasn’t the quality of Sookie’s body, which was pleasant and put together in all the right ways, rather the effect of the whole package.
Blushing, Sookie changed the subject away from her. “I feel I should apologize. Usually by this stage, Mom’s feeling better and we’re eating regular dinners. I’m sorry for the sandwiches and salad. I just can’t cook in the apartment with her being so nauseous.” Breandan could tell Sookie was more nervous than she was letting on. When she turned suddenly, banging her toe into the bed stand, Breandan leaped up from the bed.
Wrapping his arms around her, he forced her to still. He could feel her turmoil and how his touch made her calm. It was gratifying and Breandan closed his own eyes, almost purring out loud. “Now, now!” he soothed, “Your Mother loves me. She’ll probably have me half convinced to throw you aside and take her instead.”
“And you’d be lucky to get her,” Sookie said gallantly her nervousness was gone.
“She must have been something,” he agreed, then glancing at the clock, said, “But come, I’ll run you down to work. Don’t want you to be late.”
Still, after Breandan returned to the apartment, he did feel odd. Michele was waiting for him. “Would you make us some tea?” she asked.
“If you walk me through it,” Breandan shrugged. As a Fae, he was used to humans feeding him. It was a well-known tradition you traded food for favors, and this sudden reversal of how things should be left Breandan feeling odd.
Michele was saying, “Sookie told me you lost your Mother. I’m sorry.”
It touched Breandan to know that Sookie had spoken of him in such a personal way. “Thank you,” he told Michele. “I still miss her.” He followed Michele’s instructions, setting up cups and honey, then pulled out his fiddle while they waited on the kettle. With a small smile, he played a lullaby his Mother had favored.
“Lovely,” Michele sighed. When Breandan told her it was one of his Mother’s favorites, Michele said, “You haven’t said much about your Father.”
“No, I haven’t,” Breandan agreed. He poured hot water and set cups in place. “He’s a hard man.”
Michele didn’t look at him as she said the thing that was really a question, “And he probably won’t like the idea of his Son picking up with Little Miss Nobody from Massachusetts?”
“He won’t be keen, no,” Breandan agreed.
“It’s just you seem so suited for each other,” Michele pressed. “I’m sure he’d want you to be happy.”
“Of course,” Breandan echoed. What he didn’t say was ‘if what I choose makes Rogan happy too.’
As they sipped their tea, Breandan realized he didn’t want to think about Rogan or Ireland or the life across the ocean. He was here and in this place, all that was expected of him was to be pleasant and to make love to a woman who made him feel wonderful. ‘I don’t want to go back,’ Breandan thought and the strength of his conviction made him glance up to make sure he hadn’t said it out loud.
They passed the evening playing cards and then Breandan helped Michele walk the distance to her bedroom. He organized lists of people he would call tomorrow. Breandan viewed the work with a new enthusiasm. In his imagination, he could see himself creating a new business here, one that would keep him in the United States and far away from Rogan and Ireland. When the time came, Breandan put on his coat and headed to the door. In his pocket, his phone chimed and he automatically lifted it.
RB: Congratulations. The vampire informs me you have been successful. I look forward to hearing when you expect to have her here.
Breandan stared at the words. He knew what he was doing was creating a fantasy that couldn’t last, but his heart wished it, and so he slipped the phone back in his pocket and walked into the night.
Their lives settled into a routine. Breandan spent days talking with people in the hospitality industry and learning about what worked in New England. He took quick trips to surrounding towns, visiting different types of hotels and B&Bs. Sometimes Sookie went with him and they spent hours afterward talking around the kitchen table about how to create the ambiance of Irish country hospitality here.
Every night, Breandan drove Sookie to her job, and after her shift ended, he picked her up again. In most ways, this was Breandan’s favorite part of every day. Sookie showered and joined him in the slightly bigger bed they’d squeezed into her bedroom, a more than willing participant with her own inventive imagination that she wasn’t shy about using.
Sam was not pleased when he realized the women upstairs had given Breandan a key.
When Michelle mentioned Sam’s grousing, Breandan confronted him. “What’s your problem?” he growled. “You know how they are upstairs. They need help! I know you can hear those thugs down the street. The day they decide to start testing front doors, you’ll be happy I’m here!”
“If you’re staying here, you should pay rent,” Sam growled right back.
Breandan was Fae, which meant making deals. Within a short time, Breandan negotiated the compromise. He wouldn’t hand Sam Merlotte money, but he would run Sam’s errands. Breandan used some of his time during the day to do things Sam needed, like picking up groceries and pharmacy orders. In exchange, Sam stopped complaining. What Breandan hadn’t counted on was the way Sookie’s eyes shone when he told her he was helping Sam. “You are kind, aren’t you?” she complimented, and then rewarded him in ways that left him panting and happy.
On nights Breandan played music with Sean’s band, Sean picked him up and if she had that evening off, Sookie came to the bar to watch them. It didn’t matter how many times she saw him play, each time Breandan took the stage Sookie was mesmerized. She didn’t know it, but her rapt attention fed Breandan, transforming the music he made into magic, calling them and connecting them, each to the other. Sookie wasn’t the only person affected by the music. There always seemed to be women, and even men, in the bar who were drawn to Breandan, but the fiddler only had eyes for Sookie.
It would have been idyllic, except for one thing. Michele’s condition continued to deteriorate. The nausea from her third treatment had eased, but left her weak and, as the days passed, she didn’t improve.
Breandan could see Sookie watching her Mother with anxious eyes. He started to lay hands on Michele, using his gifts to ease and strengthen her, but he could tell that some milestone had been passed. He was happier than he ever remembered, yet the voice in the back of his head whispered a reminder that when Michele Stackhouse breathed her last, his golden days would be over.
It was the first week in November when Michele returned to the Cancer Center for the testing that was the start of Round Four.
Sookie hadn’t gone with Michelle. Instead, Michele insisted that Breandan take her. After Sookie objected, Michele said rather waspishly, “I don’t know what you’re getting all worked up about. It’s just the usual battery of tests before I do more chemo. Besides, it will do my ego good to walk in on the arm of a hot hunk!”
But once they returned, it was with the news that Round Four would not be moving forward. “It’s no big thing,” Michelle assured Sookie. “I just didn’t bounce back the way the doctors wanted. The good news is I’ll be able to eat turkey for Thanksgiving, and there’s nothing wrong with that!”
“Well, I still don’t understand,” Sookie turned from the sink. “Didn’t they give you a new date? They aren’t ending your treatment, are they?”
“They didn’t say they were,” Michelle shrugged. “Just that I should go back after the holidays.”
“You were there,” and Sookie pinned Breandan with her angry stare. “Just tell me what they said!”
“I can’t tell you any more than I have already,” Breandan snapped. He knew he sounded defensive, but this was the first time he had ever seen Sookie angry and, what’s more, she was angry with him. “Michele didn’t invite me in the office and I wasn’t able to force the issue.”
Sookie rounded on her Mother, “Since when do you go to these things and not have someone there to listen for you? You know how this goes! They throw out all those words and you don’t remember half of them. No regular person could!” When she turned back to Breandan, Sookie’s face was flushed and her voice was tight, “We talked about this! You knew you needed to write things down!”
“I’m allowed to make decisions about my own life!” Michele snapped. “I am the Mother, not you! If I didn’t want Breandan watching me get poked and prodded, that’s my right!”
“I knew this was going to happen!” Sookie snapped. Her eyes narrowed and if she’d been a cat, her ears would have laid back flat against her head. Breandan stood, obeying his instinctive call to flee from the scene but, before he could go, Sookie stepped forward, blocking his escape. “You know how important these treatments are to her getting better! How could you just sit there and not ask more questions?”
“It was your Mother’s decision!” Breandan snarled. His instincts now reminded him that he was Fae and Sookie was not, and his tone conveyed his disdain perfectly. “I am not your errand boy! Michele asked me for this favor and I provided it. If you wanted your own favor, you should have made that clear!” It was the Fae in him, and it didn’t occur to him that Sookie couldn’t understand what he was telling her.
“I trusted you to do one thing and you screwed it up!” Sookie shouted. “How do you expect me to trust you about anything?” It wasn’t a fair accusation and if she hadn’t been so stressed, Sookie wouldn’t have said it.
“I won’t have you fighting over me!” Michelle smacked her hand on the table. “I’m feeling terrible and I need more tension like I need a hole in the head. Sookie, they told me to call back after the holidays, and that’s what I’m going to do! In the meantime, I have a reprieve, which means I can enjoy my holiday dinner instead of throwing it up and, by God, I’m going to!” and Michelle burst into tears.
“Oh!” Sookie exclaimed and she went to her Mother. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mom. Of course, I’m happy you’ll be able to enjoy Thanksgiving. I just don’t want you to lose your progress. I just…” and Sookie stopped. What she wanted to say was, ‘I want you to be cured and this to be over,’ but she felt her hope draining from her.
Sookie looked up at Breandan for sympathy, but she could see things between them were far from resolved. His lip curled and his arms were crossed and his words were clipped. “I can see that you would like some time together and since my efforts aren’t appreciated…”
“I’m sorry…” but Sookie didn’t get any further.
“I’m sure you can find your own way to work,” Breandan interrupted. “I’ll take the T,” and he grabbed his coat from the back of the chair.
“Where are you going?” Sookie asked. Rising from her knees, she scooted down the hall after him.
Breandan walked into the sitting area and retrieved his fiddle. He laid it carefully in its case, “Out,” he shrugged.
“Should I expect you later?” Sookie asked.
“Why do you care?” Breandan snapped. “Clearly I’m not to be trusted. You need time away from me? Well,” and he brought his face close to her, close enough it made Sookie step back, “I do, too!”
Sookie stared at the closed door after Breandan left, her thoughts and feelings a snarl. She wondered if she should run after him, but there was some small part of her shouting to let him go. The past weeks were wonderful, he was wonderful, but Sookie couldn’t escape the feeling that there was something dark on the other side of all the sweet that was Breandan O’Hara and she wondered if she’d just caught a glimpse of it.
‘Sookie?” Her Mother called her from the kitchen.
“Coming,” Sookie answered and, slowly, she walked back.
Michele was still seated at the table looking guilty. “I’m so sorry you quarreled,” she patted Sookie’s hand when her daughter sat down opposite her. “This,” and she waved at herself, “is so stressful. I’m surprised we’re not all at each other’s throats.”
“Do you think Breandan is really the right one for me?” Sookie asked. It wasn’t an obvious question. For Sookie, these weeks with Breandan felt like a rollercoaster ride, full of thrills and highs, but her practical nature couldn’t overlook the obvious. They had fallen into this thing so quickly and while there were ways Sookie felt she knew everything about him, there were more ways she felt she didn’t know Breandan O’Hara at all.
“Of course, I do,” her Mother assured her. “He challenges you. I can see that, but you are a thinking girl. If Breandan were one of those fairytale Princes, fawning over you all the time, you’d be bored with him in a flat second!”
Sookie laughed. “I guess. It’s just that somehow, I figured that when I found my someone special, it’d be someone I knew for awhile. I thought he’d be like me, if that makes sense. He’d know the value of a dollar and he’d be…well, less showy. I love being with Breandan. When we’re together I just feel wonderful, but I can’t stop thinking that none of it’s real. I keep thinking he’ll wake up and realize I’m not some fancy, sophisticated person and he’s made a big mistake.”
“Well,” and Michelle leaned forward so she could look her daughter in the eye, “I think that sometimes because you are so smart, you overthink things. I would hate to see you throw away someone as wonderful as Breandan because you keep trying to analyze what’s between you. Now, you can tell me I’m wrong, after all, I’m just your Mother, but I see how perfect you are for each other. Sure, you’re different, but I think you fill in each other’s holes.”
Sookie couldn’t help her quick snort, earning her a withering look from Michele who scolded, “You know what I mean!” After a minute, Michele asked, “Is the real reason you’re holding back because he’s planning to return to Ireland?”
“Of course,” Sookie shrugged. Until she acknowledged it, she hadn’t understood how much it bothered her. “What if I lose my heart to him and he leaves?” she asked Michele. “It’s not like I’ve had that much experience in this boyfriend thing. For the first time, I think I’m in real trouble, Mom, and if he leaves me, I’m not sure how I’ll survive.”
Michele and Sookie had talked about the possibility of Michele’s dying, but not since she started chemo. Now, she turned to Sookie and laying hands over her daughter’s, said, “I know you’re thinking about staying here because of me, but there’s a hard reality we should face. I don’t mean to hurt you, Sweetheart, but I probably won’t be around much longer.” Sookie moaned, but Michelle just patted her hand. “Of course, I’ll continue treatments, but I can feel it in my bones. For what it’s worth, I was worried about you. I didn’t know what would become of you. I wondered if it would better for you to go live with your Aunt Linda. I couldn’t see you staying here in Boston on your own. It’s not that you aren’t an adult, but you would need to find a new place to stay, and we both know how expensive apartments in Boston can be.”
Sookie was crying, slow tears that tracked down her cheeks. She pulled a hand away from her Mother to swipe at her face, and when she did, Michele told her, “From the minute I saw you and Breandan together, I had a good feeling, and it just gets stronger and stronger. Maybe you think I’m being foolish, but I believe you two were meant to be together, and the thought that you’ll be with him, living your dream in Ireland, settled and happy makes me sleep easier.”
“You really think that?” Sookie asked again and when Michelle nodded, Sookie covered her vulnerability with a shrug, “I guess, but it’s not like he’s even hinted at taking me with him and besides, I think he’s pretty mad at me,” Sookie sighed.
“Well, maybe you can do something special for him when he gets home,” her Mother said, and then winked in a way that made Sookie blush. When Sookie tried to pretend she didn’t know what her Mother meant, Michele’s eyes narrowed, “Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I don’t hear things, and it sounds to me like he makes you pretty happy. A woman can forgive a lot for a man who knows his way around the bedroom and a man won’t walk away from a woman who makes him happy, too.”
Sookie laughed again, then glanced at the stove. She rose and plated dinner for the two of them. She wondered where Breandan would eat and she felt bad all over again. “Well, never mind,” Michelle patted Sookie’s hand, guessing where her thoughts had wandered, “I know! Let’s figure out what we’re making for Thanksgiving!” and Michelle filled the next hour with menus and wrangling a promise that they would invite Sam Merlotte to join them.
Breandan sat in his old apartment in the dark. As Fae, he didn’t need to turn on the lights, so the ambiance matched his mood.
There was a tightness in his chest, an anger that Sookie Stackhouse or any creature would bark at him as she did. All his long life, lesser creatures had deferred to him and he accepted it as his due. Even when people in his hotels were angry, they never truly raised their voices. Some instinct, perhaps survival, kept their behavior within bounds, but Sookie? She had backed him against a wall. She had railed against him, even raising her finger and using it to point at him in a threatening way.
Something was wrong within Breandan’s universe. Things weren’t as they should be and Sookie Stackhouse was at the center.
His phone chimed again. It was Rogan, a text in a long list of unanswered texts. ‘Of course,’ Breandan thought, ‘Why shouldn’t all the problems pile on now?’
The message on the phone read, R: With your lack of response, I am sending an agent. Watch for him.
Sighing, Breandan hit the buttons to connect him with his Father.
“I was about to send someone to retrieve you,” Rogan growled the minute the line connected. “You have been ignoring me.”
“I’m happy to hear your voice, too, Father,” Breandan answered.
There was a pause and Breandan knew his Father was analyzing his Son’s tone before deciding how to respond. Breandan wasn’t surprised when Rogan steered the conversation in another direction. “I hear from my associates you are taking meetings with real estate and property companies. I had the impression you weren’t interested in pursuing properties in the United States beyond it providing you a cover story. What’s changed?”
“I am living with the girl and her human Mother. I am keeping them under my hand, which requires I appear to have some real purpose in being here. I will grant you, this kind of familiarity in view of their mixed blood, is not what you would consider savory, but that’s why you sent me, isn’t it? You wanted me to handle your dirty job? I’m handling it, so why are you hectoring me?”
“I was wondering if there was another reason you were becoming so interested in business,” Rogan countered. “Perhaps a reason that is not our original plan?”
There was something in Rogan’s tone and Breandan sat up straighter. He was angry with Sookie, but he suddenly remembered the sweetness she brought to his life. It would be so easy to end that, but Breandan didn’t want to give it up, not yet. “This has stretched longer than either of us anticipated, so I’m using my spare time to explore possibilities here. Surely, you have no objection to my considering ways to grow our fortunes? It gives me a break from my ‘duties’ and it could make this expense worthwhile.”
“Do you think there are real possibilities in the U.S. market?” Rogan asked.
“I do,” Breandan told him. “Fewer people here are buying vacation homes. They’re interested in the combination of hospitality and entertainment we offer. True roadside, public houses are rare here. If we successfully import our formula, we could provide the informal, family atmosphere that attracts travelers to hotel alternatives while making the accommodations accessible.”
Breandan spent the next half hour talking through a couple financial projections and his Father sounded legitimately interested. When he concluded his impromptu presentation, Rogan told him, “I must say, I’m impressed. You’ve put thought into this. Perhaps I haven’t given you enough credit. You’ve done a good job with the properties you oversee here, but I can see you have a talent for development. Once you deliver Sookie here and she’s established, we should consider sending you back to the United States to start a pilot.”
“Well, since I’m going to be here for the next few months, why wait?” Breandan asked. “The contacts are here and I’ve scouted out a couple properties in Vermont and Maine that would fit the bill…”
“And, you see this as a reasonable reason to delay returning to Ireland?” Rogan asked.
“I’m not sure if ‘delay’ is the proper term. I’m here as it is. I can do this while we wait for…well, while I wait,” but Breandan knew his Father hadn’t been fooled. Breandan’s heart clenched in his chest. He had half-hoped the temptation of new wealth would be enough to distract his Father into not pushing so hard.
“Explain to me again why you delay?” Rogan zeroed in. “Your sexual skills are no secret. I have no doubt you are covering your new mare well,” and Rogan laughed a little. “She should be eating out of your hand and anywhere else you wish her to graze by now. Why haven’t you given me a date for when you will be returning?”
“Sookie’s not an animal,” The words slipped out and Breandan immediately regretted them. “I apologize,” he said quickly. “It’s just that my daily interactions with the hybrid require I keep close to the role I’m playing. You know we can’t lie. If I keep close to a truth, the story is easier to maintain.”
“I am not comfortable with you using their names,” Rogan scolded, “Don’t do it again!” then continued by asking, “What story are you telling her, Son?” Breandan wasn’t fooled by his Father’s friendly tone. This wasn’t an idle question.
“That I am interested in her, Father,” Breandan said carefully, “That there is a possibility of a long-term romantic attachment between us…”
“Which there isn’t,” Rogan interrupted. “Surely you aren’t over-selling this. You are the heir of a hotel chain. The promise of a favorable position and the money it brings should be enough.”
“I don’t think so,” Breandan disagreed. “The hybrid is not interested in wealth. She is different than other humans. I took her to my apartment. Instead of it sparking her interest, it spurred her distrust. She is almost the opposite of what we’ve come to expect. The more I offer to pay for things or improve their situation, the harder she pushes me away.” Breandan wanted to add that it was this characteristic that fascinated him, but he held back.
“Perhaps she lacks imagination,” Rogan suggested. “It sounds as if bringing her here for a short trip to tour your holdings might be in order. Seeing the possibilities should awaken her human greed.” Rogan didn’t make it sound like a suggestion. “Maybe,” he added, “Maybe the issue is that she doesn’t trust you.”
His Father’s words made Breandan’s breath catch. For a wild moment, he wondered if his Father knew of Sookie’s accusations earlier this evening, but he steadied himself as his Father continued, “Perhaps she is one of those human women who has grown too cynical and thinks every man just tells tales. A quick vacation here would solve that.”
“I believe the hybrid will be open to coming to Ireland, just not yet. I’m sure the vampire told you the Mother is sick,” and Breandan waited.
“Some form of wasting sickness,” Rogan sounded bored. “You told me that yourself the last time you bothered to call.”
“Yes, Father, and it’s progressing. In truth, I don’t think she has much longer. This woman, the Mother, is dying. The human doctors have been pumping her full of poisons to stop the progress of her disease, but I can smell the rot in her. A month, maybe two, and she dies. Once she’s gone, the girl has nowhere else to go, but it’s not realistic to think that she would leave her Mother at a time like this, even for a few days.”
“A month or two?” Rogan repeated.
“Maybe three, not much longer, and I will be with them. The hybrid will be comfortable with me, and I can offer her a new start, a good job in a romantic place like Ireland. There’s no reason to think she wouldn’t come. You would have the consent you need to keep her within your thrall, since glamour doesn’t work on her.” Breandan sat back. It was a good argument, and he congratulated himself for reminding his Father that the hybrid was immune to their usual way of controlling humans.
After Rogan didn’t protest, Breandan pushed his advantage, “The prospects I can offer are infinitely better than the waitress work she has now and there’s something else. The Mother is helping me. She wants the daughter to cast her lot with me.” Breandan could feel something twist inside him and it felt like betrayal, but his sense of being trapped overcame his desire to shield Sookie and her Mother.
“What exactly does this Mother think you’re offering?” Rogan asked.
“I’m sure she believes it will be marriage,” Breandan didn’t bother trying to gloss it.
“But you haven’t promised that to the girl?” his Father pressed.
“No, of course not,” Breandan sighed. He was glad his Father couldn’t see him in that moment. He didn’t think he could hide his misery.
“Good,” Rogan sounded happier. “Broken promises make women angry. Feeling foolish for wrong assumptions inspires them to accept opportunities when they’re offered. Tease her, fuck her, and keep her dancing to your tune. When she gets here, we’ll give her a good position and surround her with new friends. That will allow you to extricate yourself without her being the wiser.” Rogan must have felt the conversation was at an end because he said, “I expect more regular reports from you,” and he ended the call without so much as a goodbye!
‘It will be as you say, Father,” Breandan replied to the dead connection. The room grew darker, though Breandan didn’t move to turn on the lights. It seemed appropriate. ‘I belong in the dark,’ he thought, ‘because it’s what I bring.’
It was almost too late when he roused himself. He called an Uber and soon he was standing in the doorway of her bedroom. He could see that Sookie had been crying. It was the moisture on her pillow and the tracks on her cheeks. Her eyes were open and she was watching him. Breandan could faintly feel her hope and it made him feel miserable all over again.
“I’m sorry,” she said, when he said nothing. “I was wrong. I don’t want to lose you.”
There it was again, the hope she gave him, and Breandan replied, “I don’t want to lose you, either,” because it was the truth.
Her face lifted and her smile warmed him. “Take off your clothes,” she whispered, sitting up so he could see she was naked under the blankets. Her nipples tightened in the chill air, calling to him and he stripped quickly. The minute his arms found their way around her, Breandan felt the turmoil he’d felt following his talk with his Father calm. He didn’t know how she did this to him, but he didn’t wish to fight it. He suspected he loved her as alien as that was to his nature, but what he did accept was that every minute he spent with Sookie Stackhouse was better than any other minute he’d ever spent without her.
“I was beginning to worry,” she murmured, her face turned against his. He wanted to say something to reassure her, but he found he was the one who needed that reassurance. He tightened his grip around her and thought about running away with her, disappearing into the vastness of this country and forgetting who and what he was.
“Are you okay?” she asked him, and she pushed back so she could look in his eyes. Her small hand laid against his cheek and he turned his head to kiss her palm.
“I’m fine,” he told her. “I’m just enjoying how this feels, how you make me feel,” and he leaned down and kissed her. He reached out to find that small part of her he knew she held back from him. He wasn’t sure what motivated her reluctance, but It made him feel better knowing that Sookie was smart enough to protect herself from him, but, this time, he couldn’t find it.
As she brought him to her entrance and pushed forward, Sookie Stackhouse opened more than her body to him. In that moment, she fully opened her heart and Breandan found himself overwhelmed by a gift that brought him equal measures of happiness and regret.