FOUR HOURS EARLIER
“I just think it’s best if you two plan to stay away from here for the time being—at least at night,” I said to my fairy kin. “I’m sure that Eric will calm down—if he hasn’t done so already—but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Right?”
I felt a little bad that I was basically kicking out Dermot since he didn’t have another home to go to, but—given what I’d observed from Claude that day—I didn’t feel bad about him at all. It seemed that Claude’s “attentiveness” to me hadn’t been “because we were kin” at all. Likely, he’d been drawn to me and my home because of his own questionable motives and the cluviel dor. And now that the magical object had been used, Claude clearly had no use for me—beyond the fact that he likely wanted to exact revenge upon me however he could.
Whether that be by violence.
Or by saddling me with a Were who didn’t see any problems with climbing into my bed unbidden!
Or by encouraging my own uncle to pursue me romantically!
“Are you kicking us out?” Claude asked, rather acerbically.
“Not at all,” I responded with as much sincerity as I could muster. “You’ll always be welcome here,” I lied. “But I’m worried about your safety.” I glanced outside at the waning afternoon sunlight to make my point.
“You should simply end all your acquaintances with vampires,” Dermot said decisively.
“Bill is my neighbor and friend. And—for better or worse—I’m sort of married to Eric,” I hedged, biting my lower lip as if nervous—hoping that my performance was convincing.
Claude scoffed. “You’re never going to learn your lesson until everyone around you is dead.” He glared at me. “And I don’t intend to be added to that tally!” He grabbed Dermot. “Come on!”
“Wait!” Dermot yelled out.
“Please, don’t leave so angry,” I said, keeping up my performance. “I love you two. You’re family! It’s just that—right now—the different parts of my life just aren’t gettin’ along.”
“Gettin’ along!?” Claude sneered.
“Yeah—and I’d hate myself if anything happened to y’all,” I said, admittedly pouring it on a little thick.
“Yourself. It’s always about you!” Claude said with a snarl, no longer even trying to hide his disdain for me. Even Dermot was looking at him with surprise at this point—though he wasn’t speaking up in my defense.
“No—this is about keeping you two safe,” I returned. “Look—you both have every right to be angry at me. All I ask is that you give me a little time to make things right—to make things safe here for you again,” I said, hoping they were convinced of my sincerity.
But then I realized that whether they believed me or not was ultimately unimportant. All that mattered was that they left Gran’s home. Suddenly, that very thing was something I wanted desperately—and immediately.
Yes—even the night before—I’d been prepared to let them have the place once I moved in with Eric. But my vampire had helped me to really see the two fairies. Claude would never be my “family” again. And—as for Dermot? Well—at the moment—his desires were reminding me too much of another “funny uncle” I’d had. And, now that I’d made that connection (whether the analogy was completely apt or not), it would take me a long time—and a complete 180 in Dermot’s feelings for me—to unmake it.
Yes—it was safe to say that I was more than ready for both of the fairies to be out of the home I loved, even though I wasn’t planning to spend even another night there for the foreseeable future.
Thankfully, they packed their belongings and left before sundown.
Partly in thanks to the sad look he’d given me on the way out, I shed a moment’s regret about Dermot. The last several years of his life had been horrible. He’d suffered through a curse that his own father had set—for goodness sakes! I had wanted to help him—to be his family. His niece!
But I doubted whether that was possible anymore. And—frankly—the one that I was the most pissed off at in that moment was Niall. He should have taken care of his son. Yes, Dermot had once sided with Niall’s enemies, but had that given Niall the right to be-spell him—especially after Dermot had begun to come to terms with his own dual nature? No. Like always, Niall had used magic to give himself an easy way out, and he’d turned his back on a member of his own family.
I knew what that felt like.
But that didn’t mean that I should have to be responsible for the fairy twin of my grandfather—especially since that fairy wanted to make me his mate.
In truth, I felt as if I still owed Dermot for killing Colman when Claudine’s mate had wanted to kill me. But how had Dermot known that was going on? He’d been watching me: part concerned uncle, part stalker.
I cringed again.
Yep—it was best that I no longer had anything to do with any of my fairy kin—at least for the time being.
But “best” wasn’t always practical, which was why I dialed the number I had for Niall as soon as I knew Dermot and Claude were out of range.
“Hello,” a female voice answered.
“Tell Niall that I need to see him right away,” I said, trying to sound forceful.
“That is not possible,” the woman responded.
I wondered if she could hear the roll of my eyes. “I think it is possible. Tell him now!” I said before hanging up.
I sat at my dining room table and waited.
A few minutes after I’d called Niall’s answering service, I received a message from Mr. Cataliades, conveying that he and Diantha would be arriving in about 90 minutes. I couldn’t help but hope that Niall would have come and gone by then.
Of course, Niall was the wild card. Would he even come? Or should I call Dermot back and start planning for “Plan B?”
I looked at the clock. I’d wait an hour—just long enough for Claude to be on stage and working—before I took that step. I knew that it would take no time at all for Dermot to “pop” to the house—after all.
Knowing that I needed to play the part of a grateful-to-be-guarded damsel, I stepped out onto my porch and hollered out, “Hey, could one of y’all come up here real quick?”
Within a few moments, a male Were stepped out of the woods and approached the house. I could tell from his thoughts that he was bored, but he didn’t have any opinion one way or the other about being asked to guard me. Frankly, it was good to know that he wasn’t a threat.
“Yes, ma’am?” he asked politely.
I attempted to give him a sincere smile. “I wanna thank you for helping to guard me,” I began.
“It’s no problem,” he responded.
“Um—I’m gonna be having some visitors tonight—before I get picked up by one of Eric’s vamps later on. The visitors are going to be demons,” I said, deciding not to mention my potential fairy visitor.
“Demons?” the Were asked.
I had a feeling that he’d been reporting that fact to Alcide.
“Yeah. One’s a lawyer, and he’s coming by to discuss some stuff about my cousin’s estate with me,” I lied. “She died pretty recently and left me some money,” I added.
“Oh—sorry for your loss, ma’am,” he said sincerely.
I nodded, hating the fact that I was using Claudine as my excuse for seeing Mr. Cataliades, but I couldn’t come up with a different “innocent” reason for needing to see him. I said a quick prayer asking that she would forgive me.
“Anyway—I just wanted to let you know they were coming so you wouldn’t worry,” I told the Were. “Plus—uh—the wards around the house will keep out anyone with bad intent, but I’m sure you already knew that,” I added for good measure.
The Were nodded in confirmation and then turned to go back into the woods. I followed his mind until he was well away from the house and had joined the other Were. From the other Were’s brain signature, I had a feeling that it was Jannalynn, but she wasn’t close enough for me to confirm that hypothesis by delving into her thoughts.
I stretched out my telepathy as far as I could and only picked up on the two Weres. I determined to keep my shields down to keep track of them and then returned into the house.
“Hello, Great-granddaughter,” Niall greeted.
I jumped as I closed the door, even though I recognized the voice coming from the living room.
“Niall,” I gasped.
After calling his service, I’d invited him through the wards, and I did trust Amelia’s magic to keep out the unwanted, but I was still startled by his sudden appearance.
“I have covered my scent so that those outside will not know I am here,” Niall informed with a smile. He looked better rested than he had when I’d last seen him.
I returned his sincere smile; I couldn’t help myself. For all Niall’s faults, I really did think he wanted a good life for me. And that’s why I’d chosen to ask him—rather than Dermot—for what I needed. Asking Dermot might have led to complications I didn’t need.
“You said that you needed to see me immediately. How are you?” he asked, studying me for any injuries—I suppose.
“I am finally taking steps to get the life I want,” I answered. “Would you like some tea?”
He chuckled at my non sequitur. “Tea would be lovely. Thank you.”
He followed me into the dining room and sat down at the table while I fixed us both iced teas. I “listened” for the Weres’ thoughts to make sure that they were still far enough away from the house that we’d neither be seen nor heard.
“I have two tasks I want you to complete,” I said as I delivered Niall’s beverage and sat down opposite him.
“Favors?” he asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No. Tasks,” I corrected. “Eric was very specific. He told me to make sure you knew that I was not asking for favors.”
He smirked. “Your vampire is wise.”
“Mine is right,” I said.
“Ah—so you have finally decided to acknowledge your relationship,” he said with a bit of amusement. “You know—I offered my approval of the Viking a long time ago.”
I nodded. “Yes—you said that he loved me and that he was a good man.”
“Well,” he chuckled, “man might be pushing it. And good too. But he seems good for you.”
I sighed. “Yes. Yes, he is. And I really am glad you approve, but I need more than your approval right now.”
“What do you need?”
“Fairy blood,” I responded.
Niall took a long drink of his tea. “Why?” he asked after what must have been two full silent minutes.
“We need to weaken some vampires,” I responded.
“Why not ask Claude or Dermot for blood?” he asked.
“Claude, I think, is playing a game of cat-and-mouse with me. I think he wants me dead because Claudine died trying to protect me, but he doesn’t seem to want to do it himself. And—as for Dermot—he wants me in his bed,” I cringed, “and I’d rather not ask him for anything that he might construe as a favor.”
“Though it’s not a favor,” he responded, not addressing my words about either Claude or Dermot.
“No. It’s not.”
“How much blood do you need?” he asked after another awkward few minutes of silence.
“Enough to rim the glasses of about a dozen vampires,” I said.
Again, he considered for a moment.
But I was getting tired of silences.
“Why did you seek me out when you knew I would be in more danger with you in my life?” I asked him.
“Selfishness,” he responded honestly. I suppose I had to respect him a little for that. “I wanted to know you,” he added.
“You should have left me alone,” I said.
He nodded. “Yes. I realize that now. I am sorry that danger befell you, and I recognize that I brought much of it to your doorstep. I’d been hoping to keep it away from you.”
“The fairy blood would help to remove quite a bit of danger from my life,” I said.
After a few moments, Niall nodded and materialized a small glass vial. “I assume you would prefer it if the vampires couldn’t smell the fairy blood.”
“Amelia gave me something I could mix with it so that they won’t know it’s there,” I informed.
“There’s no need,” he responded, even as he took a dagger from his jacket and then pierced his thumb deeply before putting it over the vial. “I’ll bind the scent of my blood with my magic. But any blood remaining will turn to dust at the dawning of the sun tomorrow.”
“Thank you,” I told him sincerely.
When it was about half full, he handed me the vial.
“What is the second non-favor?” he asked.
“Dermot. He’s listless here; maybe that’s why he thinks that a relationship with me would be a good thing. And Claude isn’t much of a help to him. And—honestly—given Dermot’s desire for me, I don’t want him to live here anymore either. I think it would be best if you took him back to the fairy realm.”
Niall sighed deeply. “I will ask him to return with me, but I will not force him.”
“Be persuasive,” I told him. “Dermot has a good heart, and I don’t want to see him get hurt, but it’d be best if he wasn’t in Area 5.”
Niall nodded. “I will do my best to convince him. I swear it.”
I nodded. “Good enough.”
“Are you going to ask me to do anything regarding Claude?” he asked. “You seem to believe he’s a danger to you.”
“I do, but I don’t know what to ask—because I’m convinced that he won’t return to the fairy realm,” I answered honestly. “And alerting him to my suspicions might increase the danger he is to me.”
“Why do you believe that he wants to harm you?” Niall asked curiously.
I frowned. “Looking back, I think Claude was helping Colman, rather than trying to stop him,” I responded. “I believe that I’ve had my head buried in the sand about why both Claude and Dermot wanted to be in my life, but I’ve unburied myself. And every instinct I have is now telling me that Claude wants me hurt—or dead.”
Niall shook his head. “I cannot imagine that your vampire will let Claude live if he tries to harm you.”
“No. Eric won’t,” I agreed. “And I won’t just stand idly by and let him hurt me either. I get that Claude’s angry with me about Claudine.” I wiped away a tear that fell when I thought about my fairy “godmother” and her unborn child. “God knows that I have done my fair share of blaming myself for Claudine’s death. And her baby’s death.” I paused to wipe away another tear. “After all, their deaths were ultimately my fault.”
A deep frown etched into Niall’s face. “No,” he said gently—grandfatherly. “They were killed by Breandan and his people, just as you were kidnapped and tortured by them. How can you believe that any of that was your fault? You must stop that immediately,” he added authoritatively.
“But it is my fault,” I said. “Eric asked me to move in with him days before Neave and Lochlan kidnapped me, but—like a stubborn fool—I didn’t do it. If I would have, Eric could have protected me better, and Claudine would still be alive. So would her baby.”
Niall sighed and shook his head. “I did not know that you’d taken the guilt of Claudine’s death upon yourself,” he said sadly. “You should not! She loved you. She valued your friendship. And she was also a warrior,” he added proudly. “I know you will have difficulty truly understanding this, Sookie, but Claudine’s death was a good one.”
“How can you possibly say that?!” I demanded, as angry at Niall as I’d ever been.
A/N: I hope that you enjoyed the chapter. I felt that Sookie needed some closure with Niall, and this is the first part of that. By this point in the books, I was very critical of Niall. But I wanted to bring back a bit of his “better” side here. I suppose he had reasons for the things he was doing. Just maybe not good ones. I also wanted for Sookie to have the chance to interact with Niall as a “stronger” version of herself.
Please comment if you have the time and inclination.