SOOKIE POV CONTINUED
I wasn’t surprised when I “heard” two fuzzy brains enter the area about fifteen minutes after Niall had left.
I looked out of my living room window to make sure that the demons were who I wanted them to be. I breathed a sigh of relief as I confirmed the presence of Diantha and Mr. Cataliades.
I was already opening the door before Mr. Cataliades knocked.
“Come in,” I said, looking toward the woods where I still “heard” the Weres. I wondered if they had already informed Alcide that I would be having demon visitors; I was glad that Niall had “popped” in and out so that he wouldn’t be seen by them.
Mr. Cataliades simply nodded before stepping in. “Diantha will stay on the porch—watching. She’ll make sure that no one gets close enough to hear us,” he added significantly.
I nodded in understanding. One of the reasons why I’d picked up on Niall’s “stray” thought about Preston was that my shields had been completely down so that I could monitor how close the Weres were and make sure that they didn’t realize that I had fairy company. I’d felt the male Were come a little closer as the demons had driven up the driveway, but he’d subsequently backed off again. Regardless, I was glad that Diantha was keeping watch so that I could rest my mind a little. I figured I’d need all the rest I could get before the night was over.
I waved to the frenetic female demon gratefully as she began pacing my porch. I was amused—and strangely heartened—to see that her style hadn’t altered since I’d last seen her. It was still the epitome of eclectic and “loud.” She was wearing a chartreuse twin-set and a pair of red and purple checked capris with orange suspenders. Oh—and a pair of black and hot pink high tops with turquoise shoelaces. And a stark white headband. Somehow, she managed to pull off the look, however.
As soon as my front door was closed, I turned to look at Mr. Cataliades—in all his “round” glory. His eyes betrayed concern.
“Please tell me that the Viking has a plan—that he is not actually planning a cruel act against you.” He sighed. “I have liked him for many decades and would truly hate to have to kill him.”
Honestly, the part-Dae’s matter-of-fact tone was disconcerting. Seeing his sincerity, I had no doubt that he would kill Eric—or, at least, try to—if he hurt me. That fact was both nice to know and frightening.
“No! Um—I mean—no! Eric isn’t planning to hurt me. In fact—um—he told me all about Freyda. And I want to . . . .” I paused, searching for the right words. Finally, I settled upon vampire-speak.
“As a Supernatural, I want to publically claim Eric as my own,” I emphasized. “Freyda needs to recognize that he’s belonged to me ever since we shared blood for the first time! And that was long before Appius negotiated that fucking contract with her,” I cursed.
“Sookie, I . . . ,” he started.
“Don’t try to talk me out of it either, Mr. Cataliades,” I interrupted. “It’s about time that my fairy-ness worked for me, rather than against me. And, surely, being a fairy princess—even just a part one—is worth something in the Supe world. And—even if no one’s worried about Niall right now—vampires are smart enough to appreciate the fact that my great-grandfather could seek out revenge a century or more from now if my claim isn’t recognized,” I added, trying to sound confident in my words, even though I wasn’t really sure whether or not Niall would do much of anything to make sure I could “keep” Eric—despite his promises that he wanted to make things up to me.
After all, helping me “keep” Eric wouldn’t overtly help Niall’s own interests.
Mr. Cataliades contemplated for a few moments. “Eric will have a difficult time holding onto you if you do this, Sookie. Oh—and you should call me Desmond.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
He frowned. “I would like for you to feel comfortable enough to call me by my first name.”
I sighed with frustration. Supes could be so literal! “No. What did you mean when you said Eric would have a difficult time holding onto me?”
“Oh!” the rotund man nodded. “Well, honestly—as a sheriff—Eric will always be somewhat vulnerable, and that means that his claim on you will be at risk. If you assert a prior claim upon him where the marriage contract with Freyda is concerned, I think we can win that battle, but that won’t stop a king or a queen from trying to kill Eric in order to take you. And—since he’s a mere sheriff—the consequences wouldn’t be that great if one did. Alternatively, Freyda could always try to take your life—thereby removing you from the equation. Or she might simply hold off on acting on the contract until after you meet a natural human death.”
“She could do that?” I asked, horrified by the prospect that Eric could get “claimed” by Freyda after I died—even if it were years from now.
“Yes. She could. There was no ‘start date’ for Eric’s service specified on the contract signed between Appius and Freyda,” he informed.
“But if Eric had a king or queen who objected to the contract?” I asked.
The part-demon thought for a moment. “That would change things. For example, Felipe could buy out the contract if he wanted to. The amount would be a small fortune, but Felipe could claim that he’d lose even more without Eric as his sheriff. I happen to know that Eric has asked Felipe to do this and has even offered to provide the money, but the king has refused.”
“Bastard,” I muttered.
“Indeed,” he agreed.
“And Eric can’t buy out his own contract,” I observed.
“No. I’m sorry, but no,” he confirmed.
“And what if . . . .” I paused. “What if Eric becomes a king?”
Slowly, an almost-sinister smile spread onto Mr. Cataliades’s face. It was disconcerting—to say the least. “Then Eric could buy out his contract with Freyda, and he’d be in a much better position when it came to keeping both you and himself safe.”
I nodded. “Okay—then.”
“You used the cluviel dor—didn’t you?” he asked knowingly.
I nodded again. “Yes.”
“Forgive me for being so bold—but may I ask what you wished for?”
“I wished to stay Eric’s,” I informed.
He closed his eyes and smiled—a lot less sinisterly than before. In fact—despite his razor-sharp incisors—he looked downright benevolent in that moment. “Ah—a wish for enduring love. Made on a fairy love token.” He opened his eyes. “And an unselfish wish too.”
“How so?” I asked. Honestly, I’d felt pretty darned selfish when I’d made my wish—even though I’d not intended for it to “take” before I’d discussed it with Eric.
The stupid cluviel dor took things too literally too!
“You offered yourself to him. You didn’t wish for him to take you. And you didn’t wish to claim him.” He winked at me. “Despite what you now want to do ‘officially.'”
He used air quotes around the last word of his sentence—which was just weird, given the fact that he was still showing his sharp teeth.
“Do you think the wish will keep Eric and me together?” I asked.
Mr. Cataliades shrugged. “Fairy wishes are unpredictable things—which was why I cautioned Adele against using the cluviel dor without great thought.”
I sighed and frowned. “I can’t imagine all of the moments when she would have been tempted to use it: when her husband died, when my daddy died, when Aunt Linda got cancer.” I felt a tear slip from my eye at the thought of all Gran had lost.
“A cluviel dor can reverse death,” he said quietly. “But such a thing is ill-advised. I’m glad Adele intrinsically recognized that. Plus—I know that the wish she came closest to making on the object had to do with you,” he confessed, his expression becoming suddenly fraught with guilt.
“What wish?” I asked.
“To rid you of the curse I gave you,” he whispered.
“Please—let us sit, and I will tell you all that I know,” he gestured, leading me to the dining room table. Within moments, he’d gotten me a glass of water. I noticed that he’d gotten none for himself.
“I’m sorry,” I said, chastising myself for my lack of manners. Obviously, I’d used them all up on Alcide, Claude, and Dermot earlier that day. “I should have offered you something.”
He waved off my self-critique. “Do not worry about it.”
“What did you mean the curse you gave to me?” I asked.
He exhaled loudly and sat down across from me.
Somehow, even though we were sitting exactly where Niall and I had been siting not an hour before, I was more comfortable with the creature before me than I had been with my own kin—even though the part-demon had just told me that he’d “cursed” me somehow! It was Mr. Cataliades’s eyes. They conveyed only concern for me.
Not concern for himself.
Examining the part-demon’s face, I wondered for the first time how old he was. I knew that the “rules” of human aging didn’t apply to any Supes, and Mr. Cataliades looked to be in his 60s. I wondered if he really was 60. Or 160. Or 1,060.
The part-demon looked like he wanted to start speaking several times, but then stopped himself each one.
“Mr. Cataliades?” I finally probed.
“Desmond. You should call me that,” he said decisively. His smile was kind, and his eyes seemed even gentler than before. They were brown, but had yellow and orange flecks in them. They were odd, but somehow comforting too.
“May I tell you a story?” he asked me.
I nodded. “Sure.”
“I am not a full-demon. Did you know that?” he asked.
“I think our part-nature was why Fintan and I first bonded. Neither of us felt truly comfortably in our own skins.”
“Fintan? As in my biological grandfather?” I asked.
Mr. Cataliades nodded in confirmation. “Yes. In a way, I’m the reason why he met your grandmother, Adele. The portal near your home is the closest to New Orleans—you know. And Fintan had come to this realm to visit me the first time he saw her.”
My eyes opened wide in surprise. “Really?”
He nodded. “Yes. Fintan is—was—the closest friend I ever had. A brother—really. You see—he was already estranged from Dermot when we met. And my own brother, Nargal, used to be less than enthusiastic about his part-human relatives. Of course, falling in love with a human woman changed all that for him,” he added with a humph. “Nargal and I are actually quite close now. Just last month, I took him fishing in the Gulf. It was quite an interesting excursion,” he recalled.
“Do you know why Fintan and Dermot fell out?” I asked, hoping to get Mr. Cataliades back on track.
“It had to do with Dermot’s beliefs at the time. He had said disparaging things about his and Finn’s human mother. Dermot hated that he was a half-breed. As for Finn? Well—he always believed that there was a good reason why he’d been born half and half. Of course—like I said—it wasn’t always easy for him. He loved Niall and served him faithfully throughout his life. In fact, the only thing he ever did against his father’s wishes was to hide your family from him. But—even as Finn did what he could to be the son his father wanted—he still felt drawn to the human realm: his mother’s realm. He desperately wanted to belong to both realms that had provided his blood.”
“At least, back then, he hated that he was half-human,” Mr. Cataliades conveyed. “He was convinced that the only way that he could make up for his deficiencies was to join with Breandan in eradicating all other human-fairy hybrids.”
“What about himself?” I asked, thinking of the uncle I’d just displaced from Gran’s house.
“Dermot planned—at one time—to take his own life once all other hybrids were destroyed,” the demon lawyer said.
“That’s so . . . .” I stopped, not really having a word to describe Dermot’s intentions.
“You are allowing Dermot to live here?” Desmond asked stiffly.
“I was. But not anymore. You don’t think he’s changed?” I asked him.
Desmond shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t give a fuck. In addition to everything else he did when he was one of Breandan’s disciples, Dermot tried to kill Finn more than once.”
“But he said that he had nothing to do with Fintan’s death—or the deaths of my parents,” I frowned.
The part-demon shook his head. “That doesn’t mean he didn’t try to kill his brother. He just didn’t succeed. And I cannot even begin to tell you of all the murders of hybrids Dermot perpetrated before he supposedly reformed,” he said angrily. He looked at me with a sympathetic smile. “You are of a forgiving nature. And that is a good thing. It is good that you have the heart to recognize that Dermot is most likely repentant. Supernatural lives are long, and if we didn’t get the chance to change . . . .” He paused. “Well—if we did not—it would be a bad thing for most of us.”
“Was Dermot truly that bad?” I asked in a quiet voice.
Desmond closed his eyes for a moment. “Dermot’s name once rivaled Neave and Lochlan’s when it came to cruelty.”
Desmond sighed. “Most Supernaturals have many skeletons in their closets. But—eventually—certain patterns form. Finn taught me that.”
“Patterns?” I asked.
“Patterns of good or evil,” he answered.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Take me, for instance,” he said. “I have killed many,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I don’t necessarily enjoy the act of killing, though there have been exceptions.”
“Jade Flower,” I whispered.
He smiled widely. “Yes—I enjoyed taking her life very much. But I had a good reason.”
“Gladiola,” I said.
“Yes. Similar to your Viking, I try to limit my killing to those who are in need of it, and I try to make sure my rationale is just.”
“Just?” I asked.
He nodded. “I don’t kill for ambition or selfishness. I kill to protect my family and friends.”
“Or to avenge them?” I asked with a little challenge in my tone.
“Yes. Or to avenge them. But I try not to kill those who simply have different ideals than mine—those whom I dislike,” he added. “And I don’t kill in corollary.”
“Huh?” I asked inelegantly. “Corollary” had never made it onto one of my word-a-day calendars.
“I don’t kill the relatives, friends, or associates of enemies,” he clarified. “And I don’t kill situational enemies.”
“Huh?” I asked again.
He smiled somewhat indulgently. “What I mean is that I work very hard not to blame those who are not actually responsible for a misdeed.”
He must have seen that I was still confused.
“For instance, Gladiola died while she was trying to deliver a message to you,” he said. “But her death wasn’t your fault.” He pointed toward the window. “The Weres out there are guarding you. If they died in that service, that wouldn’t be your fault either.”
We were silent for a few moments as I took in the part-demon’s words. They were more healing to me than he could have ever imagined.
“But you insinuated that you would kill Eric is he were actually going to be cruel to me,” I pointed out.
He nodded. “And that is the reason I began telling you the story I wanted to tell you,” he said.
“You’d better tell me the rest then,” I replied, “because I’m not getting it yet.”
He gave me a gentle smile. “More than forty years ago, Finn visited me with a huge smile on his face. Having been in love myself, I recognized the look. Finn told me all about Adele. He wanted her so badly, but she was married, so he hesitated to make love to her.”
“He did?” I asked, fascinated to finally be hearing details of Gran and Fintan’s story. In my mind, I’d always imagined Fintan being the aggressor.
“Yes. Adele was the love of his life—you see,” Desmond said softly. “But her husband, Mitchell, was the love of Adele’s life.”
I frowned. “That’s so sad,” I whispered.
“Finn determined to take what he could get. Mitchell couldn’t father children, so Adele agreed to an affair—but only after she got Mitchell’s permission.”
“Really?” I asked.
Desmond nodded. “Adele and Mitchell discussed the issue at length. And—finally—it was decided that Fintan and Adele would have sex.”
“And Fintan really loved her?” I asked.
Desmond nodded. “So desperately that he prayed she wouldn’t conceive right away.”
“I don’t know if I like this story,” I frowned, not wanting to think of Gran as a sexual being at all. I suppose all “kids” were that way.
The part-demon smiled. “It is an odd story—to be sure. But Finn never regretted Adele. He was proud of his children with her. He was proud of his grandchildren. But he loved Adele enough to know that haunting her life would damage it.” He paused for a moment. “Finn had the gift of mimicry and could take on the form of another.”
I thought for a moment of Preston Pardloe and shuddered.
“Mimicry,” I whispered.
“Yes. Finn sometimes took on the form of Mitchell so that he could spend time with your father and aunt and Adele.”
“Did he ever have sex with Gran that way?” I asked, a part of me not wanting to hear the answer.
“No,” Mr. Cataliades said immediately. “Finn wouldn’t do that.”
I sighed with relief.
“Why didn’t I ever hear about Fintan from Gran’s head?” I asked. Maybe I also hoped that Mr. Cataliades would tell me why she’d never told me about Fintan—why she’d never alleviated my own angst by telling me why I was “different.”
“Another of Finn’s gifts was a kind of glamour,” Mr. Cataliades said. “Finn glamoured Mitchell to forget about Adele’s infidelity. In fact, Mitchell truly believed that your father and aunt belonged to him.” He took a deep breath. “And eventually Finn glamoured Adele so that she didn’t have the ability to think about him when he wasn’t right in front of her or unless someone mentioned him.”
“Did Gran realize that Daddy and Aunt Linda weren’t her husband’s children?”
“Only when Finn was present. Or when someone spoke of him,” he said.
Suddenly, I felt overwhelming sadness for the fairy who’d loved my grandmother.
“You should know that when I spoke to Adele about Finn, she smiled,” Mr. Cataliades said. “In my presence, she was able to remember him with great love, but she felt great guilt, too.”
“I wish I would have known,” I said. “It would have helped to have known why I was so different. But Gran couldn’t tell me—right.”
“No,” he confirmed. “Most of the time, she simply didn’t remember Finn well enough to keep him in her mind.”
I thought about the magic that had kept me from remembering much about Preston. But then I realized that the analogy I was making between Gran’s experience and my own was a false one. It seemed that Gran had loved Fintan—at least in a way. And he’d certainly loved her. Her not remembering Fintan was tragic. My one night with Preston had been a magic-laced episode, based completely on manipulation. By contrast, Fintan had given Gran and Granddaddy the time and opportunity to make up their minds and had—only afterwards—hampered their memories.
I frowned. “How did Fintan cope with Gran not remembering him?” I asked.
“Honestly, he was quite altered after he stopped allowing himself visits to your grandmother and your father and aunt,” Mr. Cataliades said. “He loved them very much. But he was convinced that staying away would be safer for you all.”
“It wasn’t safer,” I whispered, thinking of my mother’s and father’s deaths.
“I know. And Finn knew too. He made many mistakes regarding his human family,” Desmond said weightily. “I tried to talk him out of some of them. But—in the end—he talked me into the worst of them.”
“What was that?” I asked, barely hearing my own voice.