Hunter felt something—like a twitch in his heart―and he looked at Niall with inquisitiveness. “What’s that, Grandpa?” he asked the elder fairy.
Niall smiled at the fact that Hunter had begun calling him “Grandpa” after only knowing him for about an hour. The boy had spent his first half hour doing what Niall liked to call, “dipping”; almost all fairy children did it, but most were not nearly as skillful or sneaky at it was Hunter was. He had dipped into Claude’s thoughts first, clearly more comfortable with Claude than Hadley or himself. Claude had quickly picked up on Hunter’s “dipping” and had obviously been both surprised by and proud of the boy’s skill level.
After that initial “secret” dip, Hunter had initiated a telepathic conversation with Claude. His son and his great-great grandson had “talked” for a while, mostly about little things, like what Hunter enjoyed doing during his days. Niall had been proud to notice that Hunter could carry on a verbal conversation with Hadley about a similar topic, even while talking to Claude in his head. It spoke to the suppleness of the boy’s mind.
Niall smiled again—even more proudly. Hunter had next turned his thoughts to him and had begun poking around in his head subtly. With more development, Niall was certain the boy would be able to sneak into others’ thoughts without them knowing it. Hunter also seemed to be talented enough to get through some simple shields that Niall had been testing him with.
However, Niall allowed Hunter to poke around relatively freely, without alerting the boy that he was aware of his presence.
Niall let Hunter see everything he was looking for—as long as it wouldn’t be too painful for him. Hunter was looking for information about whether his mommy was happy, and Niall showed him that she was. He showed him her friendships with Claude, Martha, and Katherine. He showed him her happiness as she worked on her quilting. He also showed him how she would look into the pool with love her eyes when she was watching him through it.
But when Hunter tried to find out information about how his mommy had been sick, Niall did not let him through his shields. He showed him nothing about how Hadley was in the days immediately following Joren’s attack on her. He did not show him her struggles to deal with the rape, the regained memories of her Uncle Bartlett’s molestation of her, or her ambivalent thoughts about Hunter himself.
Hunter had then probed into Niall’s motives, though the boy had simply thought of it as making sure that “Niall was nice.”
Satisfied, Hunter had begun referring to him as Grandpa almost immediately after his little investigation.
Hunter had—as of yet—not gone looking into his mother’s thoughts. Niall could read that the boy was frightened by what he might find there. Niall was certain that he’d find nothing as hurtful as had been there before, but there were still things he ought not to hear—things Hadley was still working out for herself. So—if Hunter did go digging, Niall was resolved to keep him out.
That would, however, be a bit harder than he had anticipated given Hunter’s skill set and precociousness. He was certainly his father’s son.
Yes—the little boy was exceeding all of Niall’s expectations, and he found himself delighting in his great-great grandson’s presence.
“What was that?” Hunter asked again, breaking Niall from his musings.
Hadley looked up from the game they were playing with confusion, having not felt anything. “What was what, Hunter?” she asked.
Niall chuckled and answered Hadley, “Hunter―I suspect―is feeling some magic. There’s quite a bit floating around.” He winked at Hunter.
“What magic?” the boy asked, sitting up straighter.
Niall took some information from Hunter’s head so that he could figure out how to appropriately explain what was happening between his father and Sookie. He was pleased to see that young Eric had told Hunter much about his bonds with Sookie. He smiled at his great-great grandson. “Your father has told you of the bonds he has with your Aunt Sookie—has he not?”
“Uh-huh,” Hunter said with interest. “They have two bonds—one vampire and one fairy.”
Niall nodded. “That’s right. The magic in the air right now is telling us that their bonds are getting stronger. In fact, I have a feeling that they are going to get a whole lot stronger in a little while. What we are sensing right now is just the beginning.”
“But how can we feel it? And how do you know it’s gonna get bigger?” Hunter asked.
Claude answered, “Hunt, fairies are often able to feel the magic around them, and the magic here is building.”
Hunter looked at the little enclosure which was currently housing his father. He nodded and smiled, his eyes full of love. “I think I can feel it too.”
Claude nodded. “I’m sure you can, Hunt.”
“Daddy loves Aunt Sookie lots, so he’s gonna be so happy when their bonds get lots stronger.” Hunter spoke proudly. “He keeps her picture next to him when he sleeps.” He looked up at Claude, “Uncle Claude, did you know that I gave Daddy a picture of him and me for Christmas, and he put it right next to that one?”
Claude shook his head and smiled. “I did not, but I know that if I had a son such as you, I would feel proud of such a gift.”
Hunter smiled even wider and looked back at his daddy’s temporary residence. “When Aunt Sookie and Daddy’s bond was sick, Daddy worked so hard to make it better that he got sick too, but he’s just fine now. And he helped Aunt Sookie feel better too!”
Niall smiled. “Yes—your daddy definitely loves your Aunt Sookie very much. He saved her life.”
“Yep!” Hunter said proudly. “My daddy is the coolest daddy ever, even though Jarod is a good daddy too, and so is Sam. Terry is too. But I got the best one!”
He grinned at both Niall and Claude and then refocused on the game for a few minutes.
Soon, however, Niall could feel that Hunter was beginning to stretch out his mind timorously, searching for his mother’s thoughts about him.