As Sookie watched Jason’s ongoing fight with the microphone—a fight that looked like would take a while and leave her brother as the loser—she thought back over the events that had occurred late that afternoon before the wedding. She and Eric had faced only a few minor threats to their safety during the last several years, and no situations had threatened their relationship, but all the disturbances that they had encountered shared the same important characteristic: she and her husband had functioned as partners to deal with them. That day, the situation swirling around John Quinn had been no different.
[The previous afternoon—before the wedding]
The Weretiger, of course, knew that Sookie was a telepath, and even as he was helping to place the candle holders that Eric had made―out of love and with his own hands―for their wedding, Quinn looked right at her from across the sanctuary and thought directly at her: “Babe, I know you don’t really want to go through with this wedding to the vamp, and I’m ready to get you and that boy of yours out of here if you let me. We could be happy together and make a life—have a real family—away from all this vampire shit. Say the word, babe. I have a car waiting outside, and I’ve borrowed a private jet from a friend. We could be gone before sunset.”
Sookie had been dumbfounded. Even as she her mouth was likely gaping open in shock at the brazenness of Quinn’s action and the nature of his words, she analyzed every interaction she’d ever had with the Weretiger. She could count them on her fingers, and most of them had been with Eric present. In fact, she’d never even been alone with Quinn and had talked with him very little.
Yes. She’d caught him looking at her a few times and thinking about how she was “hot” or how it would be nice if she was single. But those were innocent thoughts in her opinion, especially compared to many of the things she’d heard while waitressing at Merlotte’s. They’d not even merited a mention to her husband—mostly because she’d disregarded them the moment they’d fleeted from Quinn’s head. Heck—complete strangers thought worse things when she passed them on the street. And Quinn couldn’t even begin to compete with people like Mike Spenser; his thoughts were just plain nasty.
The “worst” thought that she’d ever “heard” from Quinn was a fantasy that she’d dump Eric for him. The main thing that had bothered her that time was that the fantasy was not fleeting. On the contrary, Quinn had dwelled upon his thoughts about her, and they were too detailed to be just one-time ideas, popping into his head at random. They had made Sookie uncomfortable. And she was no longer one to ignore her instincts.
That episode had occurred a month earlier at Fangtasia right after a meeting about the security for the wedding. Eric still conducted Area 5 business from Fangtasia every Sunday night since the bar was closed, and the meeting had taken place before Eric’s first scheduled appointment. Generally, such a meeting would have taken place on the ætt land, but since Quinn, Reverend Daniels, and several other Weres from Tray’s pack needed to attend, they’d decided to have it in Shreveport. The meeting had gone well, and everyone but Quinn, Henry, Duncan, Batanya, Claude, and Sookie had left as Pam and Eric went to his office to meet with a vampire who wanted to relocate from Oregon. Sookie was waiting for Eric to finish his business, and then Claude would “pop” the three of them home. Duncan, Batanya, Henry, and Pam were carpooling that evening since Eric’s docket was light.
Quinn had just sort of lingered, but Sookie had hardly noticed him as she and her “family” had settled in with some beers and bloods as they waited for Eric and Pam. Sookie hadn’t minded that the Weretiger had joined them. After all, before that night, though she’d found the Weretiger to be annoying, she’d also thought him to be completely innocuous—until his lingering thoughts about her, that is.
Feeling uneasy about Quinn’s fantasy, Sookie had decided that the best thing to do would be to nip that kind of thinking in the bud—or at least that had been her hope.
Sookie had called Quinn out on his fantasy—right in front of the others—because there was no way she was going to risk encouraging him by talking to him alone. She’d been nice, but firm, telling him that she understood that it was impossible to control one’s thoughts at times, but that he needed to understand that what he was thinking about was never going to happen and that it made her uncomfortable.
Quinn had apologized and had even asked Sookie if she would prefer it if he left. She had agreed that would be best, and—to his credit—Quinn had risen to go immediately.
Of course, Eric’s ears had picked up on the whole confrontation; plus, he’d felt Sookie’s discomfort and resolution in the bond.
Henry had gone outside with Quinn, saying the he needed to talk to him for a few more minutes about the security plan, but Sookie figured that Henry was going to warn Quinn off of her. To be honest, Sookie didn’t mind that at all. Later, once Eric and she were home, Eric told her that he’d also “seen Quinn off” that night after reminding him who Sookie belonged to. Sookie was well past getting upset over Eric’s declarations of “ownership,” especially as they pertained to the supernatural world. Plus, he was only speaking the truth. She did belong to him, but she “owned” him just as much.
That had seemed to be the end of things regarding John Quinn—at least until he thought his ridiculous notions right at her.
Sookie was still mystified as she tried to figure out where in the hell Quinn could have come up with the idea that she wanted to escape a life that made her happier than any other she could imagine. His previous little fantasy had made her feel a little uncomfortable, but his current level of delusion unnerved her. The last thing that she and Eric needed in their lives was “crazy.” She was pretty sure that Russell Edgington was enough to fill anyone’s “crazy” quota for an eternity, but they’d also had to deal with Marnie, Debbie Pelt, Bill Compton, Mab, and Hallow—not to mention Rene Lenier and all the Steve Newlins of the world.
Sookie stretched out her telepathy to enter Quinn’s mind so that she could find out the scope of his plans. They were rather extensive and included her eventually becoming a “nice little wife” to him. Hell—he even had her baking an apple pie in one of his fantasies.
The only thing that stopped Sookie from marching right over to Quinn and blasting him to hell with her fairy magic was the fact that he didn’t plan to act on his fantasies unless she asked him to. He wasn’t going to try to force her to leave. In fact, he’d actually deluded himself into thinking that she wanted the escape he offered.
She shook her head in disbelief as she probed into his mind further.
Quinn sincerely thought she’d somehow been forced into her life with Eric, just as he’d been forced to work for de Castro. He didn’t think it was plausible that a human (he had no idea that she was part Fae) would choose to be involved with a vampire as Sookie was involved with Eric—that is, unless the human was a glamoured fangbanger. He also couldn’t fathom why Sookie would “allow” Eric to be so close to Hunter.
To be fair, Quinn thought that Eric was better than most vampires and was glad to work for him. He even appreciated Eric for making sure his mother and sister were cared for, though he figured that Sookie—and not the vampire—was at the root of that generosity. In the fantasy Quinn had built inside his mind, he’d come to believe that Sookie cared for him. And the Weretiger had become more and more fixated on her since the battle with Russell’s Weres.
Quinn truly believed that Sookie wanted to come to him but that Eric kept her surrounded by people all the time so that she couldn’t seek her freedom. He actually thought that their “encounter” at Fangtasia proved this. So he’d begun planning how to get her and Hunter away from Eric that very night. In fact, in Quinn’s mind, he felt that his willingness to account for Hunter was “generous” since the boy was not a Were and had been—according to the Weretiger’s perspective—“tainted by his exposure to vamps.”
Simply put, Quinn thought that Sookie’s whole life was a lie; he couldn’t fathom that there was any real love between Eric and her, and he imagined that their relationship was all a carefully orchestrated act—masterminded by the AVL and Eric—for the cameras. In short, Quinn had become clearly and completely delusional.
Once her shock at Quinn’s thoughts moved to anger, Sookie firmly shook her head “No” in his direction. She was grateful that―though seemingly trapped in his fantasies―Quinn did not plan to act on his impulses. His creepy purple eyes showed his surprise and disappointment over her reaction.
“Hey, Sook, you gonna add the lavender to those, or do you want me to do it?” Tara asked, bringing Sookie out of her thoughts.
Lafayette looked at her with a smile. “Hooker—are you’s thinkin’ ‘bout that little plan you’s been cookin’ up with Jesus and Batanya?” he asked her knowingly. “Don’t think I don’t know somethin’s up there.”
Sookie chuckled a little and shook her head. She wished that was what she was contemplating in that moment. She turned her attention back to the flower arrangements she and her oldest friends were putting together. She inhaled the lavender fragrance, grateful for its calming effect. However, even as she began to work on placing the beautiful flowers into the vases again, Sookie was really focused on figuring out what to do about Quinn. She didn’t even consider not telling Eric about the Weretiger’s behavior; the only question in her mind was when to tell him and what to do until then.
She was conflicted. Call her selfish—but she didn’t want a big confrontation on her wedding day, especially not one that involved someone’s death. In truth, Sookie didn’t want Quinn to die because of his thoughts, but she knew that killing the Weretiger would be her vampire mate’s first impulse. And she couldn’t fault Eric for that. There was no denying that Quinn’s actions were a grave offense in the supernatural world.
But—again, selfishly—she didn’t want to think of her mate killing Quinn on their wedding day. And there were also Frannie and Quinn’s mother to consider. Frannie and Sookie were on their way to becoming good friends, and Quinn’s mother was doing very well in the program Dr. Ludwig had designed for her. In fact, Mrs. Quinn now worked for the florist who supplied them with the very flowers she was holding in her hands. She knew that Quinn’s death would hurt them both.
Sookie had just decided that waiting a day to tell Eric might be the best thing for everyone when she heard another thought coming straight to her from Quinn’s head.
“Babe, if it’s your blood tie with the vamp that you’re worried about—don’t. There’s a witch waiting on the plane, and she can break the tie—get rid of all his blood in your system. Just excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, and I’ll meet you in there. Then, we can figure out how to get your son and leave before those watchdogs the vamp has shadowing him know anything about it.”
Sookie immediately felt her hands warm with the power of her light. By threatening her bond with Eric—even though he mistakenly thought it was only a tie—Quinn had inadvertently riled the most innate part of her, the part that would protect her connection with her mate from any threat. Sookie had to take several deep calming breaths so that she didn’t kill Quinn herself. Once composed, she sighed, knowing that she couldn’t let Quinn’s behavior stand for one moment longer.
However, just as she excused herself from Lafayette and Tara in order to confront Quinn, Hunter walked into the sanctuary, his eyes radiating a look of intense possessiveness. In that moment, Sookie knew three things with certainty. First, Hunter had heard Quinn’s thoughts. Second, he was absolutely—as in one hundred percent—Eric Northman’s son. Third, come what may—she would have to tell Eric about Quinn’s behavior as soon as she felt him rise because there was no way in hell that she was going to ask Hunter to hide anything from his daddy—not even for a day.
By directing his thoughts at her and planning to take her away from her pledged mate, Quinn had―most definitely―made his own bed, and Sookie was certain that he’d soon find it extremely uncomfortable to lie in. But she didn’t really care about Quinn in that moment. Her thoughts were only on Hunter.
Thankfully, her son’s mind held no doubts about the love between his parents. What it did hold was anger toward Quinn. Desiring only to protect his mother from the individual who wanted to steal them away from his daddy, Hunter marched straight over to Quinn, his eyes burning into the Weretiger. His stance looked like a carbon copy of his father’s; however, instead of the blue fire that would have been in Eric’s eyes, Hunter’s burned a tawny bronze. He was followed closely by Breeta and Batanya, but the two Britlingens had obviously been “ordered” to let Hunter take the lead. It was a sign of the affection and respect they held for her child that they had willingly obeyed.
Sookie knew that they were both ready to kill Quinn if he made a move against Hunter. Of course, they’d have to stand in fucking line—right behind her. Like a mother lion, Sookie moved closer to her son, but she was determined to let him do what he needed to do.
Her brave ten-year-old silently stared down the huge Weretiger for at least two minutes without saying a single word. She could tell by Quinn’s mind that he didn’t quite know what to make of Hunter’s actions, but finally the Weretiger turned away from his gaze.
“Mr. Quinn,” Hunter said coldly in a tone that even Eric would be envious of, “My daddy and my mamma are gettin’ married tonight. If you don’t like that, you will leave now.”
His tone had been forceful, and his eyes became even stormier when it looked like Quinn was about to speak.
Sookie spoke before the Weretiger could. “Do your work, Mr. Quinn, or leave—just like my son said. I do not want you looking at me. And,” she added significantly, “I don’t want you thinking about me either.”
Sookie felt nothing but pride as she took in her child. Indeed, he was definitely Eric Northman’s son, but she knew that she was in there too. After all, if Hunter was all Eric, Quinn would be dead by now. Quinn seemed oblivious to that fact, but Sookie knew that, with one word from Hunter, Batanya would have killed Quinn.
Hunter took his mamma’s hand and led her back to where she’d been working on the flowers. Lafayette and Tara, clueless about what had just happened, had finished up the arrangements and were laughing about their own weddings.
Hunter had obviously decided to be Sookie’s personal sentry, but she didn’t mind. She bent down to give him a kiss on his forehead. She couldn’t help but to smile at her little man. He’d managed to intimidate a 200-plus pound Weretiger.
“I’m so proud of you Hunter,” she said to him telepathically. “Thank you for protecting me like you did.”
Hunter swelled up with pride a little, but then a concerned look overtook his face. “I didn’t like what he was thinkin’, Mamma,” he responded telepathically. “But I especially didn’t like that he made you upset.”
Sookie hugged him. “He only made me upset when he thought that I would want to break my bond with your daddy. I love you and your daddy more than anything, Hunt. You know that nothing Quinn was thinking was true—right sweetie?”
Hunter rolled his eyes and answered out loud. “I know that!” He continued telepathically, “But I don’t like him. He’s still thinkin’ about you.” Hunter glared at Quinn, whose back was turned to them. “He doesn’t like Daddy. And he doesn’t think you love Daddy.”
Just then, Henry came up to them.
“Sook, can I talk to you for a minute?” the Werewolf asked. Henry gave the still very protective Hunter a little wink. “Just for a minute, Hunt?”
Slowly, Hunter nodded.
Sookie kissed her son’s forehead. “Why don’t you get a snack with Breeta, Tara, and Lala? Batanya can stay with me.” She smiled at her son and winked conspiratorially at him. She continued telepathically, “If Quinn tries anything, she will beat him up for me. Plus, you need to finish your pictures for the pews—right?”
Warily, Hunter nodded again and then gave Batanya a significant look. The Britlingen nodded in understanding as Hunter’s eyes shifted quickly to Quinn and then back to Sookie.
As soon as Hunter had left the sanctuary, Henry led Sookie into a side room so that they could speak privately. Batanya took up a position right outside the door.
“What did Quinn do?” Henry asked, his expression grim.
Sookie exhaled loudly. “He thought some things—thought them right at me.” She paused as Henry motioned for her to go on. “With his thoughts, Quinn told me that he wanted to help me escape from Eric. He’s even got an airplane waiting, and there’s a witch on it ready to break my ‘blood tie.’” She used air quotes around the last part of her sentence. “He wants to take Hunter too and thinks we can become a ‘happy family.’”
Henry growled. “Then what the fuck is he still doing here?” He moved toward the door.
“Henry!” Sookie stopped him with her tone. “Quinn’s a little delusional, but he’s not dangerous. I made sure of that. Otherwise, don’t you think I would have blasted him to Timbuktu by now?”
Henry turned around to face her again; his expression had darkened. “Hunter heard his thoughts too, didn’t he?” Henry observed more than asked. As a part of the family, Henry had long known about Hunter’s telepathy. “That is why he confronted Quinn like he did?” he added.
“Yes,” Sookie confirmed, unable to hide her motherly pride. “He was something else, wasn’t he?”
Henry’s expression turned to pride as well. Everyone at the ætt land thought of Hunter as his or her own in one way or another, and Henry was no exception. “He is Eric’s son,” he said, his tone laden with obvious respect for both father and son.
“He’s mine too,” Sookie laughed.
Henry chuckled as well. “Very true.”
“But you’re right. He did look like Eric out there.”
Henry’s eyes narrowed. “Other than Tara’s, your friendship is the most valuable I have.”
“Your friendship means a lot to me too,” Sookie said. She was a little surprised by the uncharacteristic emotion in Henry’s tone.
“You saved me from myself and my pain,” he said. “You taught me that I should only obey orders from leaders who deserved to be obeyed.”
Sookie didn’t know what to say. Over the years, Henry and she hadn’t talked much about his association with Russell or his past addiction to V. Not long after the war with Russell and his Weres, she’d been honest with him about the way she’d entered and manipulated his mind, and—to her great relief—he’d forgiven her for that, but she still felt some guilt and unease over having done it. Henry had made it clear that he felt that the ends justified the means in his situation, but Sookie still wasn’t comfortable with the fact that she could control people’s minds—especially to the degree to which she’d influenced change within Henry. She felt—on some level—like she’d taken away her friend’s choices.
“Because of you, I’m a doctor. Because of you, I met the woman I love more than my life. Because of you, I am alive,” Henry said passionately.
“You’re a good man, Henry,” Sookie said quietly. “You deserve to be happy.”
“I didn’t always think so, Sookie, but I do now, and that is because of the life you helped me to find.”
“I’m glad,” she said.
“I would be happy to kill the tiger if you want me to, Sookie,” Henry offered, his tone serious. “The way he looks at you when Eric is not present has made me wish to seek his pelt for a while now.”
Seeing the yellow glow in her friend’s eyes, Sookie took in a sharp breath. She was not naïve; she knew that Henry would kill Quinn without a second thought if she asked him to, but to hear it out loud made her feel more grateful than ever for him.
When Sookie didn’t say anything, Henry took a deep breath. “Did you know that Eric glamoured Lettie Mae?”
Sookie shook her head. “No―but I’m not surprised.”
“She upset Tara when we went to Merlotte’s about a month ago,” Henry said in a quiet voice. “I wanted to kill her, but I knew that Tara wouldn’t want that.”
“So Eric glamoured her?”
Henry nodded. “Lettie Mae’s not gonna suddenly become mother of the year; that’s the last thing Tara needs, but she’s also not gonna feel the need to confront my wife.” His voice was hard. “Not ever again.”
“Does Tara know?” Sookie asked.
Henry sighed. “No. She’ll be more content thinking that her mom has—perhaps—become a better person and is just gonna leave us alone from now on.”
“You asked Eric to do this?”
“I did,” Henry confirmed. “I would do anything for Tara. And Eric is a good friend to her, so I knew he would help.”
“And you are a good friend to me,” Sookie stated.
“Yes—so I will help you now if you need me to.” He sighed and ran his hand through his short red hair. “You would not want Eric to have to kill on your wedding day, but Quinn is making it difficult for him not to.”
“I don’t think Quinn should die for his thoughts—even if they are delusional,” she said contemplatively. “He’s not ready or willing to act on his impulses.”
“Maybe not.” Henry looked at her closely. “But there’s only one way I see him living through the night.”
Sookie closed her eyes for a moment. Even though she hated the implied suggestion in Henry’s words, she couldn’t help but to agree with his assessment of the situation. But could she do it?