Sookie stretched out her telepathy to find Quinn’s thoughts again. The Weretiger was certain that she wouldn’t tell a soul about what he had thought at her. Thus, he wasn’t concerned about repercussions from Eric. In fact, he’d brazenly gone back to work as if nothing had happened. He was even contemplating ways to get her alone before the ceremony so that he could once more try to convince her to leave with him.
However, the confrontation with Hunter had troubled Quinn, and he was trying to figure out what had caused Hunter’s reaction to him. He was down to three theories. First, he thought that the child might be picking up on what Quinn thought of as the “undeniable attraction” between Sookie and himself. She shook her head at the depth of his delusions. Second, Quinn thought that Hunter might have heard Sookie saying complimentary things about him, thus creating a reason for Hunter to feel insecure about his parents’ relationship. Third, and most troubling, Quinn was beginning to wonder if Hunter might be a telepath too.
Henry interrupted her thoughts. “I know that you hate doing what you did inside my mind, Sook, but you healed me. I was sick, and you healed me.”
“I manipulated you,” she said with apology in her voice. “I changed your thoughts, Henry—changed you.”
“Maybe,” Henry said. “But you also saved my life, Sook. I was so lost in myself and my pain that I thought working for Russell was one of the best things that had ever happened to me.” The Werewolf shook his head. “I didn’t even recognize the fact that the promise of an endless supply of V had caused me to blindly follow a sociopath.” He shook his head again. “I knew from the way he’d killed that newscaster that Russell was crazy, but I didn’t care. I knew he had someone down in that basement—torturing him—but I didn’t care. I knew he was setting a trap for someone—you—but I didn’t care. All I cared about was making sure I had enough V so that I wouldn’t feel the pain left in me after the war.”
“You were ill, Henry,” Sookie said, putting her hand onto her friend’s. “I’m sorry I had to manipulate your brain the way I did, but you deserved your second chance.”
“I’ll never be sorry you did it, Sook,” Henry said quietly. “Quinn is a prick, but he is useful at times and not altogether bad, but if he is delusional, then he has to be dealt with—right now,” Henry said with intensity in his voice.
“I’m sure he’s not a threat to me,” Sookie insisted.
“Maybe not yet,” Henry sighed. “But if his delusions continue to fester, that might change.”
Sookie sighed resignedly, “I know you’re right. The changes in his mind in just the last few months have been,” she paused, “big. And he’s starting to suspect that Hunter might be a telepath.”
“I don’t want Hunter to have to be concerned with such things,” Henry said quietly. “And you know that the boy will need to speak to his father about this—before the wedding.”
“I know,” she agreed.
There was a moment of silence between the two of them.
“I was there when Eric warned Quinn that any further attentions toward you would be met with his death,” Henry reported.
Sookie nodded. “I know. Eric told me about it.”
“Then you know that Eric has given Quinn a more than fair chance to curb his behavior.”
“It is difficult to stop one’s thoughts, Henry,” Sookie defended.
“From what you’ve said, Quinn’s thoughts were not random or offhand. They were premeditated. He made plans to take you away. And he thought right at you,” Henry emphasized. “And—those things—Eric will find unacceptable.”
“I find them unacceptable too.” Sookie sighed. “Still—I don’t want Quinn to have to die for them. As much as I dislike him personally, I don’t want anyone to die—not because of me.” She whispered, “No one else.”
Henry knew that there was deeper pain behind his friend’s words, but he didn’t ask about it. He knew that she’d tell him if she needed to.
He lightened his tone a bit. “Then, it would be better if the problem were already solved before Eric wakes up.” Henry smirked slightly. “And since you do not wish for me to kill the Weretiger, it’s up to you to solve it, or Eric will—as is his right, his duty, according to supernatural law.”
Henry patted her hand sympathetically and left her with a decision to make, but it didn’t take her long to make it. Given Quinn’s delusions and what he was suspecting about Hunter, Sookie knew what she had to do. She literally held John Quinn’s life in her hands. And—if he was to have a chance at living—she would have to manipulate the Weretiger’s mind. A lot.
So Sookie used her mind-trick on Quinn. She made sure that the Weretiger no longer found her attractive. Plus, she erased all of Quinn’s suspicions about Hunter and his animosities toward vampires.
However, Sookie knew that wasn’t enough; the Weretiger’s fantasies had run too deep, and Sookie didn’t want to risk him developing a fixation on her—or anyone else, for that matter—again. So she had to change his very way of thinking, which was something she was loathe to do. But she did it anyway.
She found that his fantasies about her stemmed from his relationship with his mother. Quinn felt incredible guilt that his mother had been attacked and raped. He felt ashamed that he hadn’t been with her when she was attacked; that night, he’d wanted to shift and run with his friends―not his mother―so she’d been all alone. He also felt guilty about the fact that part of him hated Frannie because she was a constant reminder of his mother’s rape and his own failures. He had nightmares about his mother’s attackers, trying to remember their faces as he’d killed them—trying to pick out the one that looked like Frannie.
After he’d taken his revenge on his mother’s rapists, Quinn had basically given up his life and freedom to de Castro to try to make things right—to finally keep his family safe―but he felt that he’d failed at that too. The fact that it had taken a vampire’s mercy—Eric’s mercy—to finally get his mother the help she needed festered away at his subconscious mind.
Sookie realized that Quinn had what a psychologist might call the hero syndrome. He wanted to be the hero—to swoop in and save someone. He’d created his fantasy about Sookie being held by Eric against her will because he wanted to cast himself as her savior. And if he could save her from a vampire? Well—that would be all the better.
As she worked in his brain, Sookie realized that Quinn really was mentally scarred—not crazy―but damaged horribly by what had happened to his mother. She felt sorry for him. So she did what she’d done with Henry. She patched and healed the rips in Quinn’s psyche.
Certainly the end result of her work would likely be enough to keep Quinn alive—to give him a better life even—but she was still tampering with his choices and free will. And Sookie didn’t particularly like herself for doing it.
Her work finished, she let herself cry.
Eric was pulled from his day-rest early as he sensed Sookie’s conflict and sadness; immediately, he sent her a burst of his strength.
Her phone was ringing before she’d even had a chance to process that he’d awoken. In tears, she told him what Quinn had thought, what Hunter had “overheard,” how their son had reacted, and what actions she’d undertaken to alter Quinn’s mind.
“Are you alright, min kära?” Eric asked gently, knowing that his wife hated using her mind-ability to alter people.
“I’m okay now,” Sookie sighed, comforted by her mate’s strength. She knew that she’d done the right thing, but feeling her mate’s support made all the difference.
After he was certain that she was, indeed, okay through their bond, Sookie felt Eric’s anger at Quinn’s actions rising. She also felt his pride in Hunter, his pride in her, and then his contemplation. Knowing her mate as she did, Sookie waited without a word as Eric decided what to do about the Quinn situation.
She didn’t try to beg him to spare the Weretiger’s life. The way she figured it, Eric would accept her solution, add to it, or kill John Quinn. And whether it made her a bad person or not, Sookie was willing to let Eric make the final decision regarding Quinn’s fate. Had Hunter not overheard Quinn, it might have been different. Had Quinn not thought directly at her more than once, it might have been different. Had Quinn not ignored Eric’s warning, it might have been different.
The fact of the matter was that Hunter had heard Quinn’s thoughts about taking Sookie away, and though Hunter was confident that the Weretiger would not succeed, he was still afraid of losing his mamma. And his fears were understandable. After all, Hunter and Eric had lost her once before—for almost two years. It was only natural for her son to have some fears after that.
Plus, when it all came down to it, Sookie had intense faith in her mate and knew he would do what was best for their family. So Sookie waited the two minutes of silence that it took for Eric to decide whether John Quinn needed to die or not, trusting in his thousand years and his experience with supernatural protocols—trusting in his fairness.
“His mind will never again think on you?” Eric asked in an even tone.
“Never,” she confirmed.
“And you have healed that which pushed him to think such things?”
“Yes,” she sighed. “I hated using my gift to manipulate him, but Henry convinced me to do it. He also offered to kill Quinn for us.”
“Remind me to buy him a beer.”
They both chuckled a little.
There was a pause.
“But you do not want the Weretiger dead,” Eric stated flatly.
“Frankly,” she answered, “I don’t care what happens to him. I feel sorry for what he’s had to go through, but I’ve never liked him. Despite his thoughts, however, he was never a real threat to us. I would have been able to easily stop him had he tried to force me away from you, but—to his credit—he is fundamentally opposed to doing that kind of thing. He was simply delusional and mentally scarred.”
“But not anymore?” Eric asked.
“No. Not anymore.”
“He thought things directly at you, min kära,” Eric said as anger pulsed through their bond. “I do not like that he tried to use your gift like that.”
“Me neither,” she said. “The fact that he upset Hunter is what upset me the most though.”
Eric sighed. “I understand that men—and maybe some women—will find you desirable during our long lives together. After all, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. But his trying to invade you like that,” his voice caught.
“I know,” she interrupted him. “His behavior went too far.”
There was more silence. In truth, Sookie didn’t think Eric would kill Quinn—not when he was now a non-issue—but she would love her mate no matter what, accept him no matter what.
“I love you with my whole being,” Eric finally said, not surprising her with his words, but with the timing of them.
“I love you, Eric,” she answered.
“Pam will once more be disappointed not to have a tiger rug,” Eric said with mirth in his voice. Sookie didn’t need to hear his emotion though. She could feel him clearly in the bond even though he was still at the ætt land and she was in Shreveport. He had calmed. Quinn would live.
“Do you have to tell Pam?” Sookie asked, her own tone more relaxed now.
“To toy with her—yes,” he commented. “I will have to tell her.”
She chuckled and then became serious. “Quinn’s mind changed or not, he’s upset Hunter, so we will not be seeing him again after today—not Hunter and not me.”
“No,” Eric agreed, “you will not. He will not be in the same area as our son after he finishes his duties tonight at the church.”
“Why not send him away now?” Sookie asked. “Henry is more than capable of handling security without him, and I’ve already influenced Quinn to send Frannie to the reception tonight.”
“I want Hunter to have a chance to ‘hear’ the change in Quinn’s mind before the Weretiger is sent away. I want him to be assured that Quinn is no longer someone to be concerned about. And I want to be there with Hunter in person to make sure he understands that.”
“That’s a good idea,” Sookie agreed.
“So I assume you’ve had Henry take control of Quinn’s part of the security team?”
“I didn’t need to,” Sookie reported. “From Henry’s mind, I picked up that he has things well in hand for the ceremony, and he’s also sending people to make sure the witch isn’t a threat.”
“Remind me to buy Henry two beers,” he said.
Again, they both chuckled.
“You are an amazing partner to me, Sookie,” Eric said in an intense, quiet voice. The feelings from him in their bond radiated with pride. “I will call Hunter as soon as I hang up with you, and I will be there as soon as the sun sets. I’ll ask Niall to ‘pop’ me over so that I can speak to Hunter in person for a while before we must get ready.”
“That’ll be good. But don’t forget that we can’t see each other,” she teased.
He chuckled. “Pam has warned me many times. But I am anxious to feel you closer. And I want to see our son.”
“He was wonderful today—with Quinn,” she informed.
“I will make sure he knows that I know it,” Eric said.
There was another minute of silence between them as he listened to her breathing and they both enjoyed the love flowing through the bond.
“The next time I see you, I will be coming down the aisle to you,” she said.
“I will be waiting,” he assured before they both hung up.
Sookie was taken out of her memories of that afternoon as Jason once more thumped the microphone; he was now looking helplessly at Frannie.
“I heard you spoke to Quinn when you arrived at the church?” Sookie asked, as Jason still seemed mystified by the simple piece of equipment.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed.
“Checking my work?” Sookie asked with a smirk.
“No,” Eric explained. “I simply tasked him with providing security for Thalia’s new casino in Vegas.”
“And did he resist the idea of relocating?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye. She knew that he wouldn’t have.
Eric looked at her with a smirk of his own. “No. Apparently, he still has many friends in Vegas. He said that he’d been thinking all afternoon about returning there now that his mother and sister are set up so comfortably here.”
“Funny coincidence,” Sookie said with feigned nonchalance.
Eric bent down and kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Funny indeed.”
“Will Area 5 lose very much income once he’s gone?” she asked.
Eric shook his head. “No. Frannie Quinn became engaged to a local Were last week. Do you remember Tray’s nephew?”
“The one Jessica bit at Fangtasia?”
“The same. He has turned out quite well, and,” Eric paused, “since it is a good investment, I believe we should help them buy out Quinn’s half of their company so that it will stay headquartered here.”
“Hmmm,” Sookie pondered. “It seems to me like you might have already been planning to ‘relocate’ Quinn.”
Eric looked at her innocently. “I may have had it in mind since what happened at Fangtasia.
“I do like Frannie,” Sookie said, changing the subject.
“Yes. She is a good asset to the area—better than Quinn himself, I dare say.” He paused. “And Frannie will soon be part of Tray’s family. Plus,” he motioned to a still struggling Jason, “she seems essential in helping yours.”
Frannie had now joined Jason on the little stage and was actually holding the microphone for him.
“He’s officially your family too now,” Sookie reminded.
Eric rolled his eyes even as he grinned brightly—appreciatively.