Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(7)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(7)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"You don't eat. What will you do?"

"I'll introduce you and stay as long as you need me to."

A crowded restaurant should be all right. "Okay," I said, not very graciously. "I'll get off work about six or six thirty."

"I'll be there to pick you up at seven."

"Give me till seven thirty. I need to change." I knew I sounded grumpy, and that was exactly how I felt. I hated the big mystery around this meeting.

"You'll feel better when you see me," he said. Dammit, he was absolutely right.

Chapter 4

I checked my Word of the Day calendar while I was waiting for my hair-straightening iron to heat up. "Epicene." Huh.

Since I didn't know what restaurant we were going to, and I didn't know who we'd meet there, I picked my most comfortable option and wore a sky blue silk T-shirt that Amelia had said was too big for her, and some black dress slacks with black heels. I don't wear a lot of jewelry, so a gold chain and some little gold earrings did the decorating for me. I'd had a tough day at work, but I was too curious about the evening ahead to feel tired.

Eric was on time, and I felt (surprise) a rush of pleasure when I saw him. I don't think that was entirely due to the blood bond between us. I think any heterosexual woman would feel a rush of pleasure at the sight of Eric. He was a tall man and must have been seen as a giant in his time. He was built to swing a heavy sword to hew down his enemies. Eric's golden blond hair sprang back like a lion's mane from a bold forehead. There was nothing epicene about Eric, nothing ethereally beautiful, either. He was all male.

Eric bent to kiss me on the cheek. I felt warm and safe. This was the effect Eric had on me now that we'd swapped blood more than three times. The blood sharing hadn't been for pleasure but a necessity - at least I'd thought so - every time, but the price I paid was steep. We were bonded now, and when he was near, I was absurdly happy. I tried to enjoy the sensation, but knowing it wasn't completely natural made that hard to do.

Since Eric had come in his Corvette, I was extra glad I'd worn pants. Getting into and out of a Corvette modestly was a very difficult procedure if you were wearing a dress. I made small talk on the way to Shreveport, but Eric was uncharacteristically silent. I tried to question him about Jonathan, the mysterious vampire at the wedding, but Eric said, "We'll talk about that later. You haven't seen him again, have you?"

"No," I said. "Should I expect to?"

Eric shook his head. There was an uncomfortable pause. From the way he was gripping the wheel, I could tell that Eric was building up to saying something he didn't want to say.

"I'm glad for your sake that it appears Andre didn't survive the bombing," he said.

The queen's dearest child, Andre, had died in the bombing in Rhodes. But it hadn't been the bomb that had killed him. Quinn and I knew what had done the deed: a big splinter of wood that Quinn had driven into Andre's heart while the vampire lay disabled. Quinn had killed Andre for my sake, because he knew Andre had plans for me that made me sick with fear.

"I'm sure the queen will miss him," I said carefully.

Eric shot me a sharp glance. "The queen is distraught," he said. "And her healing will take months more. What I was beginning to say..." His voice trailed off.

This wasn't like Eric. "What?" I demanded.

"You saved my life," he said. I'd turned to look at him, but he was looking straight ahead at the road. "You saved my life, and Pam's, too."

I shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah, well." Miss Articulate. The silence lengthened until I felt I had to say something else. "We do have the blood tie thing going."

Eric didn't respond for a stretch of time. "That's not why you came to wake me, first of all, the day the hotel blew up," he said. "But we won't talk further about this now. You have a big evening ahead."

Yes, boss, I said snippily, but only to myself.

We were in a part of Shreveport I didn't know too well. It was definitely out of the main shopping area, with which I was fairly familiar. We were in a neighborhood where the houses were large and the lawns were groomed. The businesses were small and pricey... what retailers called "boutiques." We pulled into a group of such shops. It was arranged in an L, and the restaurant was at the rear of the L. It was called Les Deux Poissons. There were maybe eight cars parked there, and each one of them represented my yearly income. I looked down at my clothes, feeling suddenly uneasy.

"Don't worry, you're beautiful," Eric said quietly. He leaned over to unbuckle my seat belt (to my astonishment), and as he straightened he kissed me again, this time on the mouth. His bright blue eyes blazed out of his white face. He looked as if a whole story was on the tip of his tongue. But then he swallowed it back and unfolded himself from the car to walk around to my side to open the door for me. Maybe I wasn't the only one this blood bond worked on, huh?

From his tension I realized that some major event was coming at me fast, and I began to be afraid. Eric took my hand as we walked across to the restaurant, and he ran his thumb absently across my palm. I was surprised to find out there was a direct line from my palm to my, my, hootchie.

We stepped into the foyer, where there was a little fountain and a screen that blocked the view of the diners. The woman standing at the podium was beautiful and black, her hair shaved very close to her skull. She wore a draped dress of orange and brown and the highest heels I had ever seen. She might as well have been wearing toe shoes. I looked at her closely, and I sampled the signature of her brain, and I found she was human. She smiled brilliantly at Eric and had the sense to give me a share of that smile.

"A party of two?" she said.

"We're meeting someone," Eric said.

"Oh, the gentleman..."

"Yes."

"Right this way, please." Her smile replaced by a look almost of envy, she turned and walked gracefully into the depths of the restaurant. Eric gestured for me to follow her. The interior was fairly dark, and candles flickered on the tables, which were covered with snowy white cloths and elaborately folded napkins.

My eyes were on the hostess's back, so when she came to a halt, I didn't immediately recognize that she'd stopped at the table where we were to sit. She stepped aside. Seated facing me was the lovely man who'd been at the wedding two nights before.

The hostess spun on her high heel, touched the back of the chair to the man's right to indicate I should sit there, and told us our server would be with us. The man rose to pull out my chair and hold it for me. I glanced back at Eric. He gave me a reassuring nod. I slipped in front of the chair and the man pushed it forward with perfect timing.

Eric didn't sit. I wanted him to explain what was happening, but he didn't speak. He looked almost sad.

The beautiful man was looking at me intently. "Child," he said to get my attention. Then he pushed back his long, fine golden hair. None of the other diners were positioned to see what he was showing me.

His ear was pointed. He was a fairy.

I knew two other fairies. But they avoided vampires at all costs, because the smell of a fairy was as intoxicating to a vampire as honey is to a bear. According to a vampire who was particularly gifted in the scent sense, I had a trace of fairy blood.

"Okay," I said, to let him know the ears had registered.

"Sookie, this is Niall Brigant," Eric said. He pronounced it "Nye-all."

"He's going to talk to you over supper. I'll be outside if you need me." He inclined his head stiffly to the fairy and then he was gone.

I watched Eric walk away, and I was bowled over with a rush of anxiety. Then I felt a hand on top of my own. I turned to meet the eyes of the fairy.

"As he said, my name is Niall." His voice was light, sexless, resonant. His eyes were green, the deepest green you can imagine. In the flickering candlelight, the color hardly mattered - it was the depth you noticed. His hand on mine was light as a feather but very warm.

"Who are you?" I asked, and I wasn't asking him to repeat his name.

"I'm your great-grandfather," Niall Brigant said.

"Oh, shit," I said, and covered my mouth with my hand. "Sorry, I just..." I shook my head. "Great-grandpa?" I said, trying out the concept. Niall Brigant winced delicately. On a real man, the gesture would have looked effeminate, but on Niall it didn't.

Lots of kids in our neck of the woods call their grandfathers "Papaw." I'd love to see his reaction to that. The idea helped me recover my scattered sense of self.

"Please explain," I said very politely. The waiter came to inquire after our drink orders and recite the specials of the day. Niall ordered a bottle of wine and told him we would have the salmon. He did not consult me. High-handed.

The young man nodded vigorously. "Great choice," he said. He was a Were, and though I would have expected him to be curious about Niall (who after all was a supernatural being not often encountered), I seemed to be of more interest. I attributed that to the waiter's youth and my boobs.

See, here's the weird thing about meeting my self-proclaimed relative: I never doubted his truthfulness. This was my true great-grandfather, and the knowledge just clicked into place as if it fit into a puzzle.

"I'll tell you all about it," Niall said. Very slowly, telegraphing his intention, he leaned over to kiss my cheek. His mouth and eyes crinkled as his facial muscles moved to frame the kiss. The fine cobweb of wrinkles did not in any way detract from his beauty; he was like very old silk or a crackled painting by an ancient master.

This was a big night for getting kissed.

"When I was still young, perhaps five or six hundred years ago, I used to wander among the humans," Niall said. "And every now and then, as a male will, I'd see a human woman I found appealing."

I glanced around so I wouldn't be staring at him every second, and I noticed a strange thing: no one was looking at us but our waiter. I mean, not even a casual glance strayed our way. And no human brains in the room were even registering our presence. My great-grandfather paused while I did this, and resumed speaking when I'd finished evaluating the situation.

"I saw such a woman in the woods one day, and her name was Einin. She thought I was an angel." He was silent for a moment. "She was delicious," he said. "She was lively, and happy, and simple." Niall's eyes were fixed on my face. I wondered if he thought I was like Einin: simple. "I was young enough to be infatuated, young enough to be able to ignore the inevitable end of our connection as she aged and I did not. But Einin got pregnant, which was a shock. Fairies and humans don't crossbreed often. Einin gave birth to twins, which is quite common among the fae. Einin and both boys lived through the birthing, which in those times was far from certain. She called our older son Fintan. The second was Dermot."

The waiter brought our wine, and I was jerked out of the spell Niall's voice had laid on me. It was like we'd been sitting around a campfire in the woods listening to an ancient legend, and then snap! We were in a modern restaurant in Shreveport, Louisiana, and there were other people around who had no idea what was going on. I automatically lifted my glass and took a sip of wine. I felt I was entitled.

"Fintan the Half Fairy was your paternal grandfather, Sookie," Niall said.

"No. I know who my grandfather was." My voice was shaking a little, I noticed, but it was still very quiet. "My grandfather was Mitchell Stackhouse and he married Adele Hale. My father was Corbett Hale Stackhouse, and he and my mom died in a flash flood when I was a little girl. Then I was raised by my grandmother Adele." Though I remembered the vampire in Mississippi who'd told me he detected a trace of fairy blood in my veins, and I believed this was my great-grandfather, I just couldn't adjust my inner picture of my family.

"What was your grandmother like?" Niall asked.

"She raised me when she didn't have to," I said. "She took me and Jason into her home, and she worked hard to raise us right. We learned everything from her. She loved us. She had two children herself and buried them both, and that must have about killed her, but still she was strong for us."

"She was beautiful when she was young," Niall said. His green eyes lingered on my face as if he were trying to find some trace of her beauty in her granddaughter.

"I guess," I said uncertainly. You don't think about your grandmother in terms of beauty, at least in the normal way of things.

"I saw her after Fintan made her pregnant," Niall said. "She was lovely. Her husband had told her he could not give her children. He'd had mumps at the wrong time. That's a disease, isn't it?" I nodded. "She met Fintan one day when she was beating a rug out on the clothesline, in back of the house where you now live. He asked her for a drink of water. He was smitten on the spot. She wanted children so badly, and he promised her he could give them to her."

"You said fairies and people weren't usually fertile when they crossbreed."

"But Fintan was only half fairy. And he already knew that he was able to give a woman a child." Niall's mouth quirked. "The first woman he loved died in childbirth, but your grandmother and her son were more fortunate, and then two years later she was able to carry Fintan's daughter to completion."

"He raped her," I said, almost hoping it was so. My grandmother had been the most true-blue woman I'd ever met. I couldn't picture her cheating anyone out of anything, particularly since she'd promised in front of God to be faithful to my grandfather.

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