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

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

"No, he did not. She wanted children, though she didn't want to be unfaithful to her husband. Fintan didn't care about the feelings of others, and he wanted her desperately," Niall said. "But he was never violent. He would not have raped her. However, my son could talk a woman into anything, even into something against her moral judgment... And if she was very beautiful, so was he."

I tried to see the woman she must have been, in the grandmother I'd known. And I just couldn't.

"What was your father like, my grandson?" Niall asked.

"He was a handsome guy," I said. "He was a hard worker. He was a good dad."

Niall smiled slightly. "How did your mother feel about him?" That question cut sharply into my warm memories of my father. "She, ah, she was really devoted to him." Maybe at the expense of her children.

"She was obsessed?" Niall's voice was not judgmental but certain, as if he knew my answer.

"Real possessive," I admitted. "Though I was only seven when they died, even I could see that. I guess I thought it was normal. She really wanted to give him all her attention. Sometimes Jason and I were in the way. And she was really jealous, I remember." I tried to look amused, as if my mother being so jealous of my father was a charming quirk.

"It was the fairy in him that made her hold on so strongly," Niall said. "It takes some humans that way. She saw the supernatural in him, and it enthralled her. Tell me, was she a good mother?"

"She tried hard," I whispered.

She had tried. My mother had known how to be a good mother theoretically. She knew how a good mother acted toward her children. She'd made herself go through all the motions. But all her true love had been saved for my father, who'd been bemused by the intensity of her passion. I could see that now, as an adult. As a child, I'd been confused and hurt.

The red-haired Were brought our salad and set it down in front of us. He wanted to ask us if we needed anything else, but he was too scared. He'd picked up on the atmosphere at the table.

"Why did you decide now to come meet me?" I asked. "How long have you known about me?" I put my napkin in my lap and sat there holding the fork. I should take a bite. Wasting was not part of the way I'd been raised. By my grandmother. Who'd had sex with a half fairy (who'd wandered into the yard like a stray dog). Enough sex over enough time to produce two children.

"I've known about your family for the past sixty years, give or take. But my son Fintan forbade me seeing any of you." He carefully put a bit of tomato into his mouth, held it there, thought about it, chewed it. He ate the way I would if I was visiting an Indian or Nicaraguan restaurant.

"What changed?" I said, but I figured it out. "So your son is dead now."

"Yes," he said, and put down the fork. "Fintan is dead. After all, he was half human. And he'd lived for seven hundred years."

Was I supposed to have an opinion about this? I felt so numb, as though Niall had shot Novocain into my emotional center. I probably should ask how my - my grandfather had come to die, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

"So you decided to come tell me about this - why?" I was proud of how calm I sounded.

"I'm old, even for my kind. I would like to know you. I can't atone for the way your life has been shaped by the heritage Fintan gave you. But I will try to make your life a little easier, if you'll permit me."

"Can you take the telepathy away?" I asked. A wild hope, not unmixed with fear, flared in me like a sunspot.

"You are asking if I can remove something from the fiber of your being," Niall said. "No, I can't do that."

I slumped in my chair. "Thought I'd ask," I said, fighting away tears. "Do I get three wishes, or is that with genies?"

Niall regarded me with no humor at all. "You wouldn't want to meet a genie," he said. "And I'm not a figure of fun. I am a prince."

"Sorry," I said. "I'm having a little trouble coping with all this... Great-grandfather." I didn't remember my human great-grandfathers. My grandfathers - okay, I guess one of them hadn't truly been my grandfather - hadn't looked or acted a thing like this beautiful creature. My grandfather Stackhouse died sixteen years ago, and my mother's parents had died before I was into my teens. So I'd known my grandmother Adele much better than any of the others, actually much better than I'd known my true parents.

"Hey," I said. "How come Eric fetched me for you? You're fairy, after all. Vampires go nuts when they smell fairies."

In fact, most vampires lost their self-control when they were around fairies. Only a very disciplined vampire could behave when a fairy got within smelling distance. My fairy god-mother, Claudine, was terrified of being anywhere around a bloodsucker.

"I can suppress my essence," Niall said. "They can see me but not smell me. It's a convenient magic. I can keep humans from even noticing me, as you have observed."

The way he said this let me know that he was not only very old and very powerful, but he was also very proud. "Did you send Claudine to me?" I said.

"Yes. I hope she's been of use. Only people of part-fae blood can have such a relationship with a fairy. I knew you needed her."

"Oh, yes, she's saved my life," I said. "She's been wonderful." She'd even taken me shopping. "Are all fairies as nice as Claudine, or as beautiful as her brother?"

Claude, male stripper and now entrepreneur, was as handsome as a man could get, and he had the personality of a self-absorbed turnip.

"Dear one," Niall said, "we are all beautiful to humans; but some fairies are very nasty indeed."

Okay, here came the downside. I had a strong feeling that finding out I had a great-grandfather who was a full-blooded fairy was supposed to be good news, from Niall's point of view - but that it wasn't a completely iced cupcake. Now I would get the bad news.

"You went many years without being found," Niall said, "in part because that was what Fintan wanted."

"But he watched me?" I almost felt warmth in my heart at hearing that.

"My son was remorseful that he'd condemned two children to the half-in, half-out existence he'd experienced as a fairy who wasn't truly a fairy. I'm afraid the others of our race weren't kind to him." My great-grandfather's gaze was steady. "I did my best to defend him, but it wasn't enough. Fintan also found he wasn't human enough to pass as human, at least not for more than a short time."

"You don't look like this normally?" I asked, very curious.

"No." And just for a split second, I saw an almost blinding light, with Niall in the middle of it, beautiful and perfect. No wonder Einin had thought he was an angel.

"Claudine said she was working her way up," I said. "What does that mean?" I was floundering through this conversation. I felt like I'd been knocked down to my knees by all this information, and I was struggling to get to my emotional feet. I wasn't having a very successful time doing it.

"She shouldn't have told you that," Niall said. He debated with himself for a second or two before continuing. "Shifters are humans with a genetic twist, vampires are dead humans transformed into something different, but the fae have only a basic shape in common with humans. There are many kinds of fae - from the grotesque, like goblins, to the beautiful, like us." He said this quite unself-consciously.

"Are there angels?"

"Angels are yet another form, and one which has undergone an almost complete transformation, physical and moral. It can take hundreds of years to become an angel."

Poor Claudine.

"But enough about this," Niall said. "I want to know about you. My son kept me from your father and your aunt, and then from their children. His death came too late for me to know your cousin Hadley. But now I can see you and touch you." Which, incidentally, Niall was doing in a way that wasn't exactly human: if his hand wasn't holding mine, it was placed flat against my shoulder, or my back. This wasn't exactly the way humans related, but it wasn't hurting me. I wasn't as freaked out as I might have been, since I'd noticed Claudine was very touchy-feely, too. Since I couldn't get telepathic vibes from fairies, this much contact was tolerable. With a regular human being, I'd be bombarded with thoughts, since touch increased my sensitivity to telepathic contact.

"Did Fintan have any other children or grandchildren?" I asked. It would be nice to have more family.

"We'll talk of that later," Niall said, which sent up an immediate red flag. "Now that you know me a little," he said, "please tell me what I can do for you."

"Why should you do anything for me?" I said. We'd had the genie conversation. I wasn't going to revisit that.

"I can tell that your life has been hard. Now that I am allowed to see you, let me help you in some way."

"You sent me Claudine. She's been a big help," I repeated. Without the crutch of my sixth sense, I was having trouble understanding my great-grandfather's emotional and mental set. Was he grieving for his son? What had their relationship really been? Had Fintan thought he was doing us all a good deed in keeping his dad away from the Stackhouses all these years? Was Niall evil, or did he have bad intentions toward me? He could have done something awful to me from afar without going to the trouble of meeting me and paying for an expensive dinner.

"You wouldn't want to explain any more, huh?"

Niall shook his head, his hair brushing his shoulders like strands of gold and silver spun out to incredible fineness.

I had an idea. "Can you find my boyfriend?" I asked hopefully.

"You have a man? Besides the vampire?"

"Eric is not my man, but since I've had his blood a few times, and he's had mine..."

"That's why I approached you through him. You have a tie to him."

"Yes."

"I have known Eric Northman for a long time. I thought you would come if he asked you to. Did I do wrong?"

I was startled at this appeal. "No, sir," I said. "I don't think I'd have come if he hadn't told me it was okay. He wouldn't have brought me if he hadn't trusted you... At least, I don't think so."

"Do you want me to kill him? End the tie?"

"No!" I said, getting kind of excited in a bad way. "No!"

A few people actually glanced at us for the first time, hearing my agitation despite my great-grandfather's don't-look influence.

"The other boyfriend," Niall said, and took another bite of his salmon. "Who is he and when did he vanish?"

"Quinn the weretiger," I said. "He's been gone since the explosion in Rhodes. He was hurt, but I saw him afterward."

"I heard about the Pyramid," Niall said. "You were there?"

I told him about it, and my newly discovered great-grandfather listened with a refreshing lack of judgment. He was neither horrified nor appalled, and he didn't feel sorry for me. I really liked that.

While I talked, I had a chance to regroup my emotions. "You know what?" I said when there was a natural pause. "Don't look for Quinn. He knows where I am, and he's got my number." In more ways than one, I thought sourly. "He'll show up when he feels like he can, I guess. Or not."

"But that leaves me with nothing to do as a gift for you," my great-grandfather said.

"Just give me a raincheck," I said, smiling, and then had to explain the term to him. "Something'll come up. Am I... Can I talk about you? To my friends?" I asked. "No, I guess not." I couldn't imagine telling my friend Tara that I had a new great-grandfather who was a fairy. Amelia might be more understanding.

"I want to keep our relationship a secret," he said. "I am so glad to know you finally, and I want to know you better." He laid his hand against my cheek. "But I have powerful enemies, and I wouldn't want them to think of harming you to get at me."

I nodded. I understood. But it was kind of deflating to have a brand-new relative and be forbidden to talk about him. Niall's hand left my cheek to drift down to my own hand.

"What about Jason?" I asked. "Are you gonna talk to him, too?"

"Jason," he said, his face showing distaste. "Somehow the essential spark passed Jason by. I know he is made of the same material as you, but in him the blood has only shown itself in his ability to attract lovers, which after all is not much recommendation. He wouldn't understand or appreciate our connection."

Great-grandfather sounded pretty snotty when he said that. I started to say something in Jason's defense, but then I closed my mouth. I had to admit to my most secret self that Niall was almost certainly right. Jason would be full of demands, and he would talk.

"How often are you going to be around?" I said instead, striving hard to sound nonchalant. I knew I was expressing myself clumsily, but I didn't know how else to establish some framework for this new and awkward relationship.

"I'll try to visit you like any other relative would," he said.

I tried hard to picture that. Niall and I eating at the Hamburger Palace? Sharing a pew at church on a Sunday? I didn't think so.

"I feel like there's a lot you're not telling me," I said bluntly.

"Then we'll have something to talk about next time," he said, and one sea green eye winked at me. Okay, that was unexpected. He handed me a business card, another thing I didn't anticipate. It said simply, "Niall Brigant," with a telephone number centered beneath. "You can reach me at that number any time. Someone will answer."

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