Since the fact that Danny was totally smitten with Kennedy was obvious to the dimmest bulb, we were all struck silent with astonishment at her blindness.
"Did you ask him?" Michele said, in her forthright way.
"Hell, no!" Kennedy was too proud (and too scared, but only I knew that) to ask Danny directly.
"Well, I don’t know who to ask or what to ask, but if I hear anything, I’ll tell you. I really don’t think you need to worry about Danny stepping out on you," I said. How such massive insecurity could lurk behind such a pretty face was amazing to me.
"Thanks, Sookie." There was a little sob in her voice. Oh, Lord. All the fun of the evening was draining away in a hurry.
We pulled up at the front of my house none too soon. I said my good-byes and my thank-yous in my brightest and most cheerful voice, and then I was hurrying to my front door. Of course the big security light was on, and of course Tara didn’t back out until I’d reached my front door, unlocked it, and stepped inside. I locked the door behind me instantly. Though there were magical wards around the house to keep supernatural enemies away, locks and keys never hurt.
Not only had I worked today, I’d endured the raucous crowd and the pulse-pounding music, and there was all the drama with my friends, too. If you’re telepathic, your brain gets exhausted. But in a contradictory way, I felt too twitchy and restless to head directly to my bedroom. I decided to check my e-mail.
It had been a couple of days since I’d had a chance to sit down at the computer. I had ten messages. Two were from Kennedy and Holly, setting a time to pick me up. Since that was a done deal, I tapped the Delete button. The next three were ads. Those were gone in a flash. There was a note from Amelia with an attachment, which proved to be a picture of her and her boyfriend, Bob, sitting at a cafe in Paris. "We’re having a good time," she wrote. "The community over here is very welcoming. Think my little problem with my NO community has been forgiven. What about you and me?"
"Community" was Amelia’s code word for "coven." Amelia’s little problem had arisen when she’d accidentally turned Bob into a cat. Now that he was a man again, they’d resumed their relationship. Go figure. And now Paris! "Some people just lead charmed lives," I said out loud. As for Amelia and me being "okay"-she’d offended me deeply by trying to shove Alcide Herveaux into my sex life. I’d expected better from her. No, I hadn’t entirely forgiven her, but I was trying.
At that moment there was a quiet knock on the front door. I jumped and spun around in the swivel chair. I hadn’t heard a vehicle, or footsteps. Normally, that would mean a vampire had come calling; but when I cast out my extra sense, the brain it encountered was not the blank of a vampire’s, but something else entirely.
There was another discreet knock. I edged to the window and looked out. Then I unlocked the door and flung it open.
"Great-grandfather," I said, and leaped up and into his embrace. "I thought I’d never see you again! How are you? Come in!"
Niall smelled wonderful-fairies do. To some extra-sensitive vampire noses, I have a faint trace of the same odor, though I can’t detect it myself.
My ex-boyfriend Bill had told me once that to him the fae smelled like his memory of the taste of apples.
Enveloped in my great-grandfather’s overwhelming presence, I experienced the rush of affection and amazement I always did when I was with him. Tall and regal, clad in an immaculate black suit, white shirt, and black tie, Niall was both beautiful and ancient.
He was also a dab unreliable when it came to facts. Tradition says fairies can’t lie, and the fairies themselves will tell you so-but they sure skirt the truth when it suits them. Sometimes I thought that Niall had lived for so long that his memory simply skipped a beat or two. It was a struggle to remember this when I was with him, but I forced myself to keep it in my mind.
"I’m well, as you see." He gestured at his magnificence, though to do him credit I believe he simply intended to draw my attention to his unwounded state. "And you are beautiful, as always."
Fairies are also somewhat flowery in their speech-unless they’ve been living among humans for a long time, like Claude.
"I thought you were sealed off."
"I widened the portal in your woods," he said, as if the action had been a casual whim of his. After the big deal he’d made about sealing the fae in for the protection of humanity, severing all his business ties with the human world, and so on, he’d enlarged an opening and come through … because he wanted to check on my well-being? Even the fondest great-granddaughter could smell a rat.
"I knew that portal was there," I said, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
He cocked his head. His white-blond hair moved like a satin curtain. "Was it you who put the body in?"
"I’m sorry. I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put it." Corpse disposal was not one of my talents.
"It was consumed entirely, if that was your purpose. Please abstain in the future. We don’t want there to be crowding around the portal," he said in gentle admonishment, rather as though I’d been feeding pets from the dinner table.
"Sorry," I said. "So-why are you here?" I heard the bluntness of my words and felt myself turning red. "I mean, to what do I owe the honor of your visit? Can I get you a drink or something to eat?"
"No thank you, dearest. Where have you been this evening? You smell of the fae and humans and many other things."
I took a deep breath and tried to explain Ladies Only night at Hooligans. With every sentence, I felt more of a fool. You should have seen Niall’s face when I told him that one night a week, human women paid to watch men take their clothes off. He sure didn’t get it.
"Do men do this also?" he asked. "Go in groups to special buildings, pay to watch women undress?"
I said, "Yes, men much more often than women. The other nights, that’s what happens at Hooligans."
"And Claude makes money this way," Niall said wonderingly. "Why don’t the men just ask the women to take their clothes off, if they want to see their bodies?"
I took another deep breath but let it out without attempting further explanation. Some topics were just too complicated to tackle, especially with a fairy who’d never lived in our world. Niall was a tourist, not a resident. "Can we bypass this whole discussion until another time, or maybe until never? Surely there’s something more important you want to talk about?" I said.
"Of course. May I sit?"
"Be my guest." We sat on the couch, angled forward so we were looking into each other’s faces. There’s nothing like having a fairy examine you to make you acutely aware of your every flaw.