"You’ve recovered well," he said, to my surprise.
"I have," I said, trying not to glance down, as if my scarred thigh would show through my clothing. "It took a while." Niall meant I looked good for someone who’d been tortured. Two notorious fairies who’d had their teeth sharpened like the elves’ had left me with some permanent physical damage. Niall and Bill had arrived in time to save my body parts and my sanity, if not all of my actual flesh. "Thanks for coming in time," I said, forcing a smile on my face. "I’ll never forget how glad I was to see you-all."
Niall waved away my gratitude. "You are my blood," he said. That was reason enough for him. I thought about my great-uncle Dermot, Niall’s half-human son, who believed Niall had cast a crazy spell on him. Kind of contradictory, huh? I almost pointed that out to Great-Grandfather, but I did want to keep the peace since I hadn’t seen him in so long.
"When I came through the portal tonight, I smelled blood in the ground around your house," he said abruptly. "Human blood, fae blood. Now I can tell there is fae blood upstairs in your attic, recently spilled. And fairies are living here now. Who?" Niall’s smooth hands took mine, and I felt a flush of well-being.
"Claude and Dermot have been living here, kind of off and on," I said. "When Eric stays over, they spend the night in Claude’s house in Monroe."
Niall looked very, very thoughtful. "What reason did Claude give you for wanting to be in your house? Why did you permit this? Have you had sex with him?" He didn’t sound angry or distressed, but the questions themselves had a certain edge.
"I don’t have sex with relatives, first off," I said, an edge to my own voice. My boss, Sam Merlotte, had told me that the fae didn’t necessarily consider such relationships taboo, but I sure did. I took yet another deep breath. I would hyperventilate if Niall stayed very long.
I tried again, this time making an effort to modify my indignation. "Sex between relatives is not something humans condone," I told him, making myself stop right there before adding any codicils. "I have slept in the same bed with Dermot and Claude, because they told me that would make them feel better. And I admit it helped me, too. They both seem kind of lost, since they’re not able to enter Faery. A bunch of the fae got left outside, and they’re pretty miserable." I did my best not to sound reproachful, but Hooligans was like Ellis Island in lockdown.
Niall was not going to be diverted. "Of course Claude would want to be close to you," he said. "The company of others with fairy blood is always desirable. Did you suspect … he had any other reason?"
Was this a hint, or just a simple hesitation in Niall’s speech? As a matter of fact, I did think the two fairies had another reason for their attraction to me and my house, but I thought-I hoped-this reason was quite unconscious. This was a chance to unburden myself of a great secret and gain more information about an object I had in my possession. I opened my mouth to tell Niall about what I’d found in a secret compartment in an old desk.
But the sense of caution I’d developed in my life as a telepath … well, that sense jumped up and down, screaming, "Shut up!"
I said, "Do you think they had another reason?"
I noticed Niall had mentioned only his full-fairy grandson, Claude, not his half-human son Dermot. Since Niall had always acted very lovingly toward me, and my blood had only a trace of fairy, I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t equally loving toward Dermot. Dermot had done some bad things, but he’d been under a spell. Niall wasn’t cutting him any slack for that. Just at the moment, Niall was looking at me doubtfully, his head cocked to one side.
My cheeks yanked up in my brightest smile. I felt increasingly uneasy. "Claude and Dermot have been real helpers. They carried down all the old stuff in the attic. I sold it to an antiques dealer in Shreveport." Niall smiled back at me and stood. Before I could say Jack Robinson, he’d glided up the stairs. He came back down them a couple of minutes later. I spent the time sitting there with my mouth hanging open. Even for a fairy, this was odd behavior. "I guess you were up there sniffing Dermot’s blood?" I said warily.
"I can tell I have irritated you, dearest." Niall smiled at me, and his beauty warmed me. "Why was there bleeding in the attic?"
Niall didn’t even use the pronoun "he." I said, "A human came in looking for me. Dermot was working and didn’t hear him coming. The human clocked him one. Hit him on the head," I explained, when Niall looked confused.
"Is that the human whose blood I smelled outside in the ground?"
There’d been so many. Vampires and humans, Weres and fairies. I actually had to think a minute. "Could be," I said at last. "Bellenos healed Dermot, and they caught the guys …" I fell silent. At the mention of Bellenos’s name, Niall’s eyes flashed, and not with joy.
"Bellenos, the elf," he said.
His head turned sharply, and I knew he’d heard something I hadn’t.
We’d been too involved in our conversation to hear a car on the driveway, apparently; but Niall had heard the key in the lock.
"Cousin, did you enjoy the show?" Claude called from the kitchen, and I had time to think, Another OSM, before Claude and Dermot walked into the living room.
There was a frozen silence. The three fairies were looking back and forth like gunfighters at the OK Corral. Each one waited for the other to make some decisive gesture that would determine whether they fought or talked.
"My house, my rules," I said, and shot up from the couch like someone had lit my ass on fire. "No brawling! Not! Any!"
There was another beat of the tense silence, and then Claude said, "Of course not, Sookie. Prince Niall-Grandfather-I had feared I’d never see you again."
"Claude," Niall said, nodding at his grandson.
"Hello, Father," said Dermot very quietly.
Niall didn’t look at his child.
Fairies. Never simple. My grandmother Adele would definitely have agreed. She’d had a long affair with Dermot’s fraternal twin, Fintan, and my aunt Linda and my father, Corbett, (both dead for years now) had been the results.
"Maybe it’s time for some plain speaking," I said, trying to look confident. "Niall, maybe you could tell us why you’re pretending Dermot isn’t standing right here. And why you put that crazy spell on him." Dr. Phil to the fae-that was me.
Or not. Niall gave me his most lordly look.
"This one defied me," he said, tilting his head at his son.