Does she matter?
I’d been confounded by this girl from the start. Everything about her confused me.
I still wasn’t sure what it was I felt for her, but I didn’t need to, to know the answer to her question, even if I didn’t know the context in which she was asking.
“Yes, you matter.”
But what I wanted to know was what was the matter. What had happened over the course of the day to make her feel this way.
Lost. Desolate. Worthless.
My own confusion over the emotions she managed to evoke in me caused me to have questions myself, but my feelings had fallen to the opposite end of the spectrum.
With her I felt anchored in a way no kingdom or title had the power to simulate.
Because of her I had been delighted in ways no one else had ever come close to replicating.
With her – because of her – I felt like the luckiest bastard in the world.
Two worlds, really, since she had left one poorer without her continued presence to make me richer in ways that had nothing to do with wealth or power in another.
And while there had been plenty to distract us both over the course of the last three nights, not a minute had gone by since our return from Rome when I hadn’t tried to resolve what the culmination of what all of those feelings meant.
Because my suspicion as to what it was seemed just as impossible as those very same feelings.
More than a fuck and feed.
More than an asset.
More than a debt repaid.
If my ruminations could be converted into a box score, she was pitching a perfect game.
But by the same token, one could say I was making errors left and right.
Her tear stricken face was proof of that.
Of the maelstrom of emotions flowing through her, her feeling of being adrift was cresting high. So I reached out and pulled her into my arms, physically anchoring her as she had already somehow managed to do with me, and hoped my own feelings of comfort at the missed contact would soothe her as well, while once more asking, “What is wrong?”
“Everything,” she sniffled.
Having heard that answer more than once, I deduced she’d spent too much time in Pam’s presence.
But it wasn’t a lie. She actually felt like everything was wrong.
“Is it true?” she asked. “Is the Stackhouse boy my brother?”
I wondered how her epiphany had come about, but instead of asking, I mentally added another mark to my score of errors and said, “I suspect it is, but I don’t know for certain.”
“When?” she asked, almost accusatorily.
I couldn’t really blame her since I had kept my suspicions to myself – perhaps selfishly – so I answered truthfully, “When we attended Hale’s funeral. I noticed the date of Adele’s son’s death coincided with the date of your birth. With that added to the reaction she had when she first laid eyes on you, I thought it was a good possibility.”
I also thought to add my misgivings about the timing of Corbett’s birth, but it would only cause more questions for which I had no answers.
I was suspicious by nature, but sometimes a coincidence was just that.
She gasped and sunk deeper into my chest, saying, “But it can’t be.”
“And why is that?” I softly asked.
“Because Great-grandfather told me my father died before my birth. He wouldn’t lie to me. He couldn’t,” she weakly argued.
Maybe he couldn’t, but I would kill Niall if it was the last thing I did.
But I knew enough about fairies to know how circular their words could be, so I gently offered, “Your father would have only needed to take his last breath, one second before you took your first, for Niall’s words to be true.”
As my words sunk in, I could feel the realization come over her, threatening to tear her apart, so I held her tighter in my embrace, knowing there was nothing I could say to soothe that kind of pain.
Being betrayed by anyone was bad enough, but for her to be fooled by the man whom she had looked up to her entire life was devastating her.
“But why?” she eventually asked. “Why wouldn’t he tell me? Why would he let me believe my parents had known what my destiny was and were proud I would be the one to fulfill our debt?”
Seeing my opening to get some answers for my own questions, I gently asked, “Why do you no longer believe that to be true?”
“The oaf,” she grumbled. “I was teaching him a lesson out in the yard and the old woman likened us to siblings. And he said…he said…I should be thankful I wasn’t his sister because I would have been named Sookie.”
Her words were leaving her in hitched breaths, so I didn’t ask any more.
His admission to her was all the proof I needed to hear.
When she calmed down again, she whispered, “Great-grandfather is the one who started calling me Sookie. He had said it was unique, like me.”
“It is,” I agreed. “And you are.”
We sat there in silence for a long while. There wasn’t much I could say about Niall’s motives that wouldn’t make her feel worse, so I kept my opinions to myself. But the scent of her blood, now dried to her skin, still lingered in the air. I doubted the oaf would have been able to mark her in such a way during whatever lesson it was she’d taught him.
But at this point I wouldn’t care if she had killed him, if it would make her feel better.
And I would do it myself if he had been the one to harm her.
So when she felt like she’d reached an impasse with her Brigant/Stackhouse origins, I traced the ‘X’ scratched over her heart with my fingertip and teased, “Tell me Zeus didn’t send you Cupid, in his attempt to woo you away.” And squeezing her slightly, I playfully added, “But if he did, I hoped you killed it.”
Among my ruminations over the previous nights, thinking of ways to out-woo all of her other potential suitors had been prevalent in my thoughts. I’d known from our past conversations that she would like to see other parts of the world that she had only ever read about. Places that didn’t exist in the world where she was raised.
Snow covered mountaintops.
And I planned on taking her everywhere her heart desired, just as soon as the threat had been dealt with.
But it would seem my teasing threatened something else entirely, with her mood plummeting even more, as she robotically replied, “He didn’t. And I wouldn’t. To be an angel is the ultimate and most revered state of being our kind can aspire to. To kill an angel, cherub or otherwise, would be the highest form of dishonor.”
So I added yet another tally to my overflowing box of errors.
But hoping to get her to smile at least a little, I gently jostled her in my arms and asked, “But Cupid doesn’t really exist, does he?”
However I wouldn’t put it past Stan to have glamoured someone to appear on my doorstep, dressed as the angel and laden with a pallet of roses and chocolates.
My question, however, had the opposite effect, with her feeling like she was on the verge of shutting down entirely, when she answered without emotion, “I wouldn’t know.”
Another sting of betrayal shot through her and straight into me.
Directed at me.
And realizing how she may have misconstrued all of my silent musings over the previous nights, I tilted her chin up and looked into her eyes, testing my theory by asking, “This has nothing to do with Niall or the Stackhouses, does it?”
Her eyes dropped.
Her shoulders gave the barest of shrugs.
It was all I needed to see.
To know it was my fault.
But I wouldn’t push her for an answer.
Susannah I could push clear across the continent and she would only sneer in my face and ask if that was the best I could do.
Sookie, however, was much more fragile and currently she was the one who was in my arms.
And even though I had no solid answer to give her, I conceded defeat nonetheless and rhetorically asked, “Do you know what I’ve been wondering over the last few nights?”
She shrugged again and answered my rhetorical question anyway with, “How the Brotherhood is tied to the recent attacks?”
So she tried again with, “How it is you came to hire the woman who might possibly be my grandmother right after I was born?”
She’d had a more difficult time getting those words out, but my answer remained the same.
In what would be her final attempt to answer a rhetorical question, the words burned like acid leaving her throat, when she choked out, “How you misspoke when claiming me as your girlfriend to a fellow king?”
Not only was she pitching a perfect game, she could hit one out of the park too.
Her skill level was limitless it would seem.
“Exactly,” I admitted.
But feeling her sinking into herself, both emotionally and in my arms, I added, “Calling you my girlfriend doesn’t adequately describe what you are to me. What you mean to me. And I’ve spent the past few nights trying to figure out the answer to that very question.”
When I paused, still trying to come up with the right word, she offered her own inadequate guess with, “I am your defender.”
“You are,” I conceded once again.
“I am your donor,” she tried again, feeling unsure about her words.
I hadn’t fed from her over the previous nights, drinking bagged blood instead in order to keep my head – both of them, actually – clear.
And perhaps that was the cause for her hurt and anger to rise up, as Susannah peeked out when she continued to spout off, “I am your child-rescuer. I am your telepath. I am your means of magical transportation. I am your ace-up-the-sleeve asset.”
While the thing with the van had been epically cool, I couldn’t tell who I was angrier with, when I snarled out, “Exactly.”
Unsure if I was angrier with her for feeling that way.
Or me for making her feel that way.
So maybe my next words were the result of everything we both were feeling in that moment when I growled, “What do I call the woman who thirsts for the blood of my every foe and has the skill to back that up? The woman who keeps not only me secure for the day by magically transporting me hundreds of miles away from danger, but using that very same ability to rescue my child from harm hundreds of miles away as well? The woman who can tell me what my enemies are thinking, no matter what language they think in? The woman who drives me up the fucking wall with want, that I would so easily dismiss every other until the end of time, when I haven’t even had her yet?”
Staring into her shocked eyes, I hissed, “The woman who would slay the entire world in my defense, who I would just as soon keep locked away from that very same world, so that I didn’t have to share any part of her with anyone?”
“I don’t know,” she softly admitted when I offered no more.
And my own voice softened when I admitted, “Neither do I.”
And unable to resist the unseen force, my lips were drawn to hers, as I confessed, “So I will just say that you are my everything.”
It should have been no surprise that her small gasp of surprise was all the invitation I would need to give in to what I had been denying us both over the previous nights. The current of emotions running through her ran the gamut, from confusion to relief, so I let her take the reins of our kiss from there, giving only as much as she chose to take.
I wouldn’t take advantage of her vulnerability.
So when she lay down on the bed and pulled me with her, never breaking our kiss, I obliged.
And when her tentative hands began to roam along my back, I arched into her body, allowing her to touch any part of me she wished.
And when she broke our kiss to take air into her lungs, I happily trailed my tongue across her offered collarbone to keep our contact intact.
Licking away the dried blood on her shoulder, I massaged the two inch wound with my own blood on my tongue until it disappeared, and quietly asked, “Who cut you?”
I’d known she was working on coming up with a way to train the guards to defend against a fairy attack and thought perhaps it had come from a sparring session with one of them.
And I briefly wondered if Quinn still lived.
If not, Herveaux could easily fill his shoes.
But all of me froze hearing her reply, “The fairy.”
Internally fighting for a moment with the dual desires of pulling back to face her or blanketing her with my body like a shield, I stalled and didn’t move at all, spitting out, “What. Fairy?”
And then even my brain stalled, when she answered my question without answering it at all, as she said, “He called me your slave.”
And I would call him Pam’s birthday present when I got my hands on him.
Compromising in the only way I could, I pressed my body on top of her own and only lifted my head long enough to bring the tips of our noses together, as I said, “Tell me everything.”
Because I would slay two worlds to hunt down the fairy who dared to insult her with that.