Ours to LoveA Wicked Lovers novel featuring billionaire brothers
It’s hard to fathom that the creative spark behind one of HBO®’s sexiest, edgiest, bloodiest urban fantasy series is, in fact, a nice Southern girl. But with every eye-opening episode, True Blood creator Alan Ball draws on the genius of Mississippi-born Arkansas resident Charlaine Harris. Though currently best known for her Sookie Stackhouse “Southern Vampire Mysteries” series, Harris—an almost supernatural talent herself—is also author of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, the Lily Bard series and the Harper Connelly series. Thanks to Sookie’s telepathic abilities and Harper’s unusual relationship with dead people, Harris has some serious crossover appeal, with admirers that identify themselves as mystery lovers, sci-fi fans, and even romance readers. “For those of us who've been reading Charlaine Harris even before the dawn of Sookie Stackhouse, it's no mystery why she's become such a sensation,” says Jane Dentinger, Editor-in-Chief of Mystery Guild. Whether it's vampire mysteries, psychics or the Aurora Teagarden lady librarian mystery series, this is a writer who can do it all. Happily, the success of the True Blood television series has drawn more and more readers into Charlaine Harris’ urban fantasy world, ensuring that Sookie Stackhouse and her fantastic and fiendish friends will be sinking their teeth into our TV sets and bookshelves for a long time to come.
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.
Dermot bowed his head. I didn’t know if he was keeping his eyes down so he wouldn’t provoke Niall, or if he was concealing rage, or if he just couldn’t think of where to begin.
Being related to Niall, even at two removes, was not easy. I couldn’t imagine having a closer tie. If Niall’s beauty and power had been united with a coherent course of action and a nobleness of purpose, he would have been very like an angel.
This conviction could not have popped into my head at a more inconvenient moment.
“You’re looking at me strangely,” Niall said. “What’s wrong, dearest one?”
“In the time he’s spent here,” I said, “my great–uncle has been kind, hard–working, and smart. The only thing that’s been wrong with Dermot is a bit of mental fragility, a direct result from being made crazy for years. So, why’d you do that? ’He defied me’ isn’t really an answer.”
“You haven’t got the right to question me,” Niall said, in his most royal voice. “I am the only living prince of Faery.”
“I don’t know why that means I can’t ask you questions. I’m an American,” I said, standing tall.
The beautiful eyes examined me coldly. “I love you,” he said very unlovingly, “but you’re presuming too much.”
“If you love me, or even if you just respect me a little, you need to answer my question. I love Dermot, too.”
Claude was standing absolutely still, doing a great imitation of Switzerland. I knew he wasn’t going to chime in on my side, or Dermot’s side, or even Niall’s side. To Claude, the only side was his.
“You allied yourself with the water fairies,” Niall said to Dermot.
“After you cursed me,” Dermot protested, looking up at his father briefly.
“You helped them kill Sookie’s father,” Niall said.
“I did not,” Dermot said quietly. “And I’m not mistaken in this. Even Sookie believes this, and she lets me stay here.”
“You weren’t in your right mind. I know you would never do that if you hadn’t been cursed,” I said.
“You see her kindness, and yet you have none for me,” Dermot told Niall. “Why did you curse me? Why?” He was looking directly at his father, his distress was written all over his face.
“But I didn’t,” Niall said. He sounded genuinely surprised. Finally, he was addressing Dermot directly. “I wouldn’t addle the brains of my own son, half–human or not.”
“Claude told me it was you who bespelled me.” Dermot looked at Claude, who was still waiting to see which way the frog would jump.
“Claude,” Niall said, the power in his voice making my head pound, “Who told you this?”
“It’s common knowledge among the fae,” Claude said. He’d been preparing himself for this, was braced to make his answer".
From Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris. Published by arrangement with Ace, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) Charlaine Harris, 2012.
The Sookie Stackhouse Companion
Small-Town Wedding By Charlaine Harris
It was May, I had a great tan, and I was going on a road trip, leaving vampire politics behind. I felt better than I had in a long time. Wearing only my underwear, I stood in my sunny bedroom and went down my checklist.
1. Give Eric and Jason address and dates I’d done that. My boyfriend, Eric Northman, vampire sheriff of Area Five of Louisiana, had all the information he needed. So did my brother, Jason.
2. Ask Bill to watch house Okay. I’d left a letter pushed under my neighbor Bill Compton’s door. He’d find it when he rose for the night. His “sister” Judith (sired by the same vampire) was still staying at his place. If Bill could tear himself away from her company, he would walk across the cemetery separating our properties to have a look at my house, and he’d get my mail and my newspaper and put them on my front porch.
3. Call Tara I’d done that; my pregnant friend Tara reported all was well with the twins she was carrying, and she’d call or get her husband to call if there was any news. She wasn’t due for three more months. But twins, right? You never knew.
4. Bank I’d deposited my last paycheck and gotten more cash than I usually carried.
5. Claude and Dermot My cousin and my great-uncle had decided to stay at Claude’s house in Monroe while I was gone. Claude had been living with me for about a month, and Dermot had joined him only two weeks ago, so Dermot said he still felt funny being in my house without me there. Claude, of course, had no such qualms, since he’s about as sensitive as a sheet of sandpaper, but Dermot had carried the day.
All my clothes were clean, and I thought I was packed. Though it would be a good idea to review my packing list, which was completely separate from my “things to do” list. Since my friend and boss, Sam Merlotte, had invited me to go with him to his brother’s wedding, I’d been in a nervous tizzy about forgetting something essential and somehow making Sam look bad in front of his family.
I had borrowed a pretty dress, sleeveless and blue, like my eyes, to wear to the wedding, and I had some black pumps with three-inch heels that were in great condition. For everything else, I packed the best and newest of my casual clothes: two pairs of good shorts, an extra pair of jeans. I threw in a yellow and gray skirt outfit, just in case.
I counted my underwear, made sure I had the right bras, and checked the little jewelry pouch to be sure my gran’s pearls were there. I shut the bag, triumphant. I’d done my best to cover every contingency, and I’d fit everything into a hanging bag and a weekender bag.
The attic had been kept locked until the day after my grandmother died. I’d found her key and opened it that awful day to look for her wedding dress, having the crazy idea she should be buried in it. I’d taken one step inside and then turned and walked out, leaving the door unsecured behind me.
Now, two years later, I pushed that door open again. The hinges creaked as ominously as if it were midnight on Halloween instead of a sunny Wednesday morning in late May. The broad floorboards protested under my feet as I stepped over the threshold. There were dark shapes all around me, and a very faint musty odor—the smell of old things long forgotten.
When the second story had been added to the original Stackhouse home decades before, the new floor had been divided into bedrooms, but perhaps a third of it had been relegated to storage space after the largest generation of Stackhouses had thinned out. Since Jason and I had come to live with my grandparents after our parents had died, the attic door had been kept locked. Gran hadn’t wanted to clean up after us if we decided the attic was a great place to play.
Now I owned the house, and the key was on a ribbon around my neck. There were only three Stackhouse descendants—Jason, me, and my deceased cousin Hadley’s son, a little boy named Hunter.
I waved my hand around in the shadowy gloom to find the hanging chain, grasped it, and pulled. An overhead bulb illuminated decades of family castoffs.
Cousin Claude and Great-Uncle Dermot stepped in behind me. Dermot exhaled so loudly it was almost a snort. Claude looked grim. I was sure he was regretting his offer to help me clean out the attic. But I wasn’t going to let my cousin off the hook, not when there was another able-bodied male available to help. For now, Dermot went where Claude went, so I had two for the price of one. I couldn’t predict how long the situation would hold. I’d suddenly realized that morning that soon it would be too hot to spend time in the upstairs room. The window unit my friend Amelia had installed in one of the bedrooms kept the living spaces tolerable, but of course we’d never wasted money putting one in the attic.
“How shall we go about this?” Dermot asked. He was blond and Claude was dark; they looked like gorgeous bookends. I’d asked Claude once how old he was, to find he had only the vaguest idea. The fae don’t keep track of time the same way we do, but Claude was at least a century older than me. He was a kid compared to Dermot; my great-uncle thought he was seven hundred years my senior. Not a wrinkle, not a gray hair, not a droop anywhere, on either of them.
“I feel bad that I’m leaving you like this,” Amelia said. Her eyes were puffy and red. They’d been that way, off and on, ever since Tray Dawson’s funeral.
“You have to do what you have to do,” I said, giving her a very bright smile. I could read the guilt and shame and ever-present grief roiling around Amelia’s mind in a ball of darkness. “I’m lots better,” I reassured her. I could hear myself babbling cheerfully along, but I couldn’t seem to stop. “I’m walking okay, and the holes are all filled in.
See how much better?” I pulled down my jeans waistband to show her a spot that had been bitten out. The teeth marks were hardly perceptible, though the skin wasn’t quite smooth and was visibly paler the surrounding flesh. If I hadn’t had a huge dose of vampire blood, the scar would’ve looked like a shark had bitten me.
Amelia glanced down and hastily away, as if she couldn’t bear to see the evidence of the attack. “It’s just that Octavia keeps e-mailing me and telling me I need to come home and accept my judgment from the witches’ council, or what’s left of it,” she said in a rush. “And I need to check all the repairs to my house. And since there are a few tourists again, and people returning and rebuilding, the magic store’s reopened. I can work there part-time. Plus, as much as I love you and love living here, since Tray died . . .”
“Believe me, I understand.” We’d gone over this a few times.
“It’s not that I blame you,” Amelia said, trying to catch my eyes.
She really didn’t blame me. Since I could read her mind, I knew she was telling me the truth.
Even I didn’t totally blame myself, somewhat to my surprise.
It was true that Tray Dawson, Amelia’s lover and a Were, had been killed while he’d been acting as my bodyguard. It was true that I’d requested a bodyguard from the Were pack nearest me because they owed me a favor and my life needed guarding. However, I’d been present at the death of Tray Dawson at the hands of a sword-wielding fairy, and I knew who was responsible.
So I didn’t feel guilty, exactly. But I felt heartsick about losing Tray, on top of all the other horrors. My cousin Claudine, a full-blooded fairy, had also died in the Fae War, and since she’d been my real, true fairy godmother, I missed her in a lot of ways. And she’d been pregnant. I had a lot of pain and regret of all kinds, physical and mental. While Amelia carried an armful of clothes downstairs, I stood in her bedroom, gathering myself. Then I braced my shoulders and lifted a box of bathroom odds and ends. I descended the stairs carefully and slowly, and I made my way out to her car. She turned from depositing the clothes across the boxes already stowed in her trunk. “You shouldn’t be doing that!” she said, all anxious concern. “You’re not healed yet.”
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