“I’m sorry, älskling,” he said as he soothed her heaving body.
“Eric, you don’t understand,” she sobbed. “Jason and I were supposed to be in the car with my parents when the flash flood took them. Gran always said at least an angel was looking out for the two of us.”
He held her tightly as he continued to let her grieve.
“I think you should cancel on the Brigants,” he said softly. “Their interest in you and your brother is worrisome.”
“No,” Sookie replied evenly, all possible tears expelled from her body. “I now know exactly how you spent your last sixteen years. I need to know why.”
“I won’t have you going alone,” Eric said with worry in his voice. They had discussed it and it had seemed the most sensible approach for him to investigate nearby while she ingratiated herself with her ‘family.’ That was before he found out she had been targeted when she was still a young child. Just as he had.
“It’s too dangerous for you to be there. One of their family members wanted you dead,” she said with equal worry.
“He wanted us both dead. At least he won’t recognise me.”
“I worry for you,” she said with her head resting against his chest.
“Not half as much as I worry for you,” he returned with a soft kiss to her forehead. “You need a protector there.”
“Ok,” she sighed. “I can’t believe I felt such guilt being related to Dermot Brigant.”
“Blood doesn’t dictate family, älskling,” Eric said. “Family is who you choose to make your life with.”
“That sounds good,” she sniffed. “I want to call Jason.”
“Are you sure you want him to know? I think Russell was right in saying it is better not to know the truth,” he observed as he tenderly ran his fingers through her hair. “Look how upset you are.”
She shook her head, “I just want to hear his voice. Feel close to my brother,” she explained. “I also wanted to ask him to pick up a stack of letters from the safe deposit box in Monroe. I think Fintan wrote those to my grandmother. She always had them in her jewellery box but I never read them.”
“I’ll have the key and codes sent over by special courier,” Eric said.
“I’m sorry I ruined the last night of our vacation with my weeping.” She pouted a little with her words. He couldn’t help but take hold of her protruding lip and kissed her with all the care in the world.
“It was my curiosity that led you to read it. I take full responsibility.”
She rolled her eyes at him, “Will you ever stop being such a martyr?”
“I have no intentions of dying,” he remarked dryly.
“Good,” she smiled. “I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”
“Welcome to Geneva,” Claudine beamed with wide arms, engulfing Sookie like a close relative she hadn’t seen for far too long when in fact it was the second time meeting her in the flesh. Her distant cousin was exactly as Sookie remembered her, flowery and a little aloof. Her Gran would have said she lived with her head in the clouds, reaching up on her tippy toes. Sookie pondered it must be nice to have such a view from the top.
“So I finally get to meet the fiancé?” she grinned, marvelling at the ring that still sat on her finger after they had departed to Monaco, and still somehow never considered removing before Claudine’s gaze fell to Eric with a warm smile. “I thought you would have been married by now.”
Not since her meeting with her Uncle Des, had Sookie found the necessity of ever introducing Eric to someone. A slight scowl sat on his face, knowing that the last time she and Claudine had met a different ring sat on that finger as a promise to a fraud.
“No, this is Eric, he’s my…” Sookie corrected before momentarily falling to hesitance when she caught the expectant look in his eyes. “He’s my boyfriend.”
Her pleading look instantly registered with Claudine to ask no further questions on the matter, and with a gentle nod she distracted the two by directing them to her luxury vehicle.
A possessive hand snaked around the low of Sookie’s back while the other pushed at the cart with their luggage. She looked up only to find indifference in his face, and, with a sigh, pondered whether she had said something wrong. Sookie had to admit the term ‘boyfriend’ didn’t adequately describe what they were to each other anymore. She liked the Swedish word ‘sambo’; it literally translated as living together, and given Bill Compton’s redecorating of their apartment, that term had stuck with her best. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate all too well, and being in one faked-engagement was enough. Her thumb twirled the precious metal on her ring finger from below, wondering if that was the source of his cool indifference, terming him as just a boy in her life.
“So who all will be there?” Sookie asked, despite having received an extensive outline from Claudine prior to her arrival.
“Nearly everyone,” Claudine tittered while Eric set to methodically load their luggage efficiently into the ample boot of the car. “Especially with you here.”
“What about Fintan’s brother?” Sookie probed carefully from her place in the backseat, catching Claudine’s eyes in the rear view mirror. “What was his name again?”
“Dermot,” Claudine replied tightly before parting her lips to light a cigarette between them, filling the car with the stench of cloves and ash. “What’s your interest in him?”
Sookie coughed daintily wondering how far she could push with Claudine. Weeks had been spent in preparation for this trip, researching the Brigants, and trying to extract any evidence from Halina. They had failed to locate the whereabouts of Dermot or any other tangible evidence of his existence that wasn’t vastly outdated.
“Oh, you know, I figure a twin brother would be able to tell me the most about my grandfather.”
“We don’t consider him part of the family,” Claudine informed without her usual display of warmth. “If you want to know anything about Fintan, ask it of me or Niall. Don’t mention Dermot to the others.”
“Of course,” Sookie answered while Eric slid into the front seat of the vehicle. She remained quiet for the rest of the ride while she vaguely listened to Eric expertly piece together a life of falsities while Claudine relaxed visibly with the mundane answers he produced, making comments and asking questions where expected. It all came so easily to him while all she could do was stare and let her eyes be captured by the crisp blue lake that spread out as far as her eyes could see as they travelled away from the city and its airport by the elevated highway. The snowy mountains and the bluest of skies hid in the background just like the painted postcards of Switzerland she had only ever seen from afar with a glimpse into the impressive Bellefleur mansion when she was little.
While the Brigants had been one of the first families to settle in the colonized Americas, and proudly proclaimed that to anyone who would listen, Niall’s first wife, Alesia, hailed from Switzerland. He gifted her with the lakeside property on their first anniversary. Alesia had come from a humble background, and despite the vastness of the house and estate, the house spoke of that. Over the years it had become the natural meeting place for the roaming and jet-setting Brigants, and several had bought up the surrounding properties, thus Claudine and her brother, Claude, were the only ones staying in the main property with Niall.
“We thought you newlyweds would best be suited here,” Claudine smiled while showing them to the self-contained apartment over the garage. “Just teasing,” she winked at Eric who seemed to have loosened with their rapport during the drive. She batted her eyes innocently, “Can you blame me? Such an exquisite ring, I keep forgetting.”
Eric smiled politely while Sookie rushed in through the door carrying far too many large bags than her strength could really carry, and it was only due to the short distance that she managed.
“Come find us inside when you’re settled in,” Claudine yelled after her with a wave.
“Of course, thank you Claudine,” Sookie called after her, not wishing to lose her manners along with her composure. They waited on the top of the stone steps till the sound of Claudine’s Greek leather sandals grinding into the gravel was no longer heard. Sookie exhaled a deeply-held breath searching for some of the same relief in Eric who was however, in full attention mode. His cautiousness had yet to dissipate, and with a pointed look that informed her to stay put, he entered the small, yet luxurious accommodations and scanned the rooms for listening devices, to his relief he found none.
In a moment of surprise, he yanked her hand to him while the other lifted her by the knees. “Come on, my sweet little bride,” he chuckled through her yelp, carrying her over the threshold before dumping her unceremoniously on the bed with a bounce.
Despite the levity, his eyes were still carrying that serious stance when he came to rest beside her. “Did I do or say something wrong?” she whispered while tracing the set frown on his forehead.
“I wish you’d just let me kill him,” he spoke evenly while kissing the bottom of Halina’s ring.
Weeks of pleasant domesticity had gone by in Stockholm, settling them both in an unknown comfort together. Bill’s name was never uttered once, and she had deeply hoped that that too was a permanent fixture in their lives. “I don’t want that on your conscience.”
“I don’t have one,” Eric shrugged, pulling her closer by the waist, finding their perfect fit with ease while their bodies moved without thought, so used were they to each other now.
“Yes, you do.”
“Not in regards to him,” he spoke lowly, the tightly held control withering with the mere thought of Bill, whose presence existed almost ghost-like between them in sudden moments such as these.
“I don’t want it on my conscience,” she whispered to his chest. “Then he wins.”
“OK,” he returned before pulling her chin up to kiss her, deepening it further with a roam of hands, lost in a bubble of two.
“Jesus Christ, Sook!” a voice interrupted, the noises of lips smacking.
“Jason?” Sookie exclaimed with a shriek at the sound of the familiar voice, shoving Eric off with superhuman strength in the process. Excitedly she launched herself into the embrace of her brother’s arms, nearly tackling him to the floor. “I missed you so much,” she sniffed.
“It’s good to see you too, sis,” he replied with some warmth. “Who were you porking over there?”
“Jason Corbett Stackhouse!” she yelled with indignation while pulling out of his embrace. “I was not ‘porking’ anybody.”
“Sure looked like it to me,” he grinned, pointing at her half-undone blouse that she quickly set to rights.
Sookie huffed out in annoyance before introducing her brother to Eric with a flushed face. Again as her boyfriend, and this time he seemed to take less offense. The two men stared each other down momentarily while Sookie shifted nervously on the balls of her feet, remembering how wrong it all went the last time round. Knowing Jason on paper from his initial investigation allowed Eric to provide him with exactly the right answers to her brother’s worried lines of interrogation. However, it didn’t stop Jason from finishing with a “If you hurt a hair on my sister’s body I’ll kill you.”
Eric knew the threat wasn’t idle; Jason didn’t have many merits to his name, but he was an excellent marksman. He had found many regional trophies accredited to his name. Eric only thought it a shame that he had never pulled through on that threat with Bill Compton.
“Wouldn’t expect anything less,” he replied while Jason nodded sternly before squeezing his little sister’s shoulders tightly to him in a display of fraternal approval.
“What are you doing here, Jase?” Sookie asked with a shy smile.
“I read those letters you made me collect,” he shrugged. “Fintan may not have been the grandfather we knew as our own, but he sure was sweet on Gran. That Claudine lady called me up and told me you were coming here, and she offered to fly me out, too.”
Sookie and Eric shared a look of concern amongst each other that went unnoticed by Jason as he continued to babble on about the luxurious arrangement made on his behalf, special mentions of all the stewardesses and their unique qualities went unheard.
“Stay,” Eric mouthed to Sookie with concern before announcing vocally he needed to make a phone call. While Sookie and her Jason caught up Eric managed to reach a local contact to supply him with the necessary guns and ammo, things he had gone without due to the air travel. For an extortionate fee, a rental car would be delivered alongside them in Lausanne ready for pick up later that day. Eric didn’t care for the costs where at other times he would have haggled, but they didn’t know what to expect with the Brigants though protection now seemed a necessity.
“I want you to stay with us in the apartment here,” Sookie said as she took in Eric’s concerned face upon his return.
“What for?” Jason exclaimed. “I’m all set up in the big house. Besides I need to get me some Euro ass, and these walls are fucking thin.” He finished off by knocking on the drywall in demonstration.
“Gross, Jason!” Sookie admonished. “I haven’t seen you in months. I want my brother close.”
“I’ll be here all week,” he said in annoyance. “That’s close enough. Some butler guy already unpacked all my stuff.”
“Gran would want us together under the same roof,” she said with a small pout in a final attempt at emotional blackmail. Eric knew that Jason was a better man than he if he could uphold his resistance when Sookie put on that face.
“Fuck it. Fine,” he exhaled. “But I don’t wanna hear none of them noises I walked in on.”
“Deal,” Sookie beamed brightly as Eric let out a low frustrated growl. Her shot of annoyance, however, quickly silenced his objections.
They were briefly interrupted by Claudine calling from the main house urging Sookie and Jason to come meet some of the family that had just arrived.
“What’s Niall like?” Sookie asked on the short walk over the immaculately mowed grass.
“Seems okay,” Jason shrugged. “I like the maid better,” he winked at Eric before being firmly shoved into the grass by a nervous Sookie.
“Behave!” She warned before pulling him up off the ground.
“Fine,” he grumbled before entering behind her into the expansive home. The maid Jason had taken a liking to guided them to the back of the house where an assembly of Brigants sat in a casual arrangement soaking up some of the late day spring sun.
“Sit,” the man who without introduction Sookie knew to be Claude, the masculine mirror image of Claudine. Where Eric had quickly become Sookie’s Prince Charming, her cousin Claude was the epitome of a spoiled prince. Vanity was the art he perfected. Sookie had to refrain from rolling her eyes at his audacious commentary several times alongside his egocentric view of the world.
“So what do you do?” Sookie asked, mimicking the question Claudine had first posed of Eric, figuring it was as good a question as any other.
“I do Claude things,” he announced loftily.
“He has yet to work a day in his life,” Niall chuckled indulgently from his plush seat.
“Only because you never take a look at my business plans,” he huffed petulantly.
“A strip club is not a business,” Niall spoke discouragingly. “Certainly not one the Brigant name will ever be attached to.”
“Luckily I’m a Crane,” Claude countered between clenched teeth, reversing the meaning of words spoken with a passive-aggressiveness that startled Sookie.
“I’d go,” Jason piped in, the tense atmosphere of the room having passed him by completely.
“I’d certainly let you in for free,” Claude grinned with a suggestive stroke of his thighs, coming up far too close than could be considered comfortable. He cackled loudly with the nervous bob of Jason’s Adam’s apple. “Though I think I’d rather have you dance.”
Jason’s eyes grew wide with the suggestion and only through the merciful entrance of a frazzled Claudette, lighting two cigarettes at once, the spare one soon stuck between her brothers lips, was Jason able to recover from the shock while the last of the Crane triplets plonked her frail body between them.
“Fucking kids!” she grumbled without bothering to greet the newest guests to the estate. While her features were identical to Claudine’s, the overall appearance was a direct contrast. Despite the mild weather she wore a warm, prim woollen suit, a contrast on the edges and topped off with a heavy set of pearls. There wasn’t a hair out of place around her impeccably made up face.
It turned out Claudette was actually the most fun and congenial as soon as her siblings had her down two obligatory drinks, a double measure of cognac that travelled down with far too much ease. The former wild child that she once was soon emerged. Sookie had to refrain herself from slapping the woman when she advanced her attentions on Eric; however, the interest didn’t last long and died altogether when Eric pulled Sookie closer to him in response.
Niall was kinder than Jason and Sookie had been expecting. Their grandmother hadn’t said anything directly about Fintan’s father, but he had been the patriarch that had sent Adele back to Bon Temps with little regard and that still marred their view of him.
“I was bereft with Fintan’s loss,” he offered in explanation to his newly introduced great grandchildren when the worst of the Crane triplets’ antics had died down. “I let Frida and Mab run the roost. I tried making amends as soon as your father was born, but your grandmother understandably wanted nothing to do with us.”
Sookie was glad that Niall’s second wife Frida and his sister Mab were no longer aliveto have to meet. She would have had a hard time being cordial with them, and she doubted Jason would have been anything close to it.
“Our grandmother was a real cunt,” Claudette said of Mab with a slight slur while she continued to eye fuck Eric. “That woman had a stick permanently lodged up her ass.”
No one responded openly to her crude remarks much to Sookie’s surprise; she only just managed to stifle her gasp. In fact, it only seems to enlist similar behaviour amongst the siblings.
“Says the one who looks like her fucking carbon copy,” Claude sneered. “Stick included.”
“Please,” Claudine intervened, but her siblings failed to hear her over their own emerging shouting match.
“At least I don’t enjoy putting it up there like some people,” Claudette said pointedly while downing her third glass of cognac.
“Jealous I actually get laid,” he smirked back. “It’s not like you haven’t been horning all over Sookie’s piece of candy all afternoon. How long has it been since your husband had a decent fuck?”
“None of your fucking business, asswad,” Claudette returned. “Since you seem to be fucking my husband, you should know better than I.”
It was at this point that Claudine had to sprint up and stand between them as the eternal peacemaker, and Sookie tamp down her special ability, assuming this had been the cause of the ill behaviour. It seemed, however, that made no difference as the siblings continued to haul insults at one another. Under Niall’s command Claudine escorted them away from a startled looking Jason and Sookie.
“I apologise,” Niall said as the silence settled around them again. “It’s a bit of a Brigant fault. We can’t lie to each other very well, especially when alcohol is involved.”
Sookie nodded politely as Jason warily looked at his beer with newfound suspicion.
“We have some business in Lausanne,” Eric reminded Sookie while offering them a clean escape from the Brigant madhouse, and assuring Niall they would be back in time for dinner when more of the Brigant relatives would be in attendance.
“They make the inbreeds in Hotshot look civil,” Jason exclaimed as soon as they were in the privacy of the car arranged for Jason during his stay. He grimaced at the memory of his ex-girlfriend Crystal and the messed up family she came from. He had witnessed a lot amongst the Norris clan, but it was nothing compared to the interchange between Claude and Claudette.
“Promise we’ll never let it get as ugly as it did with Gran’s inheritance again,” Sookie asked softly as she reached for her brother’s hand through the two front seats. Eric was only just settling into the passenger seat as he observed their tender reunion. Despite speaking over the phone numerous times, Eric knew they had never come to broach the subject that kept them separated for so long.
Jason turned his head to look at Sookie in the parked car. He had been surprised to hear from his estranged sister weeks ago after she had left without as much as a goodbye. Despite the hostility that had emerged over their grandmother’s contested estate, he was glad they were making amends. He had moved on from his toxic relationship with Crystal who had been encouraging him to fight with Sookie just like his sister’s fiancé had.
Jason had been happy to let the will be upheld initially, but when Crystal informed him he was going to be a daddy soon his priorities shifted. Despite never partaking in the meth that Crystal cooked up in her kitchen, he was now convinced that those shifts in his life had contributed to their volatile relationship.
“Neither of us was in a good place back then,” Jason offered to his baby sister while petting her forearm. It was a gesture that Jason had often given her consolingly after the death of their parents. “Connor and Crystal were poisoning our wells.”
Sookie let out a tiny sob while Eric shifted uncomfortably. He wanted to console her too, but didn’t want to intrude between the brother and sister in the confined space of the car.
“Get out here,” Jason said when he opened her car door to his weeping sister. She moved without thought, and was immediately engulfed in her brother’s embrace. “We ain’t never gonna be as crazy as them. For one, Big Blonde in the front seat isn’t an uppity asshole and two, I don’t have any intentions of fucking him in it.”
Sookie laughed a little at the mere thought of them together.
“You did say you wanted to enjoy some Euro ass,” Eric said dryly with a lascivious wink from his seat in the car.
“Not cool, man,” Jason returned, even though he had a hard time holding down his own laughs. He held Sookie tightly for another second, shifting them both from side to side while he whispered so Eric wouldn’t overhear, “I like him, sis. He’s good for you.”
Sookie gave him the biggest smile she ever granted him, her brother’s approval meaning so much to her in that moment and she simply replied, “Me too.”
A/N: So the Brigants seem like a fun bunch right? They’ll surely keep everyone on their toes for a while… like for whatever reason is it so important that Jason and Sookie both had to be lured to this family estate? Interior porn for the aficionados below, FYI I pick these pictures mostly on whether they suit the idea of what I’ve written and not necessarily personal taste, they’d be living in vastly different properties if that were the case. I had found something else but can’t find the pics anymore but this suited just as well. Thoughts welcome as ever…
Slightly different short and sweet sales pitches:
Thanks to whomever nominated this story and me for the New Kid on the Block for the You Want Blood Awards.
In case you haven’t seen it yet the Fangbangers Anonymous: The TB/SVM Directory is up and running and it’s been keeping me busy these past few months so check it out!