Read [Merry Gentry 04] - A Stroke of Midnight Online

Authors: Laurell K. Hamilton

Tags: #Fiction

[Merry Gentry 04] - A Stroke of Midnight (3 page)

BOOK: [Merry Gentry 04] - A Stroke of Midnight
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“I loved being a detective in L.A.”

“Was it like in the movies?” someone asked.

“Sometimes, but not very much. I ended up doing more bodyguard work than actual detective work.”

The next question was interesting. “There were rumors that some of the stars you and the other guards protected wanted more body than guarding?”

That was a hard one, because a lot of the clients had asked or indicated a willingness for sex. The men had either ignored the invitation or said no. So technically the answer was yes, but if he said yes, then all the semi-famous, or even famous, for whom Rhys had bodyguarded would be in the tabloids tomorrow, and it would be our fault. Our former boss, Jeremy Grey, deserved better than that from us. So did our clients. And the right kind of clients would stay away from Grey's Detective Agency, and the wrong kind would come and be disappointed.

I leaned into the microphone, and said suggestively, “I'm afraid that Rhys was too busy bodyguarding me to bodyguard anyone else.”

That got me laughter and distracted them all. We were back to sex questions about us, and those we could answer.

“Is Rhys good in bed?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Is the princess good in bed?”

“Very.”

See, easy questions.

“Rhys, have you ever shared a bed with the princess and one of the other guards?”

“Yes.”

Then the reporters started working together. The first reporter tried to ask who with, but Madeline said he'd had his question. The next reporter she picked asked, “Rhys, who did you share the princess with?”

He could have tap-danced around that one, but he chose truth, because why not?

“Nicca.”

The cameras and attention turned to Nicca like lions spotting a newly wounded gazelle. This particular gazelle was six feet tall with deep brown skin and rich chestnut hair that fell to his ankles, thick and straight, held back only by a thin copper diadem. He was naked from the waist up except for the rich gold silk suspenders that graced his chest and caught the faint yellow pattern in the brown of his suit pants. He had two 9mm guns in the front of his pants, because no one could figure out how to get him in a shoulder holster, or how to strap on his armor, or his swords, without damaging his wings.

They towered above his shoulders and a little above his head. They swept out and down to his calves, so that the edges of them almost brushed the floor. They were huge moth wings, as if a half-dozen different kinds of giant silk moths had had sex one dark night with a faerie. Only two days ago the wings had been a birthmark on the back of his body, but during sex the wings had suddenly burst forth from his skin and become real. The back of his body was now one smooth brown piece.

He moved to join us while the cameras made us go blind again. Rhys stayed with me, as Nicca stood beside us, towering over us both. He looked out at the crowd, his face puzzled. He wasn't accustomed to being front and center for the queen, or me.

“Nicca, do you really sleep with the princess and Rhys?”

He bent over toward the mike, so he was on one side of me and Rhys was on the other. The wings fanned out above my head. “Yes,” he said, then stood back up.

The cameras clicked and reporters shouted questions until Madeline picked someone. “How did you get wings?”

Good question. Unfortunately, we didn't have a good answer. “You want the truth?” I asked. “We're not sure.”

“Nicca, what were you doing when the wings appeared?”

When Nicca knelt back over, the wings flexed so that for a moment I was backdropped against one of them. I couldn't see anything but flashes. “Having sex with Meredith.”

The reporters did everything but giggle like junior high school kids. The American reporters, and some of the European, had never quite gotten used to the fact that the fey, as a whole, don't see sex as bad. So admitting to sex with someone, unless it makes your lover uncomfortable, isn't bad, or scandalous.

“Was Rhys with you?”

“Yes.” Technically, Rhys had been beside the bed, not in it, but Nicca didn't see a reason to quibble.

“Was anyone else in the bed with you and the princess when it happened?”

“Yes.” That was Nicca, and very sidhe. You either distracted with a story that had nothing to do with what was asked, or you answered exactly what was asked, and absolutely nothing else. Nicca wasn't good at stories, so he stuck to truth.

“Who?” someone yelled.

Nicca glanced at me, and he shouldn't have. The glance was enough to let the reporters know that he wasn't sure I wanted him to tell the name. Shit. Most sidhe women do not like admitting that they've fucked a lesser fey, but I wasn't ashamed. The reporters would make more of that one glance than there was to make. Damn.

The trouble was that Sage wasn't on the stage. He wasn't sidhe, and his own queen had demanded him at her side. Besides, our queen didn't want him onstage with me. In Andais's own words, “Oral sex, fine, but he doesn't get to fuck you. No demi-fey, no matter how tall, is sitting on my throne as anyone's king.” So Sage got to stay out of sight. Which made this moment even more interesting.

“The other third, or would that be fourth,” I said with a smile, “isn't onstage today. He's not certain he wants the media attention.”

“Is he going to be one of your lovers, and potential kings?”

“No.” Which was the truth.

“Why not?” someone else shouted out. I wouldn't have answered it, but Nicca did. “He's not sidhe.”

Oh, hell. That started another frenzy of shouted questions. I leaned into Nicca and asked him to go back to his piece of wall on the dais. Rhys went back to his section on the edge where he could watch the crowd. He was trying not to laugh. I guess it might as well be funny. But Nicca had to stay away from the mike from now on. I wasn't ashamed of what I'd done with Sage, but I wasn't sure how much of it my aunt wanted me to explain to the media. She did seem embarrassed about it.

Madeline finally found a question that she thought I would be able and willing to answer. She was wrong. “Which of them is the best in bed, Meredith?”

I fought not to glance at Madeline. What was she doing taking that question? She knew better. “Look at them all. How could anyone choose just one?”

Laughter, but they didn't let it go. “You seemed to have a preference for Frost earlier, Princess.”

It wasn't a question so I didn't answer it. Another reporter asked, “Fair enough, Princess, but if not just one, who are your multiple favorites?”

That was trickier. “Everyone that I've had sex with is special to me in their own way.” Truth.

“How many have you had sex with?”

I leaned into the mike. “Gentlemen, if you would just take a step or two forward.”

Rhys, Nicca, Doyle, and Frost moved forward. Only three extra men stepped away from the wall. Galen's skin was almost as white as my own, but in the right light there was an undercast of green to that paleness. His curls were green in any light, except in the dark, where they looked blond. He had cut his own hair just above his shoulders, leaving only one thin braid to remind me that once it fell to his ankles. Of the men of faerie, only the sidhe were allowed to grow their hair long. Galen had cut his hair voluntarily, unlike Adair. Or Amatheon, who stood next to him. Amatheon's rich red hair had been French-braided so that the reporters would have a harder time realizing that his hair only touched his shoulders now. He'd given in to the queen's order sooner than Adair had. The fact that cutting the men's hair had been a punishment, a humiliation that persuaded them to do as the queen bid, said how very odd it was that Galen had done it on his own. He was the youngest of the Queen's Ravens, only seventy-five years older than me. Among the sidhe it was almost like being raised together. I'd thought that open, handsome face was the perfect face since I was fourteen, or maybe younger. It was Galen that I wanted my father to let me be engaged to, but he had chosen another. That engagement had lasted seven years, but there had been no children, and in the end, he had told me I was too human for him. Not sidhe enough. It had made me wonder even more why my father wouldn't let me have Galen in the first place.

He turned lovely green eyes to me and smiled, and I smiled back. He was as armed as any of them with blade and guns, but there was a softness to him that most of the others had lost centuries before either he or I had been born. He'd give his life for me, and would have when I was a child, unlike the rest of them. But as a politician he was something of a disaster, and that could be fatal in the high courts of faerie.

Someone touched my shoulder. I jumped, and found Madeline with her hand over my mike. She leaned in and whispered, “You're staring at him. Let's not repeat the Frost incident, shall we?” She stepped back with a smile already for the press, hitting the switch at her waist.

I had to keep my face turned away from the crowd because I was blushing. I didn't blush much, and by human standards it wasn't too dark. Sidhe skin just doesn't flush the way human skin tones do. Of course, keeping my face away from the cameras meant that Galen could see me. Some days it's only a choice of embarrassments, not an escape from them.

Madeline was saying, “Princess Meredith is getting a little tired. We may have to cut this short, guys, sorry.”

There was a general outcry, and a renewed flash of cameras, which was bad, because Galen came to me. He knelt in front of me, beside my chair, and was tall enough that, from the shoulders up, he was still clearly visible to them. He touched my chin, so gently, with just the tips of his fingers. It made me look at him. It made me forget that we were both in profile to the cameras. He leaned his face closer to me, making me forget that we were onstage. I leaned in toward him, and his hand cupped the side of my face. That made me forget everything else. I have no explanation for it. We'd shared a bed for months. He was a disaster politically, and showing him this much favor in front of everyone could endanger him, but I wasn't thinking that when we kissed. I wasn't thinking anything, and all I could see was the pleased look on his face, the look in his eyes. He'd loved me since I was seventeen, and that was, in his eyes, as if nothing had changed and no time had passed.

The queen had ordered me not to show favoritism. She was going to be angry with me, with him, with us, but after Frost's little incident, as Madeline called it, what was one more? It was bad, and still I kissed him. Still I wanted to kiss him. Still, for just a moment, the world narrowed down to Galen's face, his hand against my skin, and his mouth on mine.

It was a soft, chaste kiss, I think because he knew if he kissed me too hard, I'd lose my hold on the glamour that kept Frost and me from looking like lipstick casualties. Galen drew back, and his eyes held that soft surprise that they did sometimes, as if he still couldn't believe he was allowed to kiss me, allowed to touch me. I'd caught the same look on my face in the bedroom mirror a time or two.

“Do we all get a kiss?” The voice was deep and held the rough sloughing of the sea. Barinthus moved toward us in a swirl of his hair, the color of oceans. The turquoise of the Mediterranean; the deeper medium blue of the Pacific; a grey-blue like the ocean before a storm, sliding into a blue that was nearly black, where the water runs deep and thick like the blood of sleeping giants. The colors moved and flowed into one another so that the actual where and what his hair looked like was ever-changing, like the ocean itself. He'd once been a god of the sea. I'd only recently discovered that he had been Manannan Mac Lir, but that was a secret. Now he was Barinthus, a fallen god of the sea. He moved gracefully across the stage, all near seven feet of him. His eyes were blue but with a slit pupil like a cat or a deep-sea animal. He had a second clear membrane that could close over his eye when he was underwater, and would often flicker when he was nervous. It flickered just a touch now.

I wondered if anyone in the crowd of reporters knew how much it cost this very private man to have suggested a kiss, and make himself the target of all these cameras?

Galen had realized he'd misbehaved because he showed me with his eyes that he was sorry. Unfortunately, his face wasn't that hard for anyone to read, including the reporters. The queen had said no favorites. Our behavior was going to force me to try to prove I had none. After what Galen and I had just done, that was going to be difficult.

A lot of the men standing with me would have played for the cameras, and it would have cost them, or me, nothing. Barinthus was not one of them. He'd been my father's friend, and by American standards we hadn't had sex. Not even by Bill Clinton's standards. If I'd been him, I would have stayed against the wall, but he held to a higher standard of truth even than most of the sidhe.

I looked up at Barinthus, and with me sitting and him standing, it took awhile to get all the way to his face. “If you like.” I kept my voice light and my face pleasant. Barinthus and I had never kissed, and the first kiss should not be on film.

It was Rhys who saved the day. “If Barinthus gets a kiss, then so do I.”

Doyle said, “To be fair, we all should.”

Barinthus gave a slight smile. “I would bow to the larger need, and take my kiss in private.”

“Galen and Frost have already had theirs,” Rhys said, and as Galen went back to his place in line, Rhys pretended to box his ears.

Barinthus did a very graceful bow and tried to slink back to his place. But that wasn't happening. A reporter asked, “Lord Barinthus, have you decided to go from being kingmaker to being king?” No sidhe would have called him kingmaker to his face, or queenmaker either. But the media, well, he couldn't box their ears.

He knelt beside me, rather than lean into the mike. Kneeling down, his head was about even with mine. “I doubt I will stay with the princess as a permanent member of her guard.”

BOOK: [Merry Gentry 04] - A Stroke of Midnight
13.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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