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A Lick of Frost (Merry Gentry #6)(5)

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

“Are you stating for the record…?” Cortez said.
“This will be a sealed record,” Biggs said, “unless it goes to court.”
“Yes, yes,” Cortez said, “but are you stating for the record that King Taranis allows torture to be used as a punishment in the Seelie Court?”
“Answer my question truthfully, and I will answer yours.”
Cortez looked at Shelby. They exchanged a longer-than-normal look, then both of them turned back to me. “Yes,” they said at the same time. The two men looked at each other, and finally Cortez nodded at Shelby, who said, “Yes, King Taranis stated that the fact that the Raven Guard had been forced into centuries of celibacy was the reason they were a danger to women. He further stated that to then have the forced celibacy lifted for only one little girl, referring to you, Princess, was monstrous. For no one woman could satisfy the lusts of centuries.”“So the celibacy was the motive for the rape,” I said.
“That seems to be the king’s reasoning,” Shelby said. “We haven’t looked for a motive beyond the usual for rape.”
The usual, I thought.
“I’ve answered your question, Princess. Now, are you stating for the record that the Seelie Court tortures its prisoners?”
Frost came to stand beside Doyle. “Meredith, think upon this before you answer.”
I looked behind me, met his worried eyes, the soft gray of winter skies. I held my other hand out to him, and he took it. “Taranis let our cat out of the bag, Frost. It’s only fair we let one of his out.”
Frost frowned at me. “I do not understand this talk of cats, but I fear his anger.”
I had to smile at him even as I agreed with him. “He began this, Frost. I will only finish it.”
He squeezed my hand, and Doyle squeezed the other, so that my hands were crisscrossed over my chest, holding them. I held their hands while I said, “Mr. Shelby, Mr. Cortez, you asked me, am I stating for the record that King Taranis’s golden court tortures as a punishment? I am so stating.”
The record was supposed to be sealed, but if either of these secrets got into the press…. This little family feud was going to get very ugly, very fast.
THE LAWYERS DECIDED THAT DOYLE AND FROST COULD ANSWER some general questions about what it was like being part of my personal guard to give some background to the atmosphere that Rhys, Galen, and Abe had been living in. I wasn’t sure it was going to be helpful, but I wasn’t a lawyer, so who was I to argue?
Doyle sat on my right, Frost on my left. My lawyers Farmer and Biggs moved a few seats down to give them room.
Shelby got the first question. “And there are now sixteen of you with access only to Princess Meredith for your, um, needs?”
“If you mean for sex, then yes,” Doyle said.
Shelby coughed and nodded. “Yes, I do mean sex.”
“Then say what you mean,” Doyle said.
“I will do that.” Shelby sat up a little straighter. “I imagine it must be difficult to share the princess.”
“I’m not certain I understand the question.”
“Well, not to be indelicate, but waiting for your turn must be hard after so many years of denial.”
“No, it is not hard to wait.”
“But of course it is,” Shelby said.
“You’re putting words in the witnesses’ mouths,” Biggs said.
“Sorry. What I mean, Captain Doyle, is that after so many years of needs unmet, it must be difficult to only have sex about every two weeks or so.” 
Frost laughed, then caught himself and tried to turn it into a cough. Doyle smiled. It was the first truly broad smile that he’d had since the questions had started. The white flash of his teeth in all that dark, dark face was startling if you weren’t used to it. It was like having a statue suddenly smile at you.
“I fail to see the humor in being forced to wait weeks for sex, Captain Doyle, Lieutenant Frost.”
“I would see no humor in that either,” Doyle said, “but when the number of men grew larger, Princess Meredith changed some of the parameters for us all.”
“I’m not following,” Nelson said, “Parameters?”
Doyle looked at me. “Perhaps you better explain, Princess.”
“When I had only five lovers, it seemed fair to make them wait for their turns, but as you point out, waiting two weeks, or more, after centuries of celibacy seems like another form of torture. So when the number of men went up to double digits, I upped the number of times I make love during a given day.”
You don’t get to see powerful, high-priced lawyers look that embarrassed often, but I got to see it then. They all looked at each other; Nelson actually raised her hand. “I’ll ask, if no one else will.”
The men let her ask. “How many times a day do you make love?” “It varies, but usually at least three times.”
“Three times a day,” she repeated.
“Yes,” I said, and gave her a blank, pleasant face. She blushed to the roots of her red hair. I was sidhe enough that I didn’t understand this American trait of being totally fascinated with sex and totally uncomfortable with it.
Veducci recovered first, as I had figured he would. “Even at three times a day, Princess Meredith, that leaves an average of five days between lovemaking sessions for the men. Five days is a long time when you’ve been denied for centuries. Couldn’t your three guards have tried to find something to occupy their time in between waiting?”
“A five-day wait implies that I’m only sleeping with one man at a time, Mr. Veducci, and most of the time I’m not.”
Veducci smiled at me. It was a nice smile. It went all the way to his eyes, and folded the bags into smile lines that said, here was a man who knew how to enjoy life, or had once. It was like a glimpse into a younger, less tired version.
I smiled back at him, responding to that joy.
“You are totally comfortable with this line of questioning, aren’t you, Princess Meredith?” he asked.
“I am not ashamed of anything I’ve done, Mr. Veducci. The fey, outside of some of the Seelie Court, see no shame in sex, as long as it is consensual.”
“All right,” he said. “I’ll ask the next one. How many men at a time do you routinely sleep with?” He shook his head when he asked as if he couldn’t believe he was asking it.
“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Biggs said.
“I’ll answer it,” I said.
“Are you sure…?”
“It’s sex. There’s nothing wrong with sex.” I held Biggs’s gaze until he looked away. I turned back to Veducci. “Average is probably two at a time. I think the max that I’ve ever done at once is four.” I looked at Doyle and Frost. “Four?” I made it a question.
“I believe so,” Doyle said.
Frost nodded. “Yes.”
I turned back to the lawyers. “Four, but two is average.”
Biggs recovered a little. “So, you see, gentlemen, ladies, a two-day wait between sex, or less. There are married men who have to wait longer than that for their needs to be met.”“Princess Meredith,” Cortez said.
“Yes, Mr. Cortez.” I looked into his dark brown eyes.
He cleared his throat and said, “Are you telling us the truth? You have sex three times a day with an average of two men at a time, and sometimes up to four. Is this what you want in the record?”
“It is sealed,” Farmer said.
“But if this does go to court, then it may not be. Is this really what the princess wants the public to know about her?”
I frowned at him. “It’s the truth, Mr. Cortez. Why should the truth bother me?”
“Do you honestly not understand what this information could do to your reputation in the media?”
“I don’t understand the question.”
He looked at Biggs and Farmer. “I don’t say this often, but is your client aware of what this record, even sealed, can be used for?”
“I did discuss it with her, but…Mr. Cortez, the Unseelie Court does not view sex in the same way as most of the world. They certainly don’t view it as mainstream America views it. My collogue and I learned that when we prepped the princess and her guard for these talks. If you are hinting that the princess might be more careful about what she admits to having done with her men, then save your breath. She is absolutely not bothered by anything she has done with any of her men.”
“Not to bring up a painful subject, but the princess didn’t seem very happy in the media when her ex-fiancé, Griffin, sold those Polaroids to the tabloids a few months back,” Cortez said.
I nodded. “That did hurt me,” I said, “but because Griffin broke my trust, not because I was ashamed of what we’d done. I thought we were in love when those pictures were taken. There is no shame in love, Mr. Cortez.”
“You are either very brave, Princess, or very naive. If you can use the word naive to a woman who is having sex with nearly twenty men on a regular basis.”
“I am not naive, Mr. Cortez. I simply don’t think like a human woman.”
Farmer said, “King Taranis’s allegation that the three guards he accused of this crime did so out of unmet sexual needs is a false assumption. It is based on the king’s own lack of understanding of his sister court.”