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A Stroke of Midnight (Merry Gentry #4)(4)

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

Thankfully, no one yelled their names, probably because no one knew who they were.
Madeline finally picked a question, and a victim for them. “Brad, you had a question for Rhys.”
The reporter stood up a little taller, and most of the others sat down like disappointed flowers. “Rhys, how was it being a real detective in Los Angeles?”
Rhys was on the far end near the edge of the dais. He was the shortest of the purebred sidhe, only five and a half feet tall. His white curls fell to his waist, capped with a cream-colored fedora with a slightly darker band. The trench coat he wore over his suit matched the hat. He looked like a cross between an old-time detective with better fashion sense, a male stripper, and a pirate. The stripper came from the pale blue silk T-shirt that clung to his muscular chest and washboard abs. The pirate came from the fact that he wore a patch over one eye. It wasn’t affectation, but to save the press from seeing what was left after a goblin had torn out his eye, laid scars down a boyishly handsome face. The remaining eye was three rings of blue. He could have used glamour to hide the scars, but when he realized the scars didn’t bother me, he’d stopped bothering. He thought the scars gave him character, and they did. 
Rhys had always been a huge film noir fan, and the reporter clearly remembered that. I liked her better for it.
He put one hand flat on the table and the other across my shoulders as he moved into the mike, similar to what Doyle had done. But Rhys knew how to play to the camera better because he’d been doing it longer. He took off the fedora and shook his hair out, so it fell around his shoulders in thick white curls.
“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?”
See, easy questions.
“Rhys, have you ever shared a bed with the princess and one of the other guards?”
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?
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.