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Divine Misdemeanors (Merry Gentry #8)(3)

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

“Oh, check out the flowers, florists,” I said.
“Already on it,” she said.
“Sorry, sometimes I get carried away with you letting me help.”
“No, all ideas are welcome, Merry, you know that. It’s why I called you down here.” She waved at me and went back to her murder scene. We couldn’t shake because she was still wearing gloves and carrying evidence.Doyle and Frost were almost to me, but we weren’t going to get to the beach right away either. I had to warn the local demi-fey, and try to figure out a way to see if the mortality had spread to them, or if there was magic here in Los Angeles that could steal their immortality. There were things that would kill us eventually, but there wasn’t much that would allow you to slit the throat of the winged-kin. They were the essence of faerie, more so even than the high court nobles. If I found out anything certain I’d tell Lucy, but until I had something that was useful I’d keep my secrets. I was only part human; most of me was pure fey, and we know how to keep a secret. The trick was how to warn the local demi-fey without causing a panic. Then I realized that there wasn’t a way. The fey are just like humans—they understand fear. Some magic, a little near-immortality, doesn’t make you unafraid; it just gives you a different list of fears.
FROST TRIED TO HUG ME, BUT I PUT A HAND ON HIS STOMACH, TOO short to really touch his chest. Doyle said, “She’s trying to appear strong in front of the policemen.”
“We shouldn’t have let you come see this now,” Frost said.
“Jeremy could have given a fey’s opinion.”
“Jeremy is the boss and he’s allowed to turn his phone off on a Saturday,” I said.
“Then Jordan or Julian Kane. They are psychics and practicing wizards.”
“They’re only human, Frost. Lucy wanted a fey to see this crime scene.”
“You shouldn’t have to see this in your condition.”
I leaned in and spoke low. “I am a detective. It’s my job, and it’s our people up there dead on the hillside. I may never be queen, but I’m the closest they have here in L.A. Where else should a ruler be when her people are threatened?”
Frost started to say something else, but Doyle touched his arm. “Let it go, my friend. Let us just get her back to the vehicle and be-gone.”
I put my arm through Doyle’s leather-clad arm, though I thought it was too hot for the leather. Frost trailed us, and a glance showed that he was doing his job of searching the area for threats. Unlike a human bodyguard, Frost looked from sky to ground, because when faerie is your potential enemy, danger can come from nearly anywhere.
Doyle was keeping an eye out too, but his attention was divided by trying to keep me from twisting an ankle in the sandals that looked great with the dress but sucked for uneven ground. They didn’t have too tall a heel, they were just very open and not supportive. I wondered what I’d wear when I got really pregnant. Did I have any practical shoes except for jogging ones? 
The major danger had passed when I’d killed my main rival for the throne and given up the crown. I’d done everything I could to make myself both too dangerous to tempt anyone and harmless to the nobles and their way of life. I was in voluntary exile, and I’d made it clear that it was a permanent move. I didn’t want the throne; I just wanted to be left alone. But since some of the nobles had spent the last thousand years plotting to get closer to the throne, they found my decision a little hard to believe.
So far no one had tried to kill me, or anyone close to me, but Doyle was the Queen’s Darkness, and Frost was the Killing Frost. They had earned their names, and now that we were all in love and I was carrying their children, it would be a shame to let something go wrong. This was the end of our fairy tale, and maybe we had no enemies left, but old habits aren’t always a bad thing. I felt safe with them, except that while I loved them more than life itself, if they died trying to protect me I’d never recover from it. There are all sorts of ways to die without dying.
When we were out of hearing of the human police, I told them all my fears about the killings.
“How do we find out if the lesser fey here are easier to kill?” Frost asked.
Doyle said, “In other days it would have been easy enough.”
I stopped walking, which forced him to stop. “You’d just pick a few and see if you could slit their throats?”
“If my queen had asked it, yes,” he said.
I started to pull away from him, but he held my arm in his. “You knew what I was before you took me to your bed, Meredith. It is a little late for shock and innocence.”
“The queen would say, ‘Where is my Darkness? Someone bring me my Darkness.’ You would appear, or simply step closer to her, and then someone would bleed or die,” I said.
“I was her weapon and her general. I did what I was bid.”
I studied his face, and I knew it wasn’t just the black wraparound sunglasses that kept me from reading him. He could hide everything behind his face. He had spent too many years beside a mad queen, where the wrong look at the wrong moment could get you sent to the Hallway of Mortality, the torture chamber. Torture could last a long time for the immortal, especially if you healed well.
“I was lesser fey once, Meredith,” Frost said. He’d been Jack Frost, and, literally, human belief plus needing to be stronger to protect the woman he loved had turned him into the Killing Frost. But once he had been simply little Jackie Frost, just one minor being in the entourage of Winter’s power. The woman he had changed himself completely for was centuries in her human grave, and now he loved me: the only non-aging, non-immortal sidhe royal ever. Poor Frost—he couldn’t seem to love people who would outlive him.
“I know you were not always sidhe.”
“But I remember when he was the Darkness to me, and I feared him as much as any. Now he is my truest friend and my captain, because that other Doyle was centuries before you were born.”
I studied his face, and even around his sunglasses I saw the gentleness—a piece of softness that he’d only let me see in the last few weeks. I realized that just as he would have had Doyle’s back in battle, he did the same now. He had distracted me from my anger, and put himself in the way of it, as if I were a blade to be avoided.
I held out a hand to him, and he took it. I stopped pulling against Doyle’s arm, and just held them both. “You are right. You are both right. I knew Doyle’s history before he came to my side. Let me try this again.” I looked up at Doyle, still with Frost’s hand in mine. “You aren’t suggesting that we test our theory on random fey?”
“No, but in honesty I do not have another way to test.”I thought about it, and then shook my head. “Neither do I.”
“Then what are we to do?” Frost asked.
“We warn the demi-fey, and then we go to the beach.”
“I thought this would end our day out,” Doyle said.
“When you can’t do anything else, you go about your day. Besides, everyone is meeting us at the beach. We can talk about this problem there as well as at the house. Why not let some of us enjoy the sand and water while the rest of us debate immortality and murder?”
“Very practical,” Doyle said.
I nodded. “We’ll stop off at the Fael Tea Shop on the way to the beach.”
“The Fael is not on the way to the beach,” Doyle said.
“No, but if we leave word there about the demi-fey, the news will spread.”
“We could leave word with Gilda, the Fairy Godmother,” Frost said.
“No, she might keep the knowledge to herself so she can say later that I didn’t warn the demi-fey because I thought I was too good to care.”
“Do you truly think she hates you more than she loves her people?” Frost asked.
“She was the ruling power among the fey exiles in Los Angeles. The lesser fey went to her to settle disputes. Now they come to me.”
“Not all of them,” Frost said.
“No, but enough that she thinks I’m trying to take over her business.”
“We want no part of her businesses, legal or illegal,” Doyle said.
“She was human once, Doyle. It makes her insecure.”
“Her power does not feel human,” Frost said, and he shivered.
I studied his face. “You don’t like her.”
“Do you?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“There is always something twisted inside the minds and bodies of humans who are given access to the wild magic of faerie,” Doyle said.
“She got a wish granted,” I said, “and she wished to be a fairy godmother, because she didn’t understand that there is no such thing among us.”
“She’s made herself into a power to be reckoned with in this city,” Doyle said.
“You’ve scouted her, haven’t you?”
“She all but threatened you outright if you kept trying to steal her people away. I investigated a potential enemy’s stronghold.”
“And?” I asked.
“She should be frightened of us,” he said, and his voice was that voice of before, when he’d been only a weapon and not a person to me.
“We stop by the Fael, and then we’ll talk about what to do with the other godmother. If we tell her and she tells no one, then it is we who can say that she cares more about her jealousy of me than about her own people.”