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Divine Misdemeanors (Merry Gentry #8)(8)

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

“The killer could still get off on some technicality,” I said. “The law isn’t really about justice here, it’s about the letter of the law and who has the best lawyer.”
“If the killer gets off on a technicality, then what would my orders be?”
“That’s months or years down the road, Doyle. Justice moves slowly out here.”
“The question stands, Meredith.” He was studying my face again.
I met his eyes behind their dark glasses, and said the truth. “He, or they, either spend the rest of their lives in prison, or they die.” 
“By my hand?” he asked.
I shrugged, and looked away. “By someone’s hand.” I moved past him to touch the door. He grabbed my arm, and made me look back at him.
“Would you do it yourself?”
“My father taught me to never ask of anyone what I’m not willing to do myself.”
“Your aunt, the Queen of Air and Darkness, is quite willing to get her own lily-white hands bloody.”
“She’s a sadist. I’d just kill them.”
He raised my hands in his and kissed them both gently. “I would rather your hands hold more tender things than death. Let that be my task.”
“I think if you drench yourself in blood it may change the children you carry.”
“Do you believe that?” I asked.
He nodded. “Killing changes things.”
“I’ll do my best not to kill anyone while I’m still pregnant.”
He kissed me on the forehead, and then leaned down to touch his lips to mine. “That is all I ask.”
“You know that what happens to the mother while pregnant doesn’t really affect the babies, right?”
“Humor me,” he said, rising to his full height, but keeping my hands in his. I don’t know if I would have told him he was being superstitious because a knock on the door interrupted us. Frost opened the door. He said, “Uniformed police are here.”
Bittersweet began screaming again, “Police can’t help! Police can’t protect us from magic!”
Doyle and I sighed at the same time, glanced at each other, and smiled. His smile was a small one, just a bare lift of his lips, but we went through the door smiling. The smiles slipped and we hurried as Frost turned back and said, “Bittersweet, do not harm the officers.”
We went to join him in trying to keep the tiny fey from throwing the big, bad policemen across the room.
IT WASN’T BIG, BAD POLICEMEN. IT WAS BIG, BAD POLICE OFFICERS, because one of the uniforms was a woman, and they were both perfectly nice, but Bittersweet would not be comforted.
The policewoman did not like the Fear Dearg. I suppose if you hadn’t spent your life around beings who made him look like a GQ cover boy he might be worth a little fear. The problem really was that the Fear Dearg liked that she was afraid of him. He kept an eye on the hysterical Bittersweet, but he also managed to inch ever closer to the blonde woman in her pressed uniform. Her hair was back in a tight ponytail. Every bit of shiny on her was shined. Her partner was a little older, and a lot less spit and polish. I was betting she was new on the force. Rookies tended to take it all much more to heart at first.
Robert had asked Eric to man the front with Alice. I was also guessing that he had sent his human lover away from Bittersweet just in case she lost control of her power again. If she hit Eric the way she had hit Robert and Doyle, he might have been hurt. Better to surround hysterical fey with people who were tougher than pure human blood could make you.
Bittersweet was sitting on the coffee table crying softly. She’d exhausted herself with hysterics, the energy burst, and crying; all of it had taken its toll. It was actually possible for a really tiny fey to deplete their energy so badly that they could fade away. It was especially hazardous outside of faerie. The more metal and tech around a fey, the harder it could be on them. How had such a tiny thing come to Los Angeles? Why had she been exiled, or had she simply followed her wildflower across the country like the insect she resembled? Some flower faeries were very devoted to their plants, especially if they were species specific. They were like any fanatic: the narrower your focus, the more devoted you could be.Robert had taken one of the overstuffed leather chairs and given us the couch. The couch was actually a nice intermediate size between my and Robert’s height, and the average height of a human worker. Which meant it fit me well enough, but probably didn’t fit Doyle or Frost quite right, but they weren’t interested in sitting down, so it didn’t matter.
Frost sat on the arm of the couch by me. Doyle stood near the “door” of the half-partitioned room and kept an eye on the outer door. Because my guards wouldn’t sit down, the two uniforms didn’t want to sit either. The older cop, Officer Wright, did not like my men. He was six feet and in good shape, from his short brown hair to his comfortable and well-chosen boots. He kept looking from Frost to Doyle to the little faery on the table, but mostly at Frost and Doyle. I was betting that Wright had learned a thing or two about physical potential in his years on the job. Anyone who could judge that never liked my men much. No policeman likes to think that they may not be the biggest dog in the room just in case a dogfight breaks out.
O’Brian, the female rookie, was five foot eight at least, which was tall to me, but not standing there with her partner and my guards. But I was betting that she was used to that on the force; what she wasn’t used to was the Fear Dearg at her side. He’d worked himself within inches of her. He’d done nothing wrong, nothing she could complain about except invade her personal space, but I was betting that she’d taken to heart the lectures on human/fey relations. One of the cultural differences between us and most Americans was that we didn’t have the personal-space boundaries that most did, so if Officer O’Brian complained, then she was being insensitive to our people with Princess Meredith sitting right there. I watched her try not to be nervous as the Fear Dearg moved just a fraction closer to her. I watched the thought in her blue eyes as she tried to work out the political implications of telling the Fear Dearg to back off.
There was a polite knock on the door, which meant it wasn’t Lucy and her people. Most police have very authoritative knocks. Robert called, “Come in.”
Alice pushed through the door with a small tray of pastries. “Here’s something for you to munch on while I take your orders.” She’d flashed a smile at everyone, showing dimples in the corners of her full red mouth. The red lipstick was the only deviation to her black-and-white outfit. Did her smile linger a little on the Fear Dearg? Did her eyes harden just a little at his closeness to O’Brian? Perhaps, or maybe I was looking for it.
She hesitated with the sweets as if unsure who to serve first. I helped her make the decision. “Is Bittersweet cool to the touch, Robert?”
Robert had moved over to sit with the demi-fey and she was still sobbing quietly on his shoulder, huddled against the smooth line of his neck. “Yes. She needs something sweet.” 
Alice gave me a thankful smile, then offered the tray first to her boss and the little fey. Robert took an iced cake and held it up toward the little fey. She seemed not to notice it.
“Is she hurt?” Officer Wright asked, and he was suddenly more alert, more something. I’d seen other police do that, and some of my guards. One minute they’re just standing there, the next they are “on;” they are cop, or warrior. It’s like some internal switch is hit and they are just suddenly more.
Officer O’Brian tried to follow suit, but she was too new. She didn’t know how to turn on the hyperalert mode yet. She’d learn.
I felt Frost tense beside me on the couch arm. I knew that if Doyle had been on my other side, I’d have felt the same from him. They were all warriors, and it was hard for them not to react to the other man.
“Bittersweet has used up a lot of energy,” I said, “and needs to refuel.”
Alice was now offering the tray of sweets to Frost and me. I took the second frosted cake, which was somewhere between a cupcake and something smaller, but the frosting was white and frothy, and I was suddenly hungry. I’d noticed that since I got pregnant. I’d be fine, and then I’d suddenly be ravenous.
Frost shook his head. He was keeping his hands free. Was he hungry? How often had he and Doyle both stood at a banquet at the Queen’s side and guarded her safety while the rest of us ate? Had that been hard for them? It had never occurred to me to ask, and I couldn’t ask now in front of so many outsiders. I filed the thought away for later and began to eat my cake by licking off the frosting.
“She looks like she’s had a hard day,” Wright said.
I realized that they might not even know why they were here to guard Bittersweet. They might simply have been told that there was a witness to guard, or maybe even less. They’d been told to show up and keep an eye on her, and that’s what they were doing.
“She has, but it’s more than that. She needs fuel.” I ran a finger through the icing and licked the tip of my finger. It was homemade-frosting sweet, but not too sweet.
“You mean eat?” O’Brian asked.
I nodded. “Yes, but it’s more than that. We don’t eat and we just get hungry, maybe a little sick. When you’re warm-blooded, the smaller you are the harder it is to maintain your body temperature and your energy level. Shrews have to eat about five times their own body weight every day just to keep from starving to death.”