A Stroke of Midnight (Page 17)

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Chapter 33

WHEN MY EYES STOPPED ROLLING BACK INTO MY HEAD SO THAT I could see again, Nicca was grinning up at me. “That was a good one.”

I still couldn't talk, so I nodded.

“You're good,” Galen said.

“I have never talked to Biddy about sex. You run into a few women, now and then, who won't let you do this.”

My voice didn't sound like mine when I said, “They're mad.”

“Perhaps, but just in case it's the last, I wanted it to be good.”

I had a little trouble focusing, but finally managed it. “I don't want to send you to her bed with regrets.”

He came to his knees, and then climbed over my body until he could lay his nakedness along my own. The feel of his testicles pressed tight against where his mouth had just been made me writhe underneath him.

He stared down at me, supporting his upper body on his arms, but keeping his lower body pressed tight against me. No matter how gentle a lover, the look in his eyes was the look of every man, eventually. That knowledge, that fierce joy, that they have given you pleasure, and now they get to take their own. I do not know why all men have that look somewhere in their eyes, waiting to come out, but I have seen it too often not to know that it is there.

“Kiss me, take the sweet taste of you from my mouth.” He lowered his face to me, and I raised up to meet him. We kissed, and he was wet from me, and tasted of something clean and fresh, like the first breath of morning after a rain, when the world is wet and pure.

He kissed me until our tongues, our hands, our arms, found each other. He kissed me until I had licked him clean of that taste, and left the wetness of my mouth behind. He drew back breathless, and said, “Perfect.”

I understood what he meant, not that I was perfect, but that the kiss had been exactly what he'd wanted in that moment.

He raised himself above me on arms and knees. He was stretched tight and hard against the front of his own body. “I am ready.”

“I can see that,” I said, and my voice was breathy.

Nicca looked at the other men, and said, “Places, gentlemen.” There was a note of command in his voice that I'd seldom heard, even in the midst of sex. I realized that this was the first time I'd had sex with him since he'd been brought into his power. Not his wings, but his power. We weren't certain what magic he had gained from it, but he'd gained other things that had nothing to do with magic, and everything with being comfortable in his own skin.

Kitto hesitated at my head as if he wasn't sure what to do next.

“Raise up, Merry,” Galen said, “let him know where he's supposed to be.” His voice and face were gentle when he said it, as if he'd picked up on Kitto's nervousness. Galen and I had kept our nights in Los Angeles to ourselves, so I'd really never seen him interact in an intimate setting with any of the other men. You can learn a lot about a man in the bedroom when it's not just two, but more. Someone who refuses to share, well, that tells you something about a man, too.

I raised up on my elbows. “Come, Kitto, let me rest my head in your lap.”

He moved behind me, still uncertain, as if he expected one of the other men to protest. He settled behind me with his legs folded tailor fashion. I did not lay my head in his lap immediately, but bowed my head backwards so I could sweep my hair across his groin. I trailed my hair back and forth until he made noises for me.

I laid my head in the cradle of his legs, and found his sex pressed against the top of my head. Interesting, but his knees were also higher than my face. I rubbed my head against him like a cat. His breathing sped for me, but it wasn't going to work as a prop for Galen.

“Um,” Galen said.

Nicca said, “What if Kitto almost lies under Merry, with her head resting on his stomach?”

We tried it. It took some maneuvering, especially to find a comfortable way for Kitto's legs to be underneath me. Nicca suggested that Kitto turn over on his stomach, which probably would have been easier, but I vetoed it. I wanted the press of him against my head. I wanted not just Kitto's body, but a very specific part, to be my pillow. I wanted the sensation of it, and I wanted to give Kitto at least that much. He'd given up his place for intercourse, and for oral sex. He deserved at least to be touched.

So I lay back against the line of Kitto's body, and my head was cradled on a pillow that was so warm, so firm, so erotic. I rubbed my head against that firm pillow, and Kitto cried out.

“A little less body language, Merry, or he'll go before anyone else,” Galen said, but he smiled when he said it, shaking his head.

I stopped rubbing, and just lay there with my head pressed against Kitto. “What?” I asked.

“Just watching how happy that made you.”

“Do you have a problem with it?” I asked.

“No,” he said, and grinned suddenly, “and I can prove it.” He crawled to us, and arched his body above my face, knees on one side, hands on the other. I wrapped my hands around him, and squeezed gently. It brought his breath out in a shuddering laugh. “Stop that.”

“Why?” I asked, and put my other hand at his balls, cupping them, while I stroked along the length of him. I'd touched Galen hundreds of times by now, but I never quite got over the marvel of being allowed to touch him. I think it was because I'd wanted him long before it had occurred to me to want any of the other guards. They had been untouchable, and almost invisible to me, as I'd been to them. But Galen, he had always been real to me.

He looked at Nicca and said, in a voice that couldn't quite control itself, “I'd hurry if I were you, Nicca. She is so not going to behave herself.”

Nicca gave that uniquely masculine laugh. “I'm not finishing until she does, I'll warn you of that now.”

I ran my thumb over the round tip of him, and rubbed my head against Kitto at the same time. Galen shuddered for me, and Kitto made another satisfying cry. “We'll do our best,” Galen said. He gazed down at me, smiling, eyes a little wide. “Is this a test of how much control we have?”

“No,” I said.

“You're mad because I've said no to this for so long, aren't you?”

I thought about that for a second or two, then frowned. “Maybe, I guess, yes. I'm sorry. I want this to be about joy, not pettiness.” My hands started to fall away from him, but he caught my wrist with one hand.

“Do your best, or your worst, and so will we. I'm sorry I denied you any part of me. I promise it won't happen again.”

“Good,” I said, and I pulled him down toward me. He didn't fight me. He just readjusted his hands and knees, and finally his hips until I could guide him between my lips. He was so full, so thick, that I had to open my mouth wider than was comfortable to let him push his way deeper inside. He pushed until he found the back of my throat. I forced myself to relax as he eased himself past that point of comfort. I loved the feel of a man so deep, but it was an acquired talent. I was blessed with no gag reflex, but there were other problems with the well-endowed. Breathing for one, and just finding an angle so they could fuck you but not hurt your throat. Badly done deep-throating gave an entirely new meaning to having a little sore throat. I moved my head, just a little, my head rocking gently on Kitto's body, as I worked with Galen to find that special position. I knew from experience that once I got excited enough I would have less trouble, that nothing would hurt while I was doing it, so I worked to make sure things didn't hurt later either. Galen was above me, truly trying to mouth-fuck me. It wasn't the same as going down on a man from other positions, because they had more control than you did. And they could not feel your body, as you felt it. They could not know when you could draw breath, or swallow, or when you needed to do either. I was trusting Galen to be gentle. I was depending on it.

He began to use his hips more, so that at the end of the thrust he was down my throat. I timed my breathing for when he was higher in my mouth, and swallowed about every other stroke. I moved my hands up his body until I found his testicles, so I could play with them as he went in and out.

“I take that as a yes,” he said, in a voice that still sounded like his own.

I gave a small nod with him still in my mouth. I didn't want to move too much because we'd worked so hard to find just the right angle to let him do this. Galen had more length than most men that I'd let into this position. Kitto would have been more comfortable for it. But once Galen offered, I wasn't going to say no. I trusted him not to get carried away and hurt me. I wasn't sure I'd have trusted any of my other guards, except, perhaps, Nicca.

But Nicca had other duties tonight. His hands touched my thighs, and that one small touch drew a small sound from me. I think Galen took the sound for his doing, because he began to use his whole body, thrusting himself completely into my mouth, so that his balls slapped against my face. I put my hands on his thighs, not to caress, but to hold on.

My head moved with every stroke, and that made me rub against Kitto. He was like muscled silk against the side of my face.

Nicca pushed himself against my opening. He slid himself in slowly, one inch at a time. His voice came hoarse. “So wet.”

Galen hesitated with his body plunged deep inside my throat. “Nicca, hurry, Goddess, hurry.” He drew himself upward, and I had to take an almost gasping breath at the farthest edge of his stroke.

Nicca plunged himself inside me all at once, using the wetness that he'd made.

“Consort, but I love it when she feels like this,” he said.

“Like what?” Galen asked.

“Tight and wet.”

“Oh, God, yes,” Galen said. “Yes.” His body took on a more urgent rhythm, and I had to simply open my mouth wide, and trust that he would not hurt me. I was having trouble finding enough time between thrusts to both swallow and breathe. Even without a gag reflex I was fast approaching a point where I would have to make him stop long enough for me to catch up.

Nicca had found a rhythm that was faster, harder than any I'd had from him before, but he stayed low on his knees, so that his legs were spread wider. His hands were on my legs, holding them at almost a forty-degree angle. I would have told him to let me put my legs down, because from here his angle would be shallow, but once he slid himself inside me, I didn't want to move. It was exquisite. He slid only the front part of himself inside me, but every shallow stroke took him over that spot, that infamous g-spot, and something about his position, or mine, was perfect.

I closed my mouth around Galen, forcing him to slow up enough for me to swallow and breathe, then I opened my mouth for him. If I could have spoken, I'd have said it was going to be soon.

Kitto began to move against me, rubbing himself through my hair, caressing my skin with the heat of his body. His hips were rising and falling underneath me.

I had never had so many men's attention at one time. I had had three men in the bedroom, but never this intimately, never actual sex from so many at once.

Nicca began to glow first, but it was not the sun inside his skin this time, it was a candle that painted his skin the color of rich, dark amber, with hints of orange and gold, like the inner spark of some jewel. I could not see Kitto, but I felt him, incredibly warm against my body, as if he were a fire, settled and banked for the long winter's night. What I could see of his body gleamed pearlescent, a soft, shining white.

When the light came to Galen, it chased all the colors from him but a soft glow, like a lamp left on in a dark house so you can find your way.

I kept expecting Nicca's rhythm to speed up, but he stayed careful, gentle, so that he never varied. He knew he'd found the spot he wanted, we wanted, and he simply kept it.

Galen was fighting his rhythm, fighting to keep from moving too fast, too hard, for my mouth, my throat. I could feel the tension in his hips, the slight tremor in his arms, as he fought what he wanted to do. He wanted to fuck me, to truly fuck me, and he was simply too big for it, and he knew that. But the feel of him fighting it, the knowledge that he wanted to do things to me that would hurt and damage, and that only his discipline, his will, kept him from it, that was more exciting than anything else. What Nicca was doing felt better because of what he was touching. It was that that was filling me up with that heavy, warm weight. It was that movement that would eventually spill me over, but Galen's fight for control was what made me writhe. What relaxed my mouth and throat, what helped me find my own rhythm for breath and swallowing, so that I could give him more room to push inside me. He had to feel the muscles of my throat relax, and it drew a sound from low in his throat. It drove a shudder through him, and stopped him in midthrust for a moment while he fought his body, fought himself.

Nicca's hands grabbed my hips, kept me from moving there. But the rest of me writhed around Galen and against Kitto, where he lay quiveringly hard in my hair. Kitto responded by thrusting harder, the edge of him caressing the outer curve of my ear. That warm hardness curved along that hollow where the neck meets the ear, that warm place where a breath can make you shiver, and he was thrusting all of his sex over and over it. The silk of his balls brushed against my throat, while the rest of him kept touching that certain place just behind the ear, and up into my hair. To feel so much more of an intimate caress there made me writhe harder for Galen, and fight my own body not to move against Nicca. He had made it clear that if I moved, he'd lose the spot that we were both enjoying so much.

Somewhere in all that, I realized the room was black. That only our glow chased back the edges of the dark. My skin was a pale white luminescence, the gentle play of moonlight to guide you home through the dark.

That warmth between my legs built to heaviness, and I knew that we were only a few more caresses away. If I'd been able to talk, I would have told them, but since I had no words, I used what I did have. I made small, hungry noises around Galen's body, as that tight, heavy weight between my legs grew and grew. Galen thrust harder into my mouth, as if the sensation of me calling around him was too much for his ragged self-control. I was about to reach up, to use hands to slow him, when Nicca's body drove that one last time, and the last drop hit that heavy, warm pool deep inside me. It spilled me over in a rush of heat that spread out over my skin, through my body, and I screamed around Galen as he thrust as hard into my throat as ever he had thrust between my legs. Kitto cried out underneath me, his body arching against me. Nicca drove himself one last time inside me, as Galen spilled himself down my throat, and Kitto spilled hot against my skin, and decorated my hair with his seed.

Our bodies seemed to breathe in, and as we did, our glows all went dark, so that for an instant the room was in utter darkness. Then it was as if the entire world let out a collective breath that was warm and heavy and full of pleasure. That breath spread outward from us, so that we all glowed as if our skin could not hold such light, such warmth. We all screamed that pleasure, and the light burst out from us so that our eyes were dazzled and blinded by it. A tremendous crashing filled that light, a thunderous sound that shook the floor beneath me, and thrummed along my bones like the very walls of the sithen had convulsed with us.

We were left in the dark, collapsed upon one another. Galen dragged himself out of my mouth. And I had to cough, and turn my head to the side. “Did I hurt you?”

I had to clear my throat sharply to say, “Yes, but I liked it.” My voice sounded rough, not like me at all. It hurt to swallow, and my throat felt rubbed raw.

“Why did the lights go out?” Kitto asked.

“Why does the air taste like broken stone?” Nicca asked.

The first light into that darkness was a wavering, sickly greenish yellow flame. Doyle came with the fire on one hand and a gun gleaming dark in the other. Frost was at his side like the reverse of body and shadow. He threw a glittering ball of light into the room, and was down on one knee sighting down the guns in his hands, searching the room for targets.

“Where are they?” he asked.

“Who?” I asked.

“Your attackers,” Frost said.

All of us on the floor exchanged glances, as best we could. “We were not attacked,” Nicca said.

“Then what did that?” Frost pointed with one gun, and the glittering silver and white light moved where he pointed. The light hovered over the far wall of the bathroom, and we saw why he had asked who attacked us. The far wall was no more. Broken stone and debris showed a black, gaping hole.

Other guards, including Biddy, were at their backs, all with weapons drawn. “Is the princess hurt?” someone asked.

“No,” I said, but my voice was still rough, so I wasn't sure they heard me. I had to try twice before I could make myself clearly heard. “I am fine.”

Doyle sent Hawthorne and Adair to approach the far wall cautiously, their own balls of colored light acting like pet lanterns hovering just above their shoulders. One of them called back, “It's a garden. A small garden with a dry pool in the ground.”

“What surrounds the garden?” Doyle asked from where he stood near us.

“Stone,” Adair answered. “It is a cave of stone.”

Doyle and Frost were staring down at us. Frost's face was pale under the arrogant mask. I glanced past them and saw the heavy door to the outer room hanging twisted and broken in its frame.

“We thought you'd been attacked,” Doyle said, and his voice held that edge of relieved fear that Frost's face could not quite hide.

“We're safe,” I said.

“Why does your voice sound so rough?” Frost asked.

Galen raised his hand. “My fault.”

Doyle shook his head, and put up his gun. He still held the sickly flame in the other hand, as if his hand was the wick for the candle. It was the only light I'd ever seen him call in the dark.

“Well, at least this answers one question,” he said. “Sex inside faerie is different.”

“The ring has chosen no one for me yet.”

He gave a quick smile, a flash of white in his dark face. “That is good to know.”

“Yes,” Frost said, still pale, “that is good.” He was gazing at the destruction of the room. “But if the sex continues to grow more powerful, how are we to keep Merry safe, and make her queen?”

Doyle tapped a piece of stone with the toe of his boot. “There is a circle of debris around them as clean and neat as if it had been drawn. Merry and her lovers were safe enough. I think it is the furniture and walls we will have to worry over.”

“And anyone not in the circle with her,” Ivi said, and turned his face to the multicolored lights that bobbed in the room. His pale face glittered darkly on one side.

“Is that blood?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ivi said, and grimaced as he touched his forehead. “When the door exploded it sent shards of wood through the bedroom. Your new healer is tending the wounded.”

“The demi-fey?” I started to get up, but was still trapped beneath everyone's bodies. Galen and Nicca began to roll off me, so I could sit up. Frost offered me a hand, and helped me to my feet. He pulled too hard, or my legs still weren't working, because he had to catch me or I would have fallen. He caught me in against his body, and said, “What is that in your hair?”

“Oh, Kitto…”

“No, Merry,” Kitto said, “it isn't my seed.”

Frost had a gun in his other hand, so it was Doyle who reached out and touched my hair. “Goddess save us.”

“What?” I asked, and I didn't like how everyone was acting. Doyle helped me, drawing a strand of my hair closer to my face. There were leaves in my hair.

Doyle extinguished the flame on his hand with a shake, like you blow out a match by fanning it sharp in the air. Frost's light came back to float above our heads, and in the white light I could see that it wasn't just leaves.

“Mistletoe's entwined in your hair.” Doyle glanced down at Kitto. “Is this your doing?”

“It was my seed in her hair, but I do not think I caused it.”

Brii came to stand beside us; his long yellow hair was decorated with bits of wood. “May I?” he asked me. His hand was raised toward my hair.

I nodded.

He touched the mistletoe tentatively, almost as if he were afraid it would hurt him, or it would vanish if he touched it too hard. “It was once considered the seed of the god.” He caressed the hard stems and the solid, thick green leaves, his fingertips gentle against the white berries.

“The seed of the god,” he whispered.

It was a good sign, a sign of great blessing, but… “How badly hurt are the demi-fey? If the splinters could do that to Ivi… how hurt are they?” I asked.

“We are not certain,” Frost said. “The blast of power threw us all to the floor or walls. They are small, and were thrown harder.”

I pushed away from his arms. I started for the far door. He picked me up, the drawn gun pressing cold against my bare legs. “There are splinters everywhere,” he said, as I tried to protest. I couldn't argue his point.

“Then take me to them. Let me see what my pleasure has cost my people.”

“Your people?” Brii asked, his eyes shining pale and gold in the magical lights.

“Yes,” I said, “they are Unseelie fey, and that makes them mine, makes them ours.”

“That is not how the queen sees it,” Ivi said, and the blood on his face gleamed in the lights. He'd come to stand beside Brii. Their long pale hair seemed to intermingle like entwining vines.

I shook my head and the illusion, or the trick of the light, went away, and they were simply standing close together. I touched Frost's arm. “Take me into the other room, let us help them.”

“Help them how?” Ivi asked.

“Hafwyn can heal them.”

“You would waste sidhe healing on a demi-fey?”

Frost answered for me. “That you would ask that of her says that you do not know the princess.”

Doyle added, “She will not see it as a waste.” He nodded, and as if that was an order Frost carried me toward the splintered door. Thin high-pitched screaming came from the other room. I prayed, “Mother help us, help them, heal them. Don't let my power be their doom.”

I caught the faint scent of roses, and a voice like a warm wind. “Grace can never be doom.” With that cryptic bit of wisdom, she was gone, and we were in what was left of the bedroom.

Chapter 34

IT LOOKED LIKE A MINIATURE BATTLEFIELD. SMALL BODIES WERE scattered across the floor like a game of toy soldiers gone horribly wrong. Tiny bodies were collapsed against the walls as if some giant hand had swept them away. The four-foot-long Nile monitor lay on its back, and just the twisted look of the body let me know it had finished its death throes. A piece of wood the size of a small dagger had pierced its throat.

Frost carried me in, his feet crunching on bits of wood and metal from the door. I kept staring at the dead lizard, because I was afraid to look elsewhere. Afraid to look too closely at those smaller bodies, afraid I'd find them just as still, just as dead.

Hafwyn had made a triage line of tiny bodies. It had seemed like we had so many men to guard me, and too many in my bed, but now suddenly, we needed more hands. More bodies to help us save others. The queen had stripped me of too many. And Rhys had taken some with him, as well.

“Send word to the queen that we need more men, and more healers.”

Hafwyn looked up at me, even as she tried to hold a piece of cloth on a wound. “More healers? Do you mean to use sidhe healing on the demi-fey?”

“Yes,” I said.

“The queen does not waste such power on the lesser fey.”

She was right. In fact, there were some sidhe healers who would not willingly touch a lesser fey. As if they thought it was contagious. “Can you heal them?”

She looked surprised. “You truly mean for me to do this?”

“You are a healer, Hafwyn, can you sit here and watch them die, and not be pained by it?”

She lowered her head, and I watched her shoulders begin to shake. There was no sound, but when she turned her face back to me, there were tears upon her face. “Yes, it causes me pain to see such suffering and not be allowed to heal it.”

“Then heal what you can, and I will fetch more healers.”

“Who would you send to fetch them?” Frost asked. He was still holding me effortlessly, as if he could have held me so all night long. Maybe he could have.

I understood what he meant. Andais was probably deep into the torturing of the betrayers. And my aunt did not like being interrupted in the middle of her “playtime.” People who interrupted her had a tendency to be forced to join the show. Did I send the one I liked the least, or the one who had a better chance of making her see sense?

“Who do you recommend?”

“Doyle,” he said.

I turned in Frost's arms and looked at him. “If she is deep in her blood lust then only Doyle has a chance of making her see sense. Ivi or Brii would end up as victim.”

“And you?”

“She has never listened to me as she listened to Doyle.” He said it without a trace of hurt ego. He simply stated it, fact. I believed him.

Doyle glided through the broken door, as if he'd heard us say his name. I told him what I wanted.

“I might be able to help heal some of them,” he said.

I had forgotten that he had limited healing ability himself. One of the first times he had ever touched me intimately had been for him to heal a wound on my thigh. He could not heal with his hands, but with his mouth, so it was not something he offered often. It was too intimate. And his ability to heal was not great, as the healers of faerie measured it.

“You can heal?” Hafwyn asked, pushing at her yellow hair with the back of her arm. Her hands were too bloody to be used for tucking a strand of hair back.

“A little, but not by hand.”

“Nodens,” she said simply.

“One of my names,” he said, “at the end.”

“How bad an jury can you heal?” she asked.

“Superficial wounds, deep but narrow.”

“Can you set bone?”

He shook his head.

She looked around at her patients. “I think Frost is right. I think the queen will hear you best, and if anyone can bring us more healers, it is you. You will be most welcome when I have more healers. We can conserve our strength, and let you finish a wound after we have begun it.”

“Gladly,” he said, “if you are certain?”

She nodded. “Go to the queen as the princess bids. Killing Frost is right; it is our best chance to save them.”

Doyle nodded, gave a small bow to me, and simply started for the door. I called him back, a hand in his. I drew him in for a kiss, while I was still held in Frost's arms. Doyle's lips were warm, and soft, and he drew back from the kiss before I was ready for him to.

“And Doyle goes alone?” Galen said. “You warned Rhys that he might be attacked.”

“He is the Queen's Darkness,” Brii said. “No one would dare.”

Galen shook his head. “No one goes alone, anywhere, not until we're back in L.A.”

“And do you rule here already, green knight?” Ivi asked.

“No, but we can't afford to lose Doyle because we got careless.”

I knew by the look on Doyle's face that he meant to argue. Then he smiled and shook his head. “He's right. We cannot afford to be arrogant or careless.” He looked at Frost, and I knew that was who he most wanted to take, but I also knew that he would not strip me of both of them at the same time.

“I will go,” Hawthorne said, “if you will have me.”

“I will go, if you wish, but I think my place is here guarding the princess,” Adair said.

“I agree.” Doyle looked at Galen with a small smile. “Are you content with Hawthorne?”

“Take Brii, too,” he said.

The smile left him. “I do not think that is necessary.”

“It would take me too long to dress or I'd go with you,” Galen said.

“Why so serious about my safety, Galen?” Doyle asked.

I wondered if Galen would tell Doyle what he'd said in the bathroom. He did. “I thought I was dead, and one of my last thoughts was it's okay, because you and Frost were still alive. I knew you'd keep Merry safe. I knew you'd get her out of here and back home to L.A. I thought, why kill me first? If I were going to do a first strike, it would be you I'd kill. I can't be the only one who's thinking that.”

We were all staring at him. “What?” he asked.

“We're not used to you sounding this smart,” Ivi said, “that's all.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“If you intend to save lives, go now,” Hafwyn said.

Doyle gave a small bow in my direction. Hawthorne and Brii fell in at his back, and they left us.

I looked at Hafwyn. “What can we do to keep them alive while we wait?” She told us. Ivi spread his cloak on the floor so that I could kneel in safety, while we did what little we could to hold their blood in their bodies, and their lives in our hands.