I was going to do this chapter verbatim again, but then I realized it’s like 18 pages and NOPE.
Doyle lay back on the blanket of petals, all that rich, black skin against the soft pastel of it. I admitted to myself that he looked like the devil slipped into some springtime heaven, but he was my devil, and all I wanted in that moment. There had been nights with Frost when I had had them both touching me at the same time, but tonight I wanted to concentrate just on Doyle. I didn’t mind the audience, but I didn’t want to be distracted either.
He let me crawl over his body until I could put my hands and mouth back where I wanted them. He’d accepted my logic, and I could finally taste him in my mouth. I played with that loose skin one more time, then teased it back, until he lay long and hard, exposed to my hands, my lips, my mouth, and ever so gently, my teeth. I was using less pressure than a bite, but you have to be careful not to scrape, or what is an added pleasure becomes pain. I wanted no pain tonight for my Darkness. I wanted only pleasure for him and for me.
He protested, “But it will not be enjoyable for you.”
I’m pretty sure it’s canon of Merry to orgasm through giving oral sex (or maybe that’s Anita Blake. They’re the same character anyway so who cares), but also HE’S GOTTA FIGHT THIS? THIS?!
“I can fix that,” Sholto said.
We all looked at him. He smiled, and motioned at the tattoo on his body. “If you will allow, I can return the favor you are doing our captain so that you are equally pleasured.”
It seemed like another lifetime ago when Sholto and I had managed to have our first encounter in Los Angeles. He had proven to me that the extra bits had more uses than the obvious. “You mean the little tentacles with the suction on them.”
“Yes,” he said, and there was a weight to his gaze. It wasn’t an idle offer. He wanted to know how I truly felt about his extra bits, and he was wasting no time finding out. We’d had sex, but he had been terribly wounded, and no extra bits had been used.
I studied his face, then looked down at Doyle. He watched me patiently, almost passive in his waiting. He would abide by whatever I said, in that moment. Centuries of service to the queen had taken men who might have been more dominant and accustomed them to taking orders both in bed and out of it. Doyle could be a very dominant lover, but when it came to choices and preferences, he was like most of the queen’s guard; he waited for my lead. It was up to me to make this moment what it was to be: good, ill, hurt feelings, or simply pleasure.
That’s a fucking lie! It is shown time and time again in this dumb series that Merry has 0 agency of her own and instead her guards constantly make decisions over her head, and she lets them!
I said the only thing I could think of when a man offers me oral sex. I held my hand out toward him and said “Yes.”
But I thought she didn’t want any distractions while she focuses on Doyle?
So this leads into some tentacle sex. Aw, dammit, I am going to have to do most of this chapter verbatim, aren’t I?
He took me in his arms, wrapped me against his body so that all of him touched me, but he did not try and embrace me with all of it. He simply laid it against my body as his two strong arms held me, and he kissed me. He kissed me, gently but firmly, but there was a part of him that held back, like a tension in his body. I thought I understood; he was waiting for me to recoil from his touch. Instead I moved into that kiss, ground myself against all those extra bits, and let one hand caress one of those thick, muscular tentacles. He pressed himself harder against me, responding to my passion and my lack of fear. With most men I’d have been very aware that his erection was pressed against the front of my body, and I might have shuddered at the promise of it, but there were so many sensations with Sholto that it was almost as if my body couldn’t pick and choose. The thicker parts stretched around me like extra arms. The thinner pieces caressed and tickled along my skin, and the lowest pieces eased their way between our bodies, between my legs, and I felt those searching “fingers” seeking that most intimate of spots. One of the long, stretching fingers found the spot, and proved to me once more that they had suction on the end, like small mouths that seemed designed to fit around that part of a woman’s body, so that it was like some perfect key to fit the lock of my body. The sensations began to build almost immediately.
I felt the hum of energy from Sholto before I opened my eyes to see that his skin glowed with power. The white of his skin was all moonlight, but the tentacles had other colors. The bigger arms had bands and shapes that moved like colored lightning around me. Some where marbled with gold to match the yellow and gold of his eyes. The lower ones glowed white, their tips like red embers. I knelt embraced in color and magic humming against my skin, so that I made a small sound just from that.
“I take it the tentacles do other things than just glow,” said Doyle, still lying next to me.
I nodded wordlessly.
“It is a combination of sidhe and nightflyer,” Sholto said.
“It looks like colored lightning,” Mistral said. He reached out, as if to touch one of the tentacles, then drew his hand back.
Sholto reached a thick limb and touched the other man’s fingertips. A tiny jolt of colored light jumped between them. The air smelled of ozone, and every hair on my body stood to attention.
Doyle sat up. “What was that?”
Mistral was rubbing his fingers together as if still feeling the sensation. Sholto had drawn his limb back, a considering look on his face. His limbs had pulled away from the more intimate part of my body.
Remember how I said that every single sex scene EVER in LKH’s books are interrupted? This one has been interrupted thrice now. First, to sooth Mistral’s hurt feelings, then so that Merry can be distracted from pleasing Doyle, even though she said she didn’t want any distractions, and now again because of random faerie power.
So turns out Mistral used to be a god. His power calls out to Sholto’s power. Sholto tells them that the nightflyers used to answer to a god of the sky and a goddess of the dead, but Mistral doesn’t want to be known as a god anymore.
“I did terrible things back then. I had no mercy, and my queen, my love, had less mercy than I did. We were… We killed.” He shook his head. “It began in magic and love, but she fell in love with our creations in every sense of the word.”
“You are he, then,” Sholto said.
Mistral gave him a look of utter despair. “I would beg you to tell no one, King Sholto.”
“It’s not every night that a man meets his creator,” Sholto said. He was watching the other man with an edge of anger on his face, or maybe defiance.
“I am not that. The being who acted in such arrogance was punished for it, and is no more. Whatever I was once, the true Gods took it from me.”
“But our dark goddess,” Sholto said. “It is said that the gods tore her to pieces and fed her to us.”
Mistral nodded. “She would not give up control over you. She would not give you the independence to be your own people. She wanted to keep you as… pets and lovers.”
Perhaps I looked surprised, because he spoke to me. “Yes, Princess, I know well that there are many uses for all those parts. She who was once my love and I fashioned them for pleasure as well as terror.”
“You kept your secret well,” Doyle said.
“When the gods themselves humble you, Darkness, wouldn’t you hide yourself in shame?”
“But your magic calls to mine,” Sholto said.
“I never dreamed that the return of magic to faerie would waken that in me.” Mistral looked frightened.
“This is a legend so old my father never told it to me,” I said.
“It is part of our lost creation myths,” Doyle said, “before the Christians came and sanitized them.”
lol what. The faeries are still an existing people/culture who have both written and verbal language, with multiple of their people being so millennia years old! Their creation myths weren’t sanitized by the Christians, nor were they lost, they were purposefully hidden from the younger fey. The fuck.
Sholto keeps pressuring Mistral to become the god he once was, until Doyle stops it, saying that nothing with Meredith is about force, so they cannot force Mistral into anything he doesn’t want.
I did the only thing I could think of to break the terribly serious atmosphere. I looked down at Doyle and said, “All my good work is undone with this serious talk. I’ll have to start all over again.”
He smiled at me. “How could I forget that nothing dissuades you from your goal?”
I put into my eyes all that I felt for him. “When my goal is such as this, why would anything dissuade me?”
Because you let anything and everything dissuade you?
So instead of jumping right back into the kinky tentacle sex to distract Merry from performing oral on Doyle, they instead start talking about what they’re doing in some magical faerie garden. Then, they realize that Merry and Sholto have new tattoos around their wrists, thorns and vines. Turns out faerie decided to handfast them, marking them as a couple. And boy are Doyle and Mistral pissed.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Sholto said, again all too smug.
Doyle pulled Sholto’s hand down so I could see our two hands together. “You see the marks?”
“The tattoo, yes,” I said. “It’s a shadow of the roses that bound our hands.”
“You have been handfasted with Sholto, Merry,” Doyle said, and he said each word slowly, carefully, giving me the intensity of those dark eyes.
“Handfasted. You mean…” I frowned at him. “You mean married?” “Yes,” he said, and there was rage in that one word.
“It took both our magics to save you, Doyle.”
“The sidhe do not marry more than one spouse, Meredith.”
“I bear children by all of you, so by our laws you are all my kings, or will be.”
Sholto raised his hand, gazing at it. “I’m too young to remember when faerie married us to each other. Was it always like this?”
“The roses are more a Seelie mark,” Doyle said, “but yes, handfasted and marked as a couple.”
I stared at the pretty roses on my skin and was suddenly afraid.
“Am I within my rights to refuse to share Meredith?” Sholto asked.
I gave him a look. “I would be careful what you say, King of the sluagh.”
“Faerie has married us, Meredith.”
I shook my head. “It helped us save Doyle.”
“We are marked as a couple.” He held his hand out to me.
“When the Goddess makes me choose, she lets me know ahead of time. There was no choice offered, no warning of loss.”
“By our laws–” Sholto started to say.
I interrupted him. “Don’t start.”
“He’s right, Merry,” Doyle said.
“Don’t complicate this, Doyle. We did what we had to do last night to save you both.”
“It is the law,” Mistral said.
This goes on for a while. Merry keeps pointing out cases where faerie women weren’t forced to marry a specific man, or instances where they didn’t marry at all, but her men keep arguing her down. Merry eventually tells them that she will buck the tradition (I thought it was law?) to marry who she chooses, whether one man or many, or none at all.
Finally, Mistral again asks them where exactly they are. When he finds out they’re in the sluagh mound, he’s aghast. Nothing in the sluagh mound could be so beautiful. Sholto takes offense to this.
“How would any of the Unseelie nobles know what is inside my kingdom? Once Meredith’s father, Prince Essus, died none of you darkened my door again. We were good enough to fight for you, but not to visit.” Sholto’s voice held that anger that he’d come to me with, an anger forged of years of being told he wasn’t quite good enough to be truly Unseelie, There had been years of the sluagh being used as a weapon. And like all weapons, you use it, but you do not ask a nuclear bomb if it wants to blow things up. You simply push a button, and it does its job.
Oh my god I’m not even halfway through this chapter. They’re still fighting. They’re always fighting. While they’re fighting, the blanket they had been using transformed back into flower petals, so Mistral suggests that they move their “discussion” to a more stable part of faerie. Then, the doctor Henry calls out to them, to let them know that the opening from the sluagh mound to where ever they are at is starting to close. So they decide to book it for the doorway. Well, they decide that after again fucking fighting about it for a while. This chapter is awesome.
Mistral picks Merry up and they start running toward the doorway. Once through, Merry sees that Doyle and Sholto are still having their fucking dick measuring contest in the middle of the rapidly collapsing faerie garden. It takes Merry calling out for them to get them to actually start running for the doorway. They easily make it in time, and then Mistral tells Merry that she should ask the mound to stop closing the doorway. She seems confused by this, despite full well knowing that typically whenever she asks the sithens to do stuff, they answer her.
Finally Henry tells them that they were in the faerie garden for several days, healing, and a lot has happened while they were away. While they were healing, many of the Seelie sidhe tried to gain entry to the sluagh mound to talk with Sholto. Since he was away, they feared the sluagh would be enslaved by the sidhe without a ruler present to argue for their freedom, so they elected a new king.
Turns out that the Seelie demanded entry to the sluagh mound because they’re claiming that Sholto kidnaped Merry. Merry’s mother has demanded the reutnr of her daughter and the children she’s carrying. Merry argues that since Sholto is one of the fathers of the babies, his claim supersedes her mother’s, but the Seelie are claiming that all the children are fathered by King Taranis.
So Sholto leaves to go talk with the sluagh and end this proxy ruler’s… rulership? You’d think the chapter would end there but nope! Now it’s Mistral’s turn to dominate the story.
“My congratulations to you, King Sholto, on being king to Meredith’s queen.” His voice was almost neutral when he said it– almost.
“Congratulations to you, too, Storm Lord, thought with so many kings around, I am not certain what kingdom you will share.” With that Sholto was gone, with Henry at his side.
“What did he mean, wishing me congratulations?” Mistral asked. “I know that the princess carries Sholto’s child and yours, Doyle. I heard that from the conversation in the bed when we woke.”
“Mistral, didn’t the queen tell you?” I asked
Mistral has no idea he is one of the father’s of Merry’s children. After they left the Unseelie mound, Mistral wound up trapped in the queen’s chains, and wasn’t released until the night Merry and Sholto saved him. He was released by Onilwyn and then lured to a trap which would have led to his death if not for Merry’s intervention. Merry tells Mistral that Onilwyn is dead by her hands, and Doyle asks them what happened while he was in the hospital. Thankfully, instead of pages of them retelling everything again, this gets glossed over.
Merry finally tells Mistral that he is one of the fathers of her children. Mistral is hurt that Queen Andais did not tell him. Doyle tries to soothe him by telling him that the queen hasn’t been ruled by logic for some time. Merry assures him that the queen will never take him again, as he now belongs solely to her. Especially since the queen swore an oath to release any of her guard who would go to Merry’s bed, and now that the wild hunt has returned, it is dire to break an oath.
Merry tells Doyle and Mistral that she wants to return to L.A. because they have too many enemies in faerie. They agree, but decide they need to solve the problem of the Seelie trying to take Merry as their own first. Merry decides to find the office within the sluagh mound in order to call for help.
“I’ll call for help. I’ll say the truth, that the Seelie are trying to take me back to the king’s hands. That they do not believe his guilt, and I need help.”
“They cannot defeat the Seelie,” Doyle said.
“No, but neither can the Seelie defend themselves against human authority. If they do, they lose their right to live on American soil. They will be banished from the last country that will have them.”
The two men looked at me, then Mistral nodded. “Clever.”
“You put the Seelie in a situation that they cannot win,” Doyle said, “If they fail their king, he could have them killed.”
“They have the ability to bring him down as king, Doyle. If they are too weak-willed to do it, then their fate is their own.”
“Harsh words,” he said softly.
“I thought being pregnant would make me softer, but when I stood alone in the snow and realized that Onilwyn meant to kill me, knowing that I was with child,” I shook my head, trying to put it into words, “some terrible resolve took hold of me. Or perhaps it was Gran dying in my arms that finally made me realize.”
“Realize what, Meredith?”
“That I cannot afford to be weak, or even too terribly kind anymore. The time for such things must be over, Doyle. I will save faerie if I can, but I will protect my children and the men I love above all else.”
“Even above taking the throne?” Doyle asked.
I nodded. “You saw the noble houses when the queen presented me, Doyle. We have less than half the houses supporting me. I thought Andais was strong enough to push whatever heir she chose upon the nobles, but if the nobles of her court are conspiring with the nobles of the Seelie Court, she’s lost too much power over them. There is no way to be safe on this throne, unless we can find more allies here.”
“Are you giving up the crown?” Doyle asked, words very careful. “No, but I am saying that I cannot take it unless my safety and the safety of my kings and children can be guaranteed. I will not lose another person to assassins, and I will not die at their hands as my father did.” I put my hands on my stomach. Still so flat, but I had seen their tiny figures on the ultrasound. I would not lose them. “We go to the Western Lands, and we stay there until the babies are born, or until we are certain that we are safe.”
I swear to god she’s only been pregnant for like 3 weeks at this point. But the fetuses are perfectly formed in her uterus, I suppose! Magic!
“We will never be safe, Meredith,” Doyle said.
“So be it, then,” I said.
“Be careful what you say, Princess,” Mistral said.
“I say the truth, Mistral. There are too many schemes, plots, enemies, or simply people who want to use me My own cousin used our grandmother as a weapon, and set her up to be killed. So many of the sidhe care nothing for the lesser fey, and that’s wrong too. If I am to be queen here, then I will be queen of all, not just of the sidhe.”
“Merry…,” Doyle said.
“No, Doyle, the lesser fey haven’t tried to kill me and mine yet. Why should I keep being loyal to the very people who keep trying to hurt me?”
“Because you are part sidhe.”
“I am also part human and part brownie. We’ll need a guide to the phone room. It’s been too long since I was there. But we will call the police and they will come to get us out. We will be on a plane to Los Angeles, and the plane itself will be enough metal and technology to protect us.”
“It is not a happy thing for me to fly, Meredith,” Doyle said.
I smiled at him. “I know that much metal is a problem for most of you, but it is the safest way for us to travel, and it will guarantee that we have human media on the other end waiting for us. We are going to embrace the media, because this is war, Doyle. Not a war of weapons, but of public opinion. Faerie grows stronger on the belief of mortals, so we will give them ourselves to believe in.”
So it’s decided. Merry and her crew will be returning to L.A. And the only people who got lucky during this chapter is us because the chapter is finally over.