Merry Gentry series
I WAS SITTING IN AN ELEGANT CONFERENCE ROOM IN THE TOP of one of the gleaming towers that make up part of downtown Los Angeles. The room’s far wall was almost entirely of glass, so that the view was nearly agoraphobic. They’re predicting that if the big one—the big earthquake that is—hits, this section of L.A. will be eight to fifteen feet deep in glass. Anything on the streets below will be cut to pieces, crushed, or trapped underneath an avalanche of glass. Not a pretty thought, but it was a day for ugly thoughts.
My uncle Taranis, King of Light and Illusion, had pressed charges against three of my royal bodyguards. He had gone to the human authorities with charges that Rhys, Galen, and Abe had raped one of his court’s women.
In all the long history of his reign in the Seelie Court he had never gone outside to the humans for justice. Faerie rule; faerie law. Or truthfully, sidhe rule; sidhe law. The sidhe had ruled faerie for longer than anyone could remember. Since some of those memories stretched back thousands of years, maybe the sidhe had always been in charge, but it tasted like a lie. The sidhe do not lie, for to truly lie is to be cast out of faerie, exiled. Since I knew that the three bodyguards in question were innocent, that raised interesting problems with Lady Caitrin’s testimony.
But today we were just giving statements, and, depending on how that went, King Taranis was standing by for a group call. Which was why Simon Biggs and Thomas Farmer, both of Biggs, Biggs, Farmer, and Farmer, were sitting beside me.
“Thank you for agreeing to this meeting today, Princess Meredith,” one of the suits across the table said. There were seven suits across the wide, gleaming table, with their backs to the lovely view.
Ambassador Stevens, official ambassador to the courts of faerie, was sitting on our side of the table, but he was on the far side of Biggs and Farmer. Stevens said, “A word on faerie etiquette: You don’t say thank you to the people of faerie, Mr. Shelby. Princess Meredith, as one of the younger royals, will probably not be offended, but you will be dealing with some nobility who are much older. Not all of them will allow a thank you to pass without grave insult.” Stevens smiled when he said it, his blandly handsome face sincere from his brown eyes to his perfectly cut brown hair. He was supposed to be our voice to the world, but, truthfully, he spent all his time at the Seelie Court sucking up to my uncle. The Unseelie Court where my aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, ruled, and where I might rule someday, was too scary for Stevens. No, I didn’t like him.
Michael Shelby, a U.S. Attorney for L.A. said, “I am sorry, Princess Meredith. I didn’t realize.”
I smiled, and said, “It’s fine. The ambassador is correct, a thank-you won’t bother me.”
“But it will bother your men?” Shelby asked.
“Some of them, yes,” I said. I looked behind me to Doyle and Frost. They stood behind me like darkness and snow made real, and that wasn’t far from the truth. Doyle had black hair, black skin, a black designer suit; even his tie was black. Only the shirt was a rich royal blue, and that had been a sop to our lawyer. He thought black gave the wrong impression, made him seem threatening. Doyle, whose nickname was Darkness, had said, “I am the captain of the princess’ guard. I am supposed to be threatening.” The lawyers hadn’t known what to say to that, but Doyle had worn the blue shirt. The color almost glowed against the rich, perfect black of his skin, which was so black there were purple and blue highlights to his body in the right light. His black eyes were hidden behind wraparound black-on-black sunglasses.
Frost’s skin was as white as Doyle’s was black. As white as my own. But his hair was uniquely his own, silver, like metal beaten into hair. It gleamed in the tasteful lighting of the conference room. Gleamed like something you could have melted down and made into jewelry. He had tied the top layer of it back with a barrette that was silver, and older than the city of Los Angeles itself. The dove-gray suit was Ferragamo, and the white of his shirt was less white than his own skin. The tie was darker than the suit, but not by much. The soft gray of his eyes was bare to the room as he scanned the far windows. Doyle was doing it, too, behind his glasses. I had bodyguards for a reason, and some who wanted me dead could fly. We didn’t think Taranis was one of the people who wanted me dead, but why had he gone to the police? Why had he persisted in these false charges? He would never have done all this without an agenda. We just didn’t know what that agenda was, so just in case, they watched the windows for things that the human lawyers couldn’t even begin to imagine.
Shelby’s gaze flicked behind me to the guards. He wasn’t the only one who kept fighting not to glance nervously at my men, but it was Assistant District Attorney Pamela Nelson who was having the most trouble keeping her eyes, and her mind, on business. The men across the table gave the guards the glances men give when they see another man whom they are almost certain could take them physically without breaking a sweat.
U.S. Attorney Michael Shelby was tall, athletic, and handsome, with a gleam of white teeth, and the look of someone who had plans to rise above being the U.S. attorney for the Los Angeles area. He was over six feet, and his suit couldn’t hide the fact that he worked out pretty seriously. He probably didn’t meet many men who made him feel physically weak. His assistant Ernesto Bertram was a slender man who looked too young for his job, and far too serious with his short dark hair and glasses. It wasn’t the glasses that made him look too serious; it was the look on his face, as if he’d tasted something sour. The U.S. attorney for the St. Louis area, Albert Veducci, was here, too. He didn’t have Shelby’s tan. In fact, he was a little overweight, and he looked tired. His assistant was Grover. He’d actually introduced himself only as Grover, so I didn’t know if it was his first, last, or only name. He smiled more than the rest of them and was attractive in that friendly, walk-you-home-on-campus way. He reminded me of guys in college who were either as nice as they seemed or absolute bastards who only wanted sex, for you to help them pass a class, or, for me, to be close to a real live faerie princess. I wouldn’t know which kind of “nice guy” Grover was for a while. If things went well, I’d never figure it out, because I’d probably never see him again. If they went badly, we might see a lot of Grover.