A Stroke of Midnight (Meredith Gentry Series #4)

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Overview

I am Meredith Gentry, P.I., solving cases in Los Angeles, far from the peril and deception of my real home–because I am also Princess Meredith, heir to the darkest throne faerie has to offer. The Unseelie Court infuses me with its power. But at what price does such magic come? How much of my human side will I have to give up, and how much of the sinister side of faerie will I have to embrace? To sit on a throne that has ruled through bloodshed and violence for centuries, I might...
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A Stroke of Midnight (Meredith Gentry Series #4)

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Overview

I am Meredith Gentry, P.I., solving cases in Los Angeles, far from the peril and deception of my real home–because I am also Princess Meredith, heir to the darkest throne faerie has to offer. The Unseelie Court infuses me with its power. But at what price does such magic come? How much of my human side will I have to give up, and how much of the sinister side of faerie will I have to embrace? To sit on a throne that has ruled through bloodshed and violence for centuries, I might have to become that which I dread the most.

Enemies watch my every move. My cousin Cel strives to have me killed even now from his prison cell. But not all the assassination attempts are his. Some Unseelie nobles have waited centuries for my aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, to become weak enough that she might be toppled from her throne. Enemies unforeseen move against us–enemies who would murder the least among us.

The threat will drive us to allow human police into faerie for the first time in our history. I need my allies now more than ever, especially since fate will lead me into the arm of Mistral, Master of Storms, the queen’s new captain of her guard. Our passion will reawaken powers long forgotten among the warriors of the sidhe. Pain and pleasure await me–and danger, as well, for some at that court seek only death.

I will find new joys with the butterfly-winged demi-fey. My guards and I will show all of faerie that violence and sex are as popular among the sidhe as they are among the lesser fey of our court. The Darkness will weep, and Frost will comfort him. The gentlest of my guards will find new strength and break my heart. Passions undreamed of await us–and my enemies gather, for the future of both courts of faerie begins to unravel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
In A Stroke of Midnight, Laurell K. Hamilton's fourth Meredith Gentry novel (A Kiss of Shadows, A Caress of Twilight, and Seduced by Moonlight), everyone's favorite private investigator -- and sexy faerie princess -- is back home in the treacherous Unseelie Court, trying to come to grips with her burgeoning supernatural powers.After a barely thwarted assassination attempt, Princess Merry NicEssus (a.k.a. Los Angeles private eye Meredith Gentry) -- ignores the counsel of her aunt Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, and decides to hold a press conference inside the fairy mounds: a dangerous move for all humans and sidhe involved. As the session is ending, two dead bodies are discovered -- one sidhe, one human. While police and FBI agents swarm the area, Merry's cadre of hunky sidhe guardians must not only track down the killer or killers and pacify the temperamental Queen; they also must find a way to impregnate Merry so that she can become the next Unseelie ruler. But as her sensual experiences begin to affect everyone around her in amazing ways, Merry realizes that with new powers come new responsibilities -- and new temptations. Although the overall Meredith Gentry story arc isn't advanced that much in A Stroke of Midnight, there are shocking revelations regarding the history of the Unseelie Court, as well as the jaw-dropping consequences of Merry's new powers. Saturated with suspense, mystery, and, of course, Hamilton's famously unbridled eroticism -- A Stroke of Midnight will leave Meredith Gentry fans both utterly satisfied and begging for more. Paul Goat Allen
From the Publisher
Praise for Laurell K. Hamilton

A Kiss of Shadows
“I’ve never read a writer with a more fertile imagination.”
–DIANA GABALDON

“Sizzling . . . Memorable characters and wicked wit make it all delicious, ribald fun.”
–Publishers Weekly

A Caress of Twilight
“Sensual, without a doubt . . . This book moves like a whirlwind.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“[A] sexy, tension-charged dark fantasy mystery.”
Locus

Seduced by Moonlight
“This [faerie] society is one of the most detailed,
imaginative, and lovingly drawn in all fantastic fiction,
and the Meredith Gentry series has become something special.”
San Jose Mercury News

“Hamilton’s books [are] must-reads.”
The Denver Post

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
Solving a double homicide, avoiding assassins and coping with growing, sometimes uncontrollable, power keep faerie private detective Princess Meredith NicEssus (aka Meredith Gentry) busy in the fourth and strongest entry in Hamilton's adult fairy tale series (after 2004's Seduced by Moonlight). When someone murders a fey and a reporter during a press conference inside the Unseelie's headquarters, Merry calls in the cops to assist (and inadvertently involves the FBI as well). But once on magical turf, human police face challenges and dangers of which the princess was unaware. Meanwhile, Merry lives up to the five fertility deities in her lineage and lustily fulfills her royal duty of mating with sidhe males and making sex beyond mere human comprehension. As Merry matures, the meaning of all the sex and magic comes into more effective focus, as does Hamilton's underlying mythos of the restoration of the faerie race's true power. The absence of complicated politics results in a more palatable plot than in previous volumes. By the end, the Unseelie court seems to be tiring of Merry's super-sadistic Aunt Andais, the Queen of Air and Darkness (as are, most likely, many readers). The queen's son and Merry's rival for the throne, Prince Cel, looms as an even greater, more corrupt menace to her future. Faeries, fornication and forensics fuse for yet another darkly fantastic frolic for Hamilton fans. Agent, Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House. (On sale Apr. 12) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The fourth book in the popular series featuring the Los Angeles P.I. Faerie Princess. Simultaneous Ballantine hardcover. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345443601
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Series: Meredith Gentry Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprinted Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 149,549
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.88 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurell K. Hamilton
LAURELL K. HAMILTON is the New York Times bestselling author of the Meredith Gentry novels A Kiss of Shadows, A Caress of Twilight, and Seduced by Moonlight, as well as twelve acclaimed Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, novels. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Visit the author’s official website at www.laurellkhamilton.org

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

The vampire genre has enthralled readers ever since Bram Stoker introduced a certain Transylvanian count over a century ago. Since then vampires have been used as vehicles for everything from romantic novels to erotica to humor to the expected tales of terror. However, very few writers have combined all of these facets of the never-say-die vampire quite the way that Laurell K. Hamilton has.

Hamilton has not always been under the spell of undead things that go bump-and-grind in the night. When she was a young girl, her literary tastes were a bit more on the traditional side. "I wanted to be Louisa May Alcott, who wrote Little Women, because I had never read any science fiction, fantasy, or horror," she confessed in a podcast on Mayor Slay.com. "Then at 13 or 14 I found Robert E. Howard's short story collection [Pigeons From Hell]. It was the first horror, the first heroic fantasy, the first science fiction I'd ever read, and the moment I read that I knew that not only did I want to be a writer, but this is what I wanted to write."

Furthering Hamilton's burgeoning fascination with the fantastic, she discovered Anthony Masters's The Natural History of the Vampire at her high school library. Coupled with the ghost stories her grandmother had told her when she was a child and heavy doses of Hammer Horror movies from Great Britain, Hamilton was well on her way to creating a character that would only be rivaled by Buffy in the field of vampire slaying.

Hamilton first introduced vampire huntress Anita Blake in her third novel Guilty Pleasures. Blake is an unlikely combination of action hero, federal marshal, "necromancer," and lusty dame. Her exploits between the sheets and in the graveyard won Hamilton a rabid following hungry for something new in the well-traveled vampire genre.

Along with the kinds of scares normally associated with vampire stories, Hamilton's books are notable for their unflinching eroticism. Vampires have had a sexual lure since Stoker, but Hamilton particularly draws that aspect to the surface of her work as one of her creatures might draw blood from a victim. "I [want] a kiss to be so believable it gives the reader shivers," she says on her website. "Two things I do well are sex and violence, but I don't want gratuitous sex or violence. The sex and violence is only as graphic as need be. And never included unless it furthers the plot or character development."

Another unlikely trait of her books is humor, vampire tales classically being of the more solemn sort. However, a writer weaned on a book titled Pigeons From Hell is not likely going to shy away from wit. Consequently, her books have been consistently entertaining and fun, as well as creepy and sexy.

Hamilton has also brought her delicious combination of sex, humor, and frights to another series, this one more ingrained in dark fantasy than horror. Her faerie princess/P.I. Meredith Gentry made her debut in Kiss of Shadows in 2001 and has since sparked her own crowd-pleasing sword and sorcery meets pulp series.

Increasingly, the Anita Blake and Merry Gentry books have added more sexual content to their story lines, classifying both series in a new hybrid genre that blends romance, erotica, and paranormal fantasy. To judge from Hamilton's consistent appearance on the bestseller charts, readers find the mix spellbinding.

Good To Know

One thing you will never find in a Hamilton novel is a cliffhanger. She believes that cliffhangers unfairly tease readers who would then have to wait six months to a year to have some sense of resolution. As she said during an interview with Bill Thompson of Eye On Books, "Every book is a full meal. All the way from the appetizer to the dessert, so that you come away feeling that you've had an experience... and at the end you have that satisfied, full feeling."

Before Laurell K. Hamilton made a full-time career of blood, guts, murder, and mayhem, she had more humane pursuits -- she volunteered at an animal shelter where she played with unwanted pets.

In our interview, Hamilton shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself with us:

"I am incredibly stubborn. Telling me I cannot do something, especially if you cite the fact that I am a girl, will make me want to do it more and do it better."

"I am not my characters. We have some of the same traits in common, but we are very different people."

"Everything inspires me. Getting up in the morning, walking the dogs, watching a music video. Inspiration comes from everywhere."

"I love animals. I own four dogs, two of whom are rescues. In fact, Jimmy is with us because they were going to gas him if we didn't take him with us. As an older dog his chances of finding a home were fairly slim. But he has been a wonderful addition to our home."

"I like spending time with my family and friends. Something I often feel I do not do enough of. But there are only so many hours in a day."

"I like to read other people's works. I love reading cozy or historical mysteries when I can."

"I enjoy interacting with fans at planned public events. I enjoy talking to them and have met many wonderful people."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Laurell Kaye Klein (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      St. Louis, Missouri
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 19, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Heber Springs, Arkansas
    1. Education:
      B.A., Marion College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I hate press conferences. but I especially hate them when I've been ordered to hide large portions of the truth. The order had come from the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the dark court of faerie. The Unseelie are not a power to be crossed, even if I was their very own faerie princess. I was Queen Andais's niece, but the family connection had never bought me much. I smiled at the nearly solid wall of reporters, fighting to keep my thoughts from showing on my face.

The queen had never allowed this much of the human media inside the Unseelie's hollow hill, our sithen. It was our refuge, and you don't let the press into your refuge. But yesterday's assassination attempt had made allowing the press into our home the lesser evil. The theory was that inside the sithen our magic would protect me much better than it had in the airport yesterday, where I'd nearly been shot.

Our court publicist, Madeline Phelps, pointed to the first reporter, and the questions began.

"Princess Meredith, you had blood on your face yesterday, but today the only sign of injury is your arm in a sling. What were your injuries yesterday?"

My left arm was in a green cloth sling that matched my suit jacket near perfectly. I was dressed in Christmas, Yule, red and green. Cheerful, and it was that time of year. My hair was a deeper red than my blouse. My hair is the most Unseelie part of me, sidhe scarlet hair for someone who looks good in black. Not the gold or orangey red of human hair. The jacket brought out the green in two out of the three circles of color in my iris. The gold circle would flash in the camera light sometimes as if it truly was metallic. The eyes were pure Seelie sidhe, the only part of me that showed that my mother had been of the golden court. Well, at least half.

I didn't recognize the reporter who had asked the question. He was a new face to me, maybe new since yesterday. Since yesterday's assassination attempt had happened in front of the media, on camera, well, we'd had to turn away some of the reporters, because the big room wouldn't hold more. I'd been doing press conferences since I was a child. This was the biggest one I'd had, including the one after my father was assassinated. I'd been taught to use names for reporters when I knew them, but to this one I could only smile and say, "My arm is only sprained. I was very lucky yesterday."

Actually, my arm hadn't been injured in the assassination attempt that got on film. No, my arm had been hurt on the second, or was that the third, attempt on my life yesterday. But those attempts had happened inside the sithen, where I was supposed to be safe. The only reason the queen and my bodyguards thought I was safer here than outside in the human world was that we had arrested or killed the traitors behind the attempts on me, and the attempt on the queen. We'd damned near had a palace coup yesterday, and the media didn't have a hint of it. One of the old names for the fey is the hidden people. We've earned the name.

"Princess Meredith, was it your blood on your face, yesterday?" A woman this time, and I did know her name.

"No," I said.

I smiled for real, as I watched her face fall when she realized she might be getting just a one-word answer. "No, Sheila, it wasn't mine."

She smiled at me, all blond and taller than I would ever be. "May I add to my question, Princess?"

"Now, now," Madeline said, "one question per."

"It's okay, Madeline," I said.

Our publicist turned to look at me, flipping off the switch at her waist so her microphone would not pick up. I took the cue and covered mine with my hand and moved to one side of it.

Madeline leaned in over the table. Her skirt was long enough that she was in no danger of flashing the reporters down below the dais. Her skirt was the absolute latest hem length of the moment, as was the color. Part of her job was paying attention to what was in and what was out. She was our human representative, much more than any ambassador that Washington had ever sent.

"If Sheila gets to add to her question, then they will all do it. That will make everything harder, for you and for me."

She was right, but . . . "Tell them that this is an exception. Then move on."

She raised perfectly plucked eyebrows at me, then said, "Okay." She hit the switch on her mike as she turned and smiled at them. "The princess will let Sheila ask another question, but after that you'll have to keep it to the original rule. One question per." She pointed to Sheila and gave a nod.

"Thank you for letting me add on to my question, Princess Meredith."

"You're welcome."

"If it wasn't your blood yesterday, then whose was it?"

"My guard Frost's."

The cameras flashed to life so that I was blinded, but the attention of everyone had moved behind me. My guards were lined up along the wall, spilling down the edges of the dais, to curl on either side of the table and floor. They were dressed in everything from designer suits to full-plate body armor to Goth club wear. The only thing that all the outfits had in common was weaponry. Yesterday we'd tried to be discreet about the weapons. A bulge that ruined the line of the jacket, but nothing overt. Today there were guns under jackets or cloaks, but there were also guns in plain sight, and swords, and knives, and axes, and shields. We'd also more than doubled the number of guards around me.

I glanced back at Frost. The queen had ordered me not to play favorites among the guard. She'd gone so far as to tell me not to give any long lingering glances to one guard over another. I'd thought it was an odd demand, but she was queen, and you argued with her at your peril. But I glanced back; after all, he'd saved my life. Didn't that earn him a glance? I could always justify it to the queen, my aunt, that the press would think it strange if I hadn't acknowledged him. It was the truth, but I looked because I wanted to look.

His hair was the silver of Christmas-tree tinsel, shiny and metallic. It fell to his ankles like decoration, but I knew that it was soft and alive, and felt oh so warm across my body. He'd put the upper layer of his hair back from his face with a barrette carved from bone. The hair glittered and moved around his charcoal-grey Armani suit that had been tailored over his broad shoulders and the athletic cut of the rest of him. The suit had also been tailored to hide a gun in a shoulder holster and a knife or two. It had not been designed to hide a gun under each arm, or a short sword at his hip, with a leather scabbard strapped tight to his thigh. The hilt of a second sword rode over his shoulder, peeking through all that shining hair. He bristled with knives, and Frost always had other weapons that you couldn't see. No suit was designed to cover that much armament and hold its shape. His jacket couldn't be buttoned at all, and the guns and sword and one knife glinted in the camera's flash.

Cries of "Frost, Frost" filled the room, while Madeline picked a question. The man was another one I didn't know. Nothing like an assassination attempt to attract the media.

"Frost, how badly were you hurt?"

Frost is a little over six feet, and since I was sitting down, and the microphone was adjusted to my height, he had to lean down, way down. With a weapon of any kind he was graceful. But bending low over that mike he was awkward. I had a moment to wonder if he'd ever been on mike before, then his deep voice was answering the question.

"I am not hurt." He stood back up, and I could see the relief on his face. He turned away from the cameras, as if he thought he'd get off that easily. I knew better.

"But wasn't it your blood on the princess?"

His hand was gripping the pommel of his short sword. Touching his weapons unnecessarily was a sign of nerves. He leaned over the mike again, and this time he bumped my bad shoulder with his body. I doubted the press saw such a small movement, but it was too clumsy for words, for Frost. He braced a hand flat against the table, steadying himself. He turned eyes the grey of a winter sky to me. The look asked silently, "Did I hurt you?"

I mouthed, no.

He let out a sigh and leaned back to the microphone. "Yes, it was my blood." He actually stood back up, as if that would satisfy them. He should have known better. He had been decorative muscle for the queen at enough of these over the years to know that he was being a little too concise. At least he didn't try to go back to his spot behind me this time.

A reporter I did know, Simon McCracken, was next. He'd covered the faerie courts for years. "Frost, if you are not hurt, then where did your blood come from and how did it get on the princess?" He knew how to word the question just right, so we couldn't tap-dance around it. The sidhe don't lie. We'll paint the truth red, purple, and green, and convince you that black is white, but we won't actually lie.

Frost leaned over the mike again, his hand pressed to the table. He'd moved minutely closer to me, close enough that his pants leg touched my skirt. His sword was almost trapped between our bodies. That would be bad if he had to draw the weapon. I looked at his hand, so big and strong on the table, and realized his fingertips were mottled. He was gripping the table the way you grip a podium when you're nervous.

"I was shot." He had to clear his throat sharply to continue. I turned my head just enough to see that perfect profile, and realized it was more than nerves. Frost, the queen's Killing Frost, was afraid. Afraid of public speaking. Oh, my. "I have healed. My blood covered the princess when I shielded her from harm."

He started to stand back up, but I touched his arm. I covered the mike with my hand, and leaned in against him, so I could whisper against the curve of his ear. I took in a deep breath of the scent of his skin, and said, "Kneel or sit."

His breath went out so deep that his shoulders moved with it. But he knelt on one knee beside me. I moved the microphone a little closer to him.

I slid my hand under the back of his jacket, so that I could lay my hand against the curve of his back, just below the side sweep of the big sword sheath. When fey are nervous, any fey, we take comfort from touching one another. Even the mighty sidhe feel better with a little contact, though not all of us will admit it for fear of blurring the line between royalty and commoner. I had too much lesser fey blood in my veins to worry about it. I could feel the sweat that was beginning to trickle down his spine.

Madeline started to come closer to us. I shook my head. She gave me a questioning look but didn't argue. She picked another question from the throng.

"So you took a bullet to protect Princess Meredith?"

I leaned into the mike, putting my face very close to Frost's, touching carefully, so I didn't get makeup on him. The cameras exploded in bursts of white light. Frost jumped, and I knew that was going to be visible to the cameras. Oh, well. We were blinded, vision blurred in bursts of white and blue spots. His muscles tightened, but I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't been touching him.

"Hi, Sarah, and yes, he took a bullet for me," I said.

I think Sarah said "Hi, Princess" back, but I couldn't be sure, since I still couldn't see well enough, and the noise of so many voices was too confusing. I'd learned to use names when I knew them. It made everyone feel more friendly. And you need all the friendly you can get at a press conference.

"Frost, were you afraid?"

He relaxed minutely against me, into the touch of my hand and my face. "Yes," he said.

"Afraid to die," someone yelled out without being called on.

Frost answered the question anyway. "No."

Madeline called on someone, who asked, "Then what were you afraid of?"

"I was afraid Meredith would be harmed." He licked his lips, and tensed again. I realized he'd used my name without my title. A faux pas for a bodyguard, but of course, he was more than that. Every guard was technically in the running to be prince to my princess. But we were sidhe, and we don't marry until we're pregnant. A nonfertile couple is not allowed to wed, so the guards were doing more than just "guarding"my body.

"Frost, would you give your life for the princess?"

He answered without hesitation. "Of course." His tone said clearly that that had been a silly question.

A reporter in back who had a television camera next to him asked the next question. "Frost, how did you heal a gunshot wound in less than twenty-four hours?"

Frost gave another deep, shoulder-moving sigh. "I am a warrior of the sidhe." The reporters waited for him to add more, but I knew he wouldn't. To Frost, the fact that he was sidhe was all the answer he needed. It had been only a through and through bullet wound from a handgun and no special ammunition. It would take a great deal more than that to stop a warrior of the sidhe.

I hid my smile and started to lean into the mike, to help explain that to the press, when the sweat along his spine suddenly stopped being wet and warm. It was as if a line of cold air swept down his back. Cold enough that I moved my hand away, startled.

I glanced down at his big hand on the table and saw what I'd feared. A white rime of frost was drifting out from his hand

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

A Stroke of Midnight

A Novel
By Laurell K. Hamilton

Ballantine Books

Copyright © 2005 Laurell K. Hamilton
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-345-44357-8


Chapter One

I hate press conferences, but I especially hate them when I've been ordered to hide large portions of the truth. The order had come from the Queen of Air and Darkness, ruler of the dark court of faerie. The Unseelie are not a power to be crossed, even if I was their very own faerie princess. I was Queen Andais's niece, but the family connection had never bought me much. I smiled at the nearly solid wall of reporters, fighting to keep my thoughts from showing on my face.

The queen had never allowed this much of the human media inside the Unseelie's hollow hill, our sithen. It was our refuge, and you don't let the press into your refuge. But yesterday's assassination attempt had made allowing the press into our home the lesser evil. The theory was that inside the sithen our magic would protect me much better than it had in the airport yesterday, where I'd nearly been shot.

Our court publicist, Madeline Phelps, pointed to the first reporter, and the questions began.

"Princess Meredith, you had blood on your face yesterday, but today the only sign of injury is your arm in a sling. What were your injuries yesterday?"

My left arm was in a green cloth sling that matched my suit jacket near perfectly. I was dressed in Christmas, Yule, red and green. Cheerful, and it was that time of year. My hair was a deeper red than my blouse. My hair is the most Unseelie part of me, sidhe scarlet hair for someone who looks good in black. Not the gold or orangey red of human hair. The jacket brought out the green in two out of the three circles of color in my iris. The gold circle would flash in the camera light sometimes as if it truly was metallic. The eyes were pure Seelie sidhe, the only part of me that showed that my mother had been of the golden court. Well, at least half.

I didn't recognize the reporter who had asked the question. He was a new face to me, maybe new since yesterday. Since yesterday's assassination attempt had happened in front of the media, on camera, well, we'd had to turn away some of the reporters, because the big room wouldn't hold more. I'd been doing press conferences since I was a child. This was the biggest one I'd had, including the one after my father was assassinated. I'd been taught to use names for reporters when I knew them, but to this one I could only smile and say, "My arm is only sprained. I was very lucky yesterday."

Actually, my arm hadn't been injured in the assassination attempt that got on film. No, my arm had been hurt on the second, or was that the third, attempt on my life yesterday. But those attempts had happened inside the sithen, where I was supposed to be safe. The only reason the queen and my bodyguards thought I was safer here than outside in the human world was that we had arrested or killed the traitors behind the attempts on me, and the attempt on the queen. We'd damned near had a palace coup yesterday, and the media didn't have a hint of it. One of the old names for the fey is the hidden people. We've earned the name.

"Princess Meredith, was it your blood on your face, yesterday?" A woman this time, and I did know her name.

"No," I said.

I smiled for real, as I watched her face fall when she realized she might be getting just a one-word answer. "No, Sheila, it wasn't mine."

She smiled at me, all blond and taller than I would ever be. "May I add to my question, Princess?"

"Now, now," Madeline said, "one question per."

"It's okay, Madeline," I said.

Our publicist turned to look at me, flipping off the switch at her waist so her microphone would not pick up. I took the cue and covered mine with my hand and moved to one side of it.

Madeline leaned in over the table. Her skirt was long enough that she was in no danger of flashing the reporters down below the dais. Her skirt was the absolute latest hem length of the moment, as was the color. Part of her job was paying attention to what was in and what was out. She was our human representative, much more than any ambassador that Washington had ever sent.

"If Sheila gets to add to her question, then they will all do it. That will make everything harder, for you and for me."

She was right, but ... "Tell them that this is an exception. Then move on."

She raised perfectly plucked eyebrows at me, then said, "Okay." She hit the switch on her mike as she turned and smiled at them. "The princess will let Sheila ask another question, but after that you'll have to keep it to the original rule. One question per." She pointed to Sheila and gave a nod.

"Thank you for letting me add on to my question, Princess Meredith."

"You're welcome."

"If it wasn't your blood yesterday, then whose was it?"

"My guard Frost's."

The cameras flashed to life so that I was blinded, but the attention of everyone had moved behind me. My guards were lined up along the wall, spilling down the edges of the dais, to curl on either side of the table and floor. They were dressed in everything from designer suits to full-plate body armor to Goth club wear. The only thing that all the outfits had in common was weaponry. Yesterday we'd tried to be discreet about the weapons. A bulge that ruined the line of the jacket, but nothing overt. Today there were guns under jackets or cloaks, but there were also guns in plain sight, and swords, and knives, and axes, and shields. We'd also more than doubled the number of guards around me.

I glanced back at Frost. The queen had ordered me not to play favorites among the guard. She'd gone so far as to tell me not to give any long lingering glances to one guard over another. I'd thought it was an odd demand, but she was queen, and you argued with her at your peril. But I glanced back; after all, he'd saved my life. Didn't that earn him a glance? I could always justify it to the queen, my aunt, that the press would think it strange if I hadn't acknowledged him. It was the truth, but I looked because I wanted to look.

His hair was the silver of Christmas-tree tinsel, shiny and metallic. It fell to his ankles like decoration, but I knew that it was soft and alive, and felt oh so warm across my body. He'd put the upper layer of his hair back from his face with a barrette carved from bone. The hair glittered and moved around his charcoal-grey Armani suit that had been tailored over his broad shoulders and the athletic cut of the rest of him. The suit had also been tailored to hide a gun in a shoulder holster and a knife or two. It had not been designed to hide a gun under each arm, or a short sword at his hip, with a leather scabbard strapped tight to his thigh. The hilt of a second sword rode over his shoulder, peeking through all that shining hair. He bristled with knives, and Frost always had other weapons that you couldn't see. No suit was designed to cover that much armament and hold its shape. His jacket couldn't be buttoned at all, and the guns and sword and one knife glinted in the camera's flash.

Cries of "Frost, Frost" filled the room, while Madeline picked a question. The man was another one I didn't know. Nothing like an assassination attempt to attract the media.

"Frost, how badly were you hurt?"

Frost is a little over six feet, and since I was sitting down, and the microphone was adjusted to my height, he had to lean down, way down. With a weapon of any kind he was graceful. But bending low over that mike he was awkward. I had a moment to wonder if he'd ever been on mike before, then his deep voice was answering the question.

"I am not hurt." He stood back up, and I could see the relief on his face. He turned away from the cameras, as if he thought he'd get off that easily. I knew better.

"But wasn't it your blood on the princess?"

His hand was gripping the pommel of his short sword. Touching his weapons unnecessarily was a sign of nerves. He leaned over the mike again, and this time he bumped my bad shoulder with his body. I doubted the press saw such a small movement, but it was too clumsy for words, for Frost. He braced a hand flat against the table, steadying himself. He turned eyes the grey of a winter sky to me. The look asked silently, "Did I hurt you?"

I mouthed, no.

He let out a sigh and leaned back to the microphone. "Yes, it was my blood." He actually stood back up, as if that would satisfy them. He should have known better. He had been decorative muscle for the queen at enough of these over the years to know that he was being a little too concise. At least he didn't try to go back to his spot behind me this time.

A reporter I did know, Simon McCracken, was next. He'd covered the faerie courts for years. "Frost, if you are not hurt, then where did your blood come from and how did it get on the princess?" He knew how to word the question just right, so we couldn't tap-dance around it. The sidhe don't lie. We'll paint the truth red, purple, and green, and convince you that black is white, but we won't actually lie.

Frost leaned over the mike again, his hand pressed to the table. He'd moved minutely closer to me, close enough that his pants leg touched my skirt. His sword was almost trapped between our bodies. That would be bad if he had to draw the weapon. I looked at his hand, so big and strong on the table, and realized his fingertips were mottled. He was gripping the table the way you grip a podium when you're nervous.

"I was shot." He had to clear his throat sharply to continue. I turned my head just enough to see that perfect profile, and realized it was more than nerves. Frost, the queen's Killing Frost, was afraid. Afraid of public speaking. Oh, my. "I have healed. My blood covered the princess when I shielded her from harm."

He started to stand back up, but I touched his arm. I covered the mike with my hand, and leaned in against him, so I could whisper against the curve of his ear. I took in a deep breath of the scent of his skin, and said, "Kneel or sit."

His breath went out so deep that his shoulders moved with it. But he knelt on one knee beside me. I moved the microphone a little closer to him.

I slid my hand under the back of his jacket, so that I could lay my hand against the curve of his back, just below the side sweep of the big sword sheath. When fey are nervous, any fey, we take comfort from touching one another. Even the mighty sidhe feel better with a little contact, though not all of us will admit it for fear of blurring the line between royalty and commoner. I had too much lesser fey blood in my veins to worry about it. I could feel the sweat that was beginning to trickle down his spine.

Madeline started to come closer to us. I shook my head. She gave me a questioning look but didn't argue. She picked another question from the throng.

"So you took a bullet to protect Princess Meredith?"

I leaned into the mike, putting my face very close to Frost's, touching carefully, so I didn't get makeup on him. The cameras exploded in bursts of white light. Frost jumped, and I knew that was going to be visible to the cameras. Oh, well. We were blinded, vision blurred in bursts of white and blue spots. His muscles tightened, but I wouldn't have known it if I hadn't been touching him.

"Hi, Sarah, and yes, he took a bullet for me," I said.

I think Sarah said "Hi, Princess" back, but I couldn't be sure, since I still couldn't see well enough, and the noise of so many voices was too confusing. I'd learned to use names when I knew them. It made everyone feel more friendly. And you need all the friendly you can get at a press conference.

"Frost, were you afraid?"

He relaxed minutely against me, into the touch of my hand and my face. "Yes," he said.

"Afraid to die," someone yelled out without being called on.

Frost answered the question anyway. "No."

Madeline called on someone, who asked, "Then what were you afraid of?"

"I was afraid Meredith would be harmed." He licked his lips, and tensed again. I realized he'd used my name without my title. A faux pas for a bodyguard, but of course, he was more than that. Every guard was technically in the running to be prince to my princess. But we were sidhe, and we don't marry until we're pregnant. A nonfertile couple is not allowed to wed, so the guards were doing more than just "guarding" my body.

"Frost, would you give your life for the princess?"

He answered without hesitation. "Of course." His tone said clearly that that had been a silly question.

A reporter in back who had a television camera next to him asked the next question. "Frost, how did you heal a gunshot wound in less than twenty-four hours?"

Frost gave another deep, shoulder-moving sigh. "I am a warrior of the sidhe." The reporters waited for him to add more, but I knew he wouldn't. To Frost, the fact that he was sidhe was all the answer he needed. It had been only a through and through bullet wound from a handgun and no special ammunition. It would take a great deal more than that to stop a warrior of the sidhe.

I hid my smile and started to lean into the mike, to help explain that to the press, when the sweat along his spine suddenly stopped being wet and warm. It was as if a line of cold air swept down his back. Cold enough that I moved my hand away, startled.

I glanced down at his big hand on the table and saw what I'd feared. A white rime of frost was drifting out from his hand

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Stroke of Midnight by Laurell K. Hamilton Copyright © 2005 by Laurell K. Hamilton. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 517 )
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(331)

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(120)

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(46)

2 Star

(14)

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(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 522 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2006

    completely satisfied

    In my humble opinion, this is probobly the best so far of the series. I read the first one on a whim (It was on Sale), and since then i just can't get enough. I tried to read the Anita Blake series, but I just couldn't get in to them. So when I began to read the Merry Gentry Series, I was very pleasently surprised. I think I like this one the best simply because Merry has gone back to Fearie and is a little more immursed in the courts diabolical plans for her. Not only that, but other characters are introduced, and maybe I'm the only one that feels this way but in the previous books, we learned and about the guards, and it just seemed to me that none of them are really what she needs in a King.I think that that is why she hasn't gotten pregnant yet. However, in this book, we meet Mistral, and personal, I'm thinking maybe he's going to be the guy to get the job done. Anyways, loved the book, going to read it many more times, and have forced my friends to read the series and now we are all addicts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 7, 2010

    entertaining author

    can't say enough about this book or anything written by laura k hamilton. i started with her anity blake series 18 books later i was so sad the series was over. so started the meredith gentry series. they are just as good even though one set is vampires and the faires. and i only have one book to go. what will i do now!!!!!!!!!. the author has the best imagination. never been able to read any author for more than 3 or 4 books at a time and with her can't get enough.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Paranormal romanticism and a mystery

    I have enjoyed this series greatly. Definitely adult material but it combines almost every young girl fantasy I ever had, multiple loves, being a fairy princess, power returning because of you. I can't wait for more and am thrilled that Swallowing Darkness won't be the last in the series yet.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    Get over it people

    Hamilton is a writer that has had sex in her books for a while. Yea the first couple books of Anita Blake were not so driven by sex but come on. It has come to a point where you eather read it or you don't but know their is going to be sex scenes. This is the Hamilton that we have all come to love and read and be addicted to. Thats just how it is. Great story, Great everything. Way to go Hamilton.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    <>

    <>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2014

    Husherrrr

    Fail.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2014

    Hush >PPST<

    >POST< She gently sucks on the right side of his jawline, still tilting his chin up.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2013

    To silverpetal

    You sound beeoootiful. If you want to mate go to silver r 6.
    My name is Frostheart and my brother happens to be frostwing (now froststar) i am a silverish blue tomcat. Hope to see yoo soon!

    Only for silverpetal: if you r looking to have kits im ur guy. For this specifically go to banana r 2

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    A kit

    A she cat walks in with a kit that was just born in her mouth she droped and ran it was a tom with green eyes and brown fur it had a fire mark on his chest he needed milk and warmth or it was going to die

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Pebblekit

    Sleeps outside at about 5:00 pm

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Midnightflower and Glaciersnow

    A small black shecat pads into the unfamiliar clan, her green eyes look around nervously, beside her is her littermate a white tom with icy blue eyes, he seems at ease. He pads to the leader and bowes his white head,"Hello, I am Glaciersnow, and this is my sister Midnightflower," Glaciersnow mews,"We are currently clanless and was wondering if we could join this clan, if not then we could go somewhere else..."(=^-^=)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Icepaw

    Do i have a mentor?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Foxkit

    SOMEONE ELSE POSTED!!!!! YAY!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    SHININGstar

    Toxicstar you have to call on another leader...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    Godtail

    Where is everyone?!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Streakflight

    Thank you. Dips her head.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Pausewind

    Hello

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2013

    Riverflow

    Nothin.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    Silverpetal

    A pretty silver she cat with white paws and sky blue eyes padded in. "Hello, my name is Silverpetal," she mewed. "I would like to be a warrior and I need a mate."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013

    Toxicstar

    See!! Yhu ae the imposter!! And get out!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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