A Stroke of Midnight (Meredith Gentry Series #4)

A Stroke of Midnight (Meredith Gentry Series #4)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345443601
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/2006
Series: Meredith Gentry Series , #4
Edition description: Reprinted Edition
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 140,573
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

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.

Hometown:

St. Louis, Missouri

Date of Birth:

February 19, 1963

Place of Birth:

Heber Springs, Arkansas

Education:

B.A., Marion College

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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Stroke of Midnight (Meredith Gentry Series #4) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 526 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
vmc54 More than 1 year ago
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.
rosee3381 More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this whole series. Its amazing. Recommend to anyone who loves fantasy.
SunnySD on LibraryThing 29 days ago
A double homicide (human and fey) at a press conference causes complications for Meredith in the fourth series installment. Still not pregnant, Merry is feeling the pressure of keeping both her warriors and herself safe from the machinations of her sadistic aunt, Queen Andais and her twisted cousin, Prince Cel. Hamilton again slows down the plot progress (barely a day passes), but not the action. A great addition to the series.
seph on LibraryThing 29 days ago
I found this book in the Merry Gentry series to be quite compelling. It was still as if I was watching Hamilton masturbate with her word processor at times, but there was enough plot to make up for that awkwardness. This book is a fine example of why I'm still reading this series.
siubhank on LibraryThing 29 days ago
Princess Meredith has survived three attempts on her life and she's only been back in the ancient native american mounds known as 'fairie' for twelve hours. Now someone has murdered a human, inside 'fairie'. She must convince the Queen to allow the police to investigate and she must prevent the police from finding out too much about the political machinations, death challenges and sex swirling through the dark marble hall and shifting entrances and exits.These books by Laurell K. Hamilton are addictive. She concentrates on one story and give delicious, if sometimes scary and/or steamy details. Her characters are well drawn, if a bit over the edge. Either she¿s spent a lot of time researching arcane gods of the past, or she is really, really good at coming up with believable background. Of course we know she is, we are, after all, reading her books.It is total fantasy and not your childhood Fairy Tale. It¿s a fun ride and a great escape.
hoosgracie on LibraryThing 29 days ago
Adequate addition to the series. Introduces us to more of the guards and more magic. More of an interim book.
libraryofus on LibraryThing 3 months ago
(Amy) The title character is an exiled princess of the Unseelie court, but is called back because the court is fading and needs a new ruler. Whoever is first to conceive or sire a child wins the throne. There seems to be something resembling a plot running through the series to date (this is the fourth), but mostly it's just porn. In fact, in the ~18 hours covered by the latest book, there is miniscule plot advancement, but Meredith has sex to some degree or other at least five times that I can recall without thinking about it much.So, yeah. I have no real explanation for why I keep buying these books, when if all I want is an erotica fix I can generally get it from fanfic sites of one sort or another. Habit, I suppose. Hope that the author of the first few books I read still exists somewhere and might re-emerge someday. Sick fascination with how bogged down in minutiae it's possible for an author to get when she's lost the plot. But yet, I'll buy the next one. In hardcover. As soon as it comes out.
TwilightBlue on LibraryThing 3 months ago
And I\'m still waiting for Ms. Hamilton to get Princess Merry to the Seelie court. A whole novel and not a Seelie Faerie to be seen.
Anonymous 11 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many say that Hamilton only writes stories with a good beginning, and they lose the taste for her words a few books in. I can say that I disagree wholeheartedly. After reading these books, all of them, I'm still entranced by her way with words and her imagination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So far this is the best out of the series, I can't wait to start the next book in about 5 mins.
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Fail.
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Cch
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