Home > Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry #7)

Swallowing Darkness (Merry Gentry #7)
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

Laurell K. Hamilton: Meredith Gentry 07 Swallowing Darkness

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALSO BY LAURELL K. HAMILTON

 

 

COPYRIGHT

Swallowing Darkness is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author\'s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 © 2008 by Laurell K. Hamilton

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

BALLANTINE and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Hamilton, Laurell K.

Swallowing darkness: a novel / Laurell K. Hamilton.-1st ed.

p. cm.

e: 978-0-345-50987-1

1. Gentry, Meredith (Fictitious character)-Fiction. 2. Women private investigators-Fiction. I. Title PS3558.A443357S93 2005

813\'.54-dc22

2008037441

ballantinebooks

I FEEL LIKE ONE,

 

 

WHO TREADS ALONE

SOME BANQUET HALL DESERTED.

WHOSE LIGHTS ARE FLED,

WHOSE GARLANDS DEAD,

 

 

AND ALL BUT HE DEPARTED!

From \"Oft, in the Stilly Night\"

By Thomas Moore

(National Airs, 1818)

TO JONATHAN, WHO WALKS THE EMPTY PLACES WITH ME,

AND TURNS ON THE LIGHTS AS WE GO.

ALSO BY LAURELL K. HAMILTON

Published by The Random House Publishing Group

 

 

A LICK OF FROST

MISTRAL\'S KISS

 

 

A STROKE OF MIDNIGHT

SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT

 

 

A CARESS OF TWILIGHT

A KISS OF SHADOWS

Page 1

Laurell K. Hamilton: Meredith Gentry 07 Swallowing Darkness

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Darla, who helps my good intentions become reality. Sherry, who is still fighting the fight to organize us artsy types. Merrilee, my agent, who is always ready to put on her armor and go into battle at my side. Shawn, for a friendship that is now old enough to go into a bar by itself and order its own drinks. Charles, who has taught me the joy of a little bit of chaos, and that just because I don\'t have a detailed plan doesn\'t mean it can\'t work out. Pili and Carri, who braved Dragon Con with us. Science fiction author and Army and Air Force veteran Michael Z. Williamson, who volunteered to help with the military bits. All mistakes in that area are mine and mine alone, but his input kept them to a minimum. My writing group, The Alternate Historians: Deborah Millitello, Mark Sumner, Marella Sands, Sharon Shinn, and Tom Drennan. Friends in the trenches.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

HOSPITALS ARE WHERE PEOPLE GO TO BE SAVED, BUT THE DOCTORS can only patch you up, put you back together. They can\'t undo the damage. They can\'t make it so you didn\'t wake up in the bad place, or change the truth to lies. The nice doctor and the nice woman from the SART, Sexual Assault Response Team, couldn\'t change that I had indeed been raped. The fact that I couldn\'t remember it, because my uncle had used a spell for his date-rape drug, didn\'t change the evidence-the evidence that they\'d found in my body when they did the exam and took samples. You would think being a real live faerie princess would make your life fairy-tale-like, but fairy tales only end well. While the story is going on, horrible things happen. Remember Rapunzel? Her prince got his eyes scratched out by the witch, which blinded him. At the end of the story, Rapunzel\'s tears magically restored his sight, but that was at the end of the story. Cinderella was little better than a slave. Snow White was actually nearly killed four different times by the evil queen. All anyone remembers is the poisoned apple, but don\'t forget the huntsman, or the enchanted girdle and the poisoned comb. Pick any fairy tale that\'s based on older stories, and the heroine of the piece has a miserable, dangerous, nightmarish time of it.

I am Princess Meredith NicEssus, next in line to a high throne of faerie, and I\'m in the middle of my story. The happy-ever-after ending, if it\'s coming at all, seems a very long way away tonight. I was in a hospital bed, in a nice private room, in a very nice hospital. I was in the maternity ward, because I was pregnant, but not with my crazy uncle\'s baby. I had been pregnant before he stole me away. Pregnant with the children of men I loved. They\'d risked everything to rescue me from Taranis. Now, I was safe. I had one of the greatest warriors that faerie had ever seen at my side: Doyle, once the Queen\'s Darkness, and now mine. He stood at the window, staring off into the night that was so ruined by the lights from the hospital parking lot that the blackness of his skin and hair was much darker than the night outside. He\'d removed the wraparound sunglasses that he almost always wore outside. But his eyes were as black as the glasses that hid them. The only color in the dim light of the room was the glints from the silver rings that climbed the graceful line of one ear to the point that marked him as not pure blood, not truly high court, but mixed blood, like me. The diamonds in his earlobe sparkled in the light as he turned his head, as if he\'d felt me staring at him. He probably had. He had been the queen\'s assassin a thousand years before I was born.

His ankle-length hair moved like a black cloak as he came toward me. He was wearing green hospital scrubs that he\'d been loaned. They had replaced the blanket from the ambulance that had brought us here. He\'d entered the golden court, to rescue me, in the form of a large black dog. When he shape-shifted he lost everything, clothes, weapons, but strangely never the piercings. The many earrings and the nipple piercing survived his return to human form, maybe because they were part of him. He came to stand beside the bed, and take my hand-the one that didn\'t have the intravenous drip in it, which was helping hydrate me, and get me over the shock I\'d been in when I had arrived. If I hadn\'t been with child, they\'d have probably given me more medicine. For once I wouldn\'t have minded stronger drugs, something to make me forget. Not just what my uncle, Taranis, had done, but also the loss of Frost.

Page 2

Laurell K. Hamilton: Meredith Gentry 07 Swallowing Darkness

I gripped Doyle\'s hand, my hand so small and pale in his large, dark one. But there should have been another beside him, beside me. Frost, our Killing Frost, was gone. Not dead, not exactly, but lost to us. Doyle could shape-shift to several forms at will and come back to his true form. Frost had had no ability to shape-shift, but when wild magic had filled the estate where we\'d been living in Los Angeles, it had changed him. He had become a white stag, and run out the doors that had appeared into a piece of faerie that had never existed before the magic came.

The lands of faerie were growing, instead of shrinking, for the first time in centuries. I, a noble of the high courts, was with child, twins. I was the last child of faerie nobility to be born. We were dying as a people, but maybe not. Maybe we were going to regain our power, but what use to me was power?

What use to me was the return of faerie, and wild magic? What use was any of it, if Frost was an animal with an animal\'s mind?

The thought that I would bear his child and he would neither know nor understand made my chest tight. I gripped Doyle\'s hand, but couldn\'t meet his eyes. I wasn\'t sure what he would see there. I wasn\'t sure what I was feeling anymore. I loved Doyle, I did, but I loved Frost, too. The thought that they would both be fathers had been a joyous one.

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