KITTO LAY BACK IN THE WATER, CRADLED AGAINST GALEN'S BODY. Galen trailed his hands over the smaller man's arms and shoulders, stroking strong hands through the now damp curls around his face. Kitto half floated, his eyes closed as he snuggled his shoulders and head against the curve of Galen's upper body.
I trailed my fingertips down the front of Kitto's leg, until I traced along the top of his foot. I knew he was ticklish there, and it earned me a smile, but his eyes stayed closed. I held his foot in my hands, and licked along the top of his foot where I had touched. It made him squirm and laugh. He opened his eyes, sinking his legs below the water and sitting up. Galen's arms spilled around his shoulders, holding him more securely against his own body.
I moved in against the front of Kitto's body, straddling his legs. I brushed myself over the loose thickness of his groin. It drew a sound of pleasure from him. But when he put his hands at my waist, it was to stop the movement of my hips.
Kitto's voice was a little strained, but his small hands were very firm at my waist, stopping me from pushing harder against his body. "It is Nicca who is meant to be with Galen and you this night."
"I am content to wait my turn," Nicca said from where he knelt beside the tub. His wings fanned gently at his back as he reached to trail his fingers in the water.
Kitto shook his head, water trickling down his face from his sodden hair, his black curls flattened against the white of his skin.
I moved my groin against his, and his hands on my waist could not stop it. His fingers tightened, and again he said, "No." But other parts of his body were already responding to even the light touch he was allowing me.
"Your body says otherwise," I said.
He swallowed hard and blinked those blue on blue eyes up at me. "I cannot be your king, Merry. Word has come from Kurag, Goblin King, that Holly and Ash have laid challenge on any goblin that takes their prize before they can."
I frowned at him. "And that means what?"
"Any goblin that does anything to become your king before Holly and Ash have had their chance will be challenged and killed by them."
"They have no right to dictate to you, Kitto," I said. "You are sidhe now. You have a hand of power. That is sidhe magic, not goblin."
He gave me a sad little smile. "You do not know them as I do. I would not anger them, not for anything in faerie." He touched the side of my face where the blood still clung. "Let me help you and Galen clean yourselves." He smiled, and it was a real smile, not so sad. "I am honored that Galen reached for me first. I know that that is not his way." He leaned in against the taller man's body and smiled up at him.
Galen smiled down at him and ran his hands down the other man's arm. "I wanted to see you smile."
Kitto smiled wider, amost a grin. "It means much to me that you care if I am happy or sad." He looked at me, and his face sobered. "But heed me on this, Merry, sidhe or no, princess or no, you should fear Holly and Ash."
"They will come to my body as the rest of you have. They will have their chance for kingmaking. I know to negotiate exactly what kind of sex they can have from me. Beyond that why should I fear them?"
"We will be with Merry in the goblin court," Galen said. "We won't let anything bad happen to her."
"You make it sound so easy," Kitto said, gazing up at the other man.
"How dangerous are the twins?" Nicca asked.
"They are some of the most feared warriors of our court," Kitto said.
"They looked sort of puny standing next to the Red Caps," Galen said.
"I do not know what this 'puny' means," Kitto said.
"Small, weak," I said.
Kitto acknowledged it with a nod. "But size is not everything in combat. Holly and Ash have a reputation for viciousness among the goblins."
I stopped petting Kitto and went very still, because what he'd just said put things in perspective for me. For Holly and Ash to have earned such a fearsome reputation among the goblins spoke of terrible violence against a people who thrived on it.
"Goblins are stronger than we are," Galen said. "To be half-sidhe in their court must make life hard."
Kitto shivered, and he relaxed his hands on my waist enough for me to press the front of my body against the front of his. Galen and I held him between our bodies; he wrapped his arms around me, and clung to the feel of our bodies. "You have no idea, Galen, no idea how it marks you as victim. I was unlucky enough to be as weak as I look. Holly and Ash were beautiful children, blond and pale, and except for the eyes would have passed at either sidhe court. Even with the eyes they would have been accepted."
"Why didn't they petition to join our court?" I asked, my face resting on the top of Kitto's wet hair, and the warmth of Galen's shoulder.
"I do not know," Kitto said, "for they suffered when they were young males. Our females liked to make them perform, until they grew strong enough to fight them off."
Galen and I were frowning at him, but Nicca seemed to understand. "You mean the she-goblins raped them?"
"It's not easy for a woman to rape a man," I said.
"It is possible," Nicca said, and he leaned his face against the one folded arm that graced the edge of the tub. His other arm was deeper in the water, as if he sought something below its surface. "The queen is fond of force."
I moved through the water to touch his shoulder. He started when I touched him, as if he had expected a far less pleasant touch. Nicca's brown eyes were a little too wide. Whatever memory he was thinking upon, it was a bad one. So many bad memories among the guard, thanks to Andais.
I laid a gentle kiss on his mouth, and drew back to stare into his face. "Let me clean up, and we will make love. Gentle love, and then you will have Biddy and that will be gentle, too."
He nodded, but it was a little too rapid, and his eyes still held that shadow of fear. I felt the water move before Kitto came beside me to add his hands to mine on Nicca's body. "Until I became a part of the princess's household, I did not understand that any sidhe could be forced to such horrors, not unless they had earned punishment." He touched Nicca's face. "I know now that there is pain in every court, and no one is truly safe." He kissed Nicca's cheek. "Let me help them rid themselves of the blood, and then the princess will take that sadness from your eyes."
Nicca smiled at him. "There are other things you can do with Merry besides intercourse. You, too, could have her do things to you that would take that sorrow from your eyes, Kitto."
He did that quick grin again, as if he was afraid to be seen smiling so broadly. "In the goblin court the one who gives oral pleasure is the lesser being. It shows that you are submissive to the one you are pleasuring."
"That's not how the sidhe see it," Galen said, moving to join us at the center of the tub.
Kitto flashed him another grin. "So I have seen whenever Merry could persuade one of us to let her but touch us."
"I like oral sex," I said.
"We know," the three of them said in unison, which made them all laugh.
"I don't like that Holly and Ash feel they can dictate to you, Kitto. But if you truly aren't comfortable with intercourse, then let me finish what I've only been able to start with all of you but Sage."
"With Sage you were forbidden to have intercourse," Nicca said. "Queen Andais doesn't want to risk a demi-fey on our throne."
I nodded. "So we did nothing that would risk Sage getting me pregnant." I looked at Kitto, and didn't fight the look that filled my eyes. "And now I'm supposed to do things with Kitto that won't let him get me with child either."
Kitto's breath shook on its way out, but not with fear. "If you were a goblin and looked at me so, I would be afraid, but I've learned what that light in your eyes means."
"What?" I asked, in a voice that was already grown lower with need.
"That you're about to do something to me that I'm going to like," he said. "Let me help you and Galen get clean."
"And then?" I asked.
He gave me a look that I've seen in men's eyes before, a look that says they know what we're about to do, and that there will be no going back, no stopping. "And then I will let you have your way with me."
"Other than the little you've allowed Merry to do to you, have you ever had anyone do oral sex on you?" Galen asked.
Kitto looked at him. "No."
I took in a long shaking breath and shivered when my breath ran out. I'd never gotten to be the first for anyone before. I was almost certain that the rest of the guard had had this particular pleasure performed by someone else once upon a time. I would be the first one to ever hold Kitto in their mouth, and suck, and lick, and bite, if he wished.
"Your face," Galen said, "like it's Winter Solstice and you've gotten every present you asked for."
"If you'd let me go down on you, you'd see this expression on my face more often," I said.
He gave me a look. "You're incorrigible."
I leaned around Kitto, closer to Galen. "If you'd only say yes, you'd find out just how incorrigible I can be."
I was rewarded with a look almost of pain, as if he wanted to say yes, but… intercourse had become everyone's goal, because we pursued a baby like some infertile couple.
"Me first," Kitto said.
"Me second," Nicca said, "though I think the queen will be upset if we do oral and not something that would gain you a child."
I nodded. "She was very specific about that, so yes. I don't want to disappoint Andais."
We all shivered in unison, and this time it had nothing to do with pleasure.
THE TILE WAS TOO COLD TO LIE ON, BUT TOWELS TOOK CARE OF that. Kitto lay back on them, knees up, legs slightly spread so I could reach him better, an ivory dream against all that burgundy darkness. His sex was swollen and thick even before I got to kneel between his legs. Anticipation had done much of my work for me.
I slid my mouth over the swollen tip of him, like taking in a whole, ripe plum until my mouth was so full I couldn't bite down, and couldn't swallow. My mouth is full of the ripe, firm flesh, but with this plum, filling my mouth was only the beginning, so much left to swallow. The warm thick firmness of the fruit doesn't writhe in your mouth, as you move over it. It doesn't cry out as you lick along it inside your mouth.
Kitto's hands dug at the towels underneath him, bunching them in his hands, clutching the only thing he could find while he rode the pleasure.
Nicca's hands stroked along my ass, making me writhe and push myself against him, but he kept me from more of his body. He cupped my buttocks in both his hands, and the feel of him holding me like that made me suck at Kitto, hard and fast. Kitto cried out. I waited for Nicca to push himself against me, but nothing came, nothing but the promise of his hands on me.
Galen said what I was thinking. "Consort save us, Nicca, finish it." It made me roll my eyes past Kitto, to my green man as he knelt near Kitto's head on the edge of the towels.
Nicca's fingertips dug into my flesh, just a little, no nails, just the strength in his fingers that let me know that if he wished he could plunge his fingers inside my flesh. So strong, so very strong.
I writhed for him, and had to fight not to be too fierce on the tender flesh inside my mouth. I had to raise my mouth off of Kitto for a moment. Had to catch my breath, and fight off the urge to bite down. I kept one hand on the base of him, but changed the grip, so that my hand covered as much of him as I could. I came up off of his body with my hand already stroking his wet, quivering shaft.
I looked back at Nicca who was kneeling behind me, but no longer touching me. He looked brown and perfect kneeling there, with his hair still wet from the tub, clinging to his body in thick strands that tangled around his shoulders, arms, waist, and legs. His wings rose against all that chocolate-colored goodness like some spun sugar fantasy. I had a moment of regret about him going elsewhere, but only a moment. I wanted him happy more than I wanted him.
"Why were you waiting?"
"You are sending me to what amounts to my marriage bed, Merry. If this is to be my last time with you, I would like it to be exactly as I want it. You can say no."
I had to smile. "Ask, and I'll know the answer." Then I thought of something. "Are you unhappy about Biddy?"
"No," he said, but he frowned. "No, but there will be things I will miss."
"Such as?" I wasn't fishing for compliments. I truly wanted to know.
It was his turn to smile. "Such as watching you stretched underneath me, screaming your pleasure around another man's body, while I bring you, and pour my pleasure between your legs."
Just hearing him describe it with that look in his eyes tightened things low in my body. "I was offering that," I said.
"I want you on your back as you were with Sage. I want to see your breasts rise and fall with your breathing."
I went to him, touching his face, trying to see through this combination of passion and seriousness. It wasn't like him. "I want Biddy and you to be a happy time, not a sad one."
He smiled, but it held an edge of something that was not happy. "I remember a time when marriage was not the end of such joys but the beginnings of them. The sidhe never cheated on their partners, but if we agreed then others were brought into our beds."
He was speaking of a time before Andais was queen. A time before Christianity was anything but a heretic Jewish sect. Most of the sidhe didn't speak of it, for they didn't like talking about what they had lost. Who wants to talk of a time when the sidhe had not been outnumbered by the humans. A time when we married for love and not simply for children. A time when sex was about joy and sharing and not a relentless pursuit of pregnancy. A time when an unplanned baby didn't condemn you to a loveless marriage. I had felt such happiness when the ring chose Nicca and Biddy for each other. But was it a true love match? Yes, they were infatuated with each other, and yes there might be a child, but would there be happy-ever-after? Or would Nicca love her, bed her, share a child with her, yet regret. And would those regrets eventually destroy their love?
Suddenly I smelled roses. "Do you smell apple blossoms?" Galen asked.
"Yes," Nicca said, "like in the hallway with Mistral."
"Honeysuckle," Kitto said.
The scent was growing stronger. I had a moment of inspiration. It wasn't the same as channeling the Goddess, but… "When did the sidhe stop having children, Nicca?"
He blinked at me. "I can taste the perfume on the air."
"Answer my question."
"I don't know," he said, "long ago."
"Did we stop having children after we adopted the human ideal of one partner?"
"We adopted monogamy because the humans outbred us using it," Nicca said.
"Did they really?" I said. "Or did we begin to be outbred when we stopped being who and what we are?"
"What do you mean, Merry?" Galen asked.
I held up my hand to show the dull metal gleam of the queen's ring. "She said she took this off her enemy's body, but that she never saw babies with it. Lust, love, infatuation, but she could not see the babies. What if this is not the queen's ring, but a ring meant for a fertility deity? We were nature deities originally, before human need turned some of us more civilized. We are that which is primal, basic."
"The sidhe have not been that in a very long time," Kitto said.
I turned to find him still lying in the nest of towels, as if he hadn't moved. "What do you mean, Kitto?"
"The goblins were the last of faerie to embrace the idea of only one spouse at a time. Once, if the husband, the dominant partner, could protect, feed, and house more, then you were allowed more if they all agreed."
"I wouldn't think that the husband would care what the wife thought," Galen said.
"Technically, husband only means dominant partner, not the sex of a goblin, and he or she could bring anyone in without the wife's permission. But in reality, if you bring in someone your wife hates, then your home life becomes a battleground, and not even a goblin wants that."
"So you could be someone's wife?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yes."
"But not a husband," Galen said.
"I am not strong enough to be one." He writhed on the bed of towels. "Why do I smell honeysuckle as if summer has arrived and I am standing in the sun? It's so warm."
"You were in the hall when Merry and Mistral had their little fling," Galen said, his voice almost as light as his words. "Apple blossoms for me."
"Like standing in the orchard in spring," Nicca said.
The two men smiled at each other.
"Spring energy," Kitto said.
I looked at him. "What?"
"They're both spring energy," he said.
"And what are you?"
"Summer, when the land is hot and ripening." He writhed on the towels as he said it, his legs straining out as if he were close to orgasm. His body was thick and ripe again.
"And what am I?" I asked.
"Autumn," he said. "You are the land when the harvest comes. You are what the year works toward, Merry."
"And what is winter?"
"The long sleep," Kitto said.
I laid back against him, using his groin as a pillow. It brought a small sound from him. I gazed back at Nicca where he still knelt. "Tell me what you want, Nicca. Tell me exactly what you want."
"I want you on your back. I want to see another man push his way inside your mouth while I mount you. I want you to scream your pleasure around his body while I fuck you."
I nodded, rolling the back of my hair across Kitto's groin. He writhed for me. "We can do that," I said.
Kitto's voice came shaky, but clear. "I do not know how to position myself for what you ask. Where do my legs go?"
"I'll show you," Galen said, and his voice was low with need.
I rolled my head back so I could see him still sitting behind us. The movement made Kitto writhe again. Two birds with one caress. "You've refused before," I said.
"I didn't say I would go that way, only that I'll help Kitto figure out where his legs go. A hundred words can't make as much sense as one good demonstration." His eyes were far more serious than his words, serious and dark with need.
"Well, as long as it's a good demonstration," I said, and my own voice was a little breathy.
"Oh, it will be," he said, and the look on his face was all male. I believed him.