IT WAS MY TURN TO LIE BACK AGAINST THE TOWELS. TO LIE THERE and watch Galen crawl toward me. His body was already thick and hard, dark with the extra blood, darker than the rest of his body.
I wanted a lot of things from Galen, and had gotten most of them, but he like the rest of the men was so intent on making babies that he wouldn't chance going elsewhere. I watched him crawling closer and felt positively covetous.
He gave a laugh that was more nerves and anticipation than humor. "The look on your face, like I'm something good to eat."
"She did not look at me that way," Kitto said.
Which put me back to having to soothe his ego. I'd begun to notice the hardest thing about having this many men in my life wasn't figuring out what position for sex tonight but how to keep from hurting anyone's feelings or making anyone feel left out. It wasn't the number of bodies in the bed that made it complicated but the number of hearts and hands.
I reached out and touched Kitto's knee where he knelt so close. He was supposed to be watching, so he could learn where the legs went. "Galen was my first crush, Kitto, the first man that I ever lusted over. The first that I ever loved. I'd spent years fantasizing about him before he came to my bed. You're new on the menu. I haven't had a chance to fantasize about you for so many unrequited years."
"Don't feel slighted," Nicca said. "She doesn't look at me that way either."
I looked down my body at him. "I didn't realize…"
He held up a hand to stop my words. "I do not feel slighted, Merry. All that had eyes knew how long you pined after Galen. You followed him around like a puppy when you were so young you didn't even realize why you found him so compelling."
I wasn't sure I liked the puppy remark, but I let it go, because when I was fourteen, it was probably embarrassingly accurate.
"Merry," Galen said, "you're blushing."
I covered my face with my hands, because I rarely if ever blushed. I wasn't blushing for me now, but for that long ago girl. The girl that I had been would have been mortified to know that her "secret" love was no secret at all.
Hands touched my wrists. "Merry." Galen's voice was as gentle as his hands, as he moved mine away from my face. "You blushed for me."
I actually couldn't look at him. "It's just the thought that everyone knew. I didn't know I was being that obvious when I was fourteen."
"We're all that obvious when we're fourteen," he said with a smile.
"It's been a few centuries since I was fourteen," Nicca said, "but if memory serves, Galen's right."
Kitto's comment was, "The goblins are not a subtle race."
"What does that mean, exactly?" Galen asked.
"It means that if a goblin lusts after another, everyone knows it. We do not see the point of hiding our admiration, unless we fear the goblin we lust after will take it as an insult. We are not subtle, but we can hide what we feel if we must."
I held my hand out to him, palm up. He took my hand, looking puzzled. "What would you have of me, Princess?"
"A smile," I said.
He looked even more puzzled.
Galen explained, "She wants to chase that shadow from your eyes."
Kitto rewarded us both with a shy smile, then shook his head. "I like being sidhe."
I squeezed his hand and would have said something comforting, but Nicca chose that moment to play his hand between my legs and suddenly I couldn't think of any words.
"You're not wet enough," Nicca said.
It took me two swallows to say with a suddenly dry throat, "Bath, always does that."
"Odd that such wetness makes a woman dry," he said, and his finger found my opening, slipped inside. It made me gasp, made my hand convulse around Kitto's. Nicca moved his finger inside me, gently, slowly. "I am not so large as some, but not small either. This dry it will hurt."
My voice came breathy. "Then make me wet."
"As my princess commands," he said, with a smile. He took his hand away from my body, and said to Galen, "Show Kitto where the legs go, so that when she is ready to be entered, I will have my view."
"Let me know when you're ready," Galen said.
"I won't have to tell you," Nicca said, "you'll know."
The scent of flowers had faded, like the dream of roses in a long-closed room. You open the door and get the hint of perfume, then it fades, and you wonder if you imagined it. Such is the passing of many spirits and powers in the human world. Many things that humans take for ghosts are the shadows of things that were never truly mortal.
Galen had faded a little, too, with all the talk, and I liked that better for oral sex. A little softness first, a little less size to begin with. He straddled my upper body, and as soon as he was close enough I tried to take him in my mouth.
He laughed, and held his hand in the way. "Let me get settled first; you'll pull a muscle in your neck doing it that way."
He moved his body closer to my mouth, settled his knees more firmly on either side of my shoulders. His groin filled my view, not just the head and shaft, but the tight firmness of his testicles, in their close-curled nest of darker green hair. My hands were trapped underneath his weight. I could touch his thighs, his ass, and the lowest edge of his back, but that was all my hands could reach. If I had known that I would have a chance to finally have Galen in my mouth, I might not have agreed to the change in positioning. With me on top I would have been able to guide more of what went into my mouth, and how. In this position I had to let the man direct it more. I wanted a hand to help angle him for my mouth. But I shouldn't have worried. Galen stared down at me, his eyes filling with that darkness that men get only in the most intimate of moments. He used his hand to move himself so that the angle was better. And once my mouth slid over the head of him, he adjusted his upper body so that when I sucked him down, I was able to suck all of him. He was soft, and silken inside my mouth, the foreskin rolling, something extra for my tongue to play with. I sucked eagerly to get all of him inside me. My lips rested solid against his body. I rolled him in my mouth, sucking, stroking, playing with him with tongue and mouth, while I still could. Even as I enjoyed the sensation of him soft, he grew in my mouth. I felt that bit of flesh go from soft and silken to hard and ripe. He filled my mouth and then my throat. I had to back off of him to draw a breath.
Galen drew himself out of my mouth. "This is supposed to be foreplay, Merry."
"You know what I want," I said.
He shook his head.
I trailed my hands along his ass. "Nicca will go between my legs, then with a touch, I will bring him back again. He will service me and Biddy this night. Why can't you go twice tonight, too?"
"I usually do."
I pressed my body upward, gripping his ass with my hands. I raised up enough so I could lick lightly on his balls. "Go once in my mouth, and once between my legs. Please, Galen, please."
Nicca's hands slid down my thighs, and I felt him settling between my legs a second before his tongue touched me, a quick caress that made me writhe and dig my nails, just a little, into Galen's body.
It made him close his eyes, and count his breaths.
"I would give almost anything to have a woman beg me like that," Kitto said. "Do not refuse such a gift."
I didn't look at Kitto, because I only had eyes for Galen.
Nicca's tongue licked inside my opening, then up in a sure, firm stroke. I had to learn how to breathe again, and when I opened my eyes, Galen was still there, looking down at me. Nicca began to lick in circles around the edge of me, long sure strokes, for he had found that quick ones only worked later, not at the beginning. That sensation of fullness was already beginning to grow low in my body.
"Please," I said simply.
He settled his body over me again, wrapped his own hand around himself, and gave me the angle my mouth needed. "A princess shouldn't have to beg" was the last thing he said before he slid inside my mouth.
THE WEIGHT GREW LOW IN MY BODY, AS NICCA'S TONGUE CARESSED in long, heavy circles, and at the top of that circle he found that spot, the one that would eventually turn that growing warm weight into pleasure. But he had to work me wet first, otherwise it would hurt and rub, not pleasure.
Galen had gotten over his reluctance. He put his hands on the floor just past my head, so that he could move his hips as if he were making love to my mouth. And it was making love, not a pounding, but a caress of muscled velvet sliding between my lips, a sweet, hard weight that made me open my mouth wide to him, so he could glide every inch from the smooth head to the end of the shaft where it met his body. Except we never got that far. He never put that much of himself inside me. Nicca had stopped what he was doing. I knew he was still lying between my legs, because I could feel his hands wrapped around my thighs, but he was still, giving only an occasional lick, just enough to not lose ground, but not even close to making me come. Normally, it would have been irritating, but it freed me to concentrate on the sensation of Galen in my mouth in a way he had never allowed before. Except that he was holding back. Never once did the soft, hanging weight of his testicles touch my face. He wasn't giving me his all, not even close.
He spoke, and his voice showed the strain, the control he was wasting on his movements. "You stopped," he said in a strangled voice. "Nicca, why did you stop?"
"I thought to let you both enjoy it without me distracting her too much. Though from what I saw her do with Sage and Mistral, you are being overly careful."
"I don't want to hurt her."
That was it. I managed to get my hands free and pushed. He came up off of me, holding himself above me effortlessly, as if he could have held himself poised and perfect forever. Just gazing down the length of his body like that made me shiver.
"I want to feel all of you in my mouth, Galen, all of you."
"Won't that hurt you?"
Nicca laid his head against my thigh, and said, "You were in the hallway, right? You saw her with Mistral."
He nodded. "I saw." There was a hunching of his shoulders when he said it.
I ran my fingers down the front of his body, down his chest, his stomach, and only him rolling away kept me from wrapping my hand around him. "What is wrong?" I asked.
"I will never be comfortable being that rough with anyone."
"You don't have to be rough tonight, just give me the length of you. Let me feel you in my mouth all the way down to your balls. I want all of you in me in every conceivable way. If there's an opening that can hold you, I want it."
He gave me a look.
"Galen, Galen, we're running out of time, don't you understand that? Doyle and Frost already think the ring has chosen Mistral for me."
He looked stricken, as if I'd stabbed him low and hard with something made of cold iron.
"I don't believe they are right, but I do not know. None of us do. So while I have you, I want you. Don't you understand that?"
He looked down, and he was small again, his foreskin covering him. "If what you did with Mistral is what you want, then why do you want me?"
"I don't want rough every night, Galen. Some nights I like gentle. Some nights I like to make love, not fuck."
"But some nights you like to fuck," he said. "I pretty much always want to make love."
I smiled at him. "I could argue that."
He tried not to smile, but failed. "Not if what you did in the hallway was fucking."
"That was fucking with Mistral. Sex depends on the person you're with, Galen. Lovemaking rises and falls on the rhythms of the people involved." I held my hand out to him. "Come to me."
He shook his head. "If I come to you now, I won't be able to come to you when Nicca finally enters you."
"I can bring you back with a little bit of magic."
"Yeah, but if you do it immediately, it hurts a little."
"You never told me."
I looked down my body at Nicca, who had gone very quiet, his head resting on my thigh more for a pillow now than for sex. "Does it? Hurt, I mean?"
"Until recently I almost always shared my night with Rhys, so with two of us in the bed there was more waiting between times. So no, it did not hurt. But if I had to go straight back to it, it might," he said.
"Doyle and Frost never complained," I said.
"I think pain is more useful for them in the bedroom than it is for me or Galen."
I thought about that for a second. "Maybe."
Galen's voice came soft. "Is the reason you want me this way that you don't want me to be your king?"
I started to say no, then hesitated. It wasn't my motive for the oral sex, but the last part was true enough, or had been.
"I want you like this because I want you," I said.
Nicca spoke with his head still pillowed on my thigh. "I've seen her do this with more than just Mistral. She does seem to enjoy it."
"Sage, you mean," Galen said, but still didn't sound happy. His face did what it almost always did: it showed his every emotion.
"Yes," I said, and wasn't sure what to do to reassure him. It wasn't like Galen to pout this much. This was more Frost's speed.
"Sage," he said again, "another who won't ever be your king."
I sighed. "We have a night of ecstasy in front of us, and you're spoiling it with hard questions, it's not like you."
"No, it's more like Frost."
He'd spoken exactly what I'd just finished thinking. He'd done that several times tonight.
He continued with, "You complain about his moods, but you seem to like him better and better. Maybe you like your men a little more complicated."
I didn't know what to say to that. Why do you love one man and not another? Why is it that one person's touch fills you with shivery heat, and the same touch from another leaves you cold? It is a mystery. But I could answer truthfully and still be comforting.
"I love you, Galen."
He just looked at me.
"Maybe I had forgotten just how much, but today. . when I saw you lying there…" My voice failed me, and I had to close my eyes to keep from seeing him lying in a pool of his own blood.
Nicca stroked my thigh, not for sex but to comfort.
"When I saw you there, like that, I thought I would die from grief. To never see your smile again." My eyes felt hot, and I couldn't decide if crying would make me feel better or worse.
He touched my face, and without opening my eyes, I knew it was his hand. His warm, gentle hand. I laid my cheek into that hand. I was reminded sharply of doing the same thing to Doyle only a few hours ago. Galen had failed me then, had not understood why Gillette's failing me had made me cry. But giving Galen into the hands of another woman who could give him his nights of gentle love was one thing; giving him up to death was another. That I could not bear.
I opened my eyes and gazed up at him. I met those green, green eyes.
"You're crying," he said, and the look on his face was one of wonderment.
"Not quite," I said, but my voice sounded it. I had to swallow hard to say the next part. "Maybe I have been pulling back from you. I didn't mean to." I touched his hand with mine, kept it pressed against my face. "What terrified me about you being king was that our enemies would kill you. If I was picking men who could survive that kind of treachery, it wouldn't be you, my gentle love."
"Like Dormath thinking I would just forgive him for almost killing me."
"The last thing I thought, the very last thought, was you. I was afraid that it was the beginning of an assault on all of us." He lowered his gaze and wouldn't look at me. "I thought, Doyle and Frost will keep her safe. That if one of us had to die first, it was better that it was me." His smile was more sad than happy. "I guess my actual last, last thought was, why me? If I'd killed someone first, it would have been Doyle, not me. I prayed to the Goddess for your safety, and I died."
"Not quite," I whispered.
He looked at me then, and the smile was almost a real one. "How can I blame you for looking to them for your king, when as I lay dying, they were who I thought of, too? Damn it, being a good person is not enough here, not to help keep us alive. I'm sorry for that."
"I thought it would endanger you more to be my king, Galen, but now I understand that they're going to try to kill you anyway." I spoke to the look on his face. "I didn't know about the green man bringing life to the court until the queen said it, but they are still going to kill as many of my allies as they can. They will strip me of my help, if they dare. So if you're in danger either way, then you might as well be king."
"I'm dead either way," he said, and the smile was back to being more sad.
I sat up, trying to hug him, but he moved away just a little. My movement forced Nicca to move from my thigh to the mound between my legs for his pillow. Not for sex, but gently, as a pillow for his cheek.
"Come to me, Galen, please."
"I cannot be your king, Merry. It would be the death of us all." There was a hardness to his face that I had never seen before. In that moment I watched years be added, not in wrinkles, or lines, but in experience, in the depths of his eyes.
"Will you give up your place in her bed?" Nicca asked, and his voice held the lilt of surprise.
"No," Galen said, his voice as grim as the look in his eyes. "I'm not strong enough to give that up, not yet, not until I have to. But it does open things up." He smiled with that somber look still clinging to his eyes, still making him look not like my Galen at all. "But I could take Nicca's place, and kiss you with more than mouths."
"You've done that before."
"But never where you could return the favor," he said.
"You will have other nights," Nicca said. "Would you deny me my last moments with our Merry?"
"No, not if it's what you want. I know if it were my last night with her, I'd want it exactly the way I wanted it." He looked almost back to normal, but there was a glint in his eyes that didn't go away, and that I was both relieved and sad to see.
"I want to bring her with my lips and tongue, then I want to see another man in her mouth. I want us both to fuck her, until we go inside her. That's what I want."
Galen nodded. "Okay."
"I do not care which of you it is at her mouth, but if it is you, Galen, I have one request."
Galen said, "Ask."
"You are taller than Kitto. If you could come at her from the side, and not in front. You partially block my view of her breasts, and since it is my last night with the largest breasts in the entire court, I want to see them."
"From the side it is," Galen said.
"I'll need my head propped up if we're going to do it like that," I said.
"We can mound the towels up," Galen said.
"Let me be Merry's pillow," Kitto said. "Rest your head in my lap, Princess."
The rest of us exchanged a glance, and the glance was enough. "Okay," I said.
Kitto's smile was bright, and so very happy. Such a small thing to cause him such pleasure.
Nicca moved his head back down my body, his hands encircling my thighs again. "Now, where were we?"
My mouth suddenly dry, I asked, "Isn't Galen supposed to be up here?"
"I won't last in your mouth if you're screaming an orgasm around me. I just won't. Let him bring you, then Kitto and I will go where Nicca wants us."
I might have argued for Galen to come closer sooner, but Nicca's mouth found me again, and his tongue and lips stole my words, stole my breath, and finally stole the world away. For a few precious moments, I forgot that we were in danger, that there was a throne to win, or that there was anything but Nicca's mouth between my legs. His mouth and my body became pleasure, as if there were no skin, no bones, nothing solid, only the overwhelming shivering joy of orgasm.