Brimstone Kiss (Page 16)


Since Dolly was protected from vandals by pixie halitosis, we took Ric's vintage bronze Stingray Corvette, which was always thief bait despite its expensive security devices.

Quicksilver stood dancing from forefoot to forefoot twenty feet away, wired to race the Corvette home. Even my skimpy top and leather vest barely fit in the so-called storage area, but I liked the ambiguous privacy of the small, low, throbbing car that had the road feel of a very large and intimate vibrator.

Sometimes the intensity of our physical reactions scared me.

Both of us were orphans. I was never adopted. Growing up in group homes made me defensive and emotionally cautious. Ric was from a poor Mexican family of water dowsers and ended up used by a gang of coyotes, the heartless desert rats who take money to guide illegal immigrants through the Sonora and Chihuahua Desert wilds into the U.S. There the coyotes often abandon them to death by dehydration. They gave real coyotes a bad name.

After the Millennium Revelation, illegally imported zombies from Mexico began fueling the entertainment industry as technology and magic combined to create whole new industries. Young Ricardo Montoya was forced to find and raise zombies so they could be sold into servitude. Somehow he got away and grew up to be the man I'd recently met: an educated, attractive, sexually sophisticated drop-out from a good government job who dressed like a Gentleman's Quarterly white-collar stud.

I wasn't a former TV reporter for nothing. There had to be a whale of a backstory between the man in the present and the illiterate boy on the brink of puberty living among men worse than animals could ever dream of being. That boy had relied on visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe as an ersatz mother figure until a dancing girl in a porn magazine collaborated with a vampire bat to bring him over into manhood one moonless desert night.

Me, I'd come out of puberty with holes in my memory and a phobia against lying on my back.

Somehow, though, Ric and I had a healing effect on each other.

Our cars said a lot about us. Dolly was a 1956 Caddy Biarritz, a classic car. During my self-supporting student days I'd survived by living on other people's castoffs and learned to love the plunder to be found from families who didn't honor their own history-history I would have given my blood for, if vampire bites could deliver such a thing.

Dolly was a battleship: flashy, big, slow, ponderous, but with enough hidden power under the hood to tow Superman. She was my fortress. Ric's small sixties-era Corvette was fast, sleek, powerful, the perfect escape car.

And now here I was a passive passenger in Ric's car, and liking it. Group home Delilah was easing up. How could I not like it? Ric drove the sports car like he did me, an easy hand on all the gears, shifting them silkily...when he wasn't shifting he was caressing my bared midriff.

His fingers were teasing my thin silver hip chain, which put me in a ticklish position again in a couple ways. Caresses were one butterfly wing away from tickling, and this chain wasn't the department store one I'd bought, but yet another shape-shifting incarnation of a lock of albino hair from Christophe/Cocaine/Snow.

So Ric toying with Snow's sending gave me the edgy feeling of being in a threesome nobody knew about but me. Me and my silver shadow.

Ric quit toying and pushed three fingers tight inside my leather pants, under that ridiculously short zipper.

Man, that hombre does know how to rattle our cages, Irma kibitzed.

Yeah. As much as I reacted physically, I knew a significant part of my new sexual thralldom was emotional empathy. I longed with every bone and drop of blood in my body to find the last, hidden key to Ric's past and heal any wounds still borne by that brutalized boy in the desert. And maybe I would. Someday.

The courtyard to Ric's house, hidden behind six-foot-high pale stucco walls, resembled a square in Old Mexico with its huge central fountain plinking away like a watery harpsichord.

A girl could feel like Zorro bait pressed against a stucco wall in the warm, velvet dark, surrounded by the heady scent of a flowering vine while six feet of hungry male sucked the sugar from her lips. Much better than being vampire bait. Much better than being horizontal, although Ricardo Montoya was luring me more and more to that inclination.

His hands were on my bare hips, stroking, caressing, until my pelvis was seducing his as much as his mouth subverted mine.

Move your booty a little to the left and do a yoga pelvic tilt. That oughta hit him where it hurts so good-

Irma was a slut. So I complied. Ric groaned and pulled back. "We better find a room, mi tigre hembra."

His tigress. Yes! We lurched inside together, mixing lip locks with forward progress. God! Now I knew what all the Top Forty hits were about.

The kitchen was dark and vaguely reflective, the living room dark and mysterious. The house sound system greeted us with an instrumental Latin beat, softer than salsa. I knew he was taking me to the master suite, where we'd first made love. It had been in front of a mirror.

Sometimes I fantasized that it had been my double, Lilith, doing the wild thing, not me. Now that I knew I had mirror connections, I wondered if that was why my first joining with a man had resulted in climax. I'd had outside help.

I tried to avoid looking at the low platform bed as we came in. Beds cried for the missionary position and I wasn't ready for that. The warm, throbbing, sloping hood of Ric's Vette was scary enough, yet I wanted to be there again.

As we entered the bedroom, the bathroom lights had come on: frosted globes above the over-the-sinks mirror, a softly glowing chandelier over the sunken tub. He nodded to a curve of glass blocks.

"I'm going to shower off the temp tattoos and Sinkhole Scumboy. Feel free to look around."

"Shouldn't I wash off Biker Chick too?"

"You're perfect the way you are. Don't change one sexy thang." He vanished behind the wall, still dressed in his disreputable Sinkhole disguise duds.

Well, that was clear. No lingering, naked shower together. I'd seen so many shower scenes in TV movies I was disappointed. On the other hand, at least it wasn't Psycho. Shivering a little at the memory of Janet Leigh getting knifed to death in living black-and-white at the Bates Motel, I accepted his invitation to snoop. A reporter is an incurable spy. I opened one of the bathroom's two walk-in closet doors. And walked in.

The clothes were neatly hung on two levels. Men wore only separates. No need for a long gown rack. My vintage stuff was more long than short. I moved among the garments, caressing them, inhaling Ric's cologne and the natural scent of soap and skin under it. My sense of smell had become sharper since our joint dowsing experience in Sunset Park.

Every piece was natural fiber: tropical weight wool suits and silk or silk-cotton blend shirts. A built-in set of drawers increasing in depth from top to bottom started with a shallow jewelry drawer of gold cuff links, a bracelet I'd never seen him wear, a slender neck chain with a medal of some kind. Below was a sea of silky boxer shorts, all black, below that, socks just as silky in shades of beige to match the desert climate of Las Vegas and its surrounding Mohave Desert.

I heard water running, hitting tile, and considered walking in, totally dressed.

No. Ric needed his distance. Just as his clothes were all selected to cosset his body and cosseted me by proxy, I'd been selected because I suited his body and mind and, hopefully, heart and soul. So he said, but could he really know me well enough so quickly to be sure?

Ties were on a pullout rack. All silk, all subtle, all long and smooth and fully packed...oops! Irma was influencing my objective reporter's instincts.

I suddenly realized the pitter-patter of shower water had stopped and moved back into the bathroom proper, like any good girl caught snooping with very bad, even confessable, thoughts.

Or... into the bathroom, vastly improper.

Ric's hair was damp, yet still thick and smooth. He was semi-naked and the semi part of that was what was so interesting. He wore black satin boxer shorts and a matching black satin robe, open and hanging off his broad shoulders.

Introducing, in the center ring, ladies and ladies, the Cadaver Kid.

I hated the brutal so-called sport of boxing. I loved the boxer in the room with me. Kinda like the "hate the sin, love the sinner" religious motto.

His skin was sleek and brown as amber, his pecs taut, his abdomen a subtle six-pack. If I was a Jockey or men's cologne advertising director I could get the Cadaver Kid such an endorsement deal...but I'm selfish. He was all mine.

"Wow," I said. "You look even better wet. And you're all mine."

Original dialogue is not a reporting requirement.

His laugh was the advertised music to my ears. Most of all, I wanted to make him happy. We walked into each other and then stayed there.

"Ric," I said finally, choosing my words to get the information I craved, "I really didn't recognize Sinkhole Slimeboy. All your clothes here are so smooth and soft and sensuous. I understand why you'd love that after having been burned to a cinder as a kid in the Mexican desert, but damn it, sometimes I fantasize about being fucked by just your clothes. Is that normal?"

His laughter reverberated against my hypersensitive skin and bones. I felt like a very happy drum.

"No, it's not normal, but I feel the same and, anyway, are you normal, Delilah?"

I swallowed hard. That question had dogged me all my life. "Probably not. I just want to understand. How can GQ guy co-exist with Sinkhole Slimeboy?"

"How can edgy, virginal Del co-exist with tigress Delilah?"

I just laid my cheek on his chest and rubbed my Lip-Venomed mouth over his nipple until he bent to take my mouth with his.

"You want to talk?" he asked finally.

"A little."

He lifted me atop the granite sink surround, my back to the mirror. "You want to know about Ricardo Montoya, FBI agent."

"You. I want to know about you."

"Can't we just fuck?"

The bad, blunt word revved my momentarily idling engine. "Sure. But I don't smoke. I won't want a cigarette after. I'll want information."

He closed his eyes. Opened them. "What do you want to know?"

"Need to know. That's what we call it in the reporting trade. The need to know."

Ric searched my eyes, then nodded and waited for my first question.

" you escaped that awful background, that rotten start in life."

"Like you did?"

"In your own way." My fingertip brushed the corner of his mouth. "Talk, Montoya, or I'll torment you for hours in bed."

"It couldn't be worse than this," he said soberly, then sighed. "Okay. The facts: You know the coyotes made me find the dead and raise them as zombies. Even as a four-year-old I knew what I did was wrong. The dead want to rest. But I was a small child, bewildered that my family had traded me to these monsters."

I inhaled with a hiss. "Traded! And here I always longed for a real family, my birth parents-"

"My people were untaught peasants, Del. They didn't understand a boy who could only dowse for dead things, not life-giving water."

"Do you have any memories of them?"

"Only of standing alone, over the dried-up body of some small desert creature. When the coyotes came, saying they'd heard I was useless but could employ me, they passed me on without a thought."

"How awful."

"When you're poor, you must be worth the beans to feed you."

I leaned my forehead on his satin shoulder. "How could the zombie trade be starting up then, before the Millennium Revelation?"

"The MR was a public announcement. They don't call it the "Revelation" for nothing; nothing happens overnight. Evil is always ahead of the curve."

I nodded. "I want to know about after. Right after you got away from the coyotes. How."

"One day U.S. border agents raided and collected my uncouth masters. They rounded up me with the goats and burros."


"And." Ric took such a deep breath that my head on his shoulder heaved up and down as if riding an Atlantic swell. "The leader was ex-military, a decorated major-turned-D.C.-bureaucrat doing a final, pre-retirement field assignment. I was considered a feral child. His wife was a Georgetown University psychologist. They had no children. I was a 'fascinating case'. I went home to them, which included a couple years in behavioral labs."

"This was better?" I asked, horrified.

He nodded. "Better. My...adopted mother is a brilliant analyst. She pioneered a method of breaking through to abused or isolated or autistic children with me."

"And adopted you."

"Not officially. That's why I'm Ric Montoya, not Phillip Burnside, Jr."

"How did you get your name?"

Ric smiled nostalgically for the first time since I'd known him. "She and I sat down with a baby name book and a surname history book. We went through Latino names that didn't remind me of my keepers. That's how my father got leads on the identities of the captured coyotes, who weren't talking."

I could picture that. The sophisticated American career woman and the wary, half-wild Mexican waif poring over name books as if they were fairy tales. Although randomly named, at least Ric had a memorable moment about the occasion. He wasn't named after a street like me.

"Why didn't they formally adopt you?"

"They were a couple complete unto themselves, never wanted kids. I became a canvas on which they could paint something permanent, a tribute to their union."

"You make them sound so... cold."

"They were people of the mind, not the emotions. They gave me my mind back and let it expand a thousand times. I'll always be grateful. I'll always be ambivalent. Do I love them or do I owe them? Do they love me or do they love what they made me become?"

"Adoption is so... major."

"Maybe not being adopted is not so bad, hmm?" He kissed me softly on the neck. "I have no quarrel with them. I respect them and do anything they want as long as I don't lose any part of the self they worked so hard to find and develop."

"They don't always understand that."

"No. An understatement. They were not happy when I left the FBI to consult. But they don't know about my dowsing facility." Ric grinned. "So now I have the same family issues as any ordinary American kid."

"And I still envy that."

"Don't. You're not alone any more. You are my family, Del. " He pulled me close to him, my legs straddling his hips, our pelvic heat melding. He whispered a Spanish phrase,"Tuvestir mi consuelo" or something.

I knew most of the words. Tu. You. Mi. Me. Vestir. Dress. Clothe. Consuelo? Wasn't that a woman's name? I still didn't know much Spanish, but I did remember an Italian nun at Our Lady of the Lake -Sister Maria Consolata. Her name meant "consolation, comfort."

"You clothe me." Consuelo made it, "in comfort."

I broke our kiss to brush my lips against the faint bruise on the left side of his throat, the heart side.

"Then put me on," I whispered.