Brimstone Kiss (Page 17)


First he had to extract me from the skin-tight leather jeans he lusted to remove without laying me horizontal.

This became a long, inciting process involving sliding and turning along the walls, kissing and laughing and breathing hard all the way through the bedroom into a room I'd never seen. By then he could lift my bare butt atop a cold marble table top and shimmy the leather off my legs, one by one.

He was kneeling before me and his mouth was at my center. "Do you have your Lip Venom with you, amor?"

"S��, senor, but I'm tingling enough already."

"Never too much," he murmured through kisses.

I wanted to lean my head back and howl like a... wolf, not a coyote. Instead I giggled.

"You laugh?"

"Your five o'clock shadow tickles." He pressed harder. "Oooh. Now it feels so nice and rough." I growled the last word a little.

That made him pause, pick me up, and deposit me half sitting on a circular red leather lounge. I reached up to pull down his boxers and slid onto my tailbone, still half-sitting. He braced his arms on the back of the low sofa and pressed his pelvis into mine.

The tension of not having was overpowering the tension of almost having. I recognized the taut pain of anticipation in my inner muscles. "Now," I breathed. "Now."


"Ahora!" I repeated desperately, clenching my hands on the satin lapels of his robe.

"Ahora," he repeated, finally pushing inside, moving as I did to repeat that sublime act, over and over until we tumbled together into shudders and screams, pleasure wringing us out along every simpatico nerve in our bodies.

I sat half-upright but still laid out, throbbing, clinging, even crying.

Ric was murmuring comfort, even as his lips sipped up my tears. Was I all right? Nothing hurt?

Hurt? Hell, I was quivering with gratitude, lifting my hips hard into his to protest any separation, overflowing with emotion and... love.

It wasn't just the peak of orgasm. It was the high of total human connection. I almost understood the Snow groupies at that moment.

Ric was nuzzling my face and murmuring sweet Spanish nothings. His open, verbal passion was a rare gift, I understood. And after all that he'd been through. Te amo, te amo, we murmured, each lost in vying to express our emotions. Separate but blended. Incoherent yet mentally in touch as perfectly as our bodies.

I listened for other voices, other objections. There was nothing. Even Irma had left the building. It was just Ric and me and we were utterly and completely enough.

Even great sex isn't the answer to everything, I was discovering. Mi amor was a lawman. He'd needed answers as much as a journalist did, maybe even more. Catching me in the sated backwash of climax was a great time to interrogate.

"How did an innocent ��migr�� from Kansas become the target of Cesar Cicereau and his hit pack of werewolves?" he asked, applying the torture of constant caresses.

After teasing more details of Ric's sad and shocking childhood history from him, it was time to confess that I didn't have any.

"I wasn't his target," I admitted. "A few weeks ago my exact double was autopsied on Hector Nightwine's Crime Scene Instincts V: Las Vegas show."

That made Ric sit up and take notice and more liberties. "Double, paloma? Hard to believe there could be two as uniquely smart and sexy as you."

"Lilith," I said. The name made him frown. "Yeah, another shady lady from the Bible. She gave her last name as 'Quince'. Hector says she'd arranged to kill herself for the autopsy. I spotted her post-mortem, so he says."

"Your exact double, the hair style, everything?"

"Just like a man to not notice that I don't have much of a 'hair style'. It's just a shoulder length blunt cut. And so was hers. She even wore my tiny blue topaz nose stud, which was a creepy coincidence."

"Yeah, where is that bashful little punk touch you had in Sunset Park when we first met?" His forefinger stroked my nostril.

"I quit wearing it shortly after I got to town and found out everyone's looking to find and grab Lilith. She apparently had so much sex appeal as a corpse that her image is the heart of a growing media empire."

"For Nightwine, great. Why have you been hiding this from me?"

"Maybe I'm afraid you might catch Lilith fever and forget me and go for her?"

"Jealousy is always a good motive, but I don't buy it in your case."

"I'm that secure?"

"No. You're that solitary. Jealousy grows in a crowd. So why didn't you tell me?"

"Lilith is so popular everyone wants her image or the person they think is behind it-me."

"They'd kidnap you?"

"That's what Cicereau did. He wanted to make me a celebrity magician's assistant in his house act."

"Make you' being the operative issue. So he wasn't just out to stop you from investigating his daughter's murder? And you didn't tell me? Chica, we're not just lovers; we're partners."

"I know, but it's hard for me to think like I'm not alone anymore. Anyway, I got away the first time, but while I was at the Gehenna I was able to snoop in his personal computer-"

"Delilah! He surely had safeguards that would reveal what you did and where you went in his system."

"No. Cicereau is a technophobe. He never noticed a thing."

I didn't mention that Cicereau's right-hand muscle, Sansouci, had. Ric would want to put me in purdah if he knew how many big, bad werewolves I had aggravated in this town. His concern for me was welcome after my years of being institutionally ignored, but his protectiveness had an Old World fierceness that I couldn't let hamper my freedom.

"He noticed enough to catch you and ship you to his hobby hunting range in the mountains," he pointed out.

"Yeah, well, I had to go back to the Gehenna for proof and Haskell was looking to work for Cicereau and trapped me."

"Is that why Haskell is still stalking you? You escaped the bastard at the Gehenna?" Ric was indignant.

"Not completely, but sufficiently. Anyway, even the werewolves despise Haskell. Me, they wanted to use and then they wanted to kill when they decided I wasn't docile. That's when you rode to the rescue up in the mountains."

"Indirectly, you can thank or blame Hector for that too," Ric said. "I was astounded to find Hector's CinSim butler waiting at your cottage door when I got worried that full-moon night and came to find you. He told me about Starlight Lodge. I never dreamed CinSims had that kind of smarts or freedom."

"Hector knew nothing about it," I told Ric. "I don't know how the Invisible Man manages to slip his Inferno leash and get around town, but he saw me kidnapped and tipped off Hector's man Godfrey."

"So Godfrey was acting on his own too," Ric mused. "Fascinating. Was that the Invisible Man in the washed-out Ace bandages at Wrathbone's tonight? Or were your male companions all CinSymbiants?"

"Hey, good question. I took them for the real unreal thing. IM taking off his bandages for the fight proved it in his case."

As usual, though, Ric's skeptical ex-FBI agent instincts made me reconsider what had happened at Wrathbone's. It could be hard to tell CinSims from their CinSymbs.

"The police go undercover at Wrathbone's, for your information," Ric added.

"Great, so some of the CinSims and CinSymbs present could have been narcs. And then there was Haskell, not exactly undercover. Or even on active duty, come to think.

"That bastard! I didn't know he'd messed with you earlier at the Gehenna too. I wish I'd really hurt him."

His partisanship made me smile. I saw and heard the racist cop dismiss Ric as a "Meskin" in public and Ric kept his FBI-agent cool. The same cop laid a few fingers on me and Ric was ready to skin Haskell alive.

"I'm serious, Del. Kennedy Malloy told me she'd love to bust him off the force, but the police association would have to defend the sonovabitch."

"Captain Malloy," I said, invoking her title. "No wonder she's such a good police source for you, amigo. You have a thing for blond authority figures, as you just proved when you disarmed and strip-searched me in my Madonna wig. I bet she has a thing for you."

"You'd be wrong," Ric said, "and she'd be wrong. I have a thing for raven-haired reporters-turned-private-eyes."

He teased the bobby pins out of my platinum blond wig and threw it aside, releasing my hair to my shoulders. "I need to feel those midnight Rapunzel tresses of yours brushing my thighs and your lips brushing something else."

He slid down level on the sofa, pulling me down with him. I'd recently learned that I have no problem lying horizontal if I'm on top, and I set to work demonstrating exactly that.

"HOW do you sleep?" Ric asked much later when it was obvious we'd be spending what was left of the night on his red leather sofa.

"You don't want to get too close. I get ex-orphanage nightmares, so I might kick you."

"Kick away, you won't hurt me. No, I mean given your hatred of being on your back?"

"On my stomach," I answered, stretching face down to demonstrate.

Ric whistled something sexy in Spanish under his breath that I needed my Street Spanish dictionary at home to translate. He thoughtfully explained in English, "Nude, white-skinned, black-haired woman face down on red leather-would be quite the Maxim cover layout. I can work with that."

And so he went to work. His fingers teased the bottom of my butt and then strummed between my thighs. I burrowed deeper into the smooth leather, lifting my pelvis in lazy, content trust, all three of those conditions utterly alien to me before I'd encountered Ric. I loved being his sex object and making him mine, and was finally discovering what all the hooting and hollering about sex was for.

Ric hmmed his pleasure at finding me receptive for more, which only made my core heat flare along my nerves like liquid mercury. Not being able to see what he was doing ramped up my excitement.

He stopped doing anything for a moment and I lay there throbbing with sweet anticipation. I couldn't imagine not welcoming anything he wanted.

His voice came closer as he pushed higher along my side until his face was buried in my hair, his lips at my ear.

"Were you raped, Delilah?" he asked in a whisper. "Is that what's kept you unplumbed for so long? It's all right. You can tell me."

"But it's not all right! I don't think so. I don't think that's what happened."

"Something happened."

"Yes! No! I don't remember."

"And you feared it and it caused you pain?"


"Does our having sex cause you pain?"

I tried to sort my tumultuous feelings, not wanting to hurt his. "Yes. But only a... little."

"You're virgin-tight, Delilah," he said tenderly. "Intercourse may be painful at times."

"Yes, I know. Muy delicado!' I tried to diagnose my feelings, the sensation I welcomed yet feared. "This, right now, it's just the pain of wanting so badly. I know it precedes pleasure. That old... other was only... pain. A lot of pain. And fear."

Ric sighed. I could feel his lips drizzling kisses on my neck and ear through the veil of my hair.

"Was anyone there?"

"From my nightmares, little gray men."

"Like ETs?"

He sounded so startled I had to stifle a laugh. Here I was, half-fucked, and we were discussing my very personal alien invasion nightmares. It occurred to me that Ric knew exactly how and when to draw out my most-buried fears and secrets: FBI man in bed.

"Were any of them women?" he asked.

"Women? No!" My reaction was visceral. Even I recognized that. I reconsidered. He was right to ask. "I suppose some of them could have been. I never thought of that. Why do you ask?"

"You went to an all-girls' high school and say you don't remember a lot of those four years. Girls can be vicious bullies."

"No! Some of them were snobby bitches, but the nuns would never have allowed it and they had eyes in the back of their habits."

"And what about the child abuse scandals in the Church?"

I was growing impatient with the interrogation. "That was mostly priests. Besides, what does it matter now, when you're holding me on the aching edge of an orgasm? Fuck me or forget it. You know you want to."

The relentless interrogator turned silk-voiced seducer. "You like me needing so bad to get inside you."

His words excited me. "Yes."

He swept the hair off of my sweat-damp neck, then strung a necklace of kisses around it as far as his lips could reach. I was melting with the need to have him inside me.

"I've always felt you flinch a little at first penetration. If you were abusively invaded, Delilah," Ric whispered, "you need to get past it. Sick people hurt others sexually because it mis-wires the lines between pain and pleasure. Whoever, whatever hurt you inside, it can be all pleasure now. Feel it. Feel how good what I want makes you feel."

Ric's voice was as soothing as a lullaby. "Don't worry, Delilah. We'll solve the mystery of your nightmares. We'll go back to Kansas. Investigate. This night, you're not dreaming. We're not dreaming. We're having sex. Does it still hurt a little? Or does it just hurt so good?"

I thought about it: his weight half on me, compressing my agitated nerves, this sudden, frank interrogation delving my lost past traumas, the throbbing tingle between my legs feeling oh-so-exciting.

"It hurts only because I want what you can give me more this instant than I ever have."

His hot fleshy tongue plunged into my bared ear as he finally pushed inside me. I was awash in salty, wet hot desire.

We murmured our litany incoherently. Our names. The word of love.


And when I could feel him nudging the mouth of my womb, I felt completely sated, a sublime satisfaction at again accomplishing this for him, for me, every cell in the surrounding tissues touched and responding to such perfect possession, mine and his, that my panic popped like a bubble and vanished into the past.

Some dark veil in my mind dropped away.

"All right?" he asked.

I nodded and twisted my face over my shoulder as his mouth met mine and we siphoned warmth and wetness from each other until he broke the contact.

"And now-" Ric's deep voice was saying as his brushing fingers merely touched my clitoris.

I erupted in a Vesuvius of moans, almost fearing surviving such a seismic orgasm. Rip-roaring was the only way to describe the roller coaster of a climax that had me screaming and hyperventilating.

Ric's hot hands bracketed my pelvis as it shuddered, then slowly withdrew. I just wanted to lie there savoring the waning aftershocks.

He settled beside me, throwing a leg over mine, the sides of his black satin robe covering me like wings. That recalled my night flight with Bela Lugosi's Dracula, another escapade I didn't dare tell Ric about. I was beginning to feel like a compulsive liar. Intimacy was a tough exercise in trust.

Also, I'd never literally slept with anyone before and was nervous. I fought to exile my regrets and bask in the afterglow. His body was warm and comforting. I was beginning to feel drowsy. I felt safer totally exposed and plumbed on this makeshift sofa-bed with Ric than in the Enchanted Cottage. I hoped I could stay nightmare-free until morning for once.

I woke up the next morning-first and nightmare-free- and rose on one elbow. Light was filtering down from a skylight I hadn't noticed the night before. The black satin robe was wrinkled beneath us, and Ric still slept beside me, face down too.

I smiled as I admired the way his dark hair curled on his nape, the sight of his brown, black-haired forearm still around my hip, the same swarthy, very masculine leg lying between my snow-white limbs. He would make an impressive werewolf.

I didn't move, not wanting to wake him, feeling what I never had in my life, sexually sated but also vaguely maternal and tender, something I'd never show him when he was conscious.

For the first time, I felt a surge of loss for a best friend forever girl buddy, someone I could whisper with about what we'd done and compare giggling intimacies. Was it good? Was it naughty? Normal? God forbid that I shouldn't be apple-pie normal.

Hey, what am I, chopped liver? Irma demanded.

You've been AWOL, I told her.

Just knocked out and knocking back in sensual paradise. That was an awesome fuck and a mind-blowing, bitchin' orgasm, girlfriend. And you want to worry about it?

He thinks I was assaulted, I told her, and myself. He thinks it's good therapy for me to confront it.

Right. Mr. Self-sacrifice. And you don't consider a killer orgasm good therapy? I give up. I'm going back to my wet dreams.

I was glad she retreated. I wanted these rare moments alone with Ric, when he was blissfully unconscious, as I'd been last night after he'd delved the depths of my psyche and my body.

Some shadow pattern overlaid his bronze, hairless back. Maybe the skylight had built-in miniblinds for sun control.

I put my hand out, palm down, but the shadow didn't show there.

Surprised, I looked down again. The pattern was made of spokes and bars, but too random for blinds. My heart started pounding like werewolves were hot after me as my stunned brain recognized what I had seen. My body wanted to rear away, run, but I didn't dare wake him now.

He stirred under my scrutiny and rolled over on his back.

His change of position allowed me to slide out from under him as slowly and smoothly as I could, and over the back of the sofa to avoid waking him. I didn't even collect my clothes that were strewn on the floor, but crept out into the hall, then paused, leaning against the wall and shutting my eyes.

Apparently secrets, trust and intimacy issues worked both ways. Ric had lulled me into confronting the vague ugliness of my past, but I'd soothed him into revealing an even more obvious proof of his even uglier past. And he was worried that I'd been assaulted?

Even shut, my eyes saw the raw grotesque pattern radiating out to cover all of Ric's back to the shoulders and waist and sides. Welts as thick as my forefingers, seeming to tunnel under his skin like invading parasitic giant worms.

Whip welts.

What monster would do this?

Where could I go with my forbidden knowledge? What could I do with it except conceal it? How?

I snuck back into the den to retrieve my clothes, then raced to the master bathroom and dropped my clothes there, turning on the shower. The house's computer system responded to my activity by turning on a morning radio show in the kitchen.

Leaning against the shower's glass blocks, I adjusted the water until it was warm and stepped under it. The hard-rain patter of the massaging showerhead matched the flamenco-beating of my heart. I stood under the head as needles of steaming hot water pummeled the top of my head.

And then my tears came, running in rivulets to mingle with the pouring water, washing down my face and chest and all the way to my toes and down the drain that was swirling away all this noisy, rushing water, including my accompanying sobs.

I'd never been a crier, but now I understood and wished I didn't. This was the one thing he hadn't told me and, therefore, the one thing I didn't dare ask him about now. He'd been so careful, but he'd gotten carried away last night, like I'd been carried away.

No wonder he loved that we had met and connected spoon-style, my back to his front. No wonder he dressed in expensive clothes. I remembered buying a fifties Dior suit at an estate sale once and having it altered by my usual tailor. "It feels so good on," I cooed about my find.

She'd nodded and said, "Money buys comfort." As well as love buying comfort.

No wonder I could never put my arms around Ric, comfort him. My full, encompassing embrace would be scouring. Now I had one more thing, one major thing, to conceal from Ric. I wasn't good at that, lying by omission.

Stop bawling, Irma said. We've never done that, no matter what.

"We've" never been in love before.

"I'm so screwed," I wailed aloud, in the thunder of the shower.

So is everybody. You just have different ways of doing it. We were always "different."

I'd never talked back aloud to Irma before, fearing that would put me clearly in the delusional category. Now I couldn't stop, hiccoughing through my sobs and the smashing patter of water on tile.

"But it'll be so hard to hide."

Pity is always a tattletale. You can't afford to feel it for a proud man.

"He was only a boy, then-"

My hands made fists. I pounded my palms against the wet tiles until they burned.

I hated feeling helpless again, unable to protect where I was protected. Yet I dared not wallow in my discovery here and now, in Ric's refuge of soft clothes, gently falling fountains and metallic, chuckling chimes. All soothing, all comfort he could put on, like me.

I brushed the heels of my hands over my cheeks, washing away saltwater and chlorinated city water.

"You're up already," Ric called through the aural storm of shower water and chirpy morning radio music.

Did he sound a trifle wary? I must pull myself together and fix that. I must fix a lot more than I realized.

"I woke up when it was still dark and listened to the house play, um, 'Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head'. Dumb song. Man, that is some sensitive sound system. I'll be out in a couple minutes."

"Fine, I'm dressed already. You can wear this for now."

I glimpsed the black satin robe being tossed to a bench outside the shower.


I couldn't bear donning his robe and finally ventured out fully dressed. My "motorcycle mama" leathers seemed pretty silly by daylight in a kitchen. Ric handed me a mug full of coffee and caramel-flavored cream.

"Sit down like you're planning to stay a while," he urged. "We have lots to discuss."

Did we ever-and nothing that was relevant to what I'd just learned. I wanted to lie on the floor, kick my hands and feet and scream. Instead, I took the mug, sat at the breakfast bar, took a long sip and a deep breath, and said, "What's next?"

Orphan's motto.

Ric took another of the stools. "Don't worry, chica. I know you didn't mean to do a sleepover, but the pooch is fine on his own and Hector won't kick you out for crossing Nightwine cottage lines for immoral purposes."

I produced a smile on cue. "I've got actual paying customers for the backstory on the young-old vampire in the Sunset Park burial site, so I'll follow upon that. What about the zombies in the mountains?"

Ric made a face over his steaming cup of tricked up java. He was back in the pale smooth suit and the tie, the silky, stylish stuff that was his trademark. The daily disguise.

"I've already been up there, hunting, and I'm going again later, after some appointments. I can't find them, which is worrisome. I expected them to scatter, though. Unchained zombies are like migrating Monarch butterflies. They mill around, heading for Mexico on their own hither and yon schedule."

"Can't you just let them go there?"

"To get nabbed and 'napped by secret Immortality Mob 'agents' at the border? I wouldn't let that happen to Haskell's crabs."

"But what will you do with them? They're raised now."

"I know." Ric sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. "And I don't know."

I shuddered at the simple gesture.

"But they're my responsibility. I can't just leave them there while Cicereau calls in a wagon train of construction machines and combs the mountains until he mows them all down into reburied shards of flesh and bone."

"You've seen the heavy equipment moving in?" I guessed.

Ric nodded. "Those earthmovers drive slower than a funeral cortege."

"Most of those guys Cicereau's werewolves ran down and killed were crooks, weren't they?"

"Some were unlucky gamblers who welched on bets. Some were probably just schmucks who got caught in the mob crossfire by mistake. I can't let any of them be used and abused further, by anyone."

That Ric. He was one sexy saint. I almost lost it again, but sipped scalding coffee while I corralled my emotions.

He tapped his buffed fingernails on the granite countertop. Even his hands were cared for, smooth, sexy.

"Okay," I said carefully, smiling even more carefully.

"Why so shy this morning? Was it what I said, or did, last night?"

He'd sensed my mood, of course. Lying had never been my long suit.

"No, amor mio." I put my hand over his. "Nothing you did. Ever."

I wished to hell that I could say that about me.