Brimstone Kiss (Page 21)



Was that the name for what I did? I mulled Madrigal's words and ideas after I left him and the theater area.

Maybe what I'd told Captain Malloy wasn't bullshit. I was a predator. I'd come stalking three men in the past twenty-four hours: Snow, Madrigal and now perhaps the most dangerous of all.

Meanwhile, mirror walking was of no use. I could only walk around the immense exterior of the Gehenna hotel and casino as day turned to night, hoping to catch sight of my next prey leaving. The constant movement helped me forget my killer cramps, and I looked like Security making rounds.

Quicksilver was with me, but on "shadow" alert. That meant he remained invisible until needed. He was such a brilliant dog. I only told him "shadow," once, and he had my back with nobody the wiser.

So I could pretend to be a tough mean street-walking investigator and know I had an awesome ace in the hole. In fact, Quicksilver was so discreet even I forgot about his presence at times.

Finally, I spotted a black-clad man leaving the massive hotel's back service area. It was after ten p.m. but I thought I recognized the man's not-quite-muscle-bound movements, as graceful as a Grizelle's in white tiger form.

He was big and tough, but had a brain. And, more important, I thought, a sense of humor. And he was definitely heterosexual. My newly awakened senses told me that. My newly awakened senses also told me he had recognized my newly awakened senses.

True, he had seen me escorted off the Gehenna premises to become dog meat or werewolf meat, if there was a difference, but I'd sensed a tad of regret. In this town even tads of regrets are hard to come by.

I was willing to bet that an urban werewolf's daily sex lust was stronger than the monthly, moon-driven killing lust. One must live to kill another day. I had no idea where he'd go, but was prepared to dive into the Sinkhole's migrating underbelly again, if necessary. Instead, he led me to a private club off the Strip.

The windowless entrance was disturbingly unlabeled. I could be entering a sex or a fight club. The clientele could be gay or straight or blended. Human or unhuman. Or blended.

Hey, these motorcycle boots were made for riding, so they're going to walk wherever they want to. Attitude is all. I'd learned that in the group homes.

After taking off my fake badge (but leaving on my police belt, around here it would probably just be taken as fetish fashion), I approached the blank door and kicked it a few times, then stood to the side.

It opened, a long black gun barrel sticking out.

"You going to use that thing or just think about it?" I asked in a husky tone.

A man's head came peering around the door's edge.

I pushed the door with all my weight and caught gun-barrel and gunman's neck in the crack and pressed for dear life. Mine.

"I'm here to see a man about some business," I said. "You think I might do that?"

Sputtering curses, he eyed my motorcycle boots and tight leather pants through the crack, then my mirror-shaded eyes and angel-white hair. I'd learned from the Snow mystique.

"Ah, yeah. Our clients like your breed of cat."

Hmm. Would that be biker chic, tough chick, or ambiguous human/unhuman stock? Guess I'd have an opportunity to find out inside. I showed the doorman a lot of teeth-either a smile or a feral grin, you choose-and eased in when he opened the door.

Inside was totally smoky. It smelled like a pot factory cheek-by-jowl with a cigar bar. Very guy. I sighed internally to see some eyes that shone green, gold and silver in the half-light. Lots of unhumans here. Lots of bad boys. Where was my particular bad boy?

I started swaggering around the room, hunting. I felt so undercover. It would have been fun if it hadn't been so dangerous. Finally, in one of several booths along the perimeter, I spotted my prey. He was sitting alone nursing... an Albino Vampire.

My eyes opened wide behind the mirror shades. I'd invented that drink at Snow's Inferno Bar. Why was the muscle for a rival hotel-casino owner downing such a girly cocktail in this haven of testosterone?

I approached as quietly as I could.

"Sit down," Sansouci said, not looking my way. "Order you one?"

When I said nothing, he hefted the white cocktail in its martini glass and added. "I figured this would tell you where I was sitting. The drink is getting legendary at your hangout, the Inferno Bar. Order one. The cretins here will stop thinking I've lost my edge and realize I was just using it to troll for a hot babe."

Damn! He'd caught me tailing him, and worse, guessed who I was, wig and all. I sat.

"How did you spot me?"

"I didn't."

Before I could follow up on that mystifying comment, a barmaid in a black leather frilled apron and cap appeared. "Um, sir or whatever?"

"Scotch. Straight up," I said for simplicity's sake.

She wriggled away, exposing a short bustle of white eyelet.

"Amusing," he said, eyeing my outfit. "Your boyfriend know you're out on your own?"


Sansouci put his fingers to his temples, as if massaging a headache. "Don't be cute. You're too clued in for that after the showdown last full moon at the Starlight Lodge. You should know the cast and denouement of every bad scene in Vegas goes out on the CinSim telegraph. So what's your deal here? I'm listening."

"You're not going to call out the canines?"

"Lupines. No."

"Why not? You let me be taken off to Starlight Lodge to be eaten."

There was a pause. "That's not the way I'd like to see you eaten."

"So. You're a sexist pig among wolves." As a career woman, I always deflected sexy talk on the job. Although there didn't seem to be much point any more.

"I like you, Delilah. I like your looks and your style. You don't want to hear it, one of us can leave."

"'Like'. You allowed to do that a lot working for Cicereau?"

"You think?"

"No. Listen, you know I'm taken. I might like you, though, under other circumstances."

He smiled around the edge of the Albino Vampire. "That not lying stuff is a weakness. You're not above seducing me a little to your side."

"Not now. But that's all show and no go."

"I know." The waitress dropped the scotch in front of me. Sansouci gave her a twenty-dollar bill, told her to keep the change, and switched our drinks. "I have a weakness for 'show'. What do you want?"

"I need to know about Cicereau's history."


"A dead girl."

He went quiet. "You're just a girl yourself, you know." His voice was morose. So maybe he was physically thirty-five, a decade older than I. Plus a few more decades supernatural time. Just how long were werewolves living now, as opposed to then?

I bit my lip. I was such a faker.

"But with guts," he added.

This time I went quiet.

"You really want to dig up all that old stuff?" he prodded.

"No. But I have to."


"She's asking me to."

He reared away from me, his head against the high booth backboard. "Who?"

"That's one thing I need from you. Her name. I call her 'Jeanie'."

"Like in a lamp?"

I shook my head. "Like in the old song about the girl with light brown hair."

"Yours isn't light," he said, leaning forward, speaking fast and low, "but black as night. If you were a werewolf, you'd be almost impossible to see on a midnight run."

"If I were a werewolf I would have changed with all the mobsters at Starlight Lodge last full moon. You'd make a handsome werewolf, though." I nodded at his own black hair stroked by dramatic strands of silver.

His smile had an odd edge. "Thanks. So you've imagined me in lupine form."

"Why didn't I see you when I was running for my life from the pack?"

"Cicereau doesn't reward his lieutenants that way, only the soldiers."

"Was killing his daughter and her lover back in the forties a job for the lieutenants? For you?"

He took a long swallow of his drink before answering. "She was sleeping with the wrong supernatural."

"A killing offense?"

"Not...usually. Maybe just marking, or maiming if Cicereau was in a bad mood."

My questions were making Sansouci uneasy. He twisted on his bench seat.

"Her lover was vampire." I made it a statement.

His fingers turned the low thick glass in front of him around and around. "Yes."

"Why were they killed with two different weapons and buried together?"

Sansouci licked his lips. His big knuckles tightened enough to shatter the glass. I was glad he wasn't in werewolf form.

"This is why Cicereau is beside himself about them being unearthed. He's furious you escaped the hunt and that his crew was shredded by zombies. He figures you had something to do with that, but he doesn't know you were involved with revealing the bodies too. There could be an all-unhuman pow-wow called about this."

"Sorry to get all the supers in a snit. Finding the dead couple was an accident."

But I wasn't so sure now. Ric had been dowsing in Sunset Park for reasons more serious than entertaining kids and hick girls from Kansas. He was a consultant expert in finding the dead. Who had he been working for when we found those buried bodies? The police? Or someone way less official? I couldn't let Sansouci see my doubts.

"I know the female victim was Cicereau's daughter. All I'm asking for right now is her first name."

"Why do you want to know?"

"I don't want to know. I have to."

"Why? Cicereau already hankers for your head for escaping his trap. Why keep maddening the beast?"

"I'm the one who found them, rotted to only bones. It was like unearthing Romeo and Juliet. I'd never seen anything that awful. I have to put them to proper rest. They have to be reburied by others than their murderers."

"This is a mission?"

I nodded. "I see dead people."

"And Montoya digs them up. Yeah, I know his rep. Cadaver Kid. Oh, beautiful! You and Mr. Mojo Man are about to become prime targets in this town, you know that?"

I nodded and sipped the Albino Vampire. "This is really good, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Sansouci sounded odd. "Really good," he added in a different tone.

"Why do you come to this place, for the Albino Vampires?"

"I figured I had to let you catch me someplace. This is quiet, private and in a bad enough area of town anything could happen to you and no one would much notice."

"So you could happen to me?"

"Maybe. It's dangerous for you to be here whether I am or not. What made you think I'd help you? Why me?"

I made a face. "You like me? I like you? You like-a-me and I like-a-you..."

I'd gone into that vintage film ditty from a quaint musical called Meet Me in St. Louis. I was always living through something once removed. No wonder mirrors were my thing.

"Don't." Sansouci wasn't looking at me, but his voice was strangely thick. "Nothing is ever that simple. Nothing is what it seems. No one is. Not even you, angel-face."

"That expression is so Bogart as Sam Spade."

"The man had integrity."

"I think you do too."

The silence held for a long time.

"You haven't the slightest idea," he said.

"That's why I need you."

He eyed me hard. "Don't sling words like 'need' around like that. They're weapons."

"I didn't mean to... hurt you."

"What the fuck makes you think you can?"

"Because... I'm instinctively fond of dogs. Because... I see something in you, big bad werewolf. Maybe a bit of humanity-"

"Don't." He half rose and glared at me across the booth. "'Don't go looking for humanity in Las Vegas after the Millennium Revelation. In me or anyone like me."

"What are you like?"

He sat back down. "You don't even know enough to be dangerous. You are danger."

"What are you like?"

His teeth grated the glass edge as he drank again, swallowed, drilled a glance at me. His green eyes glittered like a rain forest after a downpour. He really did look like he'd like to eat me, the hard way. "I'm not werewolf."

So why should realizing that someone is not a werewolf scare the shinola out of me?

I kept my fingers casually loose around the foot of my martini glass. I didn't move.

But my mind and heart were racing together. I'd convinced myself that Sansouci favored me over Detective Haskell. I thought it might be because of my girlish ways. But girlish ways hadn't saved Cicereau's daughter. I'd told myself that an unchanged werewolf was domesticated, like Rover. That they were normal except for the three-or-so-day moon madness thing. Not too different from the average woman with PMS.

But Sansouci wasn't a werewolf. I'd never see those strands of silver gleaming on a noble canine brow in the moonlight. Well, at least I wouldn't have to drill him with a silver bullet or Quicksilver wouldn't have to run him down and tear him to pieces to protect me.

"You tell me what you are," I said quietly.

"'Humanity'," he quoted me with derision. And a shade of bitterness? "You're looking in all the wrong places for all the wrong things, little girl."

"I have to start somewhere."

"You're not going to stop, are you? You're going to pick away at the immortal wounds in this town until you bring apocalypse down upon yourself... and everybody else."

"I just want to put a ghost to rest. It's me she stares at from my hall mirror, so tragically unhappy. She was no more than, what? Seventeen?"



"Her name." Sansouci washed his face with one big hand. I'd never see him with a sharp furry snout and mini-mountain ranges of fangs, with dark curved claws on those big hands. What would I see him as? More than this, certainly.

"Loretta," I repeated. "It's pretty," I decided, picturing the blue-gowned girl in my mirror.

"Seventeen." Sansouci answered me like a robot, still distracted about facing what had happened to the boss's daughter.

He was staring into his drink as if it was a magic mirror with Loretta's young face floating in it.

"Loretta was a cute girl," I said softly. Sansouci was in a semi-feral state at the moment. He might snap my neck as easily as look at me. "I suppose she was just the boss's underage daughter to you."

"Not quite." He clipped off the words like spit.

I knew I looked puzzled.

"I was her bodyguard."

"Oh." And then I saw. "For a long time?"

"For a long time, as human reckoning goes. Since she was a young child."

"And then your orders changed overnight?"

"Then everything changed."


"You have your mirror-maiden's first name. You should get out of here before I decide to eat you, Little Red Riding Hood."

"You're not a werewolf and anyway, the moon isn't right."

"Any night is a full moon for my kind." His eyes glittered with anger. "You pretty young things look so sweet, so tender, but you play with the fire of your own body heat without reckoning on pushing everything male over the edge."

"Blame the victim?"

I jumped when his fist pounded the table and grabbed the stem of my Albino Vampire to keep it from tipping over. I was partial to the drink even if it was a rip-off. His heavier glass just washed expensive Scotch over the side.

"'Love' is the poison that killed Loretta Cicereau," Sansouci said. "'Humanity' was never in the game. I don't have any of it anymore."

"You wouldn't be so angry if you didn't."

That huge hand caught me by the back of the neck and dragged me out of my seat and across the table until he could whisper in my ear.

"What am I? I am vampire. I am a daylight vampire. Every day and night is prey time for me." I felt his teeth and then tongue brush my pounding carotid artery. His breath was lukewarm on my face, not hot like a canine's. Like Quicksilver's. What was a vampire doing working for a werewolf mob? He was still spitting words like nails.

"You came to me. You followed me. You put me to the question. How did I know you tailed me? You're menstruating. I can smell your blood. It's like catnip to a tiger. You're so ready for me. I can take you to places darker than the Sinkhole and make you enjoy it."

All right, I was really scared now. Human or unhuman, this was a man who'd been asked to jettison his protective instincts to kill the young girl he'd guarded. That he'd hated doing that was to his credit. That he'd do the same to a girl he admittedly liked was pre-proven.

I faced down his angry stare, though, literally shaking in my boots, but nowhere else, until he broke the impasse by brushing his lips hard against mine, a sharp fang raking my bottom lip. I was shoved back into my seat, tasting my own blood.

At least I was proven right. My pasty-skinned looks attracted vampires. Even the big boys. They wouldn't want to use me up too soon. Waste me outright. I really shouldn't be alone with this guy. As he had tried to tell me.

I wondered how Loretta had felt when her own bodyguard as well as her father turned on her.

"So you killed her," I speculated, not believing I was pushing a super and a murderer to confess. Inquiring reporters need to know the way vamps need to suck O-negative.

"I didn't stop it." He leaned back against the high wood booth. A vampire with a conscience. He'd been waiting decades for someone to confess to and I guess I'd do.

"She knew?" I asked softly.

"She knew." He closed his eyes. "I didn't want to see her that way."

"Dead but not undead?"

The green eyes opened a slit. "Having sex like that."

"You don't seem to have any problem with me and sex."

"I've never been your bodyguard."

"I see. It was a territorial thing. Her father must have felt the same way."

"We knew it was going on. He wanted to send a message to the vampires."

"That's why the chip from the never-built Inferno was thrown in the grave along with the thirty silver dollars- as a symbol of her betrayal of the werewolf clan."

He nodded.

"And the live mutilation of the boy, her rape and shooting?"

Sansouci's lips were full and well-arched, but now they became a stark line before he finally spoke again. "She told you that? Cicereau wanted to send a message to me. The media spins werewolves as the cuddliest of the supers, all that fur, but they can be the most savage. Vampires would never waste bodies and blood that way."

"And what did this brutal message say?"

"There'd been a twenty-year lull in the werewolf-vampire war. Now he was stating things had changed- he'd mercilessly put down any vampire insurrection, starting with me."

"This was decades before the Millennium Revelation," I confirmed.

Sansouci laughed. Not a happy sound. "The Millennium Revelation marks the moment when you humans got the picture. We supernaturals had been out there all along, dismissed as myths in modern times and persecuted as monsters in the Dark Time."

"Why are you telling me this?"

He finished the scotch. I realized I'd at least lived to see a vampire drinking something other than blood. I needed to find out what daylight vampires really were, what drove them, and what limited them. Soon. Maybe Ric would know. Or Snow.

Meanwhile, I sipped my Albino Vampire. It contained all of my mouth-pleasing favorites in liquor form: white chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka, and a delicious drizzle of yummy raspberry. If this was a "last meal" at least it was a corker of my own invention. And it lulled the constant drill of my cramps. What more could a girl ask for?

"The Albino Vampire is the house drink of the Inferno Hotel," I said suddenly. "What's it doing here?"

"Christophe owns this place. It's called the Dead Zone."

"Then why did you choose it for our chat?"

"It's the only unhuman watering hole the werewolf mob avoids because Christophe owns it."

"And you're a vampire seeking a hideaway, if only for a few hours."

"So much for running you down to eat you."

"No, I doubt vampires are much for chasing their victims. We come to them."

He shrugged as if to say "Well?" Here I was.

"But I didn't know what you really were. So why are you running with the werewolf mob?"

"Wolves were extinct on the British Isles by the end of the seventeenth century, were extinct in Europe by the twentieth century and in France by the 1920s. But here in the U.S. southwest, wolves hadn't quite been hunted to extinction in the 1930s and forties. It suits werewolves to live where there can be confusion between a natural wolf population and their own packs. Think of them as like... the Mormons."

"The Mormons!"

"They weren't welcome elsewhere, they were persecuted and driven out, so they migrated to a desert wilderness no one else wanted and built an empire."

"Are wolves polygamous?"

Sansouci laughed again. "No, but they are polyamorous." He'd leaned closer, like a big bad wolf. "Why? You want to try werewolf love? I have connections."

"One human at a time is plenty for me," I said quickly.

He nodded. "Montoya is a useful ally for an amateur like you. For now. For a human, he knows the score."

That prickled. "But not about the werewolf-vampire war."

"No. Because I'm telling you."

"Why me?"

"Because you asked. Because you're the only human to ever escape Cicereau's Starlight Lodge run-down, and because I want to see that bastard eat sand." He grinned.

"You're thinking I could be your tool," I told him. "For revenge. If you've worked for Cicereau all these decades, why do you want revenge?"

"The vampire empire, which has deep European roots, and-more importantly for this country-English as well as Eastern European, was ageing. All civilizations rise and fall. We were used to rising again, but the New World was riper for a carnivorous tribe, like the werewolf packs-especially the French ones, who were the most active-than our vampire way of loose associations and, forgive me, lone wolf operations."

"You didn't play well with others, including your own."

"Delilah, you do have a way of nailing the situation."

The waitress was back. Sansouci ordered another round. When she lingered with flirting on her mind-she was wearing a blood-red velvet ribbon around her neck and precipitous cleavage-he swatted her rear bustle and told her to get lost until she had drinks to set down.

We kept silent until she returned with our orders and left again.

"I invented the Albino Vampire, you know," I said.

"No kidding. So you get a cut of your own drink profits?"

"Snow stole it."

"Snow?" The word was sprung like a wolf-trap.

Not everybody used Christophe/Cocaine's nickname, I guessed, but probably everybody knew it.

"We've had words."

Sansouci was quiet, recalculating. "You-on nickname terms with Christophe? I don't like it."

"Is he a vampire?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. No one does. He could be. He certainly has made Cicereau nervous."

"You should like that."

"I do." He smiled. "I just don't like you being on cozy terms with him."

"If you consider hatred cozy-"

"Any strong feeling is dangerous in Las Vegas these days. Beware, Delilah."

"He's a thief."

"So is Cicereau."

"And you?" I asked.

"No. I'm not a thief."

"I believe you."

"You shouldn't."

Sansouci lifted my fresh Albino Vampire drink from the table to taste it. "Congratulations on your bartending instincts. A sweet, seductive girly drink, but with unsuspected kick."

"Thank you. Snow added the cherry at the bottom."

Sansouci lifted the glass to eye the cherry bobbing like a succulent blood clot in the crimson tint at the bottom, then me. "He might have a sense of humor too, but I wouldn't bet on the humanity."

"I don't bet on anything."

That seemed to settle things between us. Sansouci returned my Albino Vampire.

I shrugged this time. "About the werewolf-vampire war."

"I'm a hostage in it," he said.

While I sat stunned, he hunkered over his unwatered scotch like a character from Hemingway or maybe even Melville, and gave me the straight story in a long, unwinding riff of smothered fury.

"The sex and gambling trades seemed natural to the new wave of French vampires arriving in the New World in the early twentieth century. Night work, a constant supply of pliable pretty women, profits. So we hit Hollywood. Rudolph Valentino was one of ours. And a whole bunch of accountants. When the rumors of a lousy desert crossroads becoming a mob destination came up, we wanted in. But the werewolves had been there decades before. You've heard of the Native American Ghost Dance?"

I nodded. "We had an Indian population in Kansas. Something like the last stand against the whites. Didn't the Indians believe that the ghosts of their ancestors would join them in a final battle to banish the white man? Late 1800s. They thought their Great Spirit had given them bulletproof shirts. The Indians lost."

"They lost their shirts," Sansouci corrected me, "magic shirts to repel the white man's bullets. The local Paiutes around Las Vegas here were the tribe that revived the Ghost Dance and that forced all the last stand battles here and elsewhere. The odd thing is that they did have magic shirts."

"They did?"

Sansouci rolled his eyes. "In a way. We vampires had infiltrated them. We could have taken bullets all day. There'd been enough instances for them to believe that. But the werewolves had been playing on the Paiutes' cultural reverence for the natural world. For 'Brother Wolf."

I winced as I visualized the confrontation between Indian and cavalryman, between vampire and werewolf. The gullible Indians had been massacred. The werewolves had driven off the vampires, able to rend their undead flesh before the blood-sucking fangs could get near enough to drain them. A game of rock, paper, scissors that drew blood.

Sansouci ran his tongue around the rim of his scotch glass, panting as if he'd been there. Perhaps he had.

"We needed a truce," he said. "I suppose the vampires were the losers. We withdrew to distant 'reservations'. The werewolves stayed. But there was an exchange of hostages to ensure peace."

"You and-?"

"I don't know who the werewolf hostage was. I was already assigned to Cicereau."

"You must have been somebody to be valuable enough to be a hostage."

The eyes glittered again, but his tone was bitter. "Have-beens are worthless. I'd had leadership ambitions, being the first daylight vampire with the advantages that meant. I wanted to overtake and boot out the werewolf mob, reestablish vampire supremacy. Instead I've been serving the enemy as a damn go-fer for decades."

"And you don't know who the vampire who died with Loretta Cicereau was, really?"

"Really. It was a huge secret, as was the identity of the werewolf who went over to the vampires. Truthfully, any leaders we had left were pretty lame."

"How did Cicereau take over, not only the vampire presence, but even the werewolves? He doesn't strike me as prime alpha material, like you."

His grin was feral. "Flattery will get you more than you want." He went on. "Cicereau was the land agent in those days, a former voyageur. He excelled at collecting pelts. Now he wanted geld. Gold. Money. The werewolves were happy to trot around on two legs then. And their lives were extending. Word was the dry desert sun and air was prolonging their lives. I doubt that, but something was.

"Day was our enemy. We vampires lived forever, so some of our elders from the old country worked to create a daylight vampire, one resistant to this savage desert sun. I was the first successful result, so I was indentured to Cicereau to secretly scout the wolf pack and its territory and pave the way for a vampire resurrection."

"What is the secret?"

"Some of it was so simple it's not a secret: wearing sunglasses in daylight. Dark glasses weren't in usage until the early nineteenth century and then not common until the twentieth."

Of course I immediately speculated about Snow. "And you're telling me all this because-?"

"Because it's moot. Decades later, when Loretta crossed family lines to mate with a vampire, Cicereau figured out we vamps had only gone underground, not retreated. He demanded the Blood Price for the vampires breaking the bargain.

"Blood Price?"

"The werewolves would kill the errant vampire lover. The vampires would kill his daughter." He sipped his scotch. "But we wouldn't have killed Loretta Cicereau, literally 'wasted' her, or the boy. We would have turned her, increasing our numbers and political clout that way. We can't easily reproduce like werewolves."

"Whoa. I've never heard a whisper of that! Vampires can reproduce?"

"In rare circumstances."

"How rare?"

"A human woman with the just-right blood type, and more than that, the right genes."

"How do you find such a rarity?"

"Assuming you want to, endless taste tests, my dear Miss Street."

I wanted to swallow, hard. Is that why his fang had scraped my lip? Gathering a bit of blood type?

He leaned closer, smelling my fear. "Yes, you taste especially sweet, Miss Delilah, like your cocktail. But I'd have to have more to give you a true assessment."

I felt my pulse jump just then, knowing that was the worst way to let a vampire sense me. This sure wasn't some wannabe anchorman bloodsucker. Sansouci was the real deal and he enjoyed seeing my skittish nerves as a sign of his power.

His green eyes snapped with wicked amusement as he leaned back again, watching my chest with two-edged interest as I fought to even out my breathing. "But we don't hunger to reproduce that way. It's time-consuming and awkward and entails sacrifices on the part of both human and vampire. We prefer to choose our recruits full-grown. That's another major difference between vampires and werewolves."

Did that mean that vampires avoided sex? He didn't act like he did.

He went on. "In the Old World model, both breeds agree that humans are prey. That is natural. It's also natural that vampires and werewolves compete over human prey. Vampires like to draw out our feeding, letting our victims linger, savoring the meal, like spiders. Werewolves must gorge on prey over their few feral days of moon-full, killing and devouring like berserkers. If we blend bloodlines, we could have vampires who kill their prey before sufficient blood is drained."

"Can you drain the dead?"

"It's not as physically and psychologically satisfying. And once it stills, blood rapidly loses its flavor and sparkle. As for werewolves, if they were to hoard their kills, they could neglect to finish killing and devouring before they turn human again."


"Messy. It would forever destroy the natural balance of supernatural life and death and stir humans to unite and hunt us all down."

"Poppycock! Talk about a worst-case scenario. You sound like a global warming campaigner or a social scientist. Vampires have bitten werewolves. I know that. I've seen the half-weres here; have even been attacked by them."

"War is one thing. Love is another."

"I didn't know that vampires and werewolves could love."

"Anything can love. And anyone can be destroyed by it. Witness your petitioner in the mirror. What can you do for her, except feel pity?"

"You might be surprised." I was getting angry. The supernaturals were as hidebound in this town as the humans. Still, I'd found a fount of knowledge and was determined to drink him dry. Excuse the expression.

He didn't seem surprised that I could see the dead in mirrors. I suppose that was a minor human talent these post-Millennium Revelation days.

"You do have some tricks, for a human," he admitted. "I don't know how you broke into Cicereau's office twice or how you managed to sandbag me once. It won't happen again."

"I know," I answered. "I was just lucky."

"And lucky that Haskell is such a loser that even a crime boss like Cicereau hates his half-were guts."

"Maybe you couldn't help Loretta way back then, but you helped me plenty."

"What did I do?"

"Nothing." I lifted my cocktail glass and waited for him to chime rims, projecting my most appealing girly vibes. "That was a big help."

He nodded and toasted my admission. He could have tipped Cicereau off about my ability to break and enter, but he didn't. That also left him on shaky ground if he wanted to squeal on me to Cicereau now.

"Tell me about being a daylight vampire. Does a guy like you get to rock around the clock? When do you eat, drink?"

"You looking for a dinner date?"


Sansouci had spilled as many guts as he was going to this session, I figured. I might as well find out how personally dangerous he was.

He leaned back. "You still have a little blood on your lip."

"How careless of me." I pulled out the tiny, mirrored lipstick case that fit so well into one of the police belt's pockets, then dabbed at my lower lip with the tip of my little finger. It burned.

I checked Sansouci. He was sitting back looking stoic, but intent. I imagined he'd looked like this when he had witnessed the "preview" of my enforced Gehenna "act" with Madrigal.

I'd been magically suspended in air, nude, with a huge boa constrictor twining my legs and torso to hide the naughty bits. Madrigal had bent down as if to kiss me and instead extracted a ruby-jeweled apple from my mouth. Decadent remnants of Eve and Eden and the serpent and apple would certainly appeal more to a long-lived vampire like Sansouci than the werewolf nation.

I opened my tiny Lip Venom bottle, tilted it upside down on my fingertip, and dabbed it over my lower lip, painting on a stinging, sparkly swath of juicy cherry red over my nicked skin.

"Nice," he said. "I can smell the spices from here. They mix well with your blood type and natural female-in-heat scent."

My pulse raced again. The trouble with trying to seduce someone just a little is you can seduce yourself a lot. I'd assumed werewolves and vampires would have extra-sensitive senses of smell. I didn't know it was this keen until he'd told me.

"So how do you get your blood suppers? You're not into butchered animal byproducts-?"

"Shut your mouth! I have a harem." He sounded satisfied and smug, like a man trying to impress a new girl.

Okay. I could feel myself looking shocked. But that didn't ruin the moment. If anything, it got him explaining more.

"A daylight vampire has twenty-four hours to feed. No need to drain any single...source... to death. Just a shallow bite, a few minutes or hours of slow, sweet sucking and fucking and I'm good to go until the next assignation. No one loses anything but time."

"They must come to you, since you're on call with Cicereau."

"Sure. You want I should pencil you in?"

"I'm not a serial supper."

"For you, I've got time for a six-course meal with a selection of appetizers and desserts."

Girl! Irma was frantic. You have got to let me loose in this town. You don't want to be the six-course buffet, let me at it!

"Still can't hide the fact that it's a one-way street, Sansouci. They give and you take."

"I give too," he said.

I chose not to examine that claim. "Thanks for explaining a few things." It's always good policy to appreciate a source.

"Thanks for the drink." He snagged my almost full Albino Vampire glass as I rose to leave.

Something... my Lip Venom or my blood, had left a crimson swipe on the wide martini-glass rim. I had a feeling that Sansouci was going to be nursing my signature cocktail for quite a while after I left, girly-looking or not.

Oooh! Irma cooed. Shivers of fear and a strange anticipation.

I realized then that danger was indeed an aphrodisiac.

Sansouci wasn't a half-vamp, a juvenile delinquent, or a ham actor who'd hit it big and come back as a CinSim. He was the real deal, a Las Vegas 24/7 vampire, hungry for primal things like blood and sex. Including mine.

Irma had a point.