Brimstone Kiss (Page 34)


By now everything was happening in slow motion and my senses finally understood that the battle was winding down.

Apparently, as many Egyptian soldier vampires had been decapitated as possible, as many zombie mummies had been minced to papery remnants. Who could tell?

Whether Snow stood, or any of his allies beyond Grizelle I didn't know. Or care.

Where was Ric?

We'd fought our way into the absolute deepest, darkest depths of the Egyptian tomb maze beyond the river, the master vampire lair. I'd seen not a glimpse of Kephron and Kepherati, too noble to join the fight, probably.

And no Ric. And no Ric? Was he dead and buried already?

No. That made no sense. They'd want him in one form or the other, alive or dead. Perhaps they might use him better dead. Newly undead to raise the dead. Were we too late?


But we were up against the far wall of the current dungeon.

I couldn't beat my way forward past a stone wall.

I stopped, straightened and lowered my sword point.

The dragon's roars were distant. There didn't seem to be anyone left to skewer, slash, burn, or make doubly dead.

Behind me, Grizelle growled softly. Hearing a woman growl like a tiger is unnerving. I knew she'd shifted to tiger form earlier, but back to woman as the battle waned. I knew she'd protected me on Snow's orders, and resented and begrudged Snow for that, but not for Ric's sake. He'd need me now as he never had before.

I felt Grizelle's heavy hand on my shoulder. She didn't much like me. Snow was her boss, her reason for being. He was too involved with me for her liking. But no six-inch-long tiger claws bit into my flesh, only inch-long supermodel fingernails.

And then I looked harder at the last wall.

Fallen bodies of all kinds mortal and immortal lay around us like effluvia coating a flooded floor.

Grizelle hissed behind me, an eerily human/feline sound. I heard Snow approach us. "Grizelle," he said without expression, sounding winded and weary. Snow weary? "What is it?"

There was silence. I felt I stood alone on an island.

And then the scene before my eyes took rational shape after the irrational jumble of battle when limbs flew and heads rolled and bizarre appendages twisted and broke off.

I viewed a mass of pale and dark shifting motion, of refuse and vermin devouring refuse. I saw a Dumpster from Hell disgorging its contents, leaving a swatch on the stone floor, and remembered the dead groupie behind the Inferno.

I took in iron cuffs bolted two feet from the floor. Empty.

I saw the verminous, devouring, shifting black blanket of bugs and the cloud of buzzing darting insects massing above them.

I discerned the barely visible oases of human flesh.

I roared like the tiger Grizelle was. The silver familiar melted from a breastplate into a thick chain in my hand that I wielded like a whip at the fist-size hovering insects.

They had bug-eyed evil faces with hypodermic-long stingers for nose and mouth. My whirling chain caught them in the pixie-size bodies and hurled them against the stone wall. They left fat trails of blood as their bloated forms disintegrated into cinders. Again and again they hit, smack, spilling blood.

Ric's blood.

Ric's lifeblood.

The roaring in my ears was stupefying, but vampire tsetse fly after vampire tsetse fly hit the wall. I hauled back until my arm would hardly lift again, until my bloody chain wrapped around an object behind me so solid it almost jerked me off my feet.

I looked behind, snarling like Grizelle. I saw Snow's black-leather forearm covered in a bloody spiral of metal. For a confused moment I thought the silver familiar had jumped over to him again.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Grizelle bend and spray a shower of white over the festering floor.

I lunged to stop her, but Snow took my neck in one hand. "It's the salt they kept here, for the leeches. Let her use it."


I watched. And saw. Ric's naked lower body was alive with shiny black slugs, massed over his genitals, twining his legs, his arms, while his bare upper body was a smallpox field of the vampire bugs still biting.

Salt crystals fell like snow on this horrific human landscape of torture and literal eating alive.

Grizelle's human face was cast-iron with fury, her teeth bared to reveal the tiger's formidable fangs. She'd been frozen in mid-shift, unable to release either side of her nature in the face of this travesty. The beast part would run ravening to tear apart the perpetrators, the human part had to undo the obscenity as much as possible.

I felt the same conflict. Kill and rend and revenge. Save and succor and mourn.

The leeches were falling aside, Ric's naked human form revealing the horror of every inch invaded and bloodied.

I released the chain, feeling it lighten and armor my wrist, and fell forward, upon him. His face was sagged to the right, revealing the site of the vampire bat bite of his long-distant Mexican desert boyhood. My imitating that moment had become an exciting but natural part of our sex play. With my nil experience, it seemed harmless.

Now the place was a gaping, ragged wound where vampire after vampire had suckled. A mortal wound. A day of this and I hadn't known.

I Could. Not. Accept. This.

I Would. Not. Accept. This.

I Would...

The Kiss of Life. The instructive film from WTCH-TV. Two kisses of life, breathing into the mouth and throat and lungs, nostrils pinched shut, then deep pressure on the breastbone in rhythm. Two more kisses of life, deep pressure on the breastbone.

"Delilah, he's dead," came Snow's voice as if over a public address system, thin and echoing. "There are options," he said, "not ideal, but-"

I let his voice drift away. The body was cool, not cold. The blood was probably almost all drained. His skin was as white as mine where it wasn't pocked purple and red from the assault of thousands of bites over hours and hours.

Ric dead? No! Vampires are dead in this town.

Panting, I resumed my CPR rhythm.

Two kisses of life, ten fist pounds of life.

I'lleradicate every bloodsucker in Las Vegas.

Two kisses of life, ten fist pounds of life.

"Delilah, this is mad."

If Snow was one, he was history, despite his help today.

Two kisses of life, ten list pounds of life.

Hands on my upper arms, one set of them tiger-clawed, trying to pry me from my task.

I shrugged them off with no trouble.

Two kisses of life, ten fist-pounds of life.

Sansouci too.

Two kisses of life, ten fist-pounds of life.

And Cicereau. Anything supernatural, even Lilith, if she qualifies, goddamn her for tempting me here to meet Ric and lose him like this...

I was sobbing through my fury, tears salting my face and Ric's wounds despite myself. I was so wrenched by surfeits of love and hate I thought I would explode like a blood-bloated vampire tsetse fly.

And still two kisses of life, ten fist pounds of life.

Nothing. I was tenderizing steak, breathing into the face of death itself.

My attempts to reanimate Ric were a travesty to his already ravaged body. I was finally exhausted enough that I couldn't press his breastbone with any force or do more than sigh into his cold, slack mouth.

I stopped, sensing everything still alive in that death chamber watching me with held breaths.

I put my hands to the side of his face and bent down one last time.

And I kissed him goodbye, with all my heart and breath and loss.

Long, a long time to kiss the dead goodbye. My tears washed his bitten skin.

No one stopped me. No one dared intervene.

Until I felt hands grasp my upper arms again.

Again, I fought being torn from his body, weaker now.

But the hands held me down.

His hands.

And the kiss took on a life of its own, probed and poured back into me my love and my despair and my last remnants of hope and desire.

And between my legs I felt the rise of blood between his legs.

I lost myself in lying with my lover, everything else forgotten.

And no one tried to stop us anymore.

Finally, other hands grasped my arms and lifted me upright.

Love had weakened me where hate had not.

"He needs tending other than yours," Snow said, nodding at Grizelle.

She pulled free the blanket-sized linen cloth out from under the piled salt used to remove the leeches and wrapped it around Ric before lifting him in her powerful arms. Ric's eyes were shut. His skin was whiter than mine, but his lips were the faintest pink. Some tinge of blood, color, was returning to his skin.

All my muscles and bones were water. Snow held me upright only by my arms.

"Delilah, what have you done?"

"I don't know. Will he live?"

"I don't know. He'll exist." I could feel Snow sigh behind me. "He'd been bitten often enough and drained deeply enough to be revived as a vampire. If you'd waited-"

"Ric would never have accepted the half-life of vampire."

"And what half-life does he have now? Do you know, Delilah?"

"Why do you sound so accusing? I only did all I could to save him, more than anyone else was willing to do."

"What did you do, Delilah?"

"I gave him the Kiss of Life."

Snow slowly released me. I swayed on my feet but stabilized, and turned to face him. It was hard to forget how much I'd hated him moments before.

He nodded slowly. I sensed a heavy load on his what... soul, conscience?

"It's our deep connection," I told him, "our love. There was some small spark of life still there. I got through. Are you so lost you can't believe in the power of love even when you see it with your own eyes?"

He shook his head. "He was dead, Delilah. There are ways to get around that. Now, it's going to be your way and I don't know what that is, only that you could never have revived him unless you had first received the Brimstone Kiss."

"You're taking credit for this?"

"No. Responsibility. You've defied even supernatural laws, not to mention natural ones. This can't be good. For any of us."

"Say you. But it's not all about you and your fiendish kiss. It's about life."

I was rocked back on whatever strength I had left. I had recently taken the Brimstone Kiss and, within hours, revived Ric with what was left of it on my lips and in my soul. What I had humiliated myself to take from Snow, I had passed on to Ric and revived him.

Had I not submitted in desperation and self-disgust to Snow, I would have never been able to give Ric what I undoubtedly had.

The Resurrection Kiss.

Odd how a traitorous act, a Judas kiss, can spawn an act of love and redemption.

But I guess that was the whole point of the New Testament.