Brimstone Kiss (Page 6)


"SIX hundred years," Ric mused as we returned to the now-welcome heat outside and our sizzling cars. "Where do you want to go for lunch?"

"Someplace where they don't serve six-hundred-year-old food."

He suggested we stop at a deli en route to Sunset Road and picnic in the park; then Dolly and I would be the next thing to home.

By the time we settled under the concrete awning on the concrete picnic table, with our feet resting on the attached benches, it was well past high noon and the joggers were long gone. We'd laid our jackets aside, and probably looked like a couple of office workers on a lunch break.

If anyone had overheard us, they would have gotten over that assumption.

"A six-hundred-year-old male adolescent," I said between munching on low-fat turkey and rye. "Indubitably a vampire, Dr. Van Helsing."

Ric nodded. "We've seen a few recent converts to the clan in Vegas, but not any established vamps. What about Kansas?"

"Same thing. Half-blood vamps, usually punk kids and even some fake ones."

"Some humans like to mimic the vampire lifestyle. Artificial fangs and carotid artery cocktails."


Ric drank from the longneck Dos Equis at his side. He'd bought a six-pack, so I had my own and some to spare.

"If it's consensual all around, though," he said, "there's nothing traditional law enforcement can do." His pupils darkened. "And you seem to like keeping my vampire bat bite site active. Is that 'icky?'"

"Let me see." I slipped my fingers under his shirt collar on the left side of his neck. Stroked softly along the thin silk shirt fabric. Ric's eyes closed and his lips parted. I moved my hand down to feel his pounding heartbeat and strum his hard nipple with my fingernail.

"Delilah," he said. I think that was all he was capable of saying at the moment.

"I've got some buttons I can discreetly push wherever we are. You bet I like that, Señor Montoya."

He leaned close to kiss the taste of the beer from my mouth.

"I've got my weird buttons too," I pointed out. "But there's more than wannabe vamps going on. Look at the half-weres who stay in a semi-human wolf state permanently. It's like someone's been messing with the traditional mythology."

"Someone has been messing with all traditional mythologies."

"What Hector Nightwine calls the Immortality Mob," I suggested.

"Catchy name, but I doubt it's just one entity. A lot of big corporate money is invested in making Vegas the most hip and future-forward place on the planet. But it's hard to keep up nowadays, with new 'manifestations' turning up all over the globe."

"Keeping up with the Joneses could mean playing ring-around-the-world."

"You mean finding and claiming supernaturals nowadays is like the Space Race way back when: an international competition that's part politics and part profit? Cool idea, Del, but why would the appearance of the unhumans be anything more orchestrated than them popping up from pockets of superstition here and there?"

"I'm serious, Ric. I looked this up once as part of my job reporting the paranormal beat in Kansas. The first reports of supernaturals appearing followed the path of midnight through all the time zones. Midnight when the second millennium started."

"That's an odd thing to check on."

"Watching the dot-of-midnight celebrations progress all over the globe on TV was the key night of my pre-teen life."

"I thought I was the key night of your life."

"Well, now. But back then I was only eleven. Seeing the global celebrations and feeling a sense of world unity made me decide to be one of those reporters holding a microphone, spreading the good news."

Ric, smiling, tucked my hair behind one ear. Nobody had ever played with my hair in my life. Maybe that was my vampire bat bite.

"And you did indeed get to hold a mike back in Kansas. Why'd you give up your TV reporter job?"

Explaining about Lilith's CSI cameo role as a corpse was too complicated a subject for our flirtatious picnic. Besides, if Ric knew that my "twin" Lilith made me a universal object of abduction, or worse, he'd get over-protective and never want me running around town solo.

"Oh, one of those phony vamps, the anchorman, stole my paranormal news beat. Then his weather witch girlfriend blew away my rented bungalow. I figured I needed another scene."

"And Hector Nightwine ended up your landlord, how?"

"He can use a good reporter. CSI is the biggest TV franchise in the world. He needs case ideas."

"So you marched in there and talked him into a job."

"Sort of. Quicksilver marched in there with me."

"And the cottage?"

"Rental housing is sky high in Vegas and what place would take a hundred-and-fifty-pound dog?"

"He's that big?"

"He's my big bad wolf, you better believe it."

Ric frowned. "Possessive too." He leaned in to kiss behind the ear he had bared. "But you still need very close watching by me," he murmured. "And Nightwine wants you to find out who both of the corpses are?"

Nightwine and someone else even creepier.

"Right," I said. "I've suddenly got this weird ability to see the girl victim whole and alive in my cottage mirror, just like I suddenly got a weird ability to get it on in the park with a hot guy with a weird ability to dowse for the dead. So I now know she's Cicereau's daughter. Or was sixty-some years ago."

"Whoa!" Ric drew back, all business. "Cicereau's daughter. That's big news."

"I only confirmed it when I sneaked an old photo off his office computer. Then I got caught."

"That's how you ended up at his mountain lodge as werewolf pack bait. Jesus, Del! If that CinSim butler of Nightwine's hadn't tipped me off to where you were, you'd be buried out there. I need to nail the identity of the dead Sunset Park guy fast. You'll get the Cicereau syndicate on your tail any day now for knowing his daughter is one of the two corpses. Once the police can announce both identities, it's out in the open and you won't be worth going after any more."

He gave me a steamy look. "You won't be worth going after in that way."

I leaned into his shoulder. He buried his mouth in my hair.

"Sorry to be slow on the uptake, Del. I didn't have much time right after that night to think about how and why, only what."

"I know." I took his hands in mine. They'd been barbed-wire-torn raw meat after he'd used the razor-sharp fencing material to dowse for the dead beneath Cicereau's hideaway. "How did you actually raise zombies, instead of just locating corpses?"

"As I mentioned-blood. My blood. You have to shed a bit of blood to raise rather than find the dead. At least I do. I don't do that anymore if I can help it. I raised enough zombie slaves for those vile coyotes who'd owned me since I was four years old. I'd sworn never to do it again."

I cringed to hear this again, Ric's determination to never raise zombies for anyone's purpose, vile or even merely using them as curiosities. I'd thought growing up in group homes was rough. Now, to save me, Ric had revisited his years of childhood enslavement by smugglers-coyotes-and done the one thing he'd sworn off forever. I had to change the mood.

"Okay, hombre," I said, reaching under his tie to undo a button of his shirt. "Tell me how the poor orphan Mexican desert boy learned to be so slick and sexy."

I'd distracted him, as I'd hoped.

"You're pretty slick and sexy yourself."

"I was a later bloomer. You obviously managed to sow your wild oats, as they said in olden days, when I was still in knee-highs.

"Knee-highs, huh? Very sexy in the right context. Catholic schoolgirl look."

"I did that high school uniform bit. An all-girl high school. Catholic, natch."

"Good girl. I attended an all-boys prep school run by Christian brothers. We had uniforms too."

"Ooh, you must have looked delish in a uniform. No wonder the girls were all crazy about you." I undid another button and he caught his breath.

"As a matter of fact, they were." He was teasing back, waiting to see how far I'd go. "I was the hot new kid. I'd made the news a couple years back as 'feral boy,' but my adopted mother had given me every behavioral test in the book; taught me English, plus a few other languages; civilized manners; gave me an accelerated learning program. After that, the hotties from the nearby girls' prep school were ready to put me through every test drive they could think of."

"It must have been... guy heaven."

"Yeah. I couldn't believe my luck. They were all on the pill and they planned to get all the thrills they could before settling into a semi-arranged marriage with some WASP Stepford husband."

"Didn't the other guys get jealous? Wasn't being from Mexico a problem?"

"This was D.C. Lots of foreign ambassadors' kids and wealthy elite kids attend such schools. Besides, my adopted mother had taught me all the romance languages. Castilian Spanish, French and Italian. I have a gift for languages."

"Impressive. You can use your French on me any time It sure says romance. Wow. You aren't only good-looking, but smart."

He recognized the line guys usually give girls and laughed. I undid another button and slid my whole hand inside his shirt to get him back on the right track. "So what were these preppie girls like?"

"Like? For one thing, they'd never paw me in a public park, just to make me forget that I broke my vow never to raise any more zombies."

I drew back, caught.

"Not that they wouldn't paw me in a public park just for the heck of it."

I slapped him lightly on the chest for leading me on while I was leading him on. "I'm jealous."

"Don't be," he said. "I found out their game by senior year. I was the hot ethnic flavor of the year. A way to defy their parents, have some kicks and not get bored. I was just a diversion."

"That you are." I toyed with his nipple again.

"Delilah, stop that! You wanted to know. Listen, some wanted their parents to know they were seeing me, just to jerk them around. Others never wanted anyone to know but their very best friends. Guess how I found out?"

"Very best friends can be treacherous. 'Them', Ric? You were a serial gigolo?"

"Yeah. I was young, they were ready and so was I. It was too easy to be right."

"And I'm hard."

"Yes. What really turned me off was why I wasn't good enough to date for real."

"Which was?"

"It wasn't my Mexican blood. It wasn't my lurid background. One of the other guys told me why, finally, meaning to piss me off. It was that my adopted parents weren't high enough on the Washington social register."

"What did you do to get back?"

"What makes you think I did something?"

"You don't allow those you...owe something... to not pay for the privilege."

"There was this townie gossip blog. I hacked in and altered a really vicious column before it time-posted. It hit the Web and a lot of trust fund babies lost their graduation trips to Europe."

" Europe, really?"

"Especially Spain."

"Think they guessed it was you?"

"Naw, they thought they'd fooled everyone."

"So how'd you end up in the FBI?

"My adopted father wanted me to go into the military, like he had. I would have obliged him, except I knew having men ordering me what to do in that no-questions-allowed way would... I'd kill someone first. So he got me some internships with the suburban police, a D.C. crime lab. I had all the right qualifications for Quantico and was accepted by the FBI as soon as I was eligible. They value Spanish speakers now."

"And your special talents-?"

"I just wanted to forget about that. It'd been years. I was a privileged white-collar kid. Then they took us to the body farm-you know, real bodies in various states of decomposition. My fingers twitched for wanting a twig. It started happening again when we were examining possible death scenes. I finally picked up a dead stick and let myself "discover" a disruption in the earth. I had to go off by myself to do it, so I got a rep for being a human bloodhound on some trail only I scented. With the Millennium Revelation, lots of strange things were happening. They were uneasy about me, but also pleased by my usefulness."

"Why didn't you stay?"

"Got too hard to conceal what I was really doing. Dowsing for the dead is nothing a seriously scientific crime-solving organization wants to claim even these days. It was better I consult out of town. I'm taken for a science geek, not anything cheesy like a psychic, and I make sure to make it seem that way."

"Nobody would ever mistake you for a science geek," I said. I ran my hand over his muscled bare skin and then up under the shirt collar, stroking the side of his neck. "What were they like, those society witches?"

"Nothing like you."

"Nothing?" I challenged.

"They weren't about me or even the sex. It was all about them. They were shallow and artificial."

"But good-looking."

"Sure. They'd had plastic surgery since their pre-teens. They didn't care about me and I didn't care about them when I learned to see through the American princess façades. Not one of them could fight off a werewolf."

"But you were dazzled at first, admit it."

"No argument. I was a teenage boy. We're nine parts testosterone and one part horny. You should be glad, paloma, that I didn't break my heart over anyone else, so it's all in one piece for you."


I stroked the bat bite again, hyped to feel his carotid artery bound at my teasing touch. I could almost understand the vampire's predatory enjoyment in sensing signs of vulnerable human circulatory systems that thrust so near the surface.

"Are you going to take me home and to bed," Ric asked, "or just drive me crazy in the park?"

"Yes. Both."

My feelings for him were incredibly fierce, both possessive and protective. Was it because I'd never felt much affection at all from and therefore for other people?

Or because something of Lilith sang through my blood? In lore, the original Lilith was an Eden-exiled femme fatale, a devouring goddess, and a succubus, a "night hag" who haunted men's dreams and beds, a psychic vampire who drained men sexually.

It scared me, how deeply I wanted Ric, but I wasn't interested in draining him. Quite the contrary.

"Home," I said.