A Kiss of Brimstone

an excerpt



The modern age is a surprising haven for creatures of superstition. For humans, they exist only between the pages of a book or on a screen. Even the evidence of their eyes and ears is often discounted as trickery, either of the mind, or some new technological marvel.

Across the globe in busy city streets, beings of legend find it easy to get lost in a teeming crowd. To be just another unquestioned oddity, worth hardly more than a few strange looks.

Their world lives alongside the world of humans, in its shadowed places. It is populated by myth and magic. Vampires, werewolves, witches…and more.

Everything humans whisper about while huddled in their homes on stormy nights. Beasts seen so rarely they are often believed by even the eldest vampires alive to have been conjured purely from the tangle of the human psyche.

But they too thrive in the city's vibrant dark.

****

Andras crouched on the building's ledge, the tips of his black talons digging into the crumbling gray concrete. He stretched his wings, the gleaming raven feathers blending into the night sky above him. The muscles of his shoulders and thighs burned from holding still for so long, but he didn't even consider leaving his perch.

Music drifted up to him from the street below, the thundering bass line vibrating in his bones. Cars, buses, and taxis whizzed by, horns honking, brakes screeching. A Yemeni man yelled for someone to "look out!" Someone cursed back in Italian. A woman's high-pitched laughter cut through the warm evening air.

Andras found the near-constant noise and bustle of the city refreshing after the piercing stillness in Kimah. The Silent City, resting place of all souls, was aptly nicknamed. Disembodied souls could not speak, and celestials who lived there communicated mind to mind. The narrow stone streets and marble monuments were…well, as quiet as the grave.

He tilted his face up to the sky and inhaled, the ends of his long hair brushing the bare skin of his back. He could scent fried food, exhaust, refuse, and dye from a textile factory on the cross street with each breath.

The acrid, burnt hair stench of his quarry's soul was easily discernible, even when mixed in with the city's myriad scents.

A grim smile teased the corner of Andras's mouth. It had been an age since he'd hunted on his own. He had underlings now to ferry the souls of the newly departed, and no one had escaped the Silent City in a century.

Until Richard Boone.

At first, Andras had sent his third-best legion, unconcerned with one rogue soul. But the narcissistic CEO had led them on a merry chase. They'd lost him in Shanghai when he hijacked the body of a financier and disappeared.

He sent his best warriors next. His first and oldest legion, made up of his most loyal comrades. They had fought through the Dark Ages together.

But Boone had somehow eluded them as well, leaving a trail of destruction and death in his wake.

Andras would not allow him to evade capture for another day.

In the packed club below, Richard Boone's soul squatted within a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man with a bright smile and a mind full of blood-soaked thoughts. Unlike the other humans he'd possessed since his escape, whose souls had fought the presence of an interloper, Boone had found a kindred spirit in Dan Spencer. Left unchecked, the pair could wreak untold havoc.

It was too bad for Boone that his vessel's name was already on Andras's list.

He flicked out his long tongue, tasting the late-spring air. Lust, greed, passion, desperation, sorrow, and love all flavored the breeze, firing Andras's blood and filling his mouth with saliva. He flexed his fingers and shifted on the ledge, the muscles of his thighs bunching. Excitement crackled along his spine as he waited for Dan Spencer and his wayward passenger to emerge into the night.

Even though he rarely left Kimah anymore, Andras was familiar with the club in his sights. Several of the demons in his First Legion frequented Sang in their humanoid forms. He had contemplated doing the same, following Spencer into the vampire-owned venue, but dismissed the notion. There were too many humans present. He couldn't risk it.

Instead, he perched on the roof of the building across the street, watching the entrance. The line in front was long, snaking around the corner. Spencer had strolled inside over half an hour ago. Andras suspected he too was hunting, Boone's vile presence inside him pushing him to action.

Andras doubted he would have to wait much longer. Blood lust would not be denied.

Born millennia ago, he had been battle tested in the fires of civilization's creation. In Kimah, he had risen to the rank of Marquis. He was no stranger to patience. Especially in service of a goal.

Tonight, he would harvest souls.