Authors: Caitlin R. Kiernan,Kathleen Tierney
“Wisecracking. . . . Another defiantly over-the-top yarn that breaks every rule in the book, mostly with advance warning, and succeeds by being even more flagrantly disgraceful than its predecessor.”
“Gritty urban fantasy meets old-fashioned noir in this high-octane sequel . . . entirely original.”
“A fine balance between
urban fantasy and
urban fantasy: a little grim and a lot tongue-in-cheek . . . a rollicking good time . . . witty and snide . . . just enough parody, just enough narrative fiction—keeps the reader amused and engaged alike.”
“Quinn is the sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants, ask-questions-later, non-detective detective that busts the genre wide-open. This
Quinn book isn’t horror or urban fantasy or mystery, but rather [features] a horrifying, fantastical heroine who finds herself embroiled in a mystery.”
—All Things Urban Fantasy
“Sinfully delicious. . . . If you like your urban fantasy down and dirty, then you can’t freaking pass
—My Shelf Confessions
“A well-written, smart, and unapologetically snarky follow-up to
—That’s What I’m Talking About
“A pedal-to-the-metal, balls-to-the-wall female antihero who doesn’t give a damn if you like her or not . . . which totally made me love her.”
“A memorably exhilarating and engaging experience. Sly, sardonically nasty, and amusingly clever.”
“[Kiernan] brings an engagingly fresh prespective to well-trod territory. . . . Colorful side characters and a fully realized setting make this a fast-paced series opener well worth checking out.”
“Kiernan . . . has made it her business to turn the comfortable genres of imaginative fiction inside out. Now writing as Kathleen Tierney, she introduces a heroine as fascinating and compelling as she is foulmouthed and impatient.”
“[A] fast-paced, profane, and combustive little thriller.”
—The Black Letters
“A strange (and unmistakably fun) project, a parodic urban fantasy that at once vivisects the tropes of the genre as it currently stands and also employs them with vigor and a backhanded, wild immersion.”
“A lot of fun.”
“A dark, twisted ride through the seedier side of life, but it’s peppered with enough humor to make it enjoyable.”
RT Book Reviews
“Tierney has created a marvelous character in Quinn. . . . She keeps readers on their toes.”
“A mesmerizing exploration of magic without certainty . . . a must read for anyone drawn to the darker edges of urban fantasy.”
—All Things Urban Fantasy
“Sometimes subtle, a little crass, and even lovely . . . for those that like Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series and even Steve Niles’s Cal McDonald series.”
Praise for the Novels
of Caitlín R. Kiernan
The Drowning Girl
“A stunning work of literature.”
“Incisive, beautiful, and as perfectly crafted as a puzzle box.”
New York Times
bestselling author of
“A beautifully written, startlingly original novel that rings the changes upon classics by the likes of Shirley Jackson, H. P. Lovecraft, and Peter Straub.”
—Elizabeth Hand, author of
The Red Tree
NOMINATED FOR THE SHIRLEY JACKSON AWARD
NOMINATED FOR THE WORLD FANTASY AWARD
“A strange and vastly compelling take on a New England haunting. . . . Kiernan’s still-developing talent makes this gloriously atmospheric tale a fabulous piece of work.”
Daughter of Hounds
“A hell-raising dark fantasy replete with ghouls, changelings, and eerie intimations of a macabre otherworld . . . an effective mix of atmosphere and action.”
Murder of Angels
“Lyrical and earthy,
Murder of Angels
is that rare book that gets everything right.”
—Charles de Lint
Low Red Moon
“Eerie and breathtaking . . . [a novel] of sustained dread punctuated by explosions of unmitigated terror.”
Irish Literary Review
WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
is a bonfire proclaiming Caitlín R. Kiernan’s elevated position in the annals of contemporary literature. It is an exceptional novel you mustn’t miss. Highly recommended.”
WINNER OF THE INTERNATIONAL HORROR GUILD AWARD FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
FINALIST FOR THE BRAM STOKER AWARD
FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
NOMINATED FOR THE BRITISH FANTASY AWARD
“A daring vision and an extraordinary achievement.”
Low Red Moon
Murder of Angels
Daughter of Hounds
The Red Tree
The Drowning Girl: A Memoir
Writing as Kathleen Tierney
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Copyright © Caitlín R. Kiernan, 2015
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Kiernan, Caitlín R.
Cherry bomb / Caitlín R. Kiernan writing as Kathleen Tierney.
pages cm.—(A Siobhan Quinn novel; 3)
1. Werewolves—Fiction. 2. Vampires—Fiction. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For Amber Benson (The Voice), Geoffrey H. Goodwin (The Friend), and Vic Ruiz (Compatriot in Ghul Lore)
s I’ve said twice before, if your ears, eyes, and sensibilities are easily offended, this book is not for you. If you want a romance novel, this book is not for you. And if
it strikes you odd that vampires, werewolves, demons, ghouls, and the people who spend time in their company, would be a foul-mouthed, unpleasant lot, this book is not for you. In fact, if you’re the sort who believes books should come with warning labels, this book is not for you. Fair notice.
I wish to do more violence.
I think a plan is just a list of things that don’t happen.
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
I met Selwyn Throckmorton five years after I’d left Mean Mr. B and Providence behind me and arrived in Manhattan, three years after that whole mess with the Maidstone sisters and those two demon whoremongers from an alternate reality, all four of whom were scrabbling ass over tit to get their hands on a magical dildo carved out of a unicorn’s horn. No, seriously. You may have heard about that kerfuffle. Or not, but it’s something else that didn’t go so well for much of anyone involved, all those greedy assholes out to screw each other
over just to get their hands on this totem of purportedly unimaginable power, blah, blah, blah. And when it was done and the dust had settled, I told B I’d had enough and he could find himself another bulldog to fetch and heel and do his bidding. All I wanted was to disappear.
I went south to Florida, then New Orleans (bad, bad idea), then west all the way to LA. But every city was a new hassle. For example, the crazy albino kid in Jacksonville who went all
on my ass. Or the job I took in post-Katrina NOLA, putting down a cult of Cthulhu-worshipping alligator women. Or the swank gig in Hollywood working for a couple of agents at WME who’d made the mistake of accepting shitwit baby vamps as clients.
Fun fucking times.
Finally, I came back east and took up with a mortal thrill seeker in Brooklyn, this lady who was willing to give me a place to hang my hat in exchange for a sip from my wrist every week or two. Her very own pet vampire. She had no idea about me also being a werewolf. I never told her. Didn’t really
if she found out; the subject just never came up. Actually, I got more than a roof over my head. I also got a decent meal off her once a week, which mostly kept me from having to hunt. So,
very own pet
. Probably as unhealthy a mutually beneficial, symbiotic psycho fuckfest as you can imagine.
Her name was Barbara O’Bryan, but she called herself Eve when she wasn’t at the office counting other people’s money or doing whatever it is that accountants do. She was ass deep in the local BDSM scene, and I played the top to her bottom at clubs and whenever the leather-
and-latex crowd threw a soirée. Sometimes we even had sex, but not as often as you might imagine. She really, truly wasn’t my type.
Anyway, it was at one of those clubs—a sweaty Chinatown cellar below a shop that seemed to specialize in the unlikely pairing of Hello Kitty tchotchkes and leather daddy porno—that Selwyn spotted me. I was busy with a riding crop, keeping up appearances and keeping Eve happy, and Selwyn had probably been staring at me a long time before I finally noticed. Selwyn Throckmorton knew enough about nasties to know right off that she was looking at a vampire (though, as with my sugar mama, the
part of me was flying somewhere below her radar). She waited until I was done beating Eve, until I’d sent her off to get me a beer, and then Selwyn just walked right up to me and said, “I know what you are.”
Normally, someone pulls that sort of stunt, they may as well have just signed their own death certificate. Normally. But, you see, Selwyn Throckmorton was a lucky girl that night. Because she
“Is that a fact?” I asked her, and she just smiled and sat down next to me on the ratty leather sofa where Eve and I had settled after I administered her thirty lashes.
“It is,” she said and smiled.
“That’s a fairly strange pickup line,” I said and lit a Camel.
“It’s kinda obvious, what you are, if someone knows what they’re seeing. Not like you’re trying very hard to hide it.”
“And it’s kinda goddamn stupid, you mouthing off about it.”
She just kept smiling and held out her hand. I shook it. What the hell else was I gonna do? I was already wet. The possibility that she was working some sort of voodoo sex–magick shit on me very briefly crossed my mind.
“I’m Selwyn,” she said and sat back, making herself right at home. “You’re not the first one I’ve met. In fact, I’ve met several. In my line of work, it’s not all that uncommon.”
“And just exactly what is your line of work?”
“Occult antiquities,” she replied. “Acquisition and appraisal.” And wet or not, I’d have wrung her pretty neck right then and there if she’d said one word about dildos and/or unicorns.
Her eyes were the deep blue of a star sapphire, and her hair was the black of a lump of coal. Skin like a glass of ice-cold milk. Hey, I can ladle on the purple prose with the best of them if the mood strikes me. And remembering that night, the mood strikes me. She could just about have been something awful herself, a demon or one of the Unseelie gazing out at me from beneath her glamour. Unlike most of the people crammed into the place, she wasn’t dressed in some tacky fetish garb. Just a black Hellboy T-shirt, faded jeans, a leather biker jacket a size or two too small, and a ratty pair of checkered Vans. She was both hot
goddamn adorable. Which is to say she stuck out in that crowd like the proverbial sore thumb. Shit, even I caved in and wore the silly dom getups Eve the CPA bought for me from a couple of shops down on St. Mark’s, just to keep her happy. I also wore the cosmetics, contact lenses, and dental prosthetics that were
to help keep people from going all looky-loo on me.
appraisal,” I said. It sounded a hell of a lot more interesting than accounting.
“Plus,” she said, “I’m a bit of an armchair occultist, and a halfway decent thief. But that last part just sort of comes with the territory.”
“It can be. Hazardous. But I’m careful. Cautious.”
“Right now, Selwyn, careful and cautious are probably the last two things I’d call you.”
She laughed, winked, then fluttered those sapphire eyes. “Oh, come off it,” she said. “You’re not gonna hurt me.”
“And why is that, Selwyn?”
“Because,” she began, then paused to point an index finger at Eve, who was still waiting at the crowded bar. “To begin with, your date there bores you to tears. I’m still trying to figure out what you see in her. I know the sort. Something excruciatingly extra dull by the light of day, a wedding photographer or an accountant or an economics professor. Am I right?”
It’s not like I could say she wasn’t.
“We have an arrangement,” I said.
“Oh, I bet you do.”
I stared at her, smelling her; she smelled like blood and clean laundry and vanilla. Suddenly, my mouth was as wet as my pussy. Anyone—living or dead—gets bored eating the same meal week in and week out, no matter how convenient that might be.
“Pollyanna Wannabe over there,” Selwyn continued, “she comes home from a hard, tedious, unrewarding day at the office, right, and there you are waiting for her,
wilder and weirder and more dangerous a creature than she’d ever hoped to meet, much less swap blood with. And every day, every evening, she knows that might
the day or night you finally get bored, decide you’ve had enough, and finish her off. The cherry on top, so to speak. Living dangerously.”
“But I suppose you’re different.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“It was heavily fucking implied.”
She laughed again, stretched her legs out in front of her, and rested her head on the back of the sofa. I glanced from her to the bar. Wouldn’t be long now until Eve was on her way back with our beers.
“Just what is it you want, anyway?”
“Didn’t say I want anything. What’s your name?”
“Quinn,” I told her. “You should know up front I’m a piss-poor conversationalist.”
“Lady, if I
want something from you, it wouldn’t be conversation.”
want anything from me.”
“Didn’t say that, either. Are you always this prone to putting words in people’s mouths?”
I looked up at the low concrete ceiling, hoping that if I ignored her, maybe she’d fuck off, and I could get back to my dull but convenient arrangement with the CPA who never asked more from me than her weekly ration of red sauce, nothing more than a monster willing to play arm candy and give her a halfhearted flogging now and then. A sea of chatter pressed in all around me, the casual rise and fall of talk in a place no one came to talk. I could hear Selwyn Throckmorton’s beating heart, along with
the dozens of others. I could hear her breath, and gazing at the ugly ceiling did nothing whatsoever to calm my appetite or my libido.
“Kid,” I said, “you have absolutely no idea what you’re fucking around with.”
Her heart beat five times before she replied.
“For all you know,” she said, “I’ve had vampire lovers before. For all
know, I’m a regular chew toy.”
“Fine,” she sighed. “If you like the cage, if you’re content behind bars, it’s none of my business.” But she didn’t get up. She didn’t leave.
“Quinn?” That was Eve. I blinked, and there she was, tricked out in her expensive, custom-made corset, hobble skirt, stiletto heels, leather collar, and her lipstick the color of a nosebleed. She held a sweaty bottle of Bass in each hand. “Who’s your friend?”
Now, in the land of the whip and the ball gag, there is an age-old etiquette, which I generally tended to ignore. But here was an opportunity to turn it to my advantage.
“Did I say you could speak to me, slave?” I asked her. “Did I give you permission to fucking ask me a question? I sure don’t
Eve’s face managed somehow to simultaneously express embarrassment and delight. After all, wasn’t this precisely what she’d been after all along, degradation and humiliation, but I’d been too indifferent to give her?
“Shut up and sit down,” I said. She handed me my beer, and when she started to take a place on the sofa next to me, I told her to sit on the floor at my feet. I took her beer and gave it to Selwyn.
“I don’t like Bass,” she said, clearly amused. “I don’t much like beer.”
“Then don’t drink it. Makes no difference to me, as long as
doesn’t get it,” and I nodded to Eve, obediently sitting on the filthy floor. It made me grin, and I found myself savoring the thought of how uncomfortable she must be, all trussed up in that bondage couture and forced to try and find a not entirely excruciating position down there with the spilled drinks, cum stains, and fuck only knows what else. Her head was down; she wouldn’t dare look at me until I told her she could.
“So, occult antiquities,” I said. “Acquisition and appraisal. How’s that work anyway?” I took a drink of my Bass, a long drag off my cigarette, then turned my head, much more interested in the pushy, reckless girl in her Hellboy T-shirt than Barbara O’Bryan’s kinky alter ego. Selwyn sat up and shrugged.
“Depends,” she said. “But, usually, a client comes to me with a request. Maybe they’ve learned the whereabouts of a particular artifact or talisman or grimoire, but they don’t have the skills necessary to procure it. Or just don’t want to get their hands dirty. Better to have a third party to blame if, somewhere down the road, the shit hits the fan.”
“And how often
the shit hit the fan?”
She made a zero with her right thumb and forefinger. “I’ve been fortunate,” she said. “But I’m not so stupid that I don’t know it’s the sort of luck doesn’t last forever. You tell me how I’m living on borrowed time, I’m not going to disagree.”
Was this the other shoe dropping? Was she more interested in a bodyguard than a vampire fuck buddy?
Insurance against that inevitable rainy day? I thought of Mean Mr. B, my long months spent as his muscle, convinced I’d never survive on my own, and the thought alone was enough to leave a bitter taste on my tongue. I’d gotten used to freedom.
Eve, probably in the early stages of asphyxiation, made a small grunting noise, and I nudged her roughly with the toe of my boot. In the immortal words of Johnny Rotten, this is what you wanted, this is what you get.
“Dad was an archaeologist,” Selwyn went on. “Specialized in Near Eastern mysticism and religious stuff. When he died a few years back, he left a shitload of unrealized profit just lying around the house. I needed a quick source of income. All I had to do was find the right buyers, match any given piece of ancient junk to an interested customer.”
“Pretty resourceful of you.”
“Better than waiting around for his savings account to dry up and finding myself on the street.”
I took another swallow of beer.
“I’m gonna ask you again,” I said, lowering my voice and leaning closer, “what do you want from me?”
what you’re thinking, I can take care of myself,” she said, sounding slightly offended.
“Kid, you go and piss off the wrong beast, the Pope and Baby Jesus won’t be able to protect you.”
I only barely resisted adding,
Take it from me. Been there. Done that.
“You really want me to fuck off, Quinn, fine. Just say so. You can go back to playing footsie with Little Miss Poser. It’ll be no skin off my nose.”
I leaned still closer and sniffed at the soft, vulnerable spot beneath her chin. The blood pumping through her carotid artery was, to my ears, loud as a jackhammer.
“See,” I said, “that’s what I wanted about ten minutes ago. Now you’ve gone and gotten my attention.”
To Selwyn Throckmorton’s credit, she didn’t even wince. So, either she was genuinely too stupid to be scared or she had balls.
“About damn time,” she whispered.
I touched the tip of my tongue to her throat and held it there a moment, savoring the calm
thump, thump, thump
of her pulse. Then I told her, “Just so we’re completely crystal fucking clear, it turns out you’re stupid enough you believe this is some sort of parlor game, it won’t make no difference whatsoever. It won’t save your ass if I should lose control, as I have been known to do.”
“Quinn, are you always this worried about the welfare of your food? You’re awfully conscientious for a—”
“Don’t you dare taunt me,” I growled. Eve whimpered and I kicked her. “Don’t you dare.”