UFI welcomes Piper Maitland Author of Acquainted with the Night Series. Thanks for Joining us!!
I am very excited to visit Urban Fantasy Investigations! Thank you so much for inviting me. I’ve brought a deleted scene from Hunting Daylight, book two in the “Night” series. I always write several experimental openings to a novel, hoping one will be a keeper. After I wrote the fourth prologue, I knew it would be deleted, but it was a turning point because the characters pointed me in the right direction.
Here’s the deleted scene:
17 Hours and 14 minutes of Daylight
Death is the last thing on my mind as I pick my way over broken glass in the motel parking lot. Me, I don’t like swanky joints. That’s why I prefer the Wellshead Inn, a scuffed-up place in a bad part of Aberdeen, attracting oil riggers on their way to the North Sea.
Tonight the inn is full. The riggers have washed up clean, and they’re eating crap du jour in the crapola restaurant or hanging over the balcony railing. Loud Celtic music blasts from their rooms. Most of them are evacuees from the Falcon Platform, a rig just off the Shetlands that is spewing methane into the atmosphere. That’s why I’m in Scotland. To plug the gas leak. I’m a crisis engineer, specializing in oil field blowouts and rig fires. I work at night because I’m a vampire.
I’ve just left Elgin Oil’s headquarters, where I studied infrared photographs of the gas cloud. I signed a contract, too. A million Euros to do a “top kill,” a dicey procedure that involves dense mud and dumb luck.
God, I love my job.
Now, as I climb the concrete stairs to the second floor, I can’t stop grinning. On the landing, two dark-haired men lean against the railing. Their gaze moves from my ostrich-skin boots to my Texas Oilers cap.
I clamp my lips together. I don’t want no trouble, so I keep walking. Their tough-guy laughter follows me down the corridor.
Assholes. I ought to tear off their heads. But that’s bad manners. My old mama raised me up proper, and I won’t shame her memory. First, I’d walk up to the humans and introduce myself. My name is Nick Parnell. I died forty years ago in Olive Springs, Texas. Three vampire bitches bit the hell out of me. I woke up in the morgue. Undead. Now, I’m a biter, too.
I step into my dark room, and my tailbone starts burning, like I sat on an anthill, a sure sign that I’m not the only vampire at the Wellshead Inn. Most riggers are human. I bolt the door and reach for the overhead light switch. It won’t come on. Then I smell ketones, an odor that’s unique to immortals.
“Hi, Nick ,” a feminine voice says behind `me, just a hint of an Eastern European accent.
I turn. The room is too dark to see the woman. “I don’t know what you want or how you got into my room,” I say, “but you gotta leave.”
There’s a click and a lamp comes on. A blonde rises from a chair, holding a Glock. It’s fitted with red dot sight and a suppressor. Her blue eyes look familiar. My brain goes on a fact-finding quest, and it only takes seconds to place her.
Tatiana Kaskov. Russian linguist. Ex-KGB. A big shot in the Al-Dîn Corporation. I thought she’d died a year ago in an African rainforest, after a research expedition fell apart. I’d been on the team. Before the mercenaries showed up, I saw Tatiana chatting up a British biochemist. Jude Barrett. Vampire. Married with a kid.
How can Tatiana be alive? The rescue party had found gun casings, entrails, and her tattered shirt.
“Put your hands over your head,” she says.
I lift my arms, fingers splayed toward the ceiling. Sweat drips down the backs of my legs, and a sick feeling waves through my gut. “You’re supposed to be dead,” I say. “Like, no-heartbeat-dead. The real dead.”
“I thought the same thing about you,” she says.
“How’d you find me?”
“I looked for a rig that was pumping hydrogen sulphide into the air. I made a few calls. Found out you were in Aberdeen.”
The back of my neck tingles. “But how’d you know I was at the Wellshead?”
“You love trashy motels.” She moves the Glock, and the red laser slides down the front of my shirt.
I lick my lips. “Why don’t you come back later? After I fix the well-from-hell.”
“You haven’t changed.” She steps closer. “You’re still smug and self-important.”
I keep my hands are above my head. What does she want? How can I get rid of her? Tatiana is shorter than me, but she’s just as strong. If I show fear, she will feed on it. If I run, she’ll put a bullet in my brain, and vampires can’t regenerate from catastrophic injuries. But I’m tired of her bullshit.
“Either shoot me or put down your weapon,” I say, chewing down on each word.
“Aren’t you happy to see me?” Her bottom lip slides forward.
“It’s not every day that a dead woman turns up in my motel room.” I swallow. Back in the rainforest, she’d dispensed the blood, but she’d laced it with drugs. Something that made the vampires sleepy. I didn’t drink it, and that’s how I made it out of the bush.
“How’d you escape?” I say in a conversational tone.
She shrugs. “A long, boring story.”
Right, I bet it involves the slaughter of innocent spider monkeys. But I don’t want to piss her off so I chomp down the insult. Play up to her vanity, Nick . Keep her talking. If she’s running her mouth, it might throw off her aim.
“You never liked me,” she says.
“Sure, I did. You’re a looker.” I pause. “Come on, Tat. Put the gun away. I’ll fetch us cold drinks from the cooler. I’ve got A positive and B negative.”
She tilts her head from side to side, as if trying to decide if she wants blood or bloodshed. She lowers the Glock. “Okay.”
The old Tatiana hadn’t used fluffy words like ‘okay.’ She smoked cigars, played poker, and shot men in the balls. I take a breath and exhale a little too hard.
“I’ll take a B negative,” she says.
“Sure, can I lower my hands?”
My arms fall to my sides. You’re doing good, Nick, I tell myself. Pulse regular. Respirations slow. Keep her talking. “What you been doing the last six months?” I ask.
“What about Jude Barrett? Did he survive, too?” After the massacre, I looked up Jude’s widow. Caro was a sweet lady. And pretty, too. I saw why Jude had been faithful. I gave her little girl a stuffed toy, a penguin that made a “weep-weep” noise when she squeezed it. To this day, Caro sends me pictures of her and little Vivienne.
Tatiana doesn’t answer. She clicks on the safety and drops the gun in her pocketbook, a large Louis Vuitton tote. “Are you getting my B negative or not?”
“Coming right up.” I walk toward the cooler, flexing my arms, working out the tension. From a distant room, I hear the riggers’ music, a Celtic ballad, and I hum along with it.
From behind me, she says, “Do you know where I can find Jude’s wife?”
I stop humming. A pulse beats in my mouth. “Why?” I ask.
“I’ve got his pocket watch. I’d like Caro to have it.”
Yeah, right. Tatiana is returning a dead man’s watch?
“I don’t know her,” I say. I open the cooler and a rush of chilled air hits my face.
Tatiana looks away, but not before I see the nervous flick in her eyelids. I reach deeper into the cooler, but a hand yanks me back. A thin, hard cord presses against my windpipe. I reach up, feel a wire. I feel wetness and pull back my hand.
“Don’t struggle,” Tatiana says, her cool breath hitting the side of my face. “Or you’ll end up killing yourself.”
I lunge backward, trying to shove her into the wall, but the wire cuts deeper into my Adam’s apple. I stop moving.
“Do you know what will happen if I sever your carotid?” she says. “Your blood pressure will plummet, and you’ll fall to the ground. You’ll stay conscious a bit longer than a human, and you’ll watch helplessly while I cut out your heart. I won’t be gentle.”
She loosens the garrote. “Tell me where to find Caro, and you won’t die in a one-star motel. You can walk out of here and fix your leaky rig. I won’t bother you again.”
It hurts to talk, but I push out the words. “I don’t know Caro.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Look, I won’t hurt her. I just want to see her daughter.”
An image of the pig-tailed child rises up. Before I can stop myself, I blurt, “But she’s a baby.”
“I knew you were lying. Goodbye, Nick.” She tightens the wire. Sticky fluid runs down my chin.
I’ll not die today. I’m not ready. I run my tongue over my upper lip. “Wait. If I tell, will you let me go?” I say, my voice raspy.
The wire loosens. I take a breath, hold it, let it out in a rush. “Caro never stays long in one place, her and the girl. A few months ago, she was in Australia. Somewhere near Adelaide. That’s all I know.”
Tatiana jerks the wire. It glides through my neck. Blood sprays against the wall and runs down. A scarlet jet hits the ceiling. I hit the floor.
Legs move above me, chopping the air like scissors. She lifts a scalpel from her tote bag and squats beside me. I hear a ripping sound. Cool air rushes over my chest. Buttons rattle to the floor. She cuts into me. Reaches deep inside. Gropes and digs. Pain bursts through my ribcage. I am a leaky well in cold water, can’t stop the flow, can’t plug it up. The whole world turns red and somewhere, music is playing.
Piper shares the inside scoop on her life and writing tomorrow, Feb. 15th, at www.literaladdiction.com!
Follow Piper at @PiperMaitland.
Piper Maitland lives on a Tennessee farm with her family. She is the author of the paramormal romance, Acquainted With the Night (Berkley/November 2011). The sequel, Hunting Daylight, will be published on 2/5/13 by Berkley/Penguin USA. Piper has also written novels under the name Michael Lee West.
Aquainted with the Night #2
Aquainted with the Night #2
Out of the shadows...
For more than a decade, Caro Barrett has had doubts about the death of her husband, who disappeared while looking for a tribe of day-walking vampires in an African rainforest. Now, their daughter is struggling through her teenage years without a father. Waiting in the wings is an ancient vampire ready to possess Caro's heart--and to protect them both from harm. And, with her husband declared legally dead, Caro feels it is finally time to move on...
A hemisphere away in a windowless compound, an Ottoman vampire lies dying from a rare blood disease, which has made him vulnerable to the faintest bit of light. Yet he is determined to vanquish its power over him--to feel the sun on his face one last time. And in Caro's darkest fears he will be lifted into the light of day..