What to snippet, what to snippet? It’s a conundrum. If I snippet BELLE CHASSE every week between now and Nov. 8, I’d run out of snippets. It’s hard to snippet from WILD MAN’S CURSE without giving much away because it’s pretty tight. It seems silly to snippet from BAYOU2 before the first one comes out.
Which means…a deleted or heavily changed scene! Let me see what I can find. (Goes off to open old files….).
Okay, this is a very early deleted scene from ELYSIAN FIELDS. It takes place around New Iberia, Louisiana, where DJ has gone to try and broker a truce between the weregators and displaced merfolk. Jake is her backup. Afterward, DJ and Jake go to a restaurant for dinner and she starts to see some unsettling things. This is a long scene, so I’ll run part today and part next week. In ELYSIAN FIELDS, this is replaced by the second chapter that takes place when DJ and Jake are eating breakfast at the Green Gator.
Why did this version get cut? My editor wanted to keep everything in New Orleans and so that forced me to change the way the book started. So this scene and the one following it got stuck in the bulging “old drafts” folder….(And, yes, for those who are wondering, Clementine Food & Spirits is a real place in New Iberia, and DJ’s dinner was chosen from the real menu.)
The hostess led Jake and me into the main dining room of Clementine Food & Spirits, placing our menus on the table with a smile. A painting of pirate Jean Lafitte hung on the wall facing my chair, black eyes glittering with amusement as if pondering a new round of mayhem and murder. I couldn’t escape the undead pirate even with him in New Orleans and me four parishes and a hundred miles away.
Except for the fact that Jean had dark blue eyes, not black, and his hair wasn’t as curly, the local artist had gotten his sexy bad-boy look down pat. It was a look I had a bit of a weakness for. Not something I’m proud of, but true. Ever since Hurricane Katrina had battered down the barriers between the modern city and the preternatural Beyond, Jean had made himself the most frequent visitor among the Historical Undead. We’d become sort of friends, sort of tempted-to-be-more-than-friends.
“You gonna stop staring at your dead boyfriend and sit down?” Jake plopped in a chair directly beneath the portrait. Great. I could look at both of them without turning my head. Two sexy men with whom I had great flirtations and no future. Jean was technically dead, and Jake was such a mess from being turned loup-garou a few years ago he hadn’t trusted himself to be alone with me until the last couple of weeks—and I was epically curious as to what had changed.
“What can I get you to drink?” A waitress appeared out of nowhere wearing a crisp white shirt, black pants, and a professional, chipper smile.
“Bourbon, straight,” Jake said at the same time I said, “diet soda.”
I should be the one ordering a drink. Except for his single attention-getting gunshot, all Jake had done this afternoon was sit around and try to look menacing while I did my sentinel bit.
“You think this is going to be the last time we have to deal with the Villeres?” Jake sipped his drink and settled back in his chair.
I held off till the waitress took our orders before answering. “God, I hope so. We’ve been dealing with his crap for the last six weeks. In fact, I’m tired of mermen, nymphs, weregators. I’m even tired of seafood.” And to prove it, I’d ordered the dueling pork—a fried pork chop covered with sausage gravy. I’d probably be sick as a weregator on swamp-crack.
“You calling in the report, or you want me to?”
The whole division of duties had changed in the last month. Now, I was sole sentinel for the Gulf Coast region, and my former partner Alex was heading up a new prete law-enforcement division called the Division of Domestic Terror (DDT). It had loose, secretive ties to the FBI and so far, Alex and Jake were the only agents. I still wasn’t sure how Jake was going to handle reporting to his cousin and number-one rival.
“I’ll call the Elders and tell them the Marchands and the Villeres have agreed on who’s going to live where and that no unauthorized eating took place,” I said. “You call Alex and tell him no preternatural wildlife died in the making of the treaty.” He’d be disappointed. Alex was very fond of shooting things.
“Not much to report from my end,” Jake said, flashing his killer dimples at the waitress as she brought our salads and bread. His dark blond hair, sunstreaked in summer, had darkened as the days grew shorter and sunshine more rare. “Sat in truck, listened to radio. Sat on hood of truck, scowled at pretes. Fired gun. You didn’t really need me.”
“Yeah, if I’d had to use the staff, Denis would have been one crispy fried fish and the weregators could have had a feast.”
Jake laughed. “You really need to get in some practice time with that thing. When
do your lessons start?”
I groaned. “I don’t know. If I’m lucky, maybe never.”
So what if I’d accidentally burned down a part of Louisiana’s federally protected Birdfoot Delta with a misfired staff last month? That was no reason for the Elders to force me into lessons on how to use elven magic they didn’t want me using in the first place. Wasn’t my fault some weird elf genes from a bazillion generations back had popped into my genetic makeup.
“You need it,” Jake said. “If you learn to use that staff, on top of the wizard stuff
you can already do with your charms and potions, you’ll be downright scary.”
“Great. Just the effect I want to have on people.” Actually, it was the effect I wanted to have on most pretes.
The waitress brought another bourbon, and I watched with a frown as Jake took a swig. He’d also had a couple of beers at lunch. “Changing the subject,” he said, “while I was sitting in the truck, I heard on the radio about a couple of assaults in the French Quarter.”
“Nope, locals. First was a guy who lived over his grocery store, down on Burgundy and Ursulines, and then a woman a block away—somebody broke panels out of their backdoors with an ax and tried chopping them up while they slept. Both of ‘em are gonna make it, they think, but it was ugly.”
I was surprised. Violent crime in the French Quarter was unusual, even in a city that usually led the country in homicides. New Orleans couldn’t afford the bad publicity dead tourists would bring, so the Quarter was always knee-deep in cops.
“They got a suspect?” Thank God it wasn’t a case I had to worry about. After tracking down a murderous nymph, almost drowning, and spending a week in a human hospital, I still had mending ribs and a serious need for a nice, quiet slide toward Thanksgiving.
Our food arrived, and Jake raised an eyebrow at my porkstravaganza, then dug into a steak so rare the chef couldn’t have done more than wave it in the general vicinity of a grill.
He chewed a moment and took another sip of his drink. “No suspects. It has the
Quarter residents nervous.”
“Are you nervous?” Jake owned the Green Gator, a popular bar on Bourbon
“DJ, I’m loup-garou. I think I can handle a nutjob with an ax—and he won’t like
the way it turns out.”
I didn’t much like the way Jake smiled as he finished his bourbon. Kind of wolfy. Come to think of it, he’d been edgy all day, and as he reached over to spear a bite of pork chop off my plate, I wondered, not for the first time, why he’d suddenly decided it was safe to be alone with me.
It wasn’t in my nature to sit on a question. “Not that I’m complaining, because I’m glad you came with me, but what happened to your can’t be alone with DJ unless we have a chaperone rule?”
His amber eyes darkened for a second before a mask settled in place and he grinned at me. “Let’s just say I’m getting a better handle on how to control the loup-garou and leave it at that.”
Not acceptable. We’d avoided each other for two years after the attack, him out of anger and me out of guilt since it was my fault he’d been turned. I thought we’d gotten past hiding things. “Jake…”
“C’mon, DJ. Lighten up. We finally got rid of the Villeres. Everything’s good.” He took another bite of his steak, and somewhere between the bourbon and the bloody beef, it finally hit me that everything Alex had been telling me was true. Jake wasn’t ever going to be that laid-back, flirtatious guy I’d met right after Katrina—the one who kissed like sin and made me think about the future. He’d still be a wonderful man, and he’d still kiss like sin, but he was a different man.
I’d stubbornly insisted his Marine training would kick in and he’d come to terms with the new realities of his life as the rogue of the werewolf world. Now, with a deep ache in the pit of my stomach that had nothing to do with dueling pork, I knew I’d been naive. He wasn’t handling being loup-garou better after these years had passed; he was just better at pretending to handle it.
I’d heard the stories about what happened when Jake came home from Afghanistan, badly wounded—learning to walk again, dealing with survivor’s guilt after losing half his unit, living with pain. He’d gone deep inside himself, and he’d drunk too much. According to Alex, Jake had almost derailed before he hit bottom and dragged himself out of the muck. But hitting bottom as a loup-garou would get him killed, and if being around me—trying to pursue a relationship with me—made him struggle more against his demons, then it had to end. Much as I hated to admit it, I was no better equipped to deal with the loup-garou than he was.
We talked around the subject through the rest of dinner and the ride back to the small Acadian cottage we’d rented for the night. A double unit with an adjoining door. We discussed the Saints’ win against Dallas, the upsurge in business at the Gator, the new assistant I was supposed to be getting next week to help with the paperwork the Elders loved so dearly.
As we climbed the steps to the cottage, Jake stopped and slid an arm around my waist. “You gonna invite me in? Let me sneak into your room in the middle of the night? Let me get a step up on Alex in the DJ Sweepstakes?”
Armed with my dinnertime revelations, I smiled and shook my head. “Not tonight, Wolfman. Let’s get some sleep and plan on checking out the Tabasco factory tomorrow morning before we drive back to New Orleans.”
He leaned in and kissed me with a soft brush of lips and a heartbreaking lack of heat. “Night, hot stuff.”
That sounded more like the old Jake, at least. Chuckling, I unlocked my own
door and went into the pretty little half-cottage filled with rustic antiques and decorated
with watercolors of bayou life. When we’d stopped by before dinner, I’d thrown my
overnight bag on the bed, so I unzipped it, laid out a T-shirt to sleep in, and hung up my
clothes for the next day.
Well, crap. I’d forgotten to ask Jake what time he wanted to leave for Avery
Island and the Tabasco factory. I dug my cell phone out of my pocket to call him, then looked at the door between our rooms.
A surprising sense of peace, mixed with a taste of bittersweet, had washed over me during my self-revelation at dinner. Maybe I’d known all along that Jake and I weren’t mean to happen, and hadn’t wanted to admit it. Maybe, relieved of the pressure to feel something that wasn’t there, we could be friends. Starting with watching TV together tonight instead of each sitting alone.
I knocked lightly on our adjoining door and waited for an answer. “Jake?”
Maybe he was in the bathroom or had gone out to the truck for something. I turned the knob and stuck my head into his room, the mirror image of mine. The door to the bathroom was closed, so I went to sit on the bed and wait for him.
His overnight bag was unzipped, and clothes and toiletries spilled out the top. When I sat on the bed, it tipped, and a shaving kit and a book on terrorism that won the Pulitzer a few years ago toppled onto the bedspread. Great, he’d think I was rifling through his stuff. I picked the book up to cram it back into his bag, but only succeeded in letting one more thing roll out.
“Damn it, Jake.” My heart sank at the sight of the bottle of Four Roses, his favorite whiskey for as long as I’d known him. The bottle was half empty.
Hm…What does she do next? Wait and see!
Now…did you win a book this week? Everyone waiting for books—please be patient. I’m behind since losing my assistant, and I have a book due in a couple of weeks. Once it’s done I can take a few hours to pack and ship books out.
If you see your name, please email your relevant info to email@example.com or use the contact tab at the top of this page. Snail-mail unless otherwise noted.
BOOKLADY won a copy of Victoria Danann’s new book CARNAL. This is Kindle only so I’ll need an email address. If you prefer a couple of mystery TBR books instead, let me know, or you can opt for a $5 Amazon gift card. Choices!
DAMARIS won last week’s Reader’s Choice contest, and took the “decide when I win” option. So that’s any book up to USD$15 from Book Depo if outside the US or from Amazon if inside the US. Your choice of print or digital.
HEATHER (captain of Team Alex) won the $5 Amazon gift card for commenting on the Love Triangle….Quadrangle…Quintangle post.
Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow for a new Reader’s Choice giveaway!