Read an Excerpt
I was driving a clinking, clanging, rusted-out POS that hadn't been new since I was in diapers. The driver's seat boasted a rogue spring with bad intentions and the exhaust system had all the dignity of a very old, very drunk man working his way through the world's most disgusting bucket list.
I didn't even care, because I was lost.
With half my night's deliveries still threatening the seams of my courier bag, I turned the Tercel onto yet another unmarked, unpaved road. And lurched to a stop in front of a locked metal gate.
"Camino privado," I muttered. The industrial area northwest of Santiago was a labyrinth of private roads. I flipped my map over and back, then rotated it sideways to align it to the actual direction the roads ran. The sign across the street was barely visible under the blinking yellow streetlight.
I could have marked the map before I left, could have taken a red felt pen and drawn my route like agagwandering tourist. But that would have made me a pretty poor excuse for a vampire courier.
Vampires, for all their various talents, can't use technology. Their altered energy, that strange current that keeps their undead bodies ambulatory and brains ticking, is murder on electronics. So they rely on us, human couriers who can drive all nightand during the day, when necessarybetween their plush homes, swank offices and blood lounges without allowing ourselves to be tailed or corrupted. Or to get lost. I looked at my watch and felt the line between my eyebrows deepen.
I fought the car into reverse, spun the nose toward the road and ground it into gear. I'd been in Santiago for a month, during which time I'd learned that Chilean water tastes like it was ladled out of a public pool and that I could live happily on empanadas for the rest of my life. I'd also discovered that a city ten times larger than my prior base of Anchorage, Alaska, was more than ten times harder to work in when everything was written in a language I didn't understand. My Spanish consisted of common words and a few key phrases. Essentials such as "Where is the bathroom?" Lies to protect my real identity, like "My name is Aerin Crane." And common business phrases: "Sign here, please" and "I'm not for biting."
I cruised between the darkened hulks of warehouses and faded shipping containers. The passing headlights ahead signaled a major cross street. If I reached that, I'd gone too far. My lips pressed tight together and I shook my head, willing my destination to appear.
And, voilá, a shiver ran down my spine, one that had nothing to do with cold and everything to do with the jittery offbeat current of vampire energy. I braked, turned onto a pair of overgrown ruts with aspirations of roadness, and crept toward a long, one-story building with corrugated metal siding. What should have been a parking lot was overgrown with weeds, and the angular shapes looming in those weeds indicated trashbig metal trash. I parked forty feet from the building. Even though the car sucked, I'd rather keep my ten bucks than pay my employer to replace it. I stepped out of the car, settled my bag diagonally over my body and made sure my laminate ID and clipboard were visible. Those were the official tools of a courier.
Unofficially, I carried a can of pepper spray the size and shape of a lighter, and a six-inch pocket knife, currently in my back pocket and the side pouch of my bag. Couriers are technically off-limits to poaching by vampires, but I'd learned my lesson on how well suckers follow rules.