Meet Blade, the most awesomest semi-reformed assassin ever
Black Widow Demon, book 2 in the Demon Outlaws series, releases November 26th and I’m getting excited.
I love Blade, the hero in this story. He’s a man who does what needs doing in a post-apocalyptic world where law is sketchy and often open to interpretation. He showed up in book 1, The Demon’s Daughter, and immediately threatened to totally steal the show. So much, in fact, that my editor, despite her utter adoration for him, was compelled to ask me to tone his part down. “But don’t get rid of the scenes!” she warned me. “”They’ll make a great introduction to his character for Black Widow Demon.” (Fortunately, Hunter and Airie from The Demon’s Daughter are also characters who can hold their own.)
So today, I’m beginning a series of blog posts that involve scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor. They explain why Blade tossed his settled life aside and decided to start over (for the second time!) and heads off into the desert to find himself. (Hint: it’s over a woman. Isn’t it always?)
Blade knew he should return to his saloon and open it for business. He suspected a number of people would be after a drink. He, too, wanted to forget the morning’s proceedings, and the fate that awaited a woman simply because she had talked too much.
He had no love for the gnarled little priestess, and after the scene he had just witnessed, he doubted any would develop soon. It had taken everything he possessed to stand his ground in the heaving crowd.
Yet he could not deny that Mamna served a purpose. After the withdrawal of the goddesses, the world had soon fallen into a state of such chaos it was a wonder it had not destroyed itself. The presence of demons, who had no true interest in this world but for some reason refused to depart it, only added to that state.
Mamna had established her own version of law when she founded Freetown. She had the protection of the Demon Lord, which extended by default to the area she claimed as hers, and thus indirectly to its inhabitants. That protection was the main reason Blade, and others, had settled here, and what gave Mamna authority over them.
But what had happened in Freetown today was not law. Mamna had a cruelty to her, a disregard for life that Blade, despite his own less than pristine past, found unsettling. Perhaps it was because he, too, had once faced a demon and lost.
Instead of heading for home, he slipped away from the crowd and toward the gates of Freetown, which faced the wide expanse of desert and the distant northern mountains. There was nothing Blade could do about her sentence, and little to free her. He had women of his own to protect. But he knew he would never be able sleep that night if he stood back and did nothing.
Still, he had to be very careful.
He cut down some side streets, taking a shortcut to the city’s gates. A few small buildings skirted the city wall. He scaled the side of one, digging his toes into chinks in the rough, wind-chewed wood, and silently swung his long legs onto the clay-shingled roof. He eased one of the knives he had taken off Hunter’s would-be assassin from the wide cuff of his linen shirtsleeve. With this weapon, at least there would be nothing to trace back to him.
He saw them from the roof, gathered at the open gate and the rarely used, ill-maintained wagon trail that led through the desert. The three guards appeared unhappy and stoically silent, but had little choice other than to do their duty.
Blade did not blame them for this. They, too, would have loved ones to protect.
A few curious onlookers straggled behind the procession. The prisoner dragged her feet, pleading tearfully for her life, and Blade shut his ears to the things she promised to do for the guards if they set her free. She bargained with what she had, and no one could fault her for it.
He was not as close as he’d like to be, but still, he had a clear shot. He palmed the unfamiliar knife, thankful he’d taken the time to practice with it and at least be somewhat used to its weight and balance.
He drew back his arm, careful to keep the movement from attracting attention below, and in a smooth, experienced motion, brought it forward.
Despite the distance, the knife found its mark.
The woman let out a small groan of surprise and threw her head back, then slumped forward, limp now in the guards’ grasp. Brief panic erupted as the guards and the onlookers all realized at once what had happened, and how exposed they were to danger.
Panic was the reaction Blade had hoped for. He swung from the rooftop and dropped to the far side of the building. An assassin’s work was more difficult in daylight, and the mark of a true professional.
Blade had once been the very best. Rather than running away, he ran straight into the melee.
“What happened?” he shouted to one of the guards. The guard was young, Blade saw, and unused to his job. His skin was pale and his eyes glassy.
“Someone tried to free her but accidentally killed her instead.”
Blade wanted to make certain the woman was dead. She lay on her side in a pool of deepening blood, arms flung out like a discarded doll, her eyes wide and staring—and it was immediately clear that she would never see anything in this world again. Blade did not waste time on pity for her. She had known the rules of Freetown. She should have kept her opinions to herself, or at least been more discreet with them.
“Lucky for you someone has terrible aim,” he said, although in reality he was rather proud of his. He had caught the aorta, and the swelling around the wound indicated to him she had died almost instantly.
“It’s better for her than dying at the hands of a demon,” the young man said with feeling, and Blade could not argue with that.
“We’d best clean up here and get searching for the killer,” another guard said.
Blade left them to close the gates and take care of the woman’s remains, certain their search would be half-hearted at best. Right now he wanted to get home to the women who waited for him, and to forget about this whole morning.
Hunter could watch his own back for the rest of the day.
So what do you think? Awesome or what?