Part Two of Meeting the Awesome Assassin Blade
The countdown continues…
Here is the second deleted Blade scene, taken from The Demon’s Daughter (March 2013):
Blade had created a quiet haven for himself on the third floor of his saloon.
It was sparsely furnished, with a double bed and a single window cut from the sloped ceiling. A plain wardrobe and one heavy chair carved from oak filled the room to capacity.
He sat in his chair in the deep darkness that descended before dawn and stared out the window at the black and empty sky, a cup of lavender tea cooling in his hands. He had taken off his trousers and shirt since the heat of the day tended to pool beneath the saloon’s rafters. Although the heat was long gone now, he continued to lounge in his underwear.
The street outside was quiet. The west winds had died down, but it was far too late for anyone with money to spare to be out. Even the thieves and murderers would be long in their beds.
A tentative knock sounded at Blade’s door, followed by a soft voice. “May I come in?”
“If you don’t mind the way I’m dressed. Or rather, not,” he replied.
“I’ve seen it all before. I doubt if there are any new surprises.”
Ruby opened the door a crack and slipped inside before closing it firmly behind her. She placed the small lantern she carried on the windowsill, pulled her wrap tighter, then perched primly on the edge of his bed, back straight, bare feet dangling a few inches above the plank floor. Her thick red hair swung in loose curls at her shoulders. She had not yet dressed it for bed.
The flowery scent of her soap floated around him. He and Ruby had been together a long time. She’d nursed him back to health after Hunter rescued him from the demon. They had started the saloon together. They did not love each other, but he certainly felt more loyalty to her than he did anyone else, except maybe Hunter.
She had something to say to him. She never came up here otherwise.
He did not have to wait long to find out what it was.
“What happened in town today?” she asked.
Blade sighed, then scrubbed a hand across his eyes. “Mamna condemned a woman to death.”
“I thought you were the one who threw that knife,” Ruby said, understanding and sympathy in her tone.
“She was a stupid woman who should have known enough to keep her tongue still. She wasn’t worth wasting your pity on.”
Ruby reached over and patted the deep, corded scar that ran the length of his thigh. “I wasn’t wasting my pity on her.”
Blade’s lips thinned. “I don’t need your pity either.”
“You’re testy because the woman you feel you should have killed is untouchable.”
Blade shrugged away from her hand to stare out the window once more. “Mamna’s not untouchable. She’s as mortal as the rest of us. But I can’t go after her the way I should.”
“Because of us?” Ruby asked. “Sapphire, Jasmine and me?”
Blade did not answer, which he supposed was answer enough.
Ruby settled her clasped hands in her lap. “We can look after ourselves, Blade. We had to before we met you, and we can do so again. Don’t feel like you have to protect us.”
He shrugged. “What would be the point in killing her? If not Mamna making the laws, it would be someone else. My time is better spent making certain of your safety and wellbeing.”
“If you were worried about our safety, then why did you kill that poor woman? You must have known what would happen to us all if you’d been caught.”
He placed a palm on the scar on his thigh and made a confession he would only ever make to her because she already knew his weaknesses and did not think less of him for them.
“Because I couldn’t sleep if I’d stood back and let her be raped, then eaten alive by a blood-frenzied demon. Although it’s made no difference. I can’t sleep now either, so I wasted my time and energy and risked all our lives for nothing.”
“It was hardly for nothing.” Ruby laced and unlaced her fingers, twisting them. “Despite what you may think, you’re a good man. You’ve reaffirmed for me that there are still people in this world who care about others. And as long as there are people like you, it will grow to be a better place. It might take a while, that’s all.”
How she could be so optimistic Blade would never know. Ruby’s life had been a hard one. The faint light of the lantern softened her face and lent it an air of youthfulness that was long gone in reality. He wished he had known her before she’d become a whore, but she seemed satisfied with her lot in life and did not waste her time dwelling on what could no longer be. She saved her money against the day when she was too old to earn her living on her back, and when that day came, Blade thought he might marry her. As a woman, she had few other options, if any.
Married women or prostitutes. In the wake of a goddess-ruled world, if a woman did not serve the priestesses she had to serve men.
Mamna hated women that much.
Ruby rose to leave, but a slight rumbling began in the floorboards beneath her feet, and she grabbed for the lantern to keep it from sliding off the windowsill and crashing to the floor. She looked to Blade with alarm in her eyes. “What in the world was that?”