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?”
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?