As busy as things have been lately, however, I didn't forget a promise I made. Night Reigns will be released on Tuesday, the 6th. And, some time ago, I said I would post another deleted scene before then. So . . . today is the day! :-)
Favorite Quote Friday
Deleted SceneThe deleted scene I'm sharing with you today was originally intended to be a Prologue for Night Reigns. I cut it for two reasons. The first was word count. I needed to pare Nights Reigns down a few thousand words after writing it. The second reason was I worried that, because it isn't an action scene, it may not intrigue readers who hadn't read Darkness Dawns and weren't familiar with Marcus and Seth enough to be effective as a first scene.
On a side note, this scene was actually taken from a time travel romance entitled Rendezvous With Yesterday (not yet published) that I wrote before Darkness Dawns. Seth and Marcus both appear in that one. Seth has a small role. Marcus, however, appears far more often as both a mortal teenaged squire to the hero in the 13th century and as an immortal (and the heroine's next-door neighbor) in the present. Which is why he's one of my favorite characters. I've seen him as a courageous boy on the threshold of manhood and as a powerful immortal. :-)
* * * Darkness Dawns Spoiler Alert * * *
All but one tiny bit of information revealed in this deleted scene is revealed in Darkness Dawns, so you might want to skip it if you haven't read Darkness Dawns. The tiny bit that wasn't revealed previously doesn't affect the plot of Night Reigns in any way, so I don't really consider it a spoiler for that one.
Rhythmic thumping and muted laughter filtered in from outside and broke the quiet of the master bedroom on the second floor of Marcus's modest two-story home. Peeling back the curtains of the window that overlooked the front yard, he carefully avoided the scorching afternoon sunlight and remained in the shadows while he watched the activity below.
Bethany, Josh, and Grant were attempting to teach Robert how to play basketball.
Beth and her older brother Josh had been Marcus's next-door neighbors ever since he had purchased this house twelve years ago. Grant was a close friend of all three of them and lived down the street. Robert . . .
Lord Robert, Earl of Fosterly, was the man who had trained Marcus in all aspects of chivalry and warfare over eight hundred years ago.
Marcus's lips twitched when the ball Robert hurled toward the goal careened off the backboard without so much as brushing the rim.
He was appallingly bad at it and clearly grew frustrated. To a man who could throw an axe or a dagger with astounding precision, sending a rubber ball through a net must appear a simple task to master. His inability to do so, however, was only partly responsible for the frown that creased Robert's brow.
In typical Houston fashion, temperatures rapidly approached the century mark. The heat index hovered a good ten degrees above that. Robert's face was flushed and wet with perspiration, his T-shirt completely saturated. His arms and thickly muscled legs, left bare by the shorts Josh had loaned him, dripped as well. He was definitely having a difficult time adjusting to the new climate and had to pause frequently to guzzle the cool water kept in the shade of the front porch.
While Josh loped off after the ball, Beth smiled up at Robert and offered him advice and encouragement.
What an unlikely couple they were. Born and raised eight centuries apart, they had nevertheless found enough similarities between them to fall deeply in love and marry when, two years ago, Beth had unexpectedly been whisked back in time to the beginning of the thirteenth century and landed in Robert's path. Marcus, a teenager at the time and Robert's devoted squire, had been completed enthralled by her.
Now she was back, having been allowed a brief time to spend with her brother and say her goodbyes before she returned to the Middle Ages, and had brought Robert with her.
In deference to Robert's medieval mind frame, Beth had foregone wearing shorts herself today — Robert balked at her revealing so much tempting bare flesh to others — and instead wore jeans and a T-shirt. Even these, Marcus knew, had spawned some disapproval; and he could understand why.
The jeans were a pale, pale blue and hugged her slender legs and firm, shapely ass like a second skin. They rode low on her hips and allowed teasing glimpses of the soft white skin of her narrow waist and muscled abs every time her T-shirt drifted up. Several damp patches darkened her red shirt, making it cling to her full breasts and small frame in alluring ways. Her dark brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail that jounced and danced with every movement. Damp curls had sprung loose and clung to her temples and the back of her neck.
Her pretty, flushed face glistening, she caught the ball Josh tossed her, flashed Robert a grin, and effortlessly sent the ball sailing through the net.
She was so damned beautiful. Her laughter so musical.
And he had missed her so damned much the two years she had been gone. How could he withstand losing her again when she returned to Robert's time?
“You can't,” a voice spoke behind him where seconds before there had been no one.
Marcus stiffened. “Can't what?”
“Do what you are thinking,” Seth informed him somberly.
For many long moments, Marcus said nothing. He simply continued to stare at the play below.
Robert attempted another free throw, missing the backboard entirely. The ball sailed over the top of it, rebounded off the roof, and flew clear across the street. Swearing foully, Robert stomped down the driveway after it, but made it only halfway before a smiling Bethany leapt onto his back. Laughing, he stumbled forward a couple of steps, then tucked his arms beneath her knees and carried her with him piggyback-style, grinning at her over his shoulder when she pecked him on the cheek.
“Would it be so bad?” Marcus whispered finally, loathing the despair and vulnerability the question revealed.
Seth sighed. An unhappy sound. “You know you cannot tell her who you are.”
“I would not have to,” Marcus pointed out. He had thought it all through very carefully: How he could approach her. What he could say that would produce the desired results without exposing all. “I could—”
“Bethany is an exceptionally bright and perceptive woman as you well know. She would figure it out.”
“Then you go to her.” Desperation driving him, Marcus glanced over his shoulder and located Seth, all six foot eight inches of him, lounging in the darkness just inside the doorway. “You were the one who took her back in time. She knows you possess knowledge the rest of us do not. She would listen to you. You go to her. Then she would not have to know who I am. She would not have to know what I have become. You could—”
“Let me finish!” Silence descended in the aftermath of his shout. Marcus closed his eyes and mentally swore.
One did not yell at Seth. He was the eldest immortal. His power was incalculable. His true age, in what millennium he had been born, where he had been born, remained a mystery. All anyone knew with any certainty was that it was extremely unwise to cross him.
Yet Seth's face, when Marcus dared to look again, remained impassive.
“Very well,” he stated softly. “Continue.”
Marcus strove to moderate his voice and present a calm argument. “As I said, you would not have to tell her who I am. She knows you are gifted. That you can do things, know things others don't. All you would have to do is go to her and tell her you have had a vision or a dream and that she should do all in her power to keep me from journeying to London in September of the year 1213 or a terrible fate shall befall me.”
“If memory serves, she did attempt to prevent you from going to London—”
“Because she missed me and wanted me to visit longer,” Marcus gritted. “If she had thought some harm would befall me she would have fought tooth and nail to keep me at Fosterly. She would have chained me to the damned walls of the dungeon if necessary. So would Lord Robert have. If you tell her now, they will do so.”
Marcus returned his attention to the scene next door. “And then all of this will be wiped away,” he said tonelessly. “None of it will have happened. I would not be as I am and . . .” He shook his head. “All would be as it should be.”
“You cannot change your fate, Marcus.”
“Why can I not? You altered Bethany's fate. She would have died that day had you not plucked her from the present and delivered her to the past. And there is no telling what would have become of Lord Robert without her.”
A series of whoops and shouts erupted below as Robert scored his first basket.
Marcus had not anticipated what seeing Lord Robert again would do to him. The memories it would stir. The longing to recapture the deep abiding friendship and camaraderie they had shared. Robert had been the only real family Marcus had ever had, though they bore no blood relation. When, upon her return to the present, Beth had innocently introduced the two of them, Marcus had damned near broken down and wept.
“You misunderstand,” Seth spoke. “Bethany was always meant to live out her life with Lord Robert in the past. Just as you were always meant to live out your life as you have. I did not in any way alter her fate. Nor can I alter yours.”
“Fate,” Marcus snarled. “How I detest the word. If everything that happens is fated, how can there be free will?”
Seth sighed as if the complaint were not a new one. “The day of Bethany and Lord Robert's nuptials, I watched Lord Dillon engage his toddler son in a foot race.” Sadness flickered through Marcus. He had not thought of Robert's brother, Lord Dillon, or his wife Lady Alyssa in years. “Lord Dillon clearly had the advantage. And yet I knew before the race began that he was going to let his son win.” Seth paused. “Did my knowing ahead of time that Lord Dillon was going to throw the race in any way prevent him from making the decision to do so of his own free will?”
Marcus's fist tightened around the curtains. “No.”
“So it is with fate. You were fated to travel to London in September of 1213—”
“And be transformed against my will.”
“Yes. Some things cannot be changed, Marcus, even when it appears we have the power to do so.” There was great sorrow in Seth's voice. But not nearly as much as that which suffused Marcus.
He shook his head, wanting to scream a denial. It had been foolish to hope. Pointless.
His eyes fixed on Beth, followed her every move. His ears strained to hear every laugh, every teasing comment she made.
“I am weary of this existence,” he whispered despondently. “So incredibly weary that I must struggle to find a reason to rise each evening.”
“Did you rest at all today?” Seth asked in the most gentle voice Marcus had ever heard emerge from him.
“No. I cannot. Not while they are here. Not while she is here. I do not wish to miss a moment of it.” He swallowed hard against the lump that rose in his throat. “I will only have her for a few more days, Seth. What will I do when she is gone?”
Below, Beth squealed when Robert growled and swept her up into his arms, then dangled her upside down in response to her taunts and teases.
“Eight hundred years,” Marcus went on softly. “I have lived for over eight hundred years and the only happiness I ever experienced was during the time I lived at Fosterly as Robert's squire, then his knight . . . and this last decade I have spent living near Beth.”
“Your lifespan is that of a babe's compared to mine.”
Marcus continued as though Seth had not spoken. “There were decades . . . entire centuries really . . . when the only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that I would see her again one day. That if I could just hold out another century — then another and another and another — I would be rewarded with her presence once more. I could see her smile. Hear her laugh. Feel one of her sharp jesting punches to my shoulder. Have her hugs. Her friendship. Her affection.”
“You could have had more than that, had you wished it,” Seth commented cautiously.
Marcus nodded. “Yes. That has been the sweetest torture of all, I think, knowing that she could have been mine.”
Beth, Josh, and Grant began to play a game of twenty-one while Robert took a few minutes to cool down.
“When I was a squire, she told me that she had once had a crush on her next-door neighbor. A crush on me, though she knew it not. I did not realize until we met again all of these centuries later that . . .”
“That she could have loved you.”
Just hearing it spoken aloud was painful. “Not like she loves Robert. Not like he loves her. She could have been content with me. But . . . they belong together. They were made for each other. Even you have admitted that. And I love them both too much to ever betray them by acting on my feelings.”
Robert brought Beth some water and was rewarded with a kiss.
“How I adore her,” Marcus murmured. “She is my light, Seth. My candle in the darkness that has become my existence. When she and Robert return to the thirteenth century a few days hence, that light will be forever extinguished. I will never see her again, will have nothing to look forward to to keep me going. What will I do?”
When next Seth spoke, he sounded infinitely weary. “You will do what we all do, Marcus. You will survive. And perhaps, in time, you will receive another, sweeter reward.”
Beth jumped up and down and cheered when the ball she had just thrown swirled around the rim twice, teetered, then finally fell through the goal.
“There can be none sweeter.”
I hope you'll let me know what you think!
Have a great weekend!