It’s always amazing when a reader reads my book, but knowing you want more is the stuff that writer dreams are made of! Being a pants-ing writer who plays with imaginary friends rather than a writer who carefully plots and outlines, I typically delete unwanted scenes and never look back. This time though I decided not to toss all those unused words into the virtual trash can on my computer. So-tada! Saving them meant I had some extra stuff for you to read.
Deleted Scene: Love Scene between Morgana and Emeritus
Goddess Morgana rose from her luxurious bed being careful not to wake the still sleeping male sprawled across it. In the many years she and Emeritus had been lovers, she had learned that her Bennu only slept when he felt completely safe. It pleased her greatly that her lover felt so relaxed with her and she never, ever took it for granted. Weighted with concern for the future of the dragon-witch she’d helped create, she was too restless to return to her sexy firebird’s side. Instead, she walked to her balcony to peer out over her sacred grove. Those already milling about in what they believed to be morning had no idea they’d come to her after their mortal deaths. They just knew they belonged in her court as she had always intended them to.
Elenora’s great-grandmother now spent her days in the grove. It was the woman’s pious prayers that had originally alerted Morgana about Elenora and her growing powers. One day her former witch-protectress would come to the grove as well. Well, the contrary creature would if she didn’t choose to spend eternity with the damn dragons. She could never predict with any certainty what Elenora would choose to do. It was half her ongoing fascination with the woman.
Despite the fact she would deny it if asked, Morgana sincerely hoped it would be a good long while before Elenora had to make such a choice. Unfortunately, she was about to once again complicate her recently retired servant’s life. She had a new job for the former Jezibaba as soon as she settled with her alter-ego, Elenora the Dragoness. It was impossible for Elenora to be her best self until she came to terms with hosting a creature bestowed upon her by a goddess, a red dragon, and the most loyal witch outside of the Jezibaba to ever walk the Earthly plane.
“Still worried she’ll let you down, my love?”
Morgana turned and smiled at the handsome man who stood oh so very close behind her. “Now I’m totally disappointed. You’re up even though I was trying very hard not to wake you.”
Emeritus stepped closer and kissed her neck lightly. “And I was trying hard—very hard—to wear you out last night so you would rest more than just a few hours. It appears we both failed, my love. Whatever can we do to fix this deplorable situation?”
Her soft laugh coaxed a genuine smile from him. “I know you’re fond of her. Aren’t you worried too?”
“No. How could a mere Bennu affect the fate of a creature so many Gods are fighting over? I cannot change Elenora’s fate. I can only support her on her journey. But I do trust her to make the right decisions for herself. Isn’t that your real question?”
Morgana snorted. “Just because you trained and counseled my witch doesn’t mean she’ll always choose to do the right things. I can point her to whatever fate I wish her to have, but I’ve learned well in Elenora’s lifetime that the witch will choose whatever suits her whether I approve of the decision or not. Her dragon side only complicates things further by making her more resistant.”
Emeritus chuckled. “Your loyal Jezibaba is over three hundred years old, Morgana. You make her sound like a spoiled child who rebels against what’s best for her.”
“No,” Morgana said, chuckling. “I make her sound like Elenora. And she rebels against everything.”
Emeritus chuckled. “She’s no more stubborn and rebellious than her successor is. Look how well she’s doing.”
Morgana snorted. “Though young and untried, the Jezibaba’s successor is a hot mess with a valiant heart. I do not worry about the girl. It was Elenora who gave her that inner strength but my dragon-witch never had it for herself. Elenora even shields her truest thoughts from her dragon lover, her dragon ancestor, and…”
“You?” Emeritus finished. “She calls in times of need and I’ve watched her show you deference.” He stepped around her to look at Morgana’s face. “You want her love as well as her respect, don’t you?”
Morgana frowned as she sighed. “Must you phrase it like that? I’m a goddess. That unflattering conclusion makes me sound so…”
“Human?” Emeritus questioned with a chuckle. “Yes, it does, but tell me it’s not the truth.”
Morgana stared out on her grove. “I have given Elenora what she needs to live the fate Gaia and I have chosen for her. Much has been asked of her already but her gifts are not something that Elenora will ever be able to tuck away and forget. Once she accepts her dragon completely, she may live for a very, very long time.”
“Her loyalty has always been yours, Morgana. Give her time to settle with the dragon within her and then you may ask anything you wish. She’s already said yes to helping Leelu, future queen of the fairies. Now there’s a spoiled child if ever there was one.”
Morgana giggled softly. “Yes, but like Elenora, Leelu also has a good heart. Once she is queen, Leelu will rule fairly and with purpose, especially with the right person at her side.”
“You’re intending to give the future queen one your favorite warlocks for her consort, aren’t you?”
“No. You know the only humans I actually control are the ones in my grove,” Morgana said with a glare. “And I’m not giving Leelu anything. If anything comes of their mutual attraction, the decision will be Nathaniel’s. I confess I do hope he can forgive her for the past… eventually… after she suffers a thousand pangs of regret for harming him before.”
Emeritus smiled at his lover. “The warlock’s ethics will be a good balance for the wicked fairy. I approve of your meddling in this case. You may proceed with their match.”
Morgana snorted. “Glad you agree, but I was proceeding without your approval. Next time I choose a lover, I’m going to choose one who doesn’t understand me so well.”
“I’m immortal, darling,” Emeritus said, scooping her up to carry in his arms. “There will be no next time unless I tire of you, and luckily for you, I don’t see that happening.”
Morgana’s happy laughter sent the birds in the grove singing and brought a smile to the face of all those who were up and about already. Emeritus was the only creature who’d ever made her feel such elation. It was why she worked so hard to keep him. “You are the best consort any goddess could ask to spend eternity with, oh Great Emeritus.”
“Yes. I am great, aren’t I?” he agreed just to make her laugh again. His lips distracted her from the rest of her mirth. He raised his head and smiled into her eyes. “Things have a way of working out as they are meant to unfold. Let Elenora find her own place among dragonkind, Morgana. It is the only way she will ever become the magnificent creature she was meant her to be.”
“Very well, Emeritus. You have convinced me,” Morgana said with a nod. There was no harm in letting Emeritus silence her with his kisses for now. There was plenty of time to decide what to do about Elenora later.
Deleted Scene: The Bad Guys Are Plotting
Arsine turned his face away from the complaining dragon who was pacing across his library floor. He fought both his eye roll and his sigh of resignation for having to deal with the whining creature. Myron of the Flame Horde glared at the warlock. “Don’t lie to me, Arsine. You might consider me to be your hired assassin, but I am not one of your fools. No magical has enough power to reach beyond the demon veil.”
Arsine laughed with no humor. “My dear Lord Dragon, I pay you and your kind far too much to waste my money on lies. I watched them do it. They opened the portal together—both of them—the untried girl and the damned Jezibaba. I had a front-row seat for Thane’s demise. Your fellow horde dragon was devoured by demons before the rip in the veil closed back. Watching it was quite gruesome even when you enjoy that sort of thing as much as I do.”
Arsine walked to the window of his study. In the courtyard, servants scurried to take care of the grounds. They didn’t speak to each other more than was necessary to get a task done. A whip to their backs saw to that level of training. Too bad he couldn’t quite do the same to those caring for his house. He would never be able to have the order he craved unless he replaced his current wife, which he was highly considering. If she wasn’t the daughter of a fellow council member, he would have already done so.
Arsine kept his back to the dragon while he spoke, making sure the creature knew he did not fear him. “What you should find most alarming about my story is that your powerful Dragon Council did nothing to stop your fellow horde dragon’s death. From the stories you dragons tell about their greatness, I’m surprised the Dragon Council fears the Jezibaba so much.”
Black smoke wafted from his nostrils as Myron shook his head. “Thane was already sentenced by dragon law. He fled his punishment which meant he forfeited his protection from his would-be witch punishers. When my family takes their rightful places on the council, the entire magical community will be held accountable for such infractions against my kind. Unlike those currently in power, my horde does not fear war nor desire peace at such a price. The Jezibaba will not go unpunished.”
Arsine nodded. “Good. A rogue witch has no business doling out her personal idea of justice even if a goddess is her champion. We had an agreement with the Jezibaba which managed to restrain her from such unconscionable actions during her tenure, and we often had to use it to keep her in line. However, her successor has no such constraints at all, Myron. The Council of Witches also needs much revising. I look forward to doing what I can toward that goal.”
“Then do not think I serve you for money, Arsine. Our alignment on these sorts of matters is precisely why I agreed to help you—no other reason. The only question I have is whether or not we will succeed in our efforts.”
Arsine snorted. “Oh, we will succeed. It’s merely a matter of what it will cost us. Anything can be accomplished with the proper planning and execution.”
Smiling, Arsine looked back at his powerful ally’s human form. Inside the chiseled, muscular body of what appeared to be a prime human male was really a barely civilized animal, one he currently held the leash on and controlled. His recent interactions with this creature had convinced him dragon superiority was a myth, but it worked in his favor that Myron harbored higher aspirations for his kind. It also worked to his advantage that this angry dragon intended to take down the entire dragon family currently involved with the Jezibaba.
“Speaking of our plan’s execution, what have you heard from your sister, Myron? Did the Dragon Council demand to know the powerful Jezibaba’s secrets?”
Arsine watched the dragon nod in reply and turn away. Myron’s dismissive actions revealed more about the sniveling sister’s failure than any lame story could have. This dragon made as many excuses for his lack of progress as any other sniveling creature he’d ever hired.
“Celeste of the Smoke Horde came in her son’s place. She’s over a thousand years old and highly respected across many hordes. Selene could only challenge her so much without being removed from the matter. My sister’s tortured history makes her a perfect weapon on the council, but her emotional state over it is her weakness. Her hatred for Celeste has never been a secret. My sister never mated because of her.”
Arsine nodded and tried to look sympathetic, a very difficult task when he didn’t care. “Was any ground gained towards our goal?”
“The council is demanding the Jezibaba come forward and declare her dragon horde. If she refuses, dragons will consider her Damien Smoke’s pet human. Even if Damien consigns himself to that, someone with her power will never accept such a status. It would ensure no dragon would ever take her seriously.”
Arsine snorted. “While making her a dragon’s pet sounds delightfully spiteful, it doesn’t advance our cause to get her out of our lives permanently. We need a Dragon Council who would take much a firmer stance with her. Are you and your soldiers ready to attack?”
“Yes. My dragons are organized and waiting. Over half of the elite guards are now loyal to our cause. Unseating the current council members will be messy, but not difficult. Lexar must be taken out so my sister can ascend to lead. She is next in line. I and my soldiers will replace the current elite guards when she takes over.”
Arsine crossed his arms. “I’ll double the money I promised you if you find a way to blame the Jezibaba for the lead dragon’s death.”
Myron smiled. “You tempt me greatly, Arsine. Do you hate the witch that much?”
“Hate is too strong a word. She is the thorn in my paw,” Arsine said, returning the dragon’s smile with one of his own. When the creature didn’t seem to get the metaphor at all, Arsine sighed and got blunt. “Yes, Myron. I detest her.”
Myron nodded once. “But even if the Jezibaba dies, you’ll still have the Ba…”
Arsine raised a hand, cutting off Myron’s warning. “I refuse to hear that bizarre title. She’s a mere girl who is of no consequence to our plans. She’s using her power to stop those too ignorant to be patient. I’ll make sure she’s not around to interfere for the long term. Besides, if anything happens to the girl right now, the Goddess Morgana might get involved regardless of her love of balance in this realm.”
“So only the Jezibaba must die?”
“Yes,” Arsine said, nodding slowly. “We need only to kill the Jezibaba. If that’s not possible yet, then we need to make sure she is at least shunned by all dragons. Her alliance with your kind must not come to pass under any circumstances.”
Myron nodded. “On that point, we completely agree. Now I must take my leave of you. My future mate expects me to participate in her holiday preparations.”
“Really?” Arsine laughed at the absurdity. “Do dragons celebrate the human holidays?”
Myron laughed as well. “No. We celebrate dragonkind’s creation at year’s end, but it parallels the time of the human holidays. For those with human pets or friends, the timing merely works out well.”
“The Jezibaba will no doubt be observing Yule and the winter solstice with the Smoke Horde.”
“Too bad she doesn’t suspect it will be her only year to do so,” Myron said, striding to the door.
Arsine walked back to the window just in time to see Myron strip naked, shift, and fly off. It amused him to see his human staff run screaming to hide behind the nearest barricade. Their fondness for money made many things possible.
When this was all over, he would greatly enjoy having a dragon living with him as his pet.