Deleted Scene #1
This scene was originally in the beginning of the book, but was removed to pick up the pace during the first quarter of the story. There were actually quite a few scenes removed from this part of the original manuscript for that same reason. Enjoy!
When I reached the mouth of the hallway, a feminine laugh greeted me, and I recognized it as belonging to Sanchez. Jason’s followed immediately after.
I paused, bit my lip, and second-guessed what I was about to do. But I have to tell him! With a deep breath, I continued down the hall, stopping just before the open doorway into the lounge. With one more deep breath, I moved into the doorway.
The room was dimmer than the dining room, a result of having smaller and fewer windows. Jason was seated in a rough-hewn wooden armchair with dark red cushions, leaning forward with his forehead on his palm and his body shaking with mirth. Sanchez had her backside propped against a pool table that took up most of the room, just a few feet between her and Jason. More weapons and ammo than I knew we had were arrayed on the table’s red felt and stacked or propped up against the walls. Neither Jason nor Sanchez noticed me lurking in the doorway.
“And then he said, ‘That’s not the goddamn problem…the goddamn problem’s that we’ve gotta deal with you,’” Sanchez said, barely managing to get the words out before she doubled over in laughter. “God,” she gasped, “I kind of miss the bastard. He was a hot-head, but he gave us some great memories.”
Jason lifted his head, then leaned back in the chair with a sigh. “Yeah, he did…he really did.” He shook his head slowly, like he was reluctant to return to the here and now. “Do you remember when…”
As quietly as possible, I backed out of the doorway and retreated into the dusty office across the hall. I shut the door with the faintest of clicks, turned my back to it, and slid down to the floor, burying my face in my hands. I hadn’t heard Jason laugh like that since before my abduction, and I didn’t want to ruin his moment of happiness, even if it was a moment he was sharing with someone else.
A throat cleared.
“This is a bit awkward,” Gabe said.
Lowering my hands and raising my head, I blinked into the dimly lit room. The only light was coming through an open slit between the drawn curtains. Gabe was sitting in an office chair in front of the desk set in the far left corner of the office, his chair swiveled to face me. There was another desk flush against the right wall, which appeared to have all of the unwanted items from the corner desk stacked on top of it.
“I, uh, sort of appropriated this room as a work space,” Gabe said.
I stared at him, saying nothing.
“I’ve been working with Becca and Mase, trying to learn more about what makes their brains different from ours…and from other Re-gens, so I needed a private place to work.” He cleared his throat again. “Chris has been helping a bit, too.”
Finally, after a painfully long stretch of silence, I said the only thing I could think of that wasn’t relationship drama vomit; Gabe wanted to hear about that about as much as I wanted to tell him about it—not one bit. “Why’s it so dark in here?”
His chair squeaked as he leaned forward and rubbed one of his eyes with the heel of his hand. “I wasn’t actually working on the Re-gen stuff when you came in here.” He paused and glanced around the room, looking uncomfortable. “I was dreamwalking…checking on some things.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter.”
I frowned and tilted my head to the side. “But it’s the middle of the day.”
Oh, right. Duh.
There was another tense moment where neither of us spoke or even moved. Slowly, Gabe stood. He crossed the small space in a few strides and took a knee in front of me. “What’s wrong?” His clear, pale blue eyes were filled with so much concern that I nearly burst into tears.
No more tears. No more tears! No more freaking tears!
I wiped my cheeks, pleasantly surprised that, for once, they were dry. Go me. “I, um…” I offered him a dismal smile and a pathetic laugh. “I don’t really think you want to hear about it.” I started scratching at a spot of mud on the knee of my jeans.
“Ah…right, about that…” He paused, drawing my gaze up to his face. In the moment of silence, he raised his right hand to smooth back his hair. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about—”
The door opened, or rather, someone tried to open it, but my body was blocking the way. I gritted my teeth and shut my eyes against the pain caused by the sharp motion. Which happened again. Before I could be shoved by an inanimate object a third time, I scooted to the left side of the door and concentrated on taking deep breaths…but damn, my forearm hurt.
Gabe slammed his palm against the door, keeping it shut, and looked at me. Irritation flashed in his eyes. “Are you okay?”
“Just dandy,” I said with a tight smile.
He pressed his lips into a thin line and yanked the door open. “What?”
Sanchez brushed past him, stopping a few steps into the office. She turned and glanced down at me, her brow furrowed. “Mase and Becca are looking for you—Camille’s awake.”
My pain evaporated. Disbelief and elation took its place.
One hand on the wall, I climbed to my feet. Without a word, I rushed out of the office, up the hallway, and across the dining hall to the small, private dining room that had been converted into our makeshift infirmary. We’d moved a couple of twin mattresses from the nearest cabin into the space to make it more comfortable, and had arranged a bookshelf, a set of drawers, and a small desk against the far wall to organize medical supplies.
Camille was still lying on the mattress set against the left wall, as she’d been since we’d settled her in the morning after we’d arrived, but unlike all the other times I’d spent sitting by her bedside, now her eyes were open. Becca was sitting cross-legged on the floor at the foot of the mattress, and Mase was a giant, mountain of a man kneeling beside the mattress near Camille’s head.
He turned his head as I thundered closer, beaming as tears streaked down the dark planes of his face. He held out an arm in my direction and made a “come here” gesture.
“Where’s Harper? Has he seen her yet?” I asked, kneeling beside Mase. Looking into Camille’s murky gray eyes, I reached for her hand.
She blinked, smiled the tiniest bit, and clasped her fingers around mine.
I exhaled in one long, relieved sob. “You’re really awake! I thought…I thought…” …it was a mistake…a trick…a lie…
Someone was rubbing my back, but I couldn’t make myself care enough to find out who.
I gave Camille’s hand a gentle squeeze. “How are you feeling?”
Her itty bitty smile widened into something glorious. But she didn’t answer.
“Does your head hurt? Did they take out the catheter? Do you need anything?” I asked in a rush.
Camille’s smile faded a little, and she turned her gaze to Mase.
I looked at him, too.
“She can’t speak,” he said somberly. “She can make noises, but she can’t seem to say anything.”
Without warning, Camille touched two fingertips to my temple, then touched the same two to her own.
I frowned, my eyebrows drawing together. “You want me to use my Ability?”
Her smile regained its previous high-wattage intensity.
Luckily, though burning out my Ability combined with a near overdose on electrotherapy had altered what I could do—as in, no longer communicate telepathically with humans— When did she figure this out?—Re-gens were another matter entirely. It seemed that the process that brought them back to life altered their brain chemistry enough that I could still communicate with them…sort of.
I found Camille’s mind and formed the telepathic connection easily enough. So far, so good. Taking a deep breath, I looked into her eyes and said, “I’m here.”
Like always happened when I communicated telepathically with a Re-gen, Camille spoke in images rather than words. It was similar to how the animals spoke to me, though my mind had a harder time translating the Re-gens’ projections into clearly understandable words than it had translating animals’ thoughts.
I saw a book—a periwinkle journal with “Camille” stitched on the cloth cover in a darker blue thread. The cover flipped open, and the pages started turning, but they were all blank. When the last page was turned and the book was shut, it flipped back over so I could see Camille’s name once again. Slowly, the cover lifted, revealing page after page of cursive writing.
My eyebrows drew together, and I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Camille. I don’t understand.”
I saw a periwinkle photo album with a photo of Camille’s face framed in a little window on the cover. She showed no expression whatsoever. The pages flipped one right after the other, but they were all empty. The album closed itself, and once again, I saw the photo of Camille, except she was now smiling. When the album opened and the pages started flipping, more and more rapidly with each successive page, they were laden with images of Camille from all stages of her young life.
I bit my lip and squinted. And then it clicked. Oh my God. Holy effing shitballs. That’s not possible. “Camille,” I said, both in her head and aloud, “are you saying that you your memories are back…that you remember your life before?”
As Camille nodded, I looked from Mase on my left to Becca a few feet away on my right. We all wore identical expressions of absolute amazement, even Becca. Hours after our escape from the Colony, Becca told us Camille would be the same, and that she would be different, but she hadn’t explained how she would be either. Apparently she hadn’t explained it because she hadn’t known.
“Harper…we need Harper,” I said, not willing to look away from Camille’s face again. “Where’s Harper?”
“I’m here. Sorry.” I could hear him rushing into the room behind me.
“My fault,” Chris said, and I glanced over my shoulder for the briefest moment, surprised to see her. “I dragged him out back to, uh”—she snorted—“talk.”
“She’s awake,” I told them.
“So we hear,” Harper said as he replaced Mase by Camille’s head. “And I see that it’s true. Welcome back, little lady.”
“She can’t speak, but I can talk to her telepathically.” I looked at Harper. “Why can’t she speak?”
Frowning, Harper clicked on a penlight and held it in front of Camille’s face. “Follow the light.” He started moving it from side to side, and as far as I could tell, Camille tracked it perfectly. “Good.” He clicked off the light and turned to me. “Could be a number of things—damage to Broca’s area or one of the other parts of the brain that influence language, or paralysis of her actual vocal cords or throat—let’s hope it’s not the throat, then she’ll have issues swallowing.”
I alternated between nodding and shaking my head as he spoke. “Okay…so what about writing…and sign language. She can nod and shake her head, and she can understand what we’re saying, so it’s not like she’s completely incapable of language.”
Harper’s eyebrows rose thoughtfully. “Sign language is a definite possibility. ‘Course, we’d need someone who knew sign language to teach her…and the rest of us.”
“I know sign language!” I blurted, ridiculously giddy that, once again, I would be able to do something useful for the group. I’d been feeling like a bit of a lump since the human facet of my telepathy crapped out. “I mean, I’m not fluent or anything, but I took a couple quarters in college.” Unconsciously, I started bouncing up and down on my heels, which wasn’t the most comfortable action in my kneeling position. “If we get some books, then it’ll be better, but until then, we can start with what I know. I know a lot…some…enough to get by…”
Harper patted my shoulder, eyes smiling. “That sounds wonderful, Dani. Now why don’t you go share the news with everyone else while I examine Camille. You can share your plan with them, too.”
It was an obvious dismissal, but I was too ecstatic to care. “Yeah, okay, sounds great!” I squeezed Camille’s hand one last time before standing and hurrying out of the infirmary.
Deleted Scene #2
This scene was removed from the final quarter of Out Of The Ashes. In the original manuscript, Jake left as part of a rescue party in search of a missing group from New Bodega. This was the final scene before Jake left, and includes some sweet Zoe/Jake moments. Enjoy!
After spending the night with Jake, our bodies entwined, and reminiscing about our time together, Jake and I pried ourselves out of our sleeping bag safe haven and strolled out to the pasture to watch the sunrise. My limbs felt like Jello as I climbed up onto the metal railing, both grimacing and grinning at how spent and pathetic I felt. Flipping up my coat collar so my neck was covered, I stuck my hands into my pockets to ensure the small gift was still in there before scooting as close as I could to Jake. I leaned my head against his shoulder and closed my eyes in momentary contentment.
The dewy morning air elicited unwanted chills, but the heat of Jake’s arms as they wrapped around me fended off the all-too-familiar chill and provoked a wanton thrum inside me.
“I’m going to miss this,” he said, his voice a low rumble.
“Me too,” I whispered, idly fingering the rectangle stashed inside my jacket pocket. “I’m burning this feeling, this moment, into my mind.”
“Are you going to stay out of trouble while I’m gone?” His playful tone only partially covered the guilt I could feel coming from him.
I lifted my head and looked at him, my lips pursed and my eyes wandering around as I pretended to be deep in thought. “I’ll try.”
“Don’t tease me like that,” he grumbled. Jake’s grip tightened around me, and, removing my hand from the warm confines of my pocket, I snaked it underneath his flannel shirt and wrapped my arms around his middle.
“I’m going to miss you,” I breathed.
Jake kissed to the top of my head and inhaled. “I’ll be back soon.” When I didn’t say anything, he continued, “You and Dani are going to be so busy setting up the farm, you’ll be exhausted and won’t have time to miss me.”
“We’ll see,” I said, knowing that the nights I lay alone in bed would be blaring reminders that he was gone. The purple glow of dawn laced with the golden burst beyond the horizon. “I wonder what the sunrise will look like from the ocean,” I asked wistfully, imagining all the colors mirrored on the water’s glittering surface. “I bet it’ll be beautiful.”
Jake remained quiet, and I could feel his hope and regret culminating inside him.
“You’re making the right decision,” I said, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed despite my reservations. “When you come back, we’ll be able to start our lives together, all of us.” I couldn’t help but smile. “That makes me happy.”
The muscles in Jake’s shoulder shifted and the sound of his flannel shirt moving beneath my ear caused me to lift my head. I found him staring down at me.
“Yes,” I said, with a deep nod and lighthearted smile. “Genuinely happy.”
Relaxing, he refocused on the brightening sky. I settled my head back on his shoulder, my hand resting on his chest. The rhythmic feel of his heart against the palm of my hand was soothing as I tried not to dwell on the fact that this was our goodbye…at least, for a little while.
As we sat there in companionable silence, watching the faint outline of sea birds gliding on the breeze and listening to the breaking ocean waves off in the distance, I realized how much I owed Jake. Not just for the numerous times he’d saved me from danger or death, but for his selflessness and his commitment to us. He hadn’t given up on us, ever. Me…I was ashamed to think of how many times I’d pulled away and questioned us—at Fort Knox, when he told me how he felt, at Cañon City, when I thought he might leave, and here, because of Dr. Wesley…
“Thank you,” I whispered, taking a deep, cleansing breath. I’m not going to second guess us ever again.
“For?” he asked softly, his thumb drawing slow circles on my arm.
“For putting up with me.” My voice was teasing, but my words were heartfelt and honest. “It must be exhausting, and I’m not sure I even know why you do it.” I let out a self-deprecating laugh.
“Your brother pays me good money,” he joked.
I must’ve been quiet for too long, lost in thought. Jake held the crook of his index finger under my chin and guided my face up to his.
He stared disconcertedly down at me, but I refused to blink and let more unwanted tears assault my cheeks. I was tired of tears.
Jake brushed a tear from my cheek—dammit!—an intimate gesture he was getting a lot of practice at lately. “I thought we decided me leaving was a good thing,” he said.
I swallowed my unsteady emotions away. “We did…it is a good thing,” I said more steadily than I expected. Losing myself in the liquid copper depths of his eyes, I couldn’t help my next thought from forming: What if this is the last time I see him?
He eyed me carefully, curious what was going on inside my head.
I straightened and shook the pesky thoughts away. I didn’t want us to end with me crying pathetically; I didn’t want it to be about me.
“Zoe,” he said quietly, severely. “Remind me to discuss with you how frustrating you are when I get back.” He leaned closer so that our noses were almost touching. “And then I’m going to find ample ways for you to make it up to me.” Jake’s straight face and dry humor made me smile, and as his eyes narrowed with feigned contempt, I tried to stifle a laugh.
“Okay,” I said unevenly, then leaned forward and pressed a kiss against his lips. With little effort I parted them with my tongue, savoring the taste of him. Jake’s hand cupped the back of my head, and he kissed me so deeply that I had to grip the railing of the fence or risk falling off.
“Wait,” I breathed and gently pulled away. His eyes remained closed a moment longer, and I could feel his desire ebb and flow as he tried to control it.
When he finally opened them, I smiled. “You alright?”
Jake shook his head. “No.”
With a soft chuckle, I reached into my pocket and fingered the gift Jason had helped me find for Jake the night before, while Jake was still up in the reception. “I have something for you,” I said, unable to resist smiling and letting my eyebrows bounce. “You have to close your eyes though.”
“I don’t like the sound of this,” he said, giving me a sidelong glance before squeezing his eyes shut.
“Hold out your hand,” I said, reaching for it before he had time to act. I unfurled his fingers, turned his hand palm up, and placed his surprise on his palm. Slowly, his fingers closed around the cloth, hard-bound book, and I watched his relaxed, playful features tense. My gaze shifted between his face and his hand, honing in on his thumb, which was stroking the binding.
“You can open your eyes.” I guided his hand back toward him as he did. “It’s nothing big, but I figured you could use a new copy, one that would withstand your travels since the other one is looking pretty bad these days.”
Jake simply stared at the book.
I continued, too anxious to sit in silence. “It’s a compilation of Dumas stories, so the font’s pretty small, but I figured it’s time for you to spread your wings a little bit. You can take a crack at his other stories, and if you start having withdrawals from reading The Count, you can forego dabbling and—”
“You’re full of surprises,” he said, an amused grin spreading his lips.
Feeling his surprise, adoration, and gratitude was enough to make my heart swell, and I sighed when he thanked me with a toe-curling kiss.