Yeah, I totally dropped the ball on the daily teaser countdown to NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED. To my defense, I have been fighting the killer combo of sinus infection and debilitating migraine for three days so I kinda dropped the ball on life in general for a while there.
Anyway, to make up for my missing teasers – and to celebrate the Day Before Release Day of NO LOVE FOR THE WICKED (woo-hoo!!) – I’m posting some never-before-seen deleted scenes from NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED. Check it out:
Before NO PEACE FOR THE DAMNED was published, I was asked to write a handful of extra chapters that bridged the gap between the Prologue (Magnolia’s escape) and Chapter 1 (Magnolia’s introduction to the Network). These chapters focused primarily on the relationship between Thirteen and Magnolia. Below you will see the first of these chapters picking up right where the prologue left off. Magnolia had just escaped her family’s home only to be run down on the interstate. Things could only go uphill from there, right? 😉
This was so messed up.
Dying had been bad enough. Waking up in the back seat of a moving car, one of Father’s enemies at the wheel – I could practically hear Fate’s evil chuckle laughing in my ear.
“You’re reading my thoughts, aren’t you?”
His deep voice went perfectly with his huge frame. His shaggy gray hair brushed the car’s ceiling. I’d moved into the front seat after we’d made our introductions back on the highway. I suppose in some twisted way it was a blessing that he’d been the one to find me. Any normal person would have flipped out watching the person they’d just run over heal herself and rise from the dead. At least he knew better than to call 911.
“You bet your ass I’m reading your thoughts,” I said. He touched the burn marks across his throat. “And I’m not apologizing for attacking you when I woke up, either. You’re one of Father’s and Uncle Max’s enemies. You and your little Network of police wanna-be’s – you’re probably taking me to some supernatural lock up or something. As if anything like that could hold me.”
I scoffed and looked out the window even as my hands trembled. Power welled under my skin but I kept it in check. Of all the people in the world, I had to get run over by the man called Thirteen – big-wig leader of the secret Network and perpetual thorn in my family’s side. How many times had this man’s face flashed in Father’s eyes while he took out his frustrations on me? God, my life sucked.
“And you’re sure your father won’t be searching for you?”
“No one will be looking for me. They think I’m really dead.”
“They don’t know that you can heal yourself?”
My words stuck in my throat. I kept staring out the window.
After a moment, he said, “I told you back on the roadside, I have no plans to hold you prisoner, Magnolia.” His rumbly voice was strangely soothing. And he was telling the truth, which was the weirdest part. He knew who I was, of course, and who my family was. But he was torn. Like now that he had me, he wasn’t sure what to do with me.
I studied him from the corner of my eye. Everything about this man warned of big, bad, and in charge. Everything except his eyes. Someone like him shouldn’t have such kind eyes.
I tunneled through his thoughts again, looking for any information he might have about me. He didn’t know much. His Network agents had files on thousands of supernatural terrorists all over the world, not to mention an entire library on my father and uncles. But my brothers and I had never been allowed to leave the estate. We were a mystery. He rubbed at his neck again. I rolled my eyes.
“Is your throat okay?”
“I’m sure it will be fine. The skin is hot, though. Did you burn me, or just try to cut off my air supply?”
“If you want to know what my powers are just ask. Subtly is a waste of my time.”
The corner of his mouth twitched. I’d amused him. Great.
Surprisingly, he didn’t jump at my opening. “I’m going to take you to a Network safe house. There should be some clothes there that you can change in to.”
I looked down at my bloodied and shredded sports bra and yoga pants. How long had I been wearing these clothes? Days? Weeks? A safe house had a nice ring to it, but what were the chances it was really safe. Safe for me, anyway.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” I asked. “I’ve never seen someone with thoughts like yours. You know who I am but you didn’t even fight me when I woke up and attacked you.”
“I’d just run over you with my car. I killed you and watched you come back to life – ”
“But I’m fine now. And you haven’t thought once about killing me or torturing me for information or taking me prisoner and using me as leverage against my family – not that any of that would actually work, but still. And you’ve only thought about having sex with me, like, five or six times – make that seven – which is really weird because everyone always wants to have sex me all the time. Especially when they first meet me.”
His face turned a searing red as he adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. “Is that one of your powers, too? Enticing lust?”
“I wish. Then I’d be able to turn it off from time to time. No, the sexual thing is just part of my energy. One of the many perks of being me.”
My sarcasm must have been spot on because his frown deepened. An image popped into his mind. Another young woman, more like a girl. With long dark hair nearly as long as mine. She was at least ten years younger than me, barely an adolescent, but when she smiled and laughed Thirteen’s face softened. “Who is that?”
He took a deep breath. “My daughter. She passed away several years ago.”
No, that was wrong. She hadn’t passed away – she’d been killed. By my father? His thoughts weren’t telling. But given the fact that Thirteen’s job was to take out supernaturally powered bad guys, I’d bet good money that she’d been killed by one of his enemies.
Why did that make me feel bad? I hadn’t killed her.
“So, what? I remind you of her? That’s why you’re being nice?”
His jaw tightened. “You are exceptionally blunt, do you realize that?”
“I don’t usually have a lot of time to get my words out. And pleasantries are for liars.”
He raised his eyebrows and looked my way. “Yes, you remind me of her. But that is not the only reason I’m not taking you into custody. You haven’t done anything wrong. True, your father and uncles are exceptionally violent supernatural criminals. But that doesn’t mean that you are. Supernatural powers alone aren’t a crime. Until you give me reason to feel otherwise, you are just another person who needs protected. That’s what the Network does – protect people against that which they can’t protect themselves.”
He faced forward again. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. He was wrong. Supernatural power alone was enough to make someone a bad person. Especially when that person was a Kelch.
We exited the highway and were suddenly downtown Indianapolis. For a moment, I completely forgot about Thirteen. Look at this place! The buildings were huge – bigger than they looked on television. It was dark so I knew I was missing a ton of stuff, but there was just so much to see. Everything was cramped together – like the architects didn’t care if one place overlapped with another. There were lights in windows, lights in billboards, lights on cars, on the sidewalks, in the middle of the streets – I blinked and swear I missed an entire block.
We drove in silence as Thirteen wound up and down one one-way street after another. Finally, he stopped the car and cut the engine. The snow falling outside brightened the street making everything glisten. But inside the car it was suddenly crowded with darkness and silence.
“This is it,” he said softly. I scanned the houses lining the narrow street. Most residents were deep into their REM sleeps but a few were up, browsing websites or flipping channels. No immediate threats that I could detect but no way I’d drop my guard.
I turned in my seat to face Thirteen just as he shifted to face me. In the dark, the light blue of his eyes shone especially bright.
“I don’t trust you,” I said sharply.
“I don’t trust you either.”
I narrowed my eyes. “How many cameras are in the house?”
“Twelve. One in every room, except the bathrooms, two covering the backyard, three covering the front and sides.”
I lifted a brow. “There are only seven rooms in the whole house?”
“That’s not uncommon. How many rooms were in your family’s house at the estate?”
He shook his head and moved on. “I’ll need to go inside first and disable the cameras. Otherwise, the Network offices will know you’re staying here. I’d rather log a security camera update than fill out any paperwork on you just yet.”
He didn’t say any more but I got the meaning loud and clear: he might believe that whole ‘supernatural powers didn’t mean automatic guilt’ bullshit, but no way the rest of his Network would feel the same. Keeping me here was harboring a supernatural fugitive. That he got that, even if he didn’t believe it, made me think a little better of him.
I stared up at the house, my stomach in knots. It looked benign enough. Older brick, small front porch – it actually looked like every other house on the street. I took a deep breath. Things were moving so fast. I should just drop Thirteen right here, right now. Incapacitate him, steal his car – driving didn’t look too difficult to figure out – then I could drive and drive and never look back.
But then what? Go into hiding while I figured out how to live in the real world? I’d lived my entire life in the shadows of my family’s estate trying desperately not to be seen. I was free now. Free people – normal people – didn’t live like that. I scanned the street again. But if I stayed here, how long until Thirteen turned on me?
I jumped. “What?”
I knew he didn’t have telepathy or any other powers, but the way he looked at me just then, it was like he saw things in me that no one had ever seen before. He inhaled deeply and whether he meant to or not, his mind suddenly opened completely. For the briefest moment, I saw to the very essence of who he was. His hopes, his beliefs, his instincts – it was so much more than a train of thought. And it was good. In a way that couldn’t be contrived, everything about this man was good.
I never imagined people like this really existed.
“Okay,” I said, surprised when my voice was rough. “Go do what you need to and I’ll follow you in.”
He nodded then climbed out of the car and jogged up the front steps. He moved pretty spritely for a guy older than my Uncle Max.
I leaned my head back against the headrest and closed my eyes. Thirteen might be a good person, but he was wrong. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t done any of the criminal things my father and uncles had done. Illegal activity was nothing compared to what my family was really capable was. Evil was part of the package when you were a Kelch.
I sensed him back on the house’s front stoop. When he waved me over, I took a steadying breath. Here I go, walking into the house of a man who wanted to imprison every other member of my family. Yeah, no way this was going to end badly.