Spoilers ahead. If you have not yet read Hunt the Moon, the fifth Cassandra Palmer book, please skip this page. |
Since I recently put up a deleted scene from Dory's series,
I thought it only fair to include one from Cassie's. So here it is, a never-before-seen chapter from Hunt the Moon!
So what was wrong with it?
It was what I refer to as a "test chapter."
I always know the ultimate destination of a book when I
begin it, but of course there are many ways to get there. And
every once in a while, I come to a fork in the road, so to speak,
and have to
decide which path to take. Most of the time, the right choice is
obvious, but sometimes there are pretty big advantages to both
routes. When that happens, I've found the only way for me to
decide is to write them both out. This
the road not taken in this particular instance.
What was it about?
and another chapter that I'll post
seperately originally followed the fight with the Spartoi at
the pizza parlor. They were an alternate version in which
Pritkin was not seriously injured at this point (although it was
scheduled to happen later in the book). Instead, he and the Circle began an
investigation into what had been after Cassie.
like this chapter because it features Cassie's bodyguards, which are
always fun to write. And because of an early appearance by the
take-charge Cassie who would be seen again at the end of the
novel. It also set up the personal situation with Pritkin that would
play out later on, which is why a few paragraphs may seem familiar.
problem with going this route was that I needed Pritkin
injured for the whole second half of the book to work, and
there's not a lot of things that can almost kill a centuries-old,
half-demon war mage! I was also running over on word-count, so I decided to save space by having the Spartoi-as-dragon do the
deed. That worked much better narrative-wise, but it meant that
lost a couple of fun chapters. Of course, that means that you gain
them as a
bonus, which I hope you’ll enjoy!
is the alternate ending to the previous chapter and the chase with the
Spartoi. You need it to understand what follows.]
...Pritkin’s overtaxed shield gave out a few seconds too
soon, sending us tumbling through the air, with me desperately trying
to shift even knowing it wouldn’t work. And all I could think in
those last few, furious seconds was that we’d won, against all odds
we’d won, damn it, and it still wasn’t—
And then we were jerked up, so hard I thought my bones might separate.
I just hung there for a moment, bouncing on air, too dazed
to feel much of anything except some blood slipping ticklishly down my
spine. Then I noticed Caleb overhead, leaning dangerously far over
the side of the convertible, something close to terror on his
habitually calm face. And his hand out flung in an odd gesture.
I thought that might have something to do with the faint
golden glimmer wrapped around Pritkin and me like—well, like a
lasso. Nice catch, I didn’t say, because my mouth didn’t seem to
work. And then I couldn’t have anyway because it was
Pritkin’s arms abruptly
tightened, one hand grabbed my neck under my sweaty hair and he kissed
me. Bloody and battered and filthy, in front of half a dozen war mages,
dangling from a fragile spell twenty stories over a battle zone. And
none of that bothered me at all.
to the heavily muscled body, the skin fever hot with the thrum of magic
still pulsing just under the surface. And oh…God. A
surge of pure, molten lust flooded me, a rush of heat that started in
my belly and swept outward in an unexpected, uncontrollable wave.
Pritkin groaned into my mouth and pressed
closer, to the point that I felt the butt of a gun digging into my
ribs, and I didn’t care. The hand on my ass tightened, became two, then
lifted me as if I weighed nothing until I wrapped my legs around his
hips, my pulse beating hard in my throat and more demanding
places. The probe of a hot tongue sparked a coiling warmth in my
gut, melted my spine, made my whole body light up, until my insides
dissolved in a surge of shivery, achy desire--
And then he jerked away, face flushed and breathing ragged, and stared at me wildly. “God damn it!”
I didn't say anything; I didn't even think I could. And then
Fred spun past, still dangling by one ankle, his eyes glassy but his
face strangely euphoric. “Hot damn! Now that was what you
call bad ass!”
I couldn’t have agreed more.
Lost Chapter: Hunt the Moon (part 1)
Half an hour later, I was really starting to appreciate
shifting. And not just for the saving my life thing. I’d
never really thought about it before, but it got me out of a lot of
useless sitting around. However beat up I was, however lousy I
felt, however dirty, grimy and blood-spattered I might be, I had one
huge advantage: I could leave.
I could take my tired, smelly, filthy self off to a shower
and a bed. I could get something to eat. I could do the Scarlet
O’Hara thing and think about it all tomorrow.
Except for tonight, when I couldn’t.
I didn’t want to think about who might be out there,
learning from their third attempt and planning a fourth. I
didn’t want to think about how close we’d come to immolating a diner
full of people, whose only crime was to be in the same place at the
same time as Calamity Cassie. I didn’t want to think about
Pritkin’s expression, which had pretty much said that he’d thought it
was game over, too.
I didn’t want to think about that kiss, which opened up a
whole world of complicated I’d successfully ignored until now.
But I couldn’t seem to help it. Because despite
having plenty of other options, that was what my brain kept replaying,
like it was stuck on a loop. Not the chase, not the almost
plummeting to my death thing, not the freaking dragon. But
the taste of beer and spearmint and desperation. The
sensation of those strong arms lifting me, that hard body pressing
against me, the rasp of that unshaven cheek as he plundered
my mouth, as he took what he wanted, as he--
I broke out in full-body goosebumps, just from the memory.
I put my head in my hands, breathing hard. God, I didn’t
need this. I so completely and utterly did not need this right now.
I looked up to see Fred chewing gum and
peering curiously over the seat in front of me. The guards and I were in yet
another car, this time a rusted blue Fiat parked curbside a couple
streets over from the chaos, waiting on Caleb to remember our existence
and come debrief us. He didn’t seem to be in a hurry.
“Fine,” I said hoarsely, sitting up and pushing sweaty green curls out of my face.
The scene hadn’t changed from the last time I’d
looked. Something had hit a nearby hydrant, which was spewing an
arc of water across the road, framing the crash site and the hundred or
so war mages, emergency personnel and very confused police milling
around. The Circle was going with gas leak, one of the mages had
told me. Which I supposed was as good as any other story if you didn’t
count the four thousand pounds of dragon flesh bleeding out a few
with the numbers, it looked like the Corps was
having a hard time keeping up with the memory charms. I watched a
woman in a fuzzy purple bathrobe come out onto
the front steps of her building and look around, only to get hit with
one from a passing mage. She gazed around blankly for a moment, before
wandering back inside. But every few minutes she popped out again,
like a strangely-colored cuckoo clock striking the
“You think that hurts ‘em?” Fred asked, after the third go around.
I shook my head. “It just causes short term memory
loss. She’ll be a little woozy tomorrow, probably put it down to a
lousy night‘s sleep.”
I could sympathize. The adrenaline rush that had kept me
going during the emergency had burned off, leaving me exhausted enough
to sleep on rocks—or in a cramped Fiat that smelled like cigarettes and
old shoes. Only apparently that wasn’t happening, either.
Every time I tried to curl up against Rico’s shoulder,
somebody stuck their head in a window to ask if I wanted to see a
healer—no—or to ask me some question about what had attacked me—dragon,
large—or to ask if I would like some coffee but then to never bring me
any. I finally gave up and slumped in a corner, staring blankly
at the red and blue emergency lights refracted through the spew of
water. It was strangely hypnotic.
“Can you go find Caleb?” I finally asked Rico. “Find out what the hold up is?”
Rico looked conflicted. “Marco said we’re supposed to watch you.”
“And you take some watching,” Jules snapped. “Goddamn.”
He was wedged into the driver’s seat, trying to clean up
with a small pack of wet wipes he’d found in the glove
compartment. Mostly, he’d succeeded in smearing the blood and dirt
and oil around, making unintended patterns on the fine Egyptian cotton
of his shirt. I don’t think he noticed. The once soft waves
in his perfectly cut blond hair were now matted with ash, his nose
appeared to be slanting slightly to the left, and his iridescent blue
eyes were looking a little crazed.
I decided to let the comment slide.
“I’ll go,” Fred offered. “I need to make a pit stop anyway.”
“A pit stop where?” I asked. Because it wasn’t like he had to go to the bathroom.
“It’s 3 A.M.”
“Yeah, but I know where there’s one of those all night ones.”
“Fred is a fast food junkie,” Rico told me. “If he
was human, his heart would have given out long ago.”
“I was human for forty years and my heart was fine.”
“They didn’t have fast food back then.”
“They’ve always had fast food; it’s just easier to get
now.” Fred looked at me. “You want anything--coffee, burger, one
of those little pies?”
“I don’t think I need a pie. I'm going to be on salads for days as it is."
“They ruined them when they started baking them,” he agreed. “I mean, whose
idea was that? If I want health food, I’m not gonna be eating there in the first place, you know?”
“And it’s not like they changed the rest of the
menu. They’ve got fatty burgers, fatty fries, fatty coffee drinks,
fatty milkshakes--fatty everything. But for some reason known only
to the corporate gods, they won’t deep fry my damn pie!”
“In Italy, they still have the fried pies,” Rico said.
“Seriously?” Fred looked intrigued. “I might have to go.”
“You might have to go?” Jules asked, a little shrilly. “You might have to go to the land of world class cuisine in order to eat fast food?”
“Maybe you didn’t hear him. Fried pies.”
“How are you getting there?” I asked Fred.
“Well, I guess I’d have to fly. I mean, everything
else would take forever and ley lines make me want to—”
“To the restaurant.”
“Oh. Marco sent over another SUV.”
“With a driver?”
“No, he went back. Why?”
“Because you don’t know how to drive.”
“I do now.”
I frowned. “No, you really don’t.”
“It’s not that far, and who’s on the road this time of night anyway?”
“People who don’t need to be run over.” I glanced at
Jules, who looked like he could use some air. “Go with him.”
“He doesn’t need a damn pie, and I’m not going anywhere!” He didn’t even look at me,
too busy examining a five inch tear in his brand new coat.
I took a breath and told myself to be understanding,
because we’d all had a bad night. And because the rip wasn’t on a
seam, which meant Jules was basically wearing a couture
rag. “Maybe you didn’t hear me,” I said calmly.
“I heard you.” He snatched off the coat, opened the door
and hurled it at a nearby Dumpster. “I just don’t give a damn!”
“You know, maybe I don’t need a pie,” Fred said.
“And why is that?” I asked Jules.
“Why?” Furious blue eyes met mine. “I’ll tell you why.
I’ve been here less than a day. Let me repeat that—less than a day. And
in that time, I’ve been attacked by demons, assaulted by war mages and
then, as a chaser, almost roasted alive by a goddamned dragon! And why?”
“I have a feeling you’re going to tell me.”
“Because of a foolish, willful little girl who doesn’t
know enough to be grateful for what she has! Do you know how many
women would kill to be in your position? You live in a
penthouse! You’re waited on hand and foot! You have a generous
“I don’t take money from Mircea.”
“—and all you’re asked to do in return is to follow a few
simple rules for your own damn good! But oh, no.”
“I can take Fred,” Rico offered, slanting a look at his
friend, which Jules didn’t see because he was on a roll.
“If they hadn’t told me you were a seer, I’d think you were a goddamned jinx!”
“I don’t want you to take him,” I told Rico. “I want Jules to take him.”
“I am not your personal lackey!” Jules snapped.
And that was it.
“You’re right. You’re not.” I looked at Rico. “Put him on a plane. Tonight.”
“What?” Jules blinked at me, as if that was the first
thing I’d said that had actually registered. “What are you talking
“I’m talking about you, on a plane, back to
Mircea. Or whoever is holding the fort in Washington.”
“You can’t do that!”
Jules looked at me like I’d gone mad. “Do you have
any idea—” he broke off when Rico’s fingers closed around his upper
arm. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Putting you on a plane.”
“Because a human told you to?”
Rico rolled his eyes.
“Wait.” Jules said, as his friend started to get out of the car. He looked at me. “You’re serious.”
“Why?” he asked viciously. “Can’t take the truth?”
Annnnd something snapped. I didn’t intend to get in his face, I really didn’t. But I guess
whatever internal meter keeps up with these things had decided that
was tilt. Because I was suddenly through the front seat and into
the driver’s side, pushing Jules hard against the door. I don’t
know what my face looked like, but he was staring at me as if I was
baring fangs I didn’t have.
“Here’s the thing, Jules,” I told him, pressing against
his body, violating his space, pushing every button a vamp had and
doing it on purpose. “I’m young, I’m female and, yes, I’m
human. So it should be easy to categorize me, right?”
Jules looked at his fellow vamps, as if to ask what the
hell? But I grabbed his lapels and jerked his face back to
mine. “Right here, Jules. Right here. Am I easy to categorize?”
He hesitated a moment, as if not sure what answer was
wanted. But he finally went with the truth. He nodded.
“But see, it gets complicated. Because I’m not just
the boss’s latest bimbo. He marked me,” I yanked my hair to the
side, to make sure he got a good look at the two little wounds on my
neck. “And I’ve served as his second—”
“And for all I know, I might still be
his second. He never said whether he bothered to rescind it after
that particular emergency was over.” I laughed, a little
maniacally. “Why the hell should he? He never bothered to ask
me in the first place! And that means I outrank you, doesn’t it?”
He nodded, faster this time.
“But you know what? Even if I had no connection to any court at all, I would still
outrank you. Because I’m Pythia. I probably won’t be for long
at the rate things are going, but until somebody or something drowns me
or puts a bullet through my brain or freaking eats
me, as far as the supernatural community is concerned, I outrank you. I
outrank Marco. I outrank everyone except the goddamn Senate, and
that’s debatable. And I kinda doubt you’d have just spoken to a
senator that way!”
We stared at each other for a minute, eyeball to bloodshot
eyeball, until there was a rap on the window. Jules jumped, as if
he hadn’t heard anyone approaching, and I reached over and rolled down
the window. “What?”
There was a war mage standing there, with several more
behind him. He looked from me, to the vampire I was assaulting and
back again. “Uh. Do you require assistance, Lady?”
“Do I look like I require assistance?”
“Then get lost.”
They got lost.
“Actually, he probably would,” Fred said, after a second.
I looked over my shoulder. “Would what?”
“Talk to a senator that way. Jules always puts his foot in it.”
“I don’t!” Jules said, but his blue eyes were a lot less certain.
And although he really looked like he’d like to get rid of the lapful
of Pythia he’d somehow acquired, he didn’t move.
“You really do,” Rico told him gently. He glanced at
me, and then he shook his head, grinning. And then he decided it
deserved better than that and laughed, a warm, rich, full-throated
sound that was instantly infectious. I felt some of the anger drain out
“It’s not funny,” Jules snapped, but he still didn’t move.
“Oh, yes,” Rico said, wiping his eyes. “Yes, it
is.” He looked at me. “It’s why he’s here. It’s why
we’re all here.”
“We’re in hiding.”
“The master’s fancy guests.”
“He’s talking about the coronation,” Fred said, seeing my
confusion. “Everybody’s rushing about, getting things ready back at
court, and it was felt that some of us might be…uh…in the way—”
“In the way my ass,” Rico said. “Try embarrassing.”
“I am not embarrassing,” Jules said indignantly.
“A lot of bigwigs are coming,” Fred told me, ignoring him.
“Which is why they shuffled your bodyguards. They pulled the
suave, diplomatic types back to deal with the prima donnas, and sent
the more, uh, awkward of us into exile.”
“I’m not awkward, either!” Jules snapped. “I was trained for exactly this sort of thing!”
“Then why are you here?” I demanded.
He shifted uncomfortably, although that might have been
because my knee had hit him in a sensitive spot. “I--something I said
was taken the wrong way.”
“What did you say?”
“Nothing! It was an offhand remark.”
“What kind of remark?”
“I simply said that we might want to move some of the more
delicate chairs out of the ballroom if certain guests confirmed.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
Fred snorted. “Because what he actually said was ‘we need
to get the expensive stuff out of here before the fat butts
“Some of those are chairs are Louis XIV,” Jules said defensively. “They’re irreplaceable.”
I stared at him. “So is the alliance!”
It was the reason I was sitting in the stinky Fiat
surrounded by a bunch of war mages, each and every one of whom
probably also thought I was being a foolish little girl. Only in their
case it was for not going quietly off to the protection of war mage HQ.
But that that was exactly what I couldn’t do.
Having a vamp-friendly Pythia, one who might even have a somewhat
adversarial relationship to the Circle, was the trump card in Mircea’s
argument. It was something the vamps had never had, the prospect of
heretofore unknown power and influence, which he was dangling like a
jewel in front of their dazzled eyes. And nothing works on vamps like
power. It trumps old jealousies, petty grievances and sheer
pigheadedness. And it’s pretty much the only thing that does.
But in order for Mircea’s plan to have any chance at all, I had to walk
a tightrope. I had to somehow keep the Circle happy—or as happy as they
ever were--while not giving the vamps who disliked the idea of an
alliance any ammunition. Like running off to the mages at the first
sign of trouble.
“Mircea would prefer to lose a hundred antiques rather
than risk offending someone with a vote,” I told Jules. “Nothing
is more important than the alliance right now. Nothing.”
“That’s what he said,” Jules told me miserably. “Right before he sent me here.”
I’d have to remember to thank him, I thought grimly.
Jules didn’t say anything else, but the unease on his face
grew by the second. To the point that I started to feel sorry for
him. He’d only said what a lot of others had been
thinking. Probably most others.
“The master won’t let him stay,” Rico told me, looking
more sober. “If you send him back. He won't risk having him
blowing up on a guest like he just did on you and possibly costing
Jules stared out the window, looking blankly at the
gushing hydrant. “He'll trade me,” he said bleakly.
“Won’t,” Rico said. “Boss doesn’t do that.”
“I’ll be the first, then. He’s a diplomat. Everyone on staff is, everyone important—”
“Thanks,” Fred said sourly.
"—and it’s why he acquired me. He thought I could be
useful, but I just—” he looked at me, blue eyes pained. “All I’ve
ever had is my face, but it’s never been enough.”
I didn’t ask what he meant by that. I didn’t want to
know. Vampires were Changed for all kinds of reasons, and while
most masters were pretty damn careful about who they took on, others
picked up people like toys, amusing themselves for a short time until
they grew bored and tossed them aside. Or, in vampire terms,
traded them onto some other master like a kid would trade baseball
If that had happened to Jules, I felt sorry for him, but
it didn’t help with my problem. A master vamp would have had his
head on a plate for that rant, possibly literally. And if I really
meant what I said about being taken seriously by the Senate, I ought to
do the same. Or at least follow through on my threat and send him
back. I could talk to Mircea, make sure he didn’t trade him—
But that wouldn’t keep Mircea from sticking him in some
backwater business, probably permanently. Jules might spend
decades, possibly centuries, paying for a single mistake made after a
night from hell. Because family rank, once lost, was really hard
to win back. And exiled from court, he’d have little chance to do
I still ought to send him back. A real master vampire
definitely would, probably in pieces. And not doing so could end up
costing me whatever little respect I’d managed to gain--assuming I
wasn’t already in negative territory.
I stared out the window, where it looked like it was
raining. Little droplets from the hydrant were getting tossed about on
the wind, occasionally sending a spatter against the Fiat’s grimy
glass. It turned the dark car somewhat cozy.
God I was tired.
I looked at the vamp, and since I was basically on top of
him, we were eye to eye. His looked depressed, resigned. I
don’t know what mine looked like, but given his expression, I had to
assume they weren’t real comforting.
“You have to understand, I can’t have people around who
countermand the simplest of orders,” I told him. “Who think they
automatically know better than some little human. It’s not just
vanity or whatever. In a crisis—and we have a lot of those around
here--I may not always have time to explain everything. And I can’t
afford to run the risk of someone deciding to ignore what I say at a
crucial moment and in the process get people killed.”
“I understand,” Jules said, his face white.
“So can I trust you?”
It took him a moment to get it, and then he looked around
at the others, as if he might have misunderstood. “I…you mean…you
want me to stay?”
“I don’t know. Can you follow orders? Can you not be an ass?”
“That’s asking a lot,” Fred said.
Jules puffed up at him, but then he looked back at me and deflated. “I can try.”
“And can you not mention this to anybody?”
The vamps exchanged glances again. The others nodded
but Jules looked confused. “You—you’re
trying to preserve my standing?” he asked.
“I’m trying to preserve mine. It’s not going to help
my reputation if anybody knows I let you off the hook.”
He blinked, as if that idea had never occurred to him. “I—yes. Yes, of course.”
I sighed and climbed into the tiny back seat. “Good. Now will you please take Fred to get his damn pie and let me get some sleep?”
I think I was out before they closed the door.