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Deleted Scene: Reap the Wind


Warning: Spoilers ahead.  If you have not yet read Reap the Wind, the seventh Cassie Palmer book, please skip this page. 

Author's Note: This was one of my favorite scenes from Reap the Wind, which unfortunately had to be trimmed due to the length of the book. But I'm happy to offer it here, because I think it gives an excellent look into Rosier's view of what happened between Pritkin and his wife. It also explains why Rosier left Cassie at the mill in Wales; they'd had an argument just prior to that decision. Enjoy!

Lost Chapter: Reap the Wind

          “No,” Rosier said, as we struggled through some gorse bushes, hours later. “I rather liked her.”
          “So much that you never bothered to warn her?”
          “Oh, that again.”
          “Yes, that. You’re going to tell me that isn’t true, either?”
          “What I’ll tell you is that Ruth was more of a demon than he is.”
          We had somehow ended up talking about Pritkin’s late wife, I wasn’t quite sure how. Maybe because Rosier talked about everything. I’d never seen a man who had more trouble just shutting up. Or maybe I’d never met one who had been fawned over and flattered to the point that he honestly thought everything he had to say was fascinating.
It wasn’t. A lot of it I didn’t even understand. But Ruth . . . yeah, I knew that story.
          At least, I knew one side of it.
          “And what does that mean?” I demanded.
          “It means that she came to me, wanting advice --”   
          “From someone she’d never met?”
          “Who else? Her fiancé?” Rosier shot me a look over his shoulder. “When she already knew what his answer would be? Yes, she came to me. And very sensibly, too.”
          “And what did you do?”
          “I gave her what she asked for.”
          “You told her that demon sex with Pritkin would kill her.” I didn’t bother to keep the skepticism out of my voice. It was the main reason Pritkin hadn’t spoken to his father in the last century or so.
          And I really couldn’t blame him.
          Once the power exchange that constituted demon sex started, it apparently took quick thinking and a thorough understanding of the process to cut it off. Especially if you weren’t the one who had initiated it. But Pritkin hadn’t had that knowledge, because he hadn’t had sex with demons.
          I wasn’t sure why he’d passed up a chance to augment his power like that, since getting him to talk was almost as hard as getting Rosier to shut up. But it probably had something to do with the fact that demon sex could lead to a transfer of more than just power. Traits from one partner could sometimes be passed to another, and Pritkin had more demon in him than he wanted already. So he had deliberately avoided entanglements that might tie him even more firmly to his father’s realm.
          But then he’d met Ruth, from one of those rare demon families weak enough to consider intermarriage with humans. She’d been mostly human herself, living on earth, and giving every appearance of intending to stay that way. And I guess he’d fallen for her. Or maybe he just enjoyed being with someone he didn’t have to constantly hide part of himself from. But either way, they’d gotten engaged.
          “No, as it was hardly a foregone conclusion,” Rosier said testily. “I informed her that it might increase her own strength, as she hoped. But that a more likely outcome, given her power level, was that that the usual loop would become a drain, and that his strength would overwhelm hers. That instead of gaining power, she would lose it, and also possibly her life.”
          “And yet she went ahead anyway? Knowing the risk?”
          “Because that is what we do. That is who we are. Demons strive to be better than we were born to be. To rise above the forces constraining our lives and to forge them anew. To create ourselves in our own image, in whatever form we dare envision!”
          “Self-improvement is one thing,” I argued. “But risking your life --”
          “What life?” Rosier asked, sitting on a rock, the only one of any size available,
and pulling off his remaining shoe. “She ran a moth-eaten boardinghouse in Manchester where she eked out a living providing bad food and worse beds to the dregs of the
middle class. And she didn’t even own the house! She managed it, and for piss poor wages that would never allow her to do any better.”
          He paused to pour half a mountain’s worth of gravel out of the shoe. “She hated earth,” he added, grimacing. “One sympathizes.”
          “She might not have liked her position --”
          Rosier cut me off with a gesture. “Try to understand something beyond your own limited experience, girl. She didn’t dislike her position. She hated it. And with good cause. Our kind seek power like you humans seek air, and she had none --”
          “Yes, but --”
          “-- and her choices in the dear Victorian age,” he continued, talking over me. “Which your kind have romanticized to a ludicrous degree, by the way, were landlady, governess, companion to some querulous old woman, or marriage. She chose marriage. And to someone who could give her not only a new life, but a new world. It was absolutely the best play she had.”
          “If it worked.”
          “Yes, if. If her gamble paid off, she’d have everything she’d ever wanted, and more than she’d ever dreamed of. If it worked, she wouldn’t be merely an appendage to a powerful man, but a power in her own right, someone to be respected, admired, even feared. If that one roll of the dice went her way, the rest of her future was assured, and gloriously at that.”
          “And if it didn’t?”
          He shrugged. “Then it didn’t. But any demon worth his or her salt would have taken that chance. I would have. Was it dangerous? Yes! Was it worth it? She thought so.”
          “And you never told Pritkin this? Never warned him?”
          Rosier grimaced and pulled out the last of our water. He didn’t offer me any. “He never asked.”
          “That’s a cop out and you know it! She wasn’t just risking her own life. She was risking making him her murderer and you knew --”
          “You sound like him,” Rosier said bitterly. “Don’t try to put the blame for this on me.”
          “Then where should I put it?”
          “Where it belongs! If he had been where he was supposed to be, known what he was supposed to know, none of this would ever have --”
          “You’re blaming Pritkin?”
          “Why not?”
          “Why not?” I started to tell him exactly why not, but then I stopped. Not because of any hint from Rosier, who had a damned good poker face when he wanted to. But because something had just occurred to me. Something I should have realized before.        
          “You wanted her to succeed, didn’t you?”
          There was no answer that time, but I was suddenly sure of it. Not because of the expression on his face, which didn’t change. But because something finally made sense.
          Despite his too-many-to-name failings, Rosier did occasionally show a glimmer of genuine feeling for his son. So I’d never understood why he would set him up like that. Why he would deliberately not warn him about his fiancée’s plans, even though he had to suspect that Pritkin might not know how to stop her.
          “If it had worked, you’d have finally gotten what you wanted, wouldn’t you?” I asked slowly. “Pritkin, tied to a newly powerful demon, one determined to live in your realm. And one likely to help convince him to do the same.”
          To his credit, Rosier didn’t try to deny it. “I was . . . ambivalent. It was hardly a good match, certainly not the one I would have chosen . . . .”
          “But she would have made a hell of a demon! Unlike my son, who has all the power she lacked, and none of the passion!”
          “Maybe his passion is for other things.”
          “I know what his passion is for! And it’s a waste. Just like his life for the last century!”   
          “And how would you know?” I demanded. “When do you ever see him?”
          “I see him.” Rosier put his shoe back on, and unwrapped the bandage he’d been using to protect the other, only it didn’t seem to be working. A good bit of flesh peeled off with the bandages, and I winced in sympathy.
          Until he sloshed the last of our water over it.
          “Then you ought to know,” I said furiously. “He’s built an amazing life!”
          “Oh, has he?” The sarcasm dripped.
          “Yes! One any other father would be proud of! He’s not just a war mage, he’s a commander in the service. He takes on jobs nobody else could do --”
          “-- and he’s put his life on the line for his men, for the Corps, for me, more times than I can remember --”
          “Yes, he has a reputation as something of a dare devil, if you’ll excuse the term.”
          I’d excuse it, but not the tone that came with it. “You’re just furious that he did it. That he took your impossible bet and he won it. And made a life without you --”
          “A life.” Rosier snorted.
          “It may not be your idea of one --”
          “It wasn’t anyone’s idea of one. Including his!”
          “And what is that supposed to mean?”
          Rosier looked up from re-bandaging his foot. And maybe it was the pain, or possibly the company, but for a moment, he looked as demonic as he was. “Wake up, little girl. Wake up and realize what you’re saving him for!”
          “For himself!”
          “He hasn’t been living for himself since Ruth died! He hasn’t been living at all. He has been atoning. He didn’t join the Circle for the high and mighty sounding reasons you’d like to believe. He joined it because it’s the best damned way to get killed that I can think of!”
          “That’s absurd --”
          “Is it? You think I didn’t see him? Sitting in that damned farmhouse, emaciated and filthy, my son. Drinking the days away, waiting for it to kill him! But it didn’t. That Jonas person found him first, and fed him a cock and bull story about how the Circle desperately needed him --”
          “They did need him! They don’t have a lot of demon experts --”
          “They didn’t want a lot of demon experts! They didn’t want any! They hate and fear us, but they know we police our own. Those Emrys hunted down for them would have been taken care of anyway, sooner or later, by the council. What do you think, we’re going to let a few rogues ruin a good thing? Earth is too important a resource not to manage it well. Emrys might have saved a few lives, yes. But he hardly staved off major catastrophe and the Circle knew it!”
          “Then why did Jonas tell him that? You’re saying he lied?”
          “I’m saying he was influenced.”
          “By who?”
          “Who do you think?” Rosier stood up, wincing. “I knew Emyrs would never listen to me. I knew if anyone was going to get through to him, it would have to be one of his precious humans, preferably one who had no contact with his other life, or Ruth, or any of his thousand and one hot button issues, and coming up with one who fit the bill wasn’t easy, let me tell you! But I did it, and Emrys fell for it --”
          “You’re telling me you influenced Jonas? Why do I not believe you?”
          “I don’t give a damn what you believe!” Rosier started back off down the trail, forcing me to run to keep up. “I thought it would be a step in the right direction; give him a chance to work his way back. I hadn’t expected him to take her death that hard --”
          “You hadn’t expected --” I stopped, at a momentary loss for words. “Ruth died a dried up husk in his arms! What did you think --”
          “I thought like a demon,” he said, rounding on me. “And like someone with some sense. Ruth made her choice. She gambled; she lost. Regrettable, but --”
          “See!” He pointed at me. “That look. That very same -- damn it all! She was a woman with no life and no future --”
          “A woman? She was his wife --”
          “-- who made a sensible decision to try to better herself. I thought he might be angry that she hadn’t told him. That he might be sad for her loss or that she failed in her attempt. That he might miss her and the life he had thought they would have together. I never thought he would blame himself! Or me!”
          I looked at him incredulously. “You don’t understand humans at all, do you?”
          “I understand them better now,” he snarled, and started off again.
          “I doubt it,” I said, catching up with him. “Or you would have known better than to make that deal in the first place. What did you think would happen if you snatched him back? Did you think he was just going to sulk for a year or two, then go out happily whoring for daddy?”
          “No.” It was savage.
          “Then what? What the hell was the point?”
          “The point was to save his life!”
          He stabbed at the mountainside with his walking stick. “It just kept coming. First the council wanting him dead, and why not? They’d feared him since he killed one of their own, centuries ago, to rescue some girl --”
          “Girl? What girl?”
          “-- and thereby showing them exactly how powerful he was, how dangerous he could be! And for what?” Rosier looked disgusted. “My son, prince of the incubi and a hopeless romantic! It was insanity, I told him so. Did he listen?”
          “What girl?”
          “Just some slave. Ask him if you want the details, if we ever get him back! I almost didn’t. It took calling in some favors -- some very expensive favors, mind you -- to get him out of that one. And then what happens? He goes to earth. And promptly falls in love with a powerless child --”
          “Promptly? He was here like a century --”
          “But I bailed him out of that one, too. But this time, the council wanted assurances. And can you blame them? He’d just tried to kill me, over the life of a human, something that didn’t make the slightest sense to them. Who knew what would set him off next? He was a dangerous wildcard in their opinion, and they don’t like anyone they can’t predict. I’m frankly surprised I managed to persuade them to let him off at all!”
          “By assuring them that he’d end up as your prisoner.”
          “There weren’t many options.”
          “And yet the one they’d accept was also the one that happened to help you. How convenient.”
          “Yes, it was,” he agreed readily. “And the only damned break I received. Or so I thought. Until I saw what Emrys decided to do with this life I had won him, and won at a high cost, I might add!”
          “We’re not back to that again.”
          “You weren’t there. You didn’t see.” He hacked at some bushes with his walking stick, despite the fact that they weren’t remotely in the way. “He was going to kill himself, one way or the other. Not suicide, no. Not after Jonas pulled him back from the brink and forced him to sober up. But death by duty kills just as well, with the added bonus of extirpating his supposed sins!”
          “I don’t believe you.”
          “No?” Rosier shot me a look over his shoulder. “Perhaps that’s true. Humans aren’t the most observant of creatures.”
          “I observe plenty.”
          “Like the fact that he’s always in the front line, whenever there’s danger? That he volunteers, all too often, for jobs that by rights he shouldn’t return from? That he takes ridiculous chances, yet doesn’t seem to mind, or even be affected? How he actually seems to enjoy—”
          “Stop it.”
          “But then, perhaps he’s simply, what is the phrase? An adrenaline junkie? Yes, I’m sure that’s it.”
          Rosier strode ahead, but this time, I didn’t try to keep up. I let him go, biting my lip and trying not to think of all the times I’d thought the words suicidal and Pritkin in the same sentence. He wasn’t like that, I told myself. He wasn’t!
          But how many times had he almost died, just in the short time I’d known him? How many times had he almost traded his life for mine? I honestly couldn’t remember.
But that was a war mage’s job. That’s what they did, protect the pythia at all costs. He had to do that --
          And that scouting trip into Faerie? The one that had almost left him dead. Did he have to do that, too?
          I shook my head, trying to clear it. Everything seemed so muddled, suddenly. We’d needed information -- badly. Something had been trying to assassinate me, only nobody had known what. It seemed to have powers that nothing on earth had, and Pritkin had correctly guessed that it might be from faerie. He’d wanted to speak to some old contacts, get their opinion. I’d almost forbidden him to go; had wished I had, the minute he left. But then he came back . . . .
          Barely. And with a wound that, a little deeper or a little wider might have meant that he didn’t come back at all. I’d been so angry with him that day, so angry, but nothing like when I woke up on that damned hillside, and realized he was gone. And understood why.
          All I had been able to think about was that he’d finally done it; he’d traded his life for mine. I’d been so furious, and so worried, and so appalled, that I’d almost been out of my mind. I hadn’t been able to think of anything except getting him back, making it all right again.
          But now I wondered if maybe I should have just left well enough alone. He wasn’t happy, no, but he was alive. And he was part demon. Maybe, in time, he’d have adjusted to his father’s court, found things he enjoyed. He was so curious, and they lived so long, knew so much. He could probably learn so much there.
          Had I been selfish, to want to bring him back? Had I only been thinking of me? God, it had seemed so simple then . . . .
          “I knew what he intended,” Rosier’s voice was different suddenly, a velvet rasp in my ear. “Knew he’d help the Circle until he came across the one fight he couldn’t win. Then use it as a chance to perish nobly, perhaps saving the life of some fellow war mage, or someone else he valued . . . .” I made a sound. “And with that sacrifice, make up for what happened with Ruth.”
          I didn’t say anything that time.
          “And of course, I couldn’t allow that. You can understand that, can’t you? I couldn’t let him die uselessly, needlessly, in some human struggle that would mean nothing in a few years, when he was born to stride the centuries. Couldn’t let him die in some struggle no one would even remember, when he would be so much better off with me. You can see that, can’t you?”
           I nodded slightly, because suddenly, I could. Rosier’s court was beautiful, in the starkly lovely way of desert cities. Even in the midst of the crazy rescue mission a friend and I had cooked up, I’d thought so. It might take some time, but surely, Pritkin could get used to that again? Surely . . . .
          “Didn’t you ever wonder why he never talked about the future?” Rosier murmured. “Most people do. I want to do this someday, I’d like to be here in five years, there in ten . . . but not Emrys. Why talk about a future when you don’t think you have one?”
          And, finally, something rang false.
          I realized that we’d stopped again at some point, stopped and I hadn’t noticed. I barely noticed it now, being too preoccupied by a pair of green eyes, ones glowing with power I was still too confused to understand. But I understood one thing.
          “He did talk about it.”
          “No, he didn’t,” Rosier said soothingly. “He never --”
          I shook my head, confused but adamant. “He did. Right before the council’s verdict. In the street outside the council chamber, he said --”
          “Nothing. He was upset. He didn’t know what he was saying --”
          “He knew.” An image of Pritkin’s face rose up in front of my eyes, the boyish grin, the almost bashful duck of his head, the amused eyes, amused but with heat behind them --
          I blinked, and Rosier’s face changed, even before I shoved him as hard as I could in the chest. “Goddamnit!”
          “You foolish girl!” he snarled. “What is he going to do on earth? What is he going to be?”
          “Whatever he wants to be! You just said that’s what demons do!”
          “I said we reach for new heights! That does not include aspiring to be the flunky of a reckless child!”
          “But being prostituted by his father is okay!”
          “You --” Rosier closed his eyes, as if praying for strength. Considering who he was, I assumed he was actually doing something else. Like thinking of all the ways he could kill me once this was over. “It is impossible to have a conversation with you when you know so little about our way of life. Or anything else!”
          “The only thing I have to know is that Pritkin doesn’t want to do it!”
          Rosier’s eyes flew open. For the first time, he looked furious. “You have no idea how far you’re restricting him, how far he’s restricting himself. He could be so much more --”
          “So much more like you, you mean.”
          “You understand nothing.”
          “I understand that you don’t need to ever talk to me about my mother again. Not when you are doing the very thing you accuse her of!”
          There wasn’t a lot of conversation after that.