Hey Everyone! You may remember when I reviewed You Are Mine by Janeal Falor? You can check out my review over HERE if you missed it but I am excited to share a terrific deleted scene that currently can only be found over here at Coffee and Characters. Formatting is a little funky but its a great read so check it out! And Special Thanks to Janeal Falor for providing Coffee and Characters with this fabulous exclusive to share with our readers
“This was cut because a lot of feedback said the story needed to move quicker. It was good feedback and the story didn’t need to have these details. BUT… this was the hardest thing to cut.”
“In this chapter Serena has to sit through the debate over who her new owner will be without being able to do a thing. That, and the interactions between her, her mother and sisters all getting the boot made me so sad. Plus having to cut learning more about the tournament and getting the first insight into the barbaric Envadi. *sigh* Some things just aren’t meant to be. But it’s here now so you can all get in on the details. Enjoy!”
The Original Chapter 2:
The floor of the study is scattered with contracts Father deems unsuitable. He’s inspecting three on his desk that haven’t been dismissed. I don’t even know who they belong to. I can’t decide if I’m curious to know who my new master will be, or if I want to avoid any aspect of the whole process. One owner can’t be any different than another, except my new owner will take me away from my sisters.
The room doesn’t distract me from the problem like I wish it would. Wish I had this problem when he called me here to inform me of the test. Being in the corner as far from the window as possible takes away the only thing worth being here for. Usually I’m here for punishment, though this feels the same. After hours of standing next to the bookshelves, with few details about my impending ownership, I can’t wait any longer.
I edge closer. My legs don’t respond well after being immobile for so long. They’re numb and weak. My feet drag across a discarded contract. I stare down at it. Such a little thing to cause me to waver.
Mother holds up her hand to halt my progress. With a scowl, I turn toward the book case. If I could just read one of them, any of them, it would break the tedium. Something besides the Woman’s Canon. The book titles make it seem like they could be about horseback riding, gardening, or law, but it’s hard to imagine one having something other than rules. I wish they did and I was allowed to read them. Anything would be better than this. Mother clears her throat. I drag my gaze away from the forbidden.
Once I’ve resumed my submissive pose, she leans over Father’s shoulder to survey the remaining candidates. Some of her nut brown hair escapes the tight bun. Her hand grips the back of Father’s chair. After a moment, he shifts back and she whips her hand beneath her belly.
“Just think if all your daughters are like this, Stephen.”
Despite mother’s words, I don’t wish for my sisters to have to stay for hours unable to see any news of their future husbands, and hear little more. The parchment beneath my foot belongs to a Henry. At least I know it won’t be him, whoever he is. If the fire was going, I would be tempted to throw them all in. I’m tempted anyway. A smile teases my mouth at the idea.
Father’s lips curls upward. His bulk leans toward mother and he rubs her belly. I’m almost unafraid of him as he smiles at her. His face is so light. Smooth, strong, and fresh. It’s glowing, though perhaps it’s just the afternoon sun streaming in the window. Still, his face is missing something of its usual strain. His mood has been growing more and more jovial as the requests keep coming. If he starts acting like this all the time, I won’t know how I am to behave around him.
“Indeed,” he says to her. “Perhaps you’re not such a failure after all.”
Abolish that thought. No matter which veneer he uses, I mustn’t forget who he really is. Mother gleams with pleasure at him, clearly not thinking the same. Then I realize what his words mean. He’s regarded me as a failure my whole seventeen years.
My chest tightens at the thought. I’m the first in the mass of daughters who should have been sons. The sole boy she had was stillborn. I ruined her womb and continue to curse their lives.
Until now. I have a chance to redeem myself. Redeem mother. Father beats her after every girl born. I’m certain that is why she’s just as eager to dole me out as he is. Surely, her girls will be better at producing warlocks than she was. Maybe she hopes I’ll marry before the latest babe is born. He’ll be so distracted by my new ownership, she’ll be spared his wrath if it’s another girl. If not, at least I’ll be spared the usual beating for cursing her the first time around. By then, I’ll have a new owner. Unless I produce nothing but daughters myself once married and follow the fate of my mother. I pinch my lips together.
I stare at Father and mother, not really seeing them. They continue debating the merits of those remaining, or rather, Father talking over the choices and mother giving the appropriate response. Besides trying to get her to bear him a son, I think her unwavering support of him is the only reason he keeps her around so much.
The collar on my dress is choking. Not necessarily the distraction I want. I don’t know why mother insisted I get a dress with one. The rest of the dark purple dress isn’t bad, just a little heavy for the warming spring. That combined with the stress, I’m sweating. If I had a say, I’d get a dress within the rules, dark, at least as high as my collar bone and past my ankles, with buttons lining the back and gloves to my elbows. Nothing more. Especially not choking collars.
My body aches. A sinking heaviness fills me. I need to sit, but can’t. I’m not allowed to use any chairs in the study today. Father said standing would help me pay attention. The floor looks inviting, even with all the parchment on it, but is unacceptable. I stay on my feet, trying to pretend I’m not limp.
“Who will you pick for her?” mother asks.
Father rubs his chin. “Ethan and Thomas both have good pedigree and power. I can’t see Martin being up to their level.” He throws another man’s hope for my use as a breeder off the desk. “Ethan has a better pedigree, but Thomas has more money. He’s the most likely candidate to fill an open council seat and Ethan after him. They’re both better matches than I expected Serena to gain me.”
I look down, cheeks burning.
Father’s words turn to mutterings. “Yes, they’ll both be on the council some day.”
He mumbles on, and I wonder if I’ve ever met either of the two. Though it seems rather improbable that I have, I try to recall if I did at the ball. I remember few names to go with faces, but neither of theirs are familiar. Would one be better than the other? Unlikely.
“Thomas does have more power. And he’s able to sway even me at times. He’s more apt to be a Chancellor or even the Grand Chancellor.” He throws a parchment on the floor. “Send word, Agatha. Thomas it is. I’ve no qualms about any of his requirements. We can get this sealed and move ahead with the engagement ceremony and wedding as he wishes.”
“Councilman Stephen, the engagement ceremony is in six weeks,” mother says. “The baby will come around then and I’d like to be there for the ceremony.”
Maroon light blasts from Father’s hands. I reach forward hoping to do something, but know it will be too late. She’s too far away. The spell surges straight for her, but at the last moment, he forces it to the ground. A few parchments burst into flames.
Father shoots an aqua-colored spell, the light washing over the flames, putting them out. “Wenchit! No one cares if you’re there, woman. Just bear me a son.”
Mother pales. Her chest heaves. I realize I’m shaking. Taking a chance, I sway against the bookshelf next to me. If father hadn’t stopped himself at the last moment, he could have harmed the baby. An unpardonable sin. A death sentence. But he stopped himself. Is that good or bad? Bad. It was bad. If he hadn’t- No. Can’t contemplate such things.
“Of course,” mother says. “Forgive me for being so thoughtless. The babe comes first.”
Father leans back in his chair. I heave myself away from the shelves before he notices. He pulls the remaining parchment closer to him. “Stop thinking so much, Agatha, and get a note to Thomas about his acceptance. Send a note to the rest of the candidates with a polite refusal and a reminder we have another daughter turning seventeen in eleven months.”
My stomach churns at the thought of Cynthia going through this. She can’t understand my reluctance. When she heard news of my testing and saw the suitors requesting for my hand, she tried sneaking in Father’s study to see all the requests.
When she got caught, Father was livid, going into one of his rampages. Despite her poor choice, she doesn’t deserve punishment for curiosity. Wanting to know her fate. At least I don’t think she does. I insisted she was there on my behalf. My body still aches from the hexes he threw at me. But at least she wasn’t hurt.
After I missed dinner that night, she snuck me a roll and chided me for taking the blame like always. Perhaps when I’m gone she’ll understand why I do. Father’s fury is never easy, but seeing my sisters hurt is worse. Regardless of Father, she’ll find a way to get the parchments when mother finishes contacting the warlocks. The fireplace would be better for them.
Mother listens while Father dictates instructions. I rub my head. Perhaps I’m the mistaken one. I should be more like Cynthia, instead of wishing we didn’t have to go through it. She would be the one to make an excellent Grand Chancellor’s wife. She could probably charm the barbaric ways out of the Envadi. I would make them worse.
“You’re dismissed, Serena,” Father says.
After shifting back and forth a few times, I at last work up courage. “May I know more about my future husband?”
“It doesn’t concern you. Go make sure you sisters are staying out of trouble.”
I can’t move. “Why am I here then?”
“Because you need to appreciate all the bother I’m going through. I do all this and you didn’t want to enter the marriage pool. Next you’ll tell me you don’t want to marry, even though I’ve found the best. Get out, wench.”
“I just thought that-” His fingers spark. I know better than to continue crossing a warlock and take a step back. “Yes, Father.”
I rush from the room. Bethany is leaning against the wall several feet away, her gaze meeting mine.
“Did he decide?”
I glance toward his study. “I suppose so.”
“It’s all been planned,” mother says. “We’ll have to get a dress, of course, but everything else is ready.”
If my hands weren’t in a sticky ball of dough, I think I would excuse myself for the water closet. I work the dough harder, my arms aching with the effort. Flour covers the counter and the boards beneath my feet. I blow a strand of mahogany hair from my face.
“Thomas responded earlier this morning,” mother continues. “His note sounded rather anxious for the ceremony, though you’re already his. Six weeks and you will have your engagement ceremony. Just think of it.”
Bethany looks at me, eyes shining with unshed tears. I try to give her a reassuring smile, but it feels more like a grimace. We should just be grateful it’s not three weeks, the standard wait time between the contract and engagement. Nearby, on the rug next to mother’s sofa, Cynthia’s playing dolls with the youngest girls. Little Molly crawls around, babbling softly.
My face scrunches as I try to hold back tears. How can I leave them? Not that I have a choice, but who will protect them from Father when I’m gone? I punch the bread and resume kneading. The yeasty smell is soothing.
“Thomas has invited us all to come and stay with him for the tournament. Did you know he’s going to be dueling in it?”
“No, mother,” Cynthia hides her face behind a doll then peeks out. The girls laugh. “Do you think he’ll do well?”
“Father says he’s one of the most powerful warlocks in Chardonia. We know he’ll do better than those coming from other countries, but Father thinks he’ll do well against other Chardonians despite being so young.”
Father would know. He competed in tournaments until he won this house and many of our possessions when I was eight.
“What do you think of him, mother?” Bethany asks.
“I haven’t met him myself yet, but he seems such a kind man. So thoughtful of us women, inviting us to come along. Wouldn’t expect it of one who lost his parents at an early age, but he’s managed well. Father doesn’t want me at the tournament with the babe, though. Afraid some outsider will hex me or some nonsense.” She lounges across the couch and rubs her belly. “The younger girls will stay here with me, of course. But Cynthia will go in my stead.”
“Really? Just think of the new things I’ll see.” Cynthia grins.
“Might I go as well, mother?” Bethany asks.
“Of course not. Barely fifteen. You haven’t the stomach for a tournament. None of us women do, really, but I’m sure your sisters will manage to avoid paying too close of attention to the tournament itself. The younger girls will need you, anyway. But Serena, for you and Cynthia there will be entertainment and dining, gossip of all sorts. How I wish I could attend.” She sniffs.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have gotten with child, then.” The words escape my mouth before I can stop them.
The chatter halts. Mother’s hand covers her mouth. Even the little girls stare at me with round eyes. My fingers twist in the dough.
“I believe she meant it would have been good if you had gotten with child after the tournament. Then you would have been able to attend,” Bethany says.
“Y-yes. That’s what I meant. I would like for you to be there.” I can’t look at mother. I didn’t mean it. Not really. It’s just that having mother attend me would be of more aid than my sister. Cynthia has never done any of this before. How will she help me through it?
“Sorry, mother,” I whisper. “I didn’t mean it.”
She sags into the sofa, the face paint around her lips smeared. “You are forgiven, child. I know you want me there, I’ll do what I can.”
“I’m sure the thought will help,” Bethany says when I stay silent.
If thoughts could help me, I would have gotten myself away from the situation with musings of my own.
Sally bursts in the back door, her shoes clomping as she runs to me. “Here’s the eggs.”
“Not so loud,” I whisper. Mother doesn’t seem to mind the noise yet, but she could change her mind and who knows where Father is. If he hears her, there’ll be trouble. “Remember to keep your voice down and walk, don’t run.”
I take the eggs from her. “I know, dear one. You can play with the others now if you like”
She rushes over to the other girls and flops down on the floor with them.
Mother grabs her knitting. “Well, in any case, the tournament will be a great diversion for you. Thomas may even be crowned Champion. I wonder how many participants from other countries will attend. Some of their food is so delicious. Chryos is sure to send many participants. They always do. For your sakes, I pray Envadi doesn’t send any this year, but they’re bound to.”
“What were the Envadi like that you met, mother?” Cynthia asks.
I’m curious to know, as well. The little I know comes from bits of stories and rumors of their barbaric treatment of women and children. Blood thirsty animals with little regard for Chardonian ways.
“I never met any personally of course, but they’re all giants. And none of them went to the feast on the last night. It’s like they don’t know how to have any fun. You girls beware of them.”
“I’m confident I won’t have any dealings with them, should they attend,” I say.
“Of course it won’t come to that. Father wouldn’t allow such a thing. I was more worried for you being in their presence at all. They always cause the most deaths, you know. Five years ago, I saw them murder seven warlocks. Seven! There were only fifteen killed all together. Those beasts. They can’t seem to keep their barbaric ways from showing.
“Don’t you worry too much, though. There have been fewer deaths in recent years. I’ll send the soothing tea with you in case you witness any.”
I cringe. So far, she’s never made any of my sisters take it, only me. Apparently, I need more calming down than my sisters.
Mother continues, “Your box is right next to the Grand Chancellor’s, so of course you will see the very best of everything. Perhaps you will even meet him.” She puts down her blanket long enough to pop a grape in her mouth. “How I wish I was going.”
I meet Bethany’s gaze. She shakes her head. No sneering comments, then.
I say, “I’ll be sure to tell you all about him, if we should meet.”
Mother claps her hands together. “That would be lovely, dear. He might pronounce a blessing on your marriage. Think what that would do for our family. But mind you don’t mouth off to Father. We can’t have you sent to your engagement ceremony battered, now can we? Heaven help us if Thomas finds out how willful you are and turns you into a tarnished before you wed. Can you imagine what that would do to me?”
An image of those with dark tattoos covering their faces comes to mind. My hands shake as I place the ball of dough in a bowl. “No, mother. I’ll endeavor to behave.”
“More than endeavor. Do.”
Mother prattles on, but I no longer pay attention. Becoming a tarnished scares me more than the thought of Father or marriage. It hadn’t crossed my mind that it could happen to me now that I’m betrothed.
Yet, my new owner can do with me as he wills, even if it means making me barren and unmarriageable, doomed to a life of work alongside the other tarnished. Men who have no magic. Women whose magic levels are of little use breeding or have misbehaved so terribly, they’ve been permanently shunned. All spelled to be barren, bald and inked. All forced to work. Worth less than the shadows they cast.
Bethany sets out some pans. I put the dough in them to rise and pump water until there is enough to wash my hands. After they are free of dough, I slice an apple and give a piece to each of the young girls. Cynthia smiles as she helps Molly gum the fruit. The younger girls are usually spared from Father’s wrath. Will it stay that way when I’m gone?