A. J. Larrieu A. J. Larrieu




This isn't so much a deleted scene as it is a character sketch in narrative form. It's an exchange between the heroine Susannah and her friend and employee Max. It occurs before Susannah meets her hero in Anchored, so it doesn't give anything away if you haven't read the novella.

Afternoon light came through the blinds and cast shadows on the padded floor of my training room. I tightened the wrist straps on my sparring gloves and stretched while Max slipped a striking pad over his forearm.

"Ready?" I asked him.

"Give me a second."

I paced, the rubberized floor cool under my bare feet.

"I noticed Evan hasn't been by in a while," Max said.

"What did you say?" My foot connected with the pad before I realized I'd struck, and Max fell back with an oof!

"Nothing," he said from the floor. "Absolutely nothing."

I narrowed my eyes at him and held out a hand to help him up. He ignored it and jumped back to his feet, crouching down and bracing his forearm on his leg.

"Evan has his own territory to handle." I attempted a spinning back kick at the target, but Max slipped sideways at the last moment, and I overextended and landed on my chest. Not many humans are faster than I am, but Max was a telepath. He could see me coming. I flexed my wings and leapt up, turning to face him again.

"Does that mean you guys are...you know. Broken up?"

I came at him with a punch-roundhouse-jab series, pushing him to the back wall of my training room. "Stop trying to distract me."

"I'm not trying—"

I shut him up with another round of jabs, forcing him to circle around the weight bench.

"I was hoping—"

The flat of my foot connected squarely with the pad, and Max sat down hard on the bench. "Hoping what?"

"I thought you two were hitting it off." Max pulled off the striking pad and rubbed his forearm. "I was hoping things were going well."

I rubbed my face with the back of my sparring glove. Things would be going a lot better if Evan hadn't tried to complicate them. He was a guardian, like me. He should've understood that the job came first. I beat my wings, the cooling sweat making me shiver.

"You sure you're okay?"

I pulled off my gloves and re-tightened my ponytail. "I'm fine."

Evan had been a distraction. He'd started talking about finding a place between our territories where we could live together. "Split the distance," he'd said. "We'll make it work." As though I'd even consider living at the edge of my territory like that. Irresponsible.

"Maybe it's okay to be a little irresponsible every now and then." Max's voice had gone uncharacteristically soft. He usually stayed out of my head when we weren't sparring. At least that's what he liked me to think. I frowned at him.

"I said, I'm fine."

Max only looked at me. Opened his mouth and closed it again. "You want to go another round?"

"I think that's enough for today."

He nodded.

"I'm sure you've got somewhere to be, right? What was her name? Kristen?"

"If you want someone to talk to—"

"There's nothing to talk about." I turned my back on him, heading for my shower. I'd spent most of my hundred-plus years alone. I could spend a hundred more the same way.

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