Deleted Scene #1 (there are three – scroll down for each one)

This is an alternate beginning. Even though I liked the atmosphere it created, I ended up rewriting it and starting it more in the action.

Chicago, Illinois

Beneath the full moon, the half dark of the night beckoned the dregs of society to come out and play, seeming to tantalize the luckless with all sorts of unearthly delights. Mist, falling with the night, encouraged the weirdness licking at Lexi Harrison’s skin as she strode the oddly quiet streets of Chicago.

For most people, the spookish flavor of the streets tended to intimidate. Not for her. Beginning in childhood, the sun was an annoyance where the night was home, surrounding her with cool, moist comfort. Others blossomed with the bright light of day; she came alive when the sun went down.

Except for tonight. For some reason, this night felt different. Tainted somehow. As if something lurked out there, something, well, evil. She didn’t have another word to describe the crawly sensation.

Lexi shot a cursory glance over her shoulder. The tingle of an unseen watcher had such a tight grip, she half expected to see someone behind her. Her body concurred. Agreeing with the upright hairs on her neck, goose bumps shivered along her arms.

Realizing her walking threatened to become running, she took a deep breath and slowed her pace. Damn it. No way was she going to let the odd sensations flooding her body frighten her into bolting.

Still moving, Lexi swung her backpack around and started rummaging through its contents as if she searched for something. Her fingers wrapped around the comforting checkered, smooth metal of the kubotan, a self-defense key chain she’d recently acquired. She normally preferred her sanjiegun, a three-section staff. Effective, but too damn large to tuck into her backpack.

And too damn obvious. Cops tended to look closely at a person walking around with a big stick.

If necessary, she could protect herself. A childhood spent on the streets and an attraction to martial arts, especially Krav Maga, the close contact combat system developed in Israel, ensured she had all of the abilities necessary to kick ass. To defend against attack from most anything. Except guns.

With the force of a battering ram, the memory of a sunny afternoon spent with a few friends shoved its way from her subconscious. Her breath caught in her chest. A loud crack shattered the bright day. Screams. The acrid scent of hot metal mixed with the metallic stench of blood filled her nose until she choked.

Then the clutch of her best friend’s cold hand as it gripped tight then loosened in death.

The sensations rocketing through Lexi’s brain felt as fresh as if that horrible day had just occurred instead of the seven years separating her memories from reality.

Recoiling from the mental assault, she propelled the bitter reminiscence to the recesses of her subconscious, mentally slammed and locked the door of that particular place in her traitorous mind. She so did not want to remember Kat any more than she wanted to remember her parents. The memories made her weak, something she couldn’t afford to be. Not on the streets.

As if to mock her resolve, her pulse twitched and skittered.  Get your ass in motion, Lexi, you might not be alone.

Gripping the kubotan tighter, she picked up the pace. Not hurried, that would be more stupid than wool-gathering. Ever see the TV shows where the prey runs and the predator attacks? That worked on the streets too. Prey ran; predators chased.

After turning at the next block, the harsh, orange lights of the dance club, she spent too damn many evenings as a bartender, drove back the dark with an eye-searing glow.

Finally.

Anxiety continued to tip tap along her spine. She should get her ass into the club. She didn’t. Instead, anger and curiosity warred with common sense. She wanted to know the source of the bitter taste strong enough to trip her senses. Wanted to know who skulked in the shadows.

“Screw this.” Enough was enough. Lexi shifted her body into a defensive stance. “Quit jerking my chain. Show yourself, asshole!”

Way to go. Taunt the bad guy.

Light spilled into the semi-darkness. The door of the club finished its swing and crashed into the brick wall with a loud thump. Her taut nerves recoiled. She whirled around, her fingers fisted around the kubotan ready for a thrusting strike. At the last moment, she jerked her hand down and to her side. Damn it to hell! She scowled at the man standing in front of her.

Big Joe, a talking, walking drinking cliché, and one of Blush’s regular visitors, blinked rapidly at her. His ruddy face and bulbous nose were at odds with his three-piece suit and the expensive Rolex on his wrist.

“Bugger it, girl, you scared the bloody hell out of me!” Big Joe glared at her.

Lexi’s felt her scowl deepen. He was scared. What the hell did he think her nearly two-foot leap in the air meant?

She took a deep breath to calm her galloping heart. Big Joe cocked his head at her, his expression questioning. His stocky appearance and aggressive stance tended to remind her of a bantam rooster, all vim, vigor and attitude.

With reluctance, she admired him. Big Joe believed the world and its occupants were worth saving and usually did something about it whether it meant donating time or money to the shelters or giving an extra hand to one of the many homeless surrounding Blush.

More than that, there was something odd about him. Something out of whack. Not just because he’d been tagged with a nickname at odds with his accountant background. Sometimes she swore an ancient soul peered through the twinkling blue eyes. She’d locked gazes with him once and had the feeling he’d seen deep into her soul. The soul-stare should have made her uncomfortable; instead, a comforting swell of peace filled her soul for a much too brief moment.

“Is someone following you?” Big Joe asked while he seemed to scrutinize night-shrouded shapes outside the bright lights of the club.

“Never mind.” With the kubotan tucked safely inside, Lexi zipped up her backpack and slung it over her shoulders. She lowered her head as a tiny smile touched her lips.

“My dear, what are you doing skulking out here?” Big Joe said. “Don’t you know it isn’t safe?” Initial fright absent, his words came out precise, his tone matter-of-fact.

Most of the time, Big Joe sounded American as anyone. When his emotions ruled, he spoke with an entirely different accent. A peppery mix of English slang and something else she couldn’t identify.

“Sure, Big Joe. I know. Just going in.” She stepped to the entrance.

“Lexi, my girl, I worry about you.”

“Why?” She waved him off as he started to reply. “Forget it.” Despite the barest flush of affection she felt for Big Joe, she still didn’t want him too close. Bad things tended to happen to those she let behind the barrier around her heart.

Ignoring his knowing expression, Lexi cast a final glance into the shadows. The sense of urgency faded. So did the crawly feeling of having strange eyes watching.

“You leaving already?” she asked.

Big Joe shook his head. “Certainly not.” His smirk scoffed at the idea.

She knew why. Sugar Mama Wanda. His goddess. A veteran dancer of forty or so, Wanda had a huge following. Bigger than Lexi’s. Probably because of what else she had bigger than Lexi’s.

Wanda loved to show off her size 42G breasts. If Lexi were into that, she’d have to admit Wanda’s boobs were impressive. They sort of stuck out there daring gawkers to, well, gawk.

“Silly me,” Lexi said. This time, a full grin stretched her lips. She couldn’t help it. There was just something about Big Joe, a charming quirk of his lips, the adoration he showed for an over-age exotic dancer.

“See you inside, Joe.”

“Certainly, my dear.” Big Joe winked and then pulled out his cell phone.

Uh, huh, now she understood. Not even the excessive charms of Sugar Mama Wanda could pull him away from his beloved technology for long. If someone ever invented a way a cell phone could be incorporated right into a person’s head, Big Joe would be the first to sign up.

W ith a conscious shrug of her shoulders to release the tension from her unseen watcher, real or imagined, Lexi entered the club.

 *   *   *

 Blending with the shadows, Phoenix, known to mortals as Mikos St. John, watched the Defender interact with the short, round man. Even from a distance, Mikos sensed uniqueness about the squat man.

 Not a mortal. Not an immortal. As if Mikos knew him, yet couldn’t place him. Not hell-spawn. He’d have sensed a hell spawn’s presence.

 Mikos jabbed his hands into his pockets and shifted against the brick-walled building, ignoring the grime. The irony of his predicament didn’t escape him. He, one of the Fallen, chosen as the one to revitalize the Defender’s faith and set her on the path of her ancestors. Even more ironic that time flew by on angel’s wings. A month until Samhain. Thirty days in which to convince the mortal to assume her destiny. He suspected her training would not come easy. Or without cost.

He slanted a scowl at the heavens, resisting the childish urge to shake his fists at the sky. “You couldn’t have given me a simpler task?” he muttered.

No answer would come. The Archangel would reply only when he wished. No sooner. For a brief moment, impatience and pride swelled. Why should Mikos have to wait on the whim of another? He was a power in his own right. As the last syllable left his thoughts, his internal rant crashed to a halt. What was he doing?

For a moment, he’d felt himself slide back into the same mindset he had prior to metaphorically placing both feet on the path to redemption. That same pride and arrogance that had led him to make the nearly irreversible decision to follow Lucifer.

Shaking off the morose thoughts, Mikos returned his gaze to the Defender. Her lips stretched into a wide grin at something the man said or did. After a roll of her shoulders, she entered the nightclub. Shrugging deeper into his loose-fitting duster, he blew out a sigh and settled back to wait. To give her time.

Time to ease her anxiety. Time to shake off any lingering sensations of watchful eyes.

Even cloaked, his form shielded from prying eyes, Lexi Harrison had known he was there. Watching. Following. While he’d known she couldn’t actually see him, her unexpected ability left him unsettled. Unsettled, yet captivated. None other than the first female defender had ever been able to sense an immortal.

This new Defender piqued his interest. And behind interest rested other feelings. Problematic feelings.

Dangerous feelings. She was forbidden fruit made sweeter by her differences. A deep, hidden part of him looked forward to her training, even if he couldn’t sample.

Determining he had waited long enough, he slipped around the man talking rapidly into a cell phone. Invisibility firmly wrapped around him, Mikos followed the Defender into the building.

Deleted Scene #2 

When I wrote this, it was a prologue and again, while I loved it and thought it did a great job in setting up the story, ultimately, I decided against the prologue and went for weaving this in later, in Lexi’s ancestress’ point of view. This is King Solomon’s point of view even though I don’t really say his name.

A temperate breeze played with the hem of his short-sleeved white tunic and shawl, sending the fringe dancing against his bare legs. Rich earth-scents followed the wind before the piquant, musky odor faded in the brightening light.

The appointed hour grew near.

Fatigue settled in his muscles. Preparing for this all-important ritual had taken most of the last day and night. Everything had to be perfect. The clothes he wore, the scepter in his hand, and even the sandals on his feet were created exactly as instructed. Like the vessel had been.

For a single moment in time. This moment.

What actions he took this morn would either free his soul or damn it, and his people, for eternity.

He stared at the innocent looking round vessel sitting on its fan-shaped base, until moisture fled from his eyes, leaving a burning sensation behind. The glowing sigils etched on the polished surface seemed to taunt him with his own weaknesses.

Fear raced through his veins. Could he save his people with this vessel? No, not just his people, he reminded himself.

Just before utu-shamshi rose into the early morning sky, the blazing orb bathing the painted desert in radiant warmth, he pointed at the jar and recited,

O Spiritus ego impero tu, O daemons in quicumque partes de ille universum tu existo, ad virtus de haec Sanctus nomen et ad ille Sanctus nomen of Deus quis litterae in sanguis in ille signum de an aeternus societas.”

The invocation, intoned in precise fashion, reverberated throughout the serenity of day’s break. Each word, as if possessed of corporeal form, cavorted upon the pleasant wind.

On his third finger, the ring, a gift from the Most High, shimmered softly. Made of brass and iron, the ring’s worth rested in power, not the material from which it was forged. A large center stone cut with the five-lines of the pentagram.

Of greatest importance, the omnipotent name of the Most High wrapped around the signet. To the unschooled observer, the ring’s inscription had no meaning. For him, it meant unlimited sovereignty. If he would but take it. He shuddered, jerking his gaze from the temptation.

Suddenly, a crackling sound, reminding him of brittle papyrus crushed in rough hands, shattered the peace of the light-laden morning. Insubstantial shapes whirled and spun about his head, their forms little more than wispy shades.

Again, he trembled. Moisture traveled down the center of his back taking away his physical strength, yet his voice remained clear and unyielding. This undertaking belonged to him alone. His sin. His redemption.

Shrieks and wails screamed behind the crackling. Despite coming as summoned, the fallen spirits fought and tested their twisted energy against his will and the ring’s magic. His mind bent under the pressure of each proffered temptation.

Wealth. Women. Slaves.

A kingdom stretching far into the desert.

Power and wisdom to rival the Lord.

Gritting his teeth against the spirits’ offerings, he began the final conjuration. A roar howled across the vast desert as notus, a great wind from the south, caught the battling demons and whirled them into a vortex of otherworld energy.

Sand kicked up and pelted his exposed skin. Keeping the ring aloft, he shielded his face from the worst of the scouring. Despite the torment, he kept chanting. The tempest spun toward the bronze urn. The force of the wind thrust the demons into the jar. Echoing cries of revenge battered against his weary soul. Then, silence.

Finishing the binding magic, he inscribed the seal to enslave the demons for all eternity. Released, notus fled back to his abode in the south.

Languor settled on his upraised arm. The ring’s weight seemed to have increased ten-fold. His arm dropped. The jar pulsed, the sides rising and falling like the bellows of the forge. Mystical images flared before fading to their original aspect, appearing as if they were simple symbols. Not powerful representations to summon, control and bind the demons’ will.

The deed was done.

He exhaled a ragged breath and regarded the large boulder behind which his attendants cowered. “Come, it is time,” he called. “Remove the vessel.”

The attendants surged to the object. He held up a hand. “Careful! Do not break the urn or dislodge the seal.”

His words came out harsher than he intended. No repetition of the ritual was possible. Not for another passing of the seasons. In their eagerness, they risked undoing the working. Everything.

The six men struggled to load the bronze vessel into the cart. Once fresh straw covered the jar, he waved a hand in dismissal. With a loud clatter over the rock-strewn path, the ox-drawn cart rumbled away. He lowered his head.

For a moment, he listened to the fading sound of the oxen’s hooves striking the rocks. Another weary exhale. He lifted his head, angling it toward the only other mortal to understand what he had done this day. The Defender stood solid, every armor-clad line rigid.

“You will ensure its protection?” The King asked.

No expression lined the smooth-looking skin of the Defender’s face. A brief tilt of the head responded to his question. No words spoken. None needed. Just like him, the Defender knew duty. Each defender spent a lifetime protecting the tribes against monsters. Those that walked the land. And those that skulked in the shadows.

Yet, this protector of mankind was different. A woman. The first of her gender to serve. Possessed of light copper-skin and rich black hair shining with a kaleidoscope of color in the bright light. She represented a luminous beacon of hope.

Underneath her body-encompassing armor, the suggestion of nubile curves beckoned. She met his scrutiny, her own cinnamon-shaded expression sharp and confident.

And knowing.

The idea of taking the Defender as his own had once teased and plagued him. Even if she had not dissuaded him at the point of her sword, he knew she was not to be his. Never friends, an uneasy truce resulted from the confrontation.

The King bent his head and considered the ring he held in his fingers. He must give the ring to the Defender and those that come after her. He could not keep it. Even hidden, the temptation to undo everything he had done this day would be too strong.

“Take it. You and your descendants will need it if you are to keep the jar safe.” He offered the ring.

She tilted her head then stepped forward. Calloused fingers brushed against his as she accepted the small circle. The King could feel his eyes widen when his arm tingled. He nearly dropped the ring.

Her fingers folded over the ring. She snatched back her hand, and after a second nod, swung up on to her stallion. With a final salute, the Defender pulled her horse’s dark head around. Putting heels to hide, she sent the horse galloping after the cart.

Long after the dust settled from the passing of the Defender and the cart with its precious, and dangerous, cargo, the King stared into the horizon. He could almost believe he saw his glorious Temple shimmering in the distance atop its lofty place on Temple Mount. The magnificent resting place of the Most High’s presence recently completed by the same demons he had bound. The King blinked rapidly. The Temple faded. A trick of the eyes. Nothing more.

His shoulders dropped, and he sighed. Mounting his own gray stallion, he headed in the opposite direction from the vessel. He had done what he could.

Had he done enough?

 Deleted Scene #3

With this one, I thought about making this a story about the Egyptian Gods and Goddesses and made the Goddess Isis a mentor of sorts for Mikos. I decided I didn’t need a character that was outside of the fallen angel/angel theme. At some point, I’d like to give Isis a story.

Mikos watched the infuriating mortal depart, his mouth pulling into a grimace. He hadn’t expected the Defender to refuse her destiny. Most of the defenders were men who understood duty. This woman clearly did not.

That is because she is different, Phoenix.

The musical tones danced in his head. He knew to whom they belonged. In the center of the room, a shimmering column bursting with light so bright he had to shade his eyes, coalesced into a female figure. A silken gown, complete with a train, adorned her. He smiled. No simple Grecian gown of white for this goddess.

Instead, Isis Panthea, Egyptian Goddess of Magic and Giver of Life, wore a flowing azure ball gown. The light purplish-blue reminded Mikos of the waters off Kaunos in ancient Turkey, a favorite place he went to when he needed to be alone. He bent his head. Not because he had to but because he respected this lovely goddess.

“Why thank you, Phoenix. What a delightful thought.”

He looked up. Her eyes were the deep crisp blue of a fall sky, clear and vibrant. “Good day, Goddess. How may I assist you?”

Isis walked over and touched his shoulder. In this manner, she strengthened his shields so she wouldn’t hear every word he thought. She didn’t have to do this for him. He knew the goddess had some affection for him. Not like the evanescent love between lovers, but more like a friendship spanning centuries. Either way, she gave him the reciprocated respect of not reading his mind.

“What do you think of our new defender?” As she spoke, Isis continued her stroll about the room, her fingertips whispering across various objects and relics.

“Did you and Michael work this arrangement out between yourselves?”

The Goddess shrugged. “Not exactly. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth. “You might say a solution to a perplexing problem presented itself. We both agreed.”

He sighed. He’d not get information for the Goddess any more than he would from the Archangel. Both Isis and Michael excelled in the art of speaking in cryptic circles. Mikos walked over and stood in front of the floor to ceiling window. The twilight hung a soft glow over the outside world, dusting the trees with a muted lavender blush.

“She will not be easy to convince,” he said. “Her training was left too long.” He kept his tone factual rather than critical.

One thing he knew with certainty was that a minor god, one of Isis’s indulged pets, had been responsible for guiding the new defender after her parents had died. Too tied up in playing with the mortals, the god neglected his duty and Isis, busy with other things, had let it go too long before finding out what her pet was up to.

The last Mikos inquired after that god, a tight-lipped Isis had told him in stabbing tones she’d taken care of her errant pet. By then, the new Defender, Lexi, had gone missing and he was brought in to find her. And find her he had. But not as he expected.

Isis nodded. “Yes, she will be difficult.” She turned her bright gaze on him. “Surely the Phoenix is up for the challenge,” she teased.

“Of course.”

Isis nodded again, her expression turning grave. He sat up straighter. Not often did he see the goddess’s sunny expression turn cloudy. “What is it, Goddess?”

“Mikos, this defender is important.”

“All defenders are important.”

“Agreed, but not in the way this one is. As you said, she is different. She did not have the benefit of a mentor like the others. Much like the first female defender, our Alexandria is alone.”

Mikos frowned. “This concerns you?”

“She is strong, but she does not believe. No one instilled in her lessons from the past. Because of the manner in which she spent her childhood, she will not be as willing to put her life on the line. A trait which, as you know, is of paramount importance.”

Isis glided toward him, the fabric of her ball gown swishing against his Persian woven carpet. He stood as she approached.

“Do not push her too hard. If you do, you could lose her. And that would be very bad for the human race.”

Another touch on his shoulder and then in the mere time it took to blink, the Goddess winked out of sight. He grinned. Her entrances were always more dramatic than her exits.

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Key of Solomon

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