Protector

Deleted Scenes

Deleted Scene #1:  This came after Josh and Edie first started working the jigsaw puzzle together.  I ultimately cut it as unnecessary:

Josh watched Edie go.  When her door closed softly behind her, he stared down at the puzzle they’d partly assembled.  He’d come very close to spilling a lot tonight.  Good thing he’d managed to stop.  His family issues weren’t Edie’s concern.

Funny, though, how something like a jigsaw puzzle, even one he’d never seen before, could bring things back.  He could almost see his mom sitting at their dining room table, her eyes narrowed as she looked for another piece that would fit.

She would’ve liked Edie.

Unfortunately, Josh liked Edie too much.  He always had, and living in such confined quarters was making temptation tough to resist.  His fingers tingled with the memory of her soft skin, and his groin throbbed.  Good thing the table had blocked Edie’s view of him.  The pajamas and robe didn’t offer much concealment.

He’d been an idiot to touch her.  She’d opened some tap inside him where the mushy feelings lurked.  Or maybe that was because of the whole potentially fatal dark energy sapping your life force issue.  Either way, he had to lock his feelings down before he saw her in the morning.

Yet the images of her eyes warming, of the sweet color rising over her cheekbones, lingered.  So did the memory of running his fingers through her short, silky blonde hair.  If he’d kissed her, she would’ve met him halfway, just as she had that one night.

Yeah, and that would do so much damned good.  Edie not only loved her job but was aiming at a more dangerous one.  He and she could never mesh. 

Besides, for all he knew, using their dwindling energy on sex could be a fatal mistake.

Josh ran his hands over his face.  He must be more weary than he’d known.  Otherwise, he wouldn’t be having these loony thoughts.  Or doing these stupid things.

 He blew out a hard breath.  By morning, he would have himself under control.  He had to trust Doc Harper--who was, after all, one of the best the mage world had to offer-to get him and Edie back on their feet.  Until then, he would keep his distance from her.

#

Deleted scene #2:  This is came near the end of the first draft.  If you've read the novella, you know the end ultimately went in a different direction:

Idiot.  Stupid, overly sensitive, girlish idiot.  Josh had a right to flirt with whatever woman he liked. 

Blinking back tears, Edie drove the Pulaski’s hoe blade in the soil and pulled.  The repetitive movement was some comfort, but it didn’t distract her enough, today, to stop thinking.  

At least she now she’d made the hole fourteen inches deep, down to pure soil.  She moved right and started over.

“Edie?”  The voice belonged to Jenny Martin, one of the two other women on the Roosevelt crew.  “You okay?”

“Yeah.”  Edie kept her focus on the soil she was turning.  “Smoke’s bothering my eyes.”

Jenny dug her own Pulaski into the peaty soil.  “You sure it’s smoke, not Captain Gorgeous in the flight suit?  I saw the way you looked at him.”

Busted.  Edie sighed.  “Jenn, it’s confused.”

“Maybe, but he watched you walk away, and he didn’t look happy.”

That was some comfort but not much.  “Unfortunately, he’s not unhappy enough to do anything about it.” 

Shaking her head, Edie stretched.  “Let’s go whack dirt with Pulaskis and take down trees with chainsaws.  I’m in the mood for some serious destruction.”

“I can get behind that.”

They jogged over to the truck the rest of their crew was packing.  Edie lost herself in the routine of packing gear and moving around each other.

 #

Deleted scene #3 came out for pacing purposes.  It would've come before the scene above, and there would've been a bit more to it:

He found the big, green truck that bore the lodgepole pine emblem of the Three Pines Hotshots.  They were loading gear, joking around, as usual.  Their crew included only three women.  Spotting Edie shouldn’t be difficult.

There she was, with that big guy’s arm around her.  Josh’s fists clenched.  The guy was hanging on a little too long for a friendly welcome-back hug.

A flash fired, and Edie stepped away from the guy.  Already wearing her pack, she picked up a Pulaski.

“Can I talk to you?” he asked.

She turned slowly.  Her cool, bland expression tore at his heart.  “Make it fast.  We’re heading out.”

Out to the fire, in extreme conditions.  Some of her crewmates stood by the truck, openly watching.  They had more right to touch her now than he did.

Longing and envy and fear for her churned in his gut.  Hell, he wasn’t even sure why he’d come over here.  Wishing her a nice day was nuts in these fire conditions.

“I don’t want you to go,” he said at last, and the certainty of his feelings surprised him.