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Mark of the Least

Bonus Content

 
KendraMerritt_SkinDeep_HR.jpg

Deleted Scene for Skin Deep

I originally intended this scene to show a completely different facet of Anwen’s personality, a trait that we don’t get to see in her in the rest of the book. It was also supposed to deepen Léon’s understanding of Anwen and the effect his actions have had on her.

Unfortunately, I eventually realized that the scene just did not fit into the finished book, no matter how hard I tried to squeeze it. For those of you who have read it, this bit was supposed to come while Fanny and Giles are fighting, making their meeting here feel somewhat awkward.

In the end, I decided other scenes gave Anwen plenty of depth and conflict and this one was not absolutely necessary. Despite how much I loved it.

 
 

I leaned over Anwen’s shoulder, breathing in everything that made her unique in all the world. Warm wool, clean skin, lavender soap.

My eyes flickered shut.

I might have been on strict orders to rest, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still work on getting Anwen to love me. And since that just meant spending more time with her, I enjoyed every minute of it.

“Like this?” Anwen said.

I felt her turn her head and my eyes snapped open so she wouldn’t catch me sniffing her. “Yes,” I said, looking over her work scrawled across the whitewashed board. The charcoal scratches were much finer than they’d been the first time she’d tried. Although they still would have looked ill and out of place on parchment.

“Try holding the charcoal looser. It’s not going to run away.” I rearranged her fingers on the stick, using the movement as an excuse to press our shoulders together.

A storm of sound burst through the kitchen door to interrupt us, and I straightened in irritation. Josselin and Emeline tumbled across the floor, yelling at the top of their lungs.

“Aren’t you two supposed to be at your lessons?” I said, voice rising.

“We’re going to collect pine boughs with Giles and Fanny,” Josselin said and tried to pin his sister, who shrieked. “Then Giles said we can be done.”

“Great,” I said as Giles pushed through the kitchen door, his white hair ruffled and his eyes desperate. “Just…keep it down. Anwen is still working.”

I leaned back over her shoulder as the two children proceeded to argue in loud whispers across the room.

Brann grumbled at Anwen’s feet about how Zevryn children were never this noisy.

I took a deep breath and tried once more to take the opportunity to stand close to Anwen.

“Hello,” a hearty voice said from the doorway to the kitchen yard. “Oh, everyone’s here.”

I sighed and gave up on the idea of getting any quality time with Anwen this morning as Fanny stepped into the manor carrying her normal basket and a wriggling bundle of fur.

“What do you have there?” Giles said, stepping forward with his hands outstretched.

“I found him at the edge of the village and thought he would be a wonderful gift for the children.

She knelt to place a puppy, all big brown eyes and lolling tongue, on the floor. His short gray fur and the shape of his head showed he’d come from hunting lines once upon a time.

The children shrieked with glee and tumbled for the dog. I wanted to growl in well-deserved annoyance, but the mongrel was too cute. I found myself planning to add the creature to our eclectic little family.

“Look, Anwen,” Emeline said. “Do you want to name him?” The little girl held the puppy out.

The enchanter shot to her feet, knocking her chair over with a clatter. “No,” she said, voice strained.

With the unerring sense of all animals, the puppy seemed to know who didn’t want it there. It wriggled free of Emeline’s arms and took a couple bouncing steps toward Anwen.

Anwen screamed and clambered onto the table, sending the board and charcoal raining to the floor. Brann charged out from underneath, looking for the enemy and managed to bash his head on the legs of the table.

I stepped forward, the look of terror and revulsion on Anwen’s face spurring me to action even before I knew what I could do.

“Get it away, get it away!” Her voice broke in a sob, and I swooped down to snatch up the dog.

I scrambled back to keep the animal as far away from her as I could.

Brann got himself out from under the table and swelled into a white tiger, taking a large chunk of my floor to make up the difference in size.

“Kill it,” my normally composed and gracious Anwen said, tears streaming down her face. “Take it out and drown it.”

My hands tightened on the puppy in horror. Unwitting, it turned its head to lick my fingers.

“Anwen,” I said, softly.

She jerked and seemed to realize what she’d said. She wouldn’t meet my eyes, but she took a couple deep breaths to control her trembling, and when she spoke again, her voice was even if very quiet.

“I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes on the edge of her sleeve. “I didn’t mean that.”

The children stared at her. For once Emeline had nothing to say.

Anwen carefully climbed down from the table and Brann pressed against her leg. With her hands buried in his fur she finally raised her eyes, though she didn’t look at the puppy. “It’s just, I don’t really like dogs.”

And with a lurch like the floor going out from beneath me, I realized why.

I wanted to rush to her side and hold her as she tried so hard to be brave, but I was still carrying the cause of her misery in my hands. She wouldn’t even look at me while I cradled the only thing in the world merciful Anwen hated.

She didn’t make any excuses or try to hide her distress as she walked from the room, clinging to Brann as she went.

I looked down at the puppy, who gnawed away at my sleeve and blinked hard a couple times. I didn’t know who I wanted to weep for, Anwen or the pup.

“I’m sorry, Fanny,” I said at last. “I don’t think we can keep the dog.”