I really like this scene, although it’s quite awful for Andre. He’s a good father and husband who didn’t deserve his fate. I removed this scene for three reasons. One, to reduce the overall page count. Two, to cut down on the number of flashback scenes. Three, to leave a bit of mystery as to what actually happened to this character. I’d love to know whether you think I made the right decision. Cutting scenes isn’t my favorite part of the editing process. I’m learning, slowly, to be a tad bit more lean. Considering I cut only two scenes, I’m not quite there yet. However, I did manage to shave off a few pages by eliminating words and sentences that didn’t add much to the narrative. So that’s something, I suppose. 🙂

This scene would’ve appeared in chapter twelve.


Twenty-Four Years Ago

Phoenix, Arizona

 

Andre felt like the walking dead. Damn, the twelve-hour ER shifts were killing him. By the time he got home, his little girl was fast asleep and Christine well on her way. His mate tried, she really did, to stay up late and wait for him to drag himself home and into bed beside her.

Sometimes they would make love, quick and needy, other times they’d just hold each other, too tired to do more than snuggle and snooze. But Andre had a few days of leave coming up, and he planned on spoiling his girls. Hell, he’d even treat Sharon to something nice, maybe a gift certificate to that spa she liked. Andre and his mother-in-law didn’t really get along, but she was devoted to his daughter and helped Christine when he was stuck at the hospital.

So yeah, Andre would remind the females in his life how much he loved and appreciated them. Sliding into his truck and locking the door, Andre smiled at the family photo hanging from his rearview mirror. His baby girl, not so much a baby anymore, with her beautiful blue eyes, dusting of freckles, and light-brown skin that reminded Andre of both his wife and his deceased mother.

Speaking of which, Andre made a mental note to drop by the cemetery for a visit. He could grab a bouquet of flowers before heading there, maybe even take his daughter, if Christine didn’t think the little witch too young for that kind of place. Maybe she was. Maybe Andre should wait until the rascal was older before he took her to visit her deceased grandmother.

Hell, at this time of night, his mind was pretty much mush. Which would explain why he saw a snake coiled up on his dashboard, unmoving. Yeah, those vacation days couldn’t come soon enough for the were-cat, his fatigued mind playing tricks on him.

Andre shook his head—hard—and rubbed red eyes with the heel of his hands. And the ugly bastard was still there. But now there were two of them. No, three.

He may be dog tired, but he wasn’t that goddamn exhausted to not recognize a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake when he saw one. Not that Andre peered at one drab brown rattler, but several.

Shit.

He didn’t care where in the hell those venomous bastards had come from or how they’d gotten in his truck. Animal control could figure that mystery out later.

Moving as fast as he dared, Andre kept his eyes on the snakes while reaching for the door.

Slow. Slow.

Andre’s hand found the door handle but didn’t move. Didn’t move because that sure as shit wasn’t a handle he touched, or not only a handle anyway.

Scales. White-and-black striped tail.

Rattle. Rattles.

Everywhere.

On the floor.

In his backseat.

On his shoulders. In his lap. Around his neck.

Everywhere. Shit, everywhere.

The rattlers struck, sinking fangs into flesh too slow to shift. Into flesh that growled and fought and refused to go down easily. Into flesh that cursed through pain and poison.

Into flesh.

Into flesh.

The harder Andre battled and the more snakes he killed, bare hands swollen, tiger claws extended, the more of them appeared.

Biting. Poisoning. Killing

Him.

Low blood pressure. Disruption of the brain and nervous system. Andre knew the goal of neurotoxic venom. Paralysis. Inability to control one’s muscles.

Collapsing against his seat, Andre could do nothing as the relentless fangs found every inch of him—shirt and pants a dartboard of puncture wounds.

Tears fell, Andre’s closing eyes finding the family photo hanging from the rearview mirror. His little girl and wife, smiling when he snapped the shot, then squealing with laughter when he put the camera down, hoisted them in his arms and jumped into the backyard pool.

His little girl and wife, faces blurry, vision weak.

His little girl and wife, photo ripped from the rearview mirror, a rattler’s body stealing even that from him. By the time that snake’s fangs found his tear-filled eye, Andre Walker was no more.

****

Apep pulled himself back together, a hundred rattlers melding into one human-looking male. He smiled. Mortals were such fun to toy with, and Mami Wata had a beautifully wicked mind.

He liked her plan and did not balk at the role of errand boy to the water goddess, not when his precious snakes were given an opportunity to indulge in the game of life or death.

Well, just death.

Picking up a torn photo from between the carcass’s parted knees, Apep’s snake tongue slinked out and licked the face of the smiling child. She would do. Yes, she would do nicely, bring the fire witch to her emotional knees, if all went according to plan. Even if it did not, isfet could not be stopped, mortals, at their core, like Apep, were chaos incarnate.

Apep transformed once more, shifting into his favorite physical form, relieved to cast off the too soft, too vulnerable skin of mortals. The fifty-foot snake reared up and swallowed the dead mortal whole, then disappeared with his meal. Leaving behind an empty truck and a torn family photo.

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