As Stephen King famously said, you gotta “kill your darlings.” He meant, of course, that writers need to be ruthless in the editing process. No matter how well-written, if the copy doesn’t fit the story, then it should be struck from the finished manuscript. Most writers will have “cut” scenes—fully written scenes the author eliminates during developmental edits.
If you’ve read Cross Waves, then you’ll be happy to know that I had to cut a scene! You can read the unedited version below. This scene describes a defining moment in Rolf (hero) and Geneva’s (heroine) past. Although the scene was eliminated, the memory is referenced in the finished novel.
Seven Years Ago
Geneva Ericksen swore she wouldn’t shed another tear over Rolf Jorgensen. She swiped the backs of her hands across her red-rimmed eyes and strode into Cleveland’s Wayside Tavern, a don’t-mess-with-me scowl on her face. Three men playing pool glanced her way.
She sniffed the air, her nostrils flaring like the government doctors said they would as she grew into her power—her body’s way of shedding excess energy. The men’s gaze slid past her frown and stopped at her chest. The light clouding the air around them shifted from coral to dark purple, the color of lust. One of the men, the one with a full beard and long shaggy hair, glanced her way and winked. She raised her chin and kept her eyes trained on his. Eyes as sharp and steady as the edge of a blade. He dropped his gaze.
She shoved her heated palms into her coat pockets. She kept remembering the way Rolf looked at her—like she was five and a total stranger, not eighteen and his sister’s best friend. “Shouldn’t you be at home and in bed?” He’d asked, his cool voice sliding over her skin like soft leather.
She continued moving until she reached the bar, her stomach performing backflips and somersaults. She slapped a five-dollar-bill on the counter.
“I’ll take a Fireball,” she said to the bartender. He looked like something out of a Wolverine movie. Tattoos in a variety of shapes and sizes covered both muscled arms peeking out from his cut-off T-shirt, and a thick, silver ring pierced the left corner of his upper lip.
The energy surrounding the bartender went from beige to navy.
Adrenaline shot through her body like a pinball. Oh, shit. She was about to be carded.
Not today. Not after turning eighteen this morning and becoming a full-fledged member of the U.S. Government’s Cognitive Mind Unit—or CMU as they called it—despite her father’s protests. Not after being treated with indifference by the only guy she ever cared about, Rolf Jorgensen. Not even if she wasn’t legally entitled to a drink. Heck, she’d walked to this hole in the wall. It’s not like she planned to drink and drive.
She sucked the energy from the four corners of the room, drawing the multi-colored buzzing waves to her. The lights in the place dimmed, distracting the bartender. Although he couldn’t see the energy she channeled, he watched the ceiling like it was bugged. She pumped the massive energy cloud at the wineglasses behind him, shattering them with one powerful, mental thrust.
“What the…?” The bartender glanced her way, then grabbed a broom to sweep the broken glass. She used his distraction to nab a beer she spied behind the counter. It wasn’t a Fireball, but at least it was alcohol.
She sat on a stool and drank the beverage like a regular.
Damn Rolf Jorgensen. When had her childhood neighbor become such a tempting heart-throb? One day they played Legos, and the next he’d morphed into a tall, dark, and chiseled god. Fate blessed him with enough devil-may-care attitude and charm to tempt the most naïve virgin or strictest prude. Which, Geneva was ashamed to admit, put her pretty much in the same sinking boat with all the other girls he knew.
She wiped her burning eyes and the idiotic tears that wouldn’t stop flowing since their recent encounter. Since he’d once again rejected her.
She studied the beer bottle as if it held answers. She didn’t need him, didn’t want to feel this never-ending attraction, didn’t want to want him. She tipped her head back and took a large gulp of beer. The bitter brew slid its way down her throat.
He didn’t want her either, so they were even.
She raised the bottle in a silent mockery of a toast and drank again. Other guys found her attractive. Other guys asked her out on a regular basis. Too bad other guys couldn’t compare to Rolf.
As if he’d read her mind, or she’d waved him over, the man who’d winked earlier strolled to the bar, sliding next to her. He smelled like cigarettes, beer, and motor oil.
“Hello there, Sweetheart. What’s a nice girl like you doing in a dive like this?”
“What’s it look like?” She peered into the half-empty bottle. Maybe if she ignored him he’d go away.
“No need to get snippy, honey. I just want to get to know ya. My name’s Anthony, but my friends call me Tony. What’s yours?”
Geneva couldn’t help but notice the intense purplish brown waves spiked with raw sienna surrounding Tony. The man was drunk. “I’m just trying to have a beer,” she said. “Alone.”
Tony put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed. “Don’t be like that, sweetie. Tell me your name.”
She pushed him off. “Not tonight.”
Tony’s aura shifted from purple-brown to a mix of coral and red. Uh-oh. She drew back.
He grabbed her arm and pulled her from the barstool. “No need to talk, honey, les’ dance.”
She yanked her head back, put her hands on both his shoulders, and tried to wedge some space between them. Tony’s grip tightened. He swayed back and forth, grinding his hips into hers.
“Stop it.” As if she’d waved a magic wand and summoned them, multi-colored spheres of energy flew towards her from God knows where. She stared, lips parted at the unexpected gift. There was no time to consider further.
The close contact with his sweaty body provided a direct link into his dirty little mind.
Chick has hot tits.
Geneva gritted her teeth and held her breath, trying to ignore the blinding purple light and the hard evidence of his desire. “I’m warning you. Let me go.”
Tony was either too far gone with booze or too stupid to sense the gathering electrical storm. He pressed her face to his chest, his long arms caressing her back. Energy snapped and crackled in the air above Geneva’s head. The hair on the back of her neck rose in response.
“Hey, sugar. Don’t be unfriendly. I know you want me. Don’t play hard to get.” His hand slipped to her rear-end and squeezed.
“Dammit. Get away from me!”
Dark multicolored energy bombs shot from her hands. A thunderous rumble shook the building, flinging Tony against the opposite wall, near where his friends played pool. He crumbled, crying out and grasping his right arm, which hung at an odd angle. His friends dropped their cue sticks and rushed towards him, helping him to sit and examining his arm.
“She did it,” Tony said, groaning and nodding his head in her direction like she’d cursed him.
His friends stared at Geneva, confusion painting their auras a dull brown. They were probably wondering how all one hundred and ten pounds of her was capable of flinging a two-hundred pound grown man across the room.
“Don’t go near her,” Tony shouted. “She’s a witch.”
By now everyone in the bar watched the unfolding scene. If Geneva were a real witch, she would cast an invisibility spell. But the only spell she could summon was the courage to remain in place.
“I’m sorry,” she said and her stomach sank. Why had she thought having a drink in a bar a good idea? She should have known trouble would follow. She wasn’t supposed to be here. Her disappointment, defiance and anger had long since vanished to be replaced by cold, hard fear. She shifted from one leg to the other, tucking her clammy hands into the pockets of her jacket.
The two men glanced at her and back to Tony. “You’ve got to be kidding,” the one with the shorter hair said. “This little thing broke your arm? I don’t believe it.”
“She did it. I swear she did, Tim!” Bright pink streams of light spilled from his aura. “The little bitch is psycho.”
“C’mon, Tony. Let’s get you to a hospital.” The stockier of the two grabbed Tony by his good arm and helped him to his feet. He half-dragged his friend past Geneva and out the door.
Tony shouted at her. “This fucking hurts! She’s crazy, man. Nuts, I tell ya. I wouldn’t get close to her, Tim. Get the hell away if you know what’s good for you.”
Tim did not take Tony’s advice. He didn’t follow the other patrons, who shook their heads and went back to what they were doing before witnessing the explosion. He didn’t approach the bartender, who dumped the busted glass in a trash can, wiped his hands on a towel, and waited on another customer. He stood staring, his gaze flickering over Geneva like he was deciding what to have for dinner. Geneva studied the shifting dark blue in his aura.
Would he leave her be? Maybe if she ignored him, he’d scram. She turned towards the bar, but a flash of dark red light caught the corner of her eye.
Danger. She pivoted towards the exit.
The indecision in Tim’s aura had vanished, replaced with a clearer directive.
Energy leaped from Tim’s body to Geneva’s like a leopard from the treetops, sending a jolt of panic straight to her heart. He strolled towards her, his face hard and angular. He would hurt her…cause her pain as she had done to Tony.
“Stay away from me.” She held one hand out to warn him off and used the other to draw whatever energy she could find in the room. Like before, round multi-colored spheres rushed her. If only she could use them. Exercising her talent to the extent she had earlier required a recovery period. It was difficult, if not impossible, to absorb the power necessary to hurl her punisher across the room. She’d need to distract him.
Adrenaline pumped in her arteries like an IV with a direct line to her aorta. She’d not let Tim grab her. Geneva dodged his grasping fingers, scrambling towards the door. She might have made it, too, if the rubber on her tennis shoes didn’t choose that moment to get caught on the shiny dance floor. She tripped, landing in a sprawling pile.
He grabbed her shirt, hauled her to her feet, and pushed her out the door and into the dark parking lot. The zipper on his jacket caught her face, the pain sore and sharp and stinging.
She pressed her hand to her cheek. Her fingers came away wet.
Break her bones.
The glimmer of thought sent panic ripping through her system. Her heartbeat accelerated and beads of sweat broke out on her forehead. Geneva opened her mouth to scream, but the sound was silenced by a blunt, familiar voice in her head. “Remain calm.”
She looked to the doorway, eyes wide. Rolf Jorgensen, all six feet two of him, leaned against the opening like a caged tiger. Dark patches of multicolored red light poured from his chest and arms.
That explained the energy spheres she’d grabbed earlier. What was he doing here? Relief cooled her insides, soothing any questions she had about his sudden appearance. Thank God he’d come. He had three years’ experience with the CMU. She almost felt sorry for the douchebag who held her.
“Let her go,” Rolf said to Tim, his tone rough. A muscle in his jaw twitched.
Tim scanned Rolf but did not let Geneva go. His grip on her arms tightened like a slow-moving vise. “Stay out of this. The bitch broke my buddy’s arm. She needs a lesson in manners.”
Rolf moved in a blur. He thrust out a powerful hand, grasping Tim’s neck in a single, swipe and hustling him further into the parking lot, Geneva still in his clutches. “Watch your language around the lady. If anyone’s giving any lessons today, it’ll be me. Let her go. Now.”
Geneva sensed the pulse of energy issued with the command. Tim responded by pushing her to the ground. She landed in a small heap, letting out a yelp at the sudden freedom and contact with the hard pavement. She scrambled to her feet, eyeing the dark green light oozing from Rolf’s aura. He looked taller and fiercer than a moment earlier. His black leather jacket and hair added to the impression. A glint of metal caught her attention.
“Rolf, he’s got a knife,” she yelled. Faster than she blinked, Rolf grabbed Tim’s wrist and twisted. Tim dropped the knife with a groan.
Rolf growled, grasping Tim’s shirt and lifting him off his feet. Geneva couldn’t stop a shiver at the ferocity in his tone. In the parking lot light, she could see the muscles in his arms bulging and tightening.
“Rolf,” she begged. “I’m fine. Let him go. Please.”
Rolf hesitated and for a few frightening seconds, Geneva worried he’d ignore her plea. But finally he shoved Tim away from him. Tim stumbled but managed to stay upright.
“Get the hell out of here,” Rolf said. “If you touch her again, you’re dead.”
Tim stepped backwards, palms out. “Okay, okay buddy. The bitch isn’t worth it.” He spat at Geneva, then took off at a run across the parking lot towards what looked like a beat-up, red pickup truck.
Rolf took a fast step forward, the weird dark green light preceding him, but Geneva managed to catch his shirt sleeve and tug hard. “Please, Rolf,” she said. “It’s all my fault. Let him go.”
He turned, the dark green color in his aura morphing into bright red with streaks of black, indicating anger, frustration and something more. Something so unusual, Geneva couldn’t fathom its meaning.
“Please,” she said again through a rush of hot tears. “I’m sorry.”
In a flash the strange color transformed into Rolf’s customary green. Geneva expected him to give her a blistering lecture but when had Rolf ever done the expected? He crushed her against his hard chest until she barely breathed. Beneath the cotton T-shirt he wore, Geneva could hear the reassuring thump of his heart. The steady sound and warmth of his skin mixed with the smell of mint exploded across her psychic senses. Colors in a multitude of shades vibrated in the air around them. Purple. She stilled, every cell alert to the sudden shift in the atmosphere. Passion purple.
In all the years she’d known Rolf, he’d never expressed the slightest desire for her. He’d been protective at times—even big-brotherish. But he ignored her flirting, not giving her a hint he returned her interest. This afternoon he’d refused to give her a ride on his precious motorcycle. But now.
The roar of the engine from the pickup truck as it sped towards them across the open parking lot jerked her out of her reverie and had both of them looking up. Before she could react, Rolf thrust her out of the way. Then he turned and faced the speeding vehicle as if he had the power to stop it. Which was just plain crazy. Rolf was a mind hacker. He could push and change thoughts and invade minds, but he wasn’t superman. He only had a few seconds—not near enough time to convince Tim not to run him over.
“Rolf, look out!” She screamed but he didn’t seem to hear her. Streaks of the strange black light moved inside his aura, like some wild gypsy spirit begging for release. At the last second, Tim turned the truck to the side, and it went careening out of the parking lot.
Geneva rushed into Rolf’s arms, laughing and crying at the same time. She slid her hands up and down his chest. “What were you thinking facing down that idiot? You’re not made of steel. He could have killed you.”
His muscles remained bunched and straining under her palms. And then it changed. A sob rose in her throat, threatening her self-control. A mass of rainbow colors occupied the space in front of her. It was happening again. Gobs of energy. Far too much. She knew her power was enough to kill a man.
She dropped her hands from Rolf’s chest as if it were on fire and stepped backwards. She had mere seconds before the energy detonated. All it would take from her was the wrong thought.
She swallowed hard and sucked in air, blowing it slowly through her nose as she’d been taught as a child. Her pulse slowed, her heartbeat settling into a steady, even thrum. The world fell away, and she floated in space.
Geneva forgot the parking lot and Rolf and their near death experience. She forgot her hurt and anger and fear. She forgot everything except the colors. They glowed almost fluorescent in the seething mass in front of her. Each vibrating strand offered itself to her in bold relief. Take me. Use me. Like a siren’s call, they begged for release. She wouldn’t listen to their pleas. She knew better. Their way led to death and destruction.
She channeled her mind on the lethal, dark amber shades first, separating and pulling them from the chaos as if she pulled a strand of string from a ball of yarn. One by one she identified the individual waves, isolated them from the rest and sent them into the universe until only rose remained, vibrating in the space in front of her. Her own psychic energy. With a twitch of her head she pulled the rose waves inside, and the energy bomb winked out of existence.
She stumbled and would have fallen, except for the strong arms enfolding her. Rolf’s arms. Her stomach lurched at his closeness. She’d imagined the purple color earlier. He held her to keep her calm, that’s all.
Reckless. Immature. Stupid.
Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and slipped down her cheeks. How would she ever forgive herself if another person she cared for died because of her failure to control her impulses? She never should have gone to the bar tonight.
“I…I almost killed you.” Her voice stuttered like someone shook her, the sound high-pitched and frightened to her own ears. Her heartbeat galloped like a runaway horse. Still, she pressed on, trying desperately to relay how close she’d come to losing control. To losing him. “I’m so glad you’re okay…I’m…”
He tilted her chin and words deserted her. His unusual eyes caught hers—she’d swear they were the brightest and bluest she’d ever seen. They seemed to see inside the darkest parts of her, but they didn’t flinch or look away. Not like the others. No, they scraped her insides. Left her raw and aching and vulnerable until there was nothing left inside. Nothing more to see.
She braced herself for the moment he’d reject her. Waited for it with an expectation born of years of unrequited admiration. Every girl she knew for miles around wanted Rolf Jorgensen. Jorgensen cast-offs. That’s what her brothers called them. The girls who’d tried to get it going with Rolf and failed. Why should she be any different?
I’m worse. I kill. They all knew it. Were all afraid of her.
She opened her mouth to warn him—to break the raw connection that held her immobilized. But his eyes dropped to her lips, and God help her, she couldn’t move if her life depended on it. Purple light flared from his aura as if someone lit a Roman candle behind him. She’d not imagined it. Rolf desired. Her.
Her heart beat against her chest cavity like a frantic bird wanting to be let out. He tilted his dark head, slanting his lips towards hers. She closed her eyes and waited for his kiss. His breath warmed her cheeks. For a moment he hovered just out of reach, and Geneva feared he’d changed his mind. But finally, finally, he closed the gap and his lips met hers.
A thousand colors exploded behind her eyelids.
Rolf’s kiss robbed her of any remaining breath she might have had. His lips were warm and tender and all-consuming, as if he would conquer her body and soul. They invaded her senses: tasted like cool water, smelled like a Lake Erie breeze, heated her from the inside out. They found and worshiped the raw sensitive parts of her. They nipped at her, then soothed and gentled, like the sweetest balm. She could have stayed in the dark parking lot, kissing Rolf forever. But a car honked and someone yelled, “Get a room,” and he lifted his head and set her away from him.
She searched his aura for any hint of purple, but the color had vanished into a sea of dark green as if it had never been. “Rolf?”
“I was trying to distract you,” he drawled. “Looks like it worked.”
Dark energy stirred in Rolf’s gut, straining to break free of the mental leash he used to bind it to him. It teased his senses, taunting with its endless, raw power. He breathed deep, his nostrils flaring, automatically tracking the bastard who dared threaten Geneva. Tracking to find. Tracking to kill.
Next to him, Geneva shivered, stirring his psychic senses. He fisted his hands at his sides and widened his stance on the solid pavement, keeping his face squarely turned from hers so he couldn’t see her expression. He’d hurt her tonight. Pretended to be impervious to the wild attraction arcing between them.
Deliberately, coldly, mercilessly.
Overhead the wind strengthened, bending the tree branches and echoing his restless spirit. She placed a hand on his arm. He felt the soft touch in his groin. He jerked beneath her fingertips, the movement doing little to contain the depths of his desire and despair. Did she have any idea how difficult it was to pretend indifference to her constant flirting? To pretend like he didn’t care? He was only human after all. A human monster. She deserved better than to be bound to him.
“C’mon, I’ll walk you home,” he said, his voice hoarse.
He took off towards the main street, giving her no choice but to follow. The night sky held a strange cast. Dark energy shimmered in the air in front of him, twisting his insides. Shit. The bastard who’d planned to break her arm had long since disappeared into the night, but the dark in Rolf could sense his presence like a malignant tumor waiting to be found and wiped from existence.
Behind him, Geneva huffed. “Wait, please, I can’t keep up.”
Why did she insist on believing in his goodness? He stopped but did not turn. Sweat glistened on his forehead. He stared at a point in the distance and counted his heartbeats—one, two, three—a trick he’d learned to keep his emotions under wraps. To keep the dark in him from bursting forth, swallowing everything in his line of sight.
Geneva reached his side, panting. Once again, she touched his arm. “Why do you hate me?”
The question hung in the air like a flickering flame beneath a thousand dark clouds about to release a torrent of rain. What he felt was the furthest emotion from hate, but he wouldn’t examine his true feelings. Far better for Geneva to believe he hated her. Hate would keep her safe. Hate would not bind her to him. Hate would contain the monster within.
“You don’t know how to take no for an answer,” he said with a sneer.
She gasped. The wind whipped the air in front of him into a mini-tornado.
Dark energy coiled like a hissing snake waiting to strike. He didn’t dare look at her, while he plucked her fingers from his arm. “Go home and play with your Barbie dolls, little girl.”
“You’re such a jerk.” Her voice trembled.
“I am,” he said, keeping his tone flat, pretending not to notice how close she was to tears.
She jutted her chin out and faced him, her blond hair twisting in the breeze. The bold gesture drew Rolf’s attention to her breasts, small like the rest of her, but no less attractive. She wore a maroon T-shirt with the words “Bite Me” blazoned across the front in white. An invitation or a dare?
His gaze flew to hers, but he kept his expression blank, refusing to give her any sign of his dark desire. Instead he used the moment to shrug his shoulders and turn his back and slam a final nail into her hopeful heart.
“Not a damn thing to see,” he said.