Deleted Scene: Dominique meets Robin Hood

(please remember, this scene is unedited and unpolished)

Deleted Scene from BLUE VOODOO 
(takes place between chapters 14 and 15)

Warning: If you have not read the first fourteen chapters of BLUE VOODOO, there may be spoilers in this bonus scene. Also, this scene has not received the tender, loving care of either my editor or my proofreader. It may not be as smooth or typo-free as one might wish. You have been warned! (last sentence said in Danny Devito’s voice as the Lorax)

A sharp knock at the bedroom door ripped Dominique from the depths of a dream. Sleep struggled to hold her in its warm, cozy embrace, encouraged by her brain’s desire to remain in the dream, a perfect world where there were no pirates, only men who remained at the side of the women they loved. Her muscles twitched as the internal battle raged on. Stay in the dream or answer the door?

Something shifted beside her. A warm, very solid, very male shape. Her eyes flew open.

Julien. The wedding. Loa, save me, I married him.

Get out of bed! Careful, don’t wake him up! Get dressed, get your apron, check your pockets, hurry before he wakes up!

Her sense of dignity continued to berate her, further harried by the continued knocking at the door. Her arms trembled slightly as she eased herself closer to the edge of the mattress and slid off, holding her breath as she waited to see if the pirate would wake.
His bare chest rose and fell, the sheet around his waist still, moved only slightly by his even breathing. The muscles of his stomach were outlined with the faintest of shadows cast by the sunlight streaming through the window, emphasizing how kind a life at sea had been to his physique. A faint snore escaped his sinfully carved lips, brown eyes still hidden beneath sleep-smoothed eyelids.

“Of course you’re still sleeping,” Dominique muttered under her breath. “Why should your sleep be disturbed to answer your door?”

Disgusted with Julien and men in general, she searched the floor for her bags—and found nothing. Her things had either not been delivered as she’d instructed, or whomever had been sent to deliver them had opted against interrupting whatever they thought was happening behind the closed door of Julien’s—her—bedroom.

That meant no clean clothes. A dull ache began in her jaw, alerting her to the fact she’d clenched her teeth so hard she was likely seconds away from a mouthful of powder. She pressed her lips into a thin line and snatched her apron off the bedpost where she’d hung it last night. After tying it around her waist, she slid her hands into the deep, broad pockets, comforted by the feel of the powders, small bottles, and myriad of objects she carried with her at all times. Tools of her trade.

Her headscarf was thankfully still where she’d folded it and laid it on a chair. A few practiced twists and tucks as she strode to the door and her mass of honey-brown curls were once again safely corralled behind the clean lines of crimson material. Head held high, she opened the door.

“Forgive the early waking, Madame Laveau.” The servant—Guillaume—bowed his grey head in apology, the lines of his dark mahogany face lined with tension. “But there is a woman here and she claims she must see you immediately. She says it is of critical importance.”

Dominique nodded briskly and stepped out of the room, firmly closing the door behind her as if she could shut out the consequences of the night before. “Thank you, Guillaume. Where is our guest?”

“In the sitting room on the west end of the foyer.” His shoulders sagged slightly as if relieved that she did not seem displeased at having been awoken. “If you would follow me.”

She inclined her head to show her acquiescence and followed the older man to the sitting room on the first floor. When she saw who was waiting for her, she paused in surprise. “Madame Hugon. To what do I owe this pleasure?”

The tavern owner stood at one of the large windows overlooking the back of the property, the seemingly endless forest with only minor efforts at landscaping. She spun around when Dominique spoke and half ran across the room, mint green skirts flying behind her like the sail of a speeding ship. Dominique kept her face composed, but a growing sense of unease swelled inside her. Madame Hugon was not a dramatic woman. It did not bode well that she was this worked up.

“What is wrong?” Dominique put a hand on the woman’s shoulder as she approached, keeping her voice low and calm.

Madame Hugon looked at her with wide eyes, her face pale. “A bounty hunter is at the tavern. He came in asking about Blu—about your husband.”

Dominique ignored the almost-slip. She knew full well her husband was called Bluebeard by many of the people in the village. Contrary to popular belief, she was actually quite pleased with that fact. Served him right.

The older woman’s cheeks flushed, but when Dominique did not comment on the near faux pas, she seemed to gather the courage to continue. “He said… He said he’s come to take him away. He said Monsieur Julien is wanted for…for murder.”

Dread slithered through Dominique’s stomach, leaving a trail of foreboding like thick slime in its wake. Murder. The same accusation from yet another source. A little voice in her head whispered to her from some dark corner of her mind, taunted her that she didn’t know Julien, not really. She’d shared his bed once, had wanted to share his heart, his life. But in the end, what had they had beyond that one night? And with ten years in between. And now this sham of a marriage. Who could say what manner of man Julien had been…or become?

“I told my husband to keep the bounty hunter there, to give me time to get to you,” Madame Hugon continued, her features pinched. “I wanted to…” She trailed off, pale blue eyes beseeching Dominique to understand without forcing her to say the words.
She came to warn me, so that I could tell Julien to run. She believes he’s guilty.

“Thank you, Madame Hugon. I will take care of it. You did the right thing coming to me.”

“I know better than to believe everything other people claim,” Madame Hugon added fervently, her intensity doing little to make up for the lack of conviction in her tone. Her hands fluttered around her skirts and the pearl droplet necklace at her throat as if she weren’t quite sure what to do with them.

Dominique firmly led the harried woman toward the door with a hand on her elbow. She had to speak with Julien before the bounty hunter showed up. She needed answers—the truth. If she were going to face down his pursuers, she needed the whole story.

“I am grateful for your vigilance,” she soothed Madame Hugon. “I will include your name in my prayers tonight. The loa will know what you have done for me.”

Madame Hugon’s head bobbed like a leaf on a storm-churned lake. She bit her lip, her gaze flicking to Dominique’s. “Thank you, yes, I am grateful for the prayers, of course.”

Her tone was a little higher than usual, somehow…prodding. Dominique’s mouth quirked up in the corner, amusement momentarily distracting her from the dire situation at hand. “I will also include something extra in your next shipment. A gift for you and your husband. I hope you’ll accept it as a token of my friendship.”

“Oh, you’re too kind.” The lines on the older woman’s face vanished as if they’d never been there, her eyes shining at the prospect of Dominique’s gift.

A breeze ruffled their skirts as Dominique opened the door for the shameless businesswoman. “Have a safe trip home. And thank yo—”

Madame Hugon let out a squeak and shoved the door closed, tearing it from Dominique’s grasp and cutting her off mid-sentence. She threw her back against the door, eyes showing too much white.

“He’s here!” she gasped.

Dominique straightened her spine. “How close?”

“He’ll be on your doorstep in moments!”

Dominique slid over to look out one of the small oval windows to the right of the door. One hand rising to grip the cream-colored molding of the frame. A large figure was walking toward the giant fountain that sat in front of the house, following the path that wound around the gaudy cascade to connect the road with the house’s main walkway.

His skin was so pale it might have been carved from moonlight, his hair the coal black of a raven’s wing. He wore the clothes of a hunter, thick leathers to protect against the natural weapons of animals, a dagger sheathed at his side. There was confidence in every movement, an awareness that practically vibrated from him. Dark eyes flicked over his surroundings with a calm clarity that suggested he would be able to recall every detail down to the last leaf on the swaying cypress that brushed the roof of the manor. That unnerving gaze landed on the window by the door and stopped.

Dominique held her breath, her pulse a steady pounding in her throat. He couldn’t see her, not from that distance, not with the spray of the fountain blurring the air between them. And yet, she knew he did see her. Saw her as clearly as if they were sitting across from each other at a formal dinner. His eyes held her as he continued forward, step by solid step.

“Stay inside,” she ordered Madame Hugon. “Do not show yourself, do not stray near the window. Go into the sitting room and wait for me there.”

She didn’t wait to see if the woman would listen. There was no time. The stranger had seen her watching him from the window like a nervous housewife, knew that she knew he was there. She had to meet him now, had to present a strong front. A predator always sensed weakness.

And this man was a predator.

Dominique swept out the door, shoulders squared, head held high. She didn’t slam the door, she had no need for such theatrics. Instead, she strode to the top of the narrow staircase that led from the long porch down to the circular path and waited.

The stranger stopped next to the fountain, a good twenty feet from the bottom of the stairs. The breeze carded invisible fingers through his hair, stirring the long, dark strands. They danced in front of his eyes, but he never broke the stare that bored through Dominique like a hot poker and his face remained an inscrutable mask.

“I am here for the pirate called Julien Marcon.” He brushed a hand over his dagger, but didn’t draw it from its sheath. “I have no quarrel with you.”

“The pirate you speak of is my husband.” Dominique laid her hands over her broad, deep pockets, ready to draw raw materials as needed. “He will be staying with me.”

The man blinked, and for his stoic face it may as well have been a gasp of shock. “His…wife?”

Dominique inclined her head.

Dark brows met over darker eyes. “Are you ignorant of what became of his last three wives, or do you think so much of yourself that you believe you will avoid the same fate?”

Fury flared inside Dominique, licking at her veins, heating her blood. “If we are to have a civilized conversation—and I am only supposing that you are indeed capable of a civilized conversation—I would be most gratified to know your name?”

“I’m sure you would,” the man agreed. “Though you will have to forgive me as I don’t wish to share it with you. However, in the spirit of being civilized, you may call me Jacque.”

Her fingers brushed the pouch of cayenne pepper and she fervently wished the aggravating stranger would come close enough for her to give him the same treatment Julien had received for being insufferable. “Very well, Jacque. I am Dominique. As I mentioned, I am Julien’s wife and Julien will be staying with me. Under the circumstances, I’m afraid I will not be inviting you in, so if you would be so kind as to move on to the next target on your list, we can say our goodbyes and part as not-enemies.”

As she spoke, Dominique took a bit of clay from her pocket. She kept her eyes on Jacque as she molded the soft red earth in her fingers, forming it to have a recognizable humanoid shape. The bounty hunter watched her movements carefully, though he didn’t allow himself to be completely distracted. His gaze still flicked to Dominique’s face periodically, his fingers resting on the hilt of his dagger.

To his credit, Jacque did not appear frightened. Most foreigners—and Dominique was quite certain “Jacque” was a foreigner—had the strangest notions about poppets. The little representations were used in healing, but for whatever reason, it didn’t take more than sticking something sharp into anything even vaguely in the form of a human, and foreigners ran like Parlangua was after them.

“I would be happy to leave you to your crafting if you would be so kind as to step away from the door so that I may retrieve the pirate.”

So, not enlightened, just ignorant.

Dominique sighed and dropped the figure into her pocket. “Monsieur Jacque, the past twenty-four hours have been rather stressful. I’m afraid I simply do not have the time to waste convincing you how very foolish it would be to cross me. Please, do us both a favor, and leave now. I would even be willing to pay you for the inconvenience of your travel. Tell me, what is the bounty on my husband?”

“Your gold means nothing to me.” Jacque’s brown eyes were as hard as soil during a drought. “I came for the pirate, and I won’t be leaving without him.”

Energy flared to life at Dominique’s fingertips as she gathered a handful of the crossroad dust that always lined the bottom of her pocket and grasped a small sliver of bone with the other. “I’m sorry this has to be done in an unpleasant fashion. Tell me, do your people observe any special last rites?”

A small, but true spark of humor lit the man’s eyes then and Dominique could have sworn she saw a flash of green amidst the chocolate brown.

“No, no special last rites. And in case you’re wondering, neither do my friends.”

Friends? The hairs on the back of Dominique’s neck rose at the satisfaction in that last sentence. A new sound assailed her ears, stone grating against stone, the sound sharp against a background hush of falling dirt. She whirled around, her jaw tightening as she found a beast rising from a growing crater in the earth.

It looked like an enormous clump of mud, wet dirt littered with rocks, pebbles, and small twigs. Its pale eyes were slimy like large maggots, its mouth an open pit lined with sharp stones where teeth would have been. Arms and legs the size of tree stumps shoved against the ground, rolling the bulk of the creature forward toward the staircase.

A hoarse chuckle that sounded far too wet, as if the person laughing was drowning at the same time, spun Dominique around again. A second creature was emerging from the fountain, water sluicing over bluish white skin, dripping from hair the color of seaweed. The scent of equine musk clung to the figure, carried to Dominique on the back of a strong breeze so that she nearly choked on the thickness of it. The water-logged man stepped forward and as it moved, its flesh shivered and melted, flowing back in long lean lines. Bones shifted underneath skin that grew paler with every step, smooth with white, sleek fur. By the time it stood on solid ground, it was no longer a man, but a horse, its hooves facing the wrong way and a wild glint in eyes covered in a pearlescent film.

Fear licked at her nerves, but Dominique hid it behind a stiff spine and set jaw. She held her head high as she marched down the steps to the soft dirt of the ground just in front of the carved wooden stairs. Dragging her foot through the dirt, she drew several wavy lines, then leaned over and spit on them, holding the bounty hunter’s gaze as she did so. He quirked an eyebrow, but otherwise didn’t react.

The horse charged, a manic whinny spilling from its throat, its mane flying out like a tattered flag behind it. Dominique pulled a thin vial of sandalwood oil from her pocket and poured it onto the lines in the dirt. Magic flared, and as the horse plunged forward to plow its massive head into her chest, it hit the wall of force that had shot up from the foot-binding spell.

Bones broke, a satisfying crack that drew the corner of Dominique’s mouth into a small, satisfied smile. The beast staggered back, legs wobbling as its head bobbed and it pitched crazily to the side. It landed in the dirt with a loud whoosh of breath, blood flowing down its washed out muzzle to turn to pink foam around its quivering nostrils.

The other creature lurched forward, open maw letting out a nauseating swell of rancid breath. Dominique’s stomach rolled, bile washing against the back of her throat. Before she realized it, she was holding a hand over her belly, leaning forward as if she would be sick all over the stairs. Another flare of anger rose to eat away the nausea, summoned by her rancor at being caught in a weak moment. She groped inside her other pocket and withdrew a pouch of powdered rue. She dumped it into her palm and used the small finger of her other hand to trace a symbol of protection into the herb.

The creature stood behind the lines in the sand, breathing heavier now, filling the air between them with enough foul breath that Dominique had to fight to force herself to take in the air she needed to finish the spell. A murmured prayer to the loa and she blew hard on the dust, sending it back at the monster.

The monster released a squealing cry as the dust made contact with its eyes. Thick hands more like boulders than actual limbs slammed into its face as it tried to wipe the grit from its visage. After a few futile moments, it dropped its arms, fixing Dominique with watery red eyes. Putrid liquid poured like tears down its cheeks, growing thicker, turning to glue as it trapped the dust. Dominique waited, holding her breath as she watched for a sign the powder was fulfilling its purpose.

Suddenly the creature clawed at its throat and staggered back. Whatever it was, it had lungs, and those lungs were no longer allowing oxygen inside. The dust closed off its air passages, just as its awful stench had threatened to do to her. It fell into a crumpled heap of stone and sour mud, a faint wheezing the only sound.

“Quite a pair of trick bags, those pockets.”

Jacque’s voice seemed unperturbed by the crushing defeat of his minions. Dominique met his eyes and found him watching her with a faint air of interest.

“What exactly are you?”

“I am the Voodoo Queen of Sanguennay and mistress of this house. And I think it’s time for you to leave.”

The bounty hunter shook his head slowly. “Not. Without. The pirate.”

“The pirate. Stays. With me.” Dominique waved a hand at the creatures still lying on the ground before her. “How many must fall before you realize the futility of your mission here?”

Jacque nodded to Dominique’s left. “Just one more. Perhaps you’ve heard of Parlangua?”

“Parl—” Dominique furrowed her brows even as she turned. The bounty hunter was lying, he had to be. Parlangua wouldn’t—

But he wasn’t lying. Shock held Dominique immobile as she found herself face to face with the infamous swamp monster that had been her family’s ally for generations. Indistinguishable from a very large alligator until it stood up, its heavy reptilian body took up nearly the entire width of the porch. It had obviously just climbed over the railing and as Dominique watched, it hauled itself to its feet, humanoid arms and legs flexing to heave its bulk off the wooden boards, revealing buttery yellow scales down its front. A long, monstrous jaw opened, revealing rows of wicked teeth and a pale, blood-stained tongue.

Parlangua?

The crocodilian monster stared at her with a partially open maw, not a flicker of recognition in its empty chartreuse eyes. For a second, Dominique saw in it what the people of her village saw. A nightmare.

“That’s not right,” Dominique murmured. She blinked, trying to think clearly through the pounding of her heartbeat echoing in her ears. Parlangua may be irate with her, but the monster would never ally itself with a stranger. And it would certainly never approach Dominique to attack without so much as a word of acknowledgment. A small seed of realization took root, began to grow.

Could it be…?

Drawing in a slow, deep breath, Dominique pushed the fear from her mind and forced herself to close her eyes. Instinct screamed at her, panicked at the very idea of taking her attention from the new threat. She shut that voice out as best she could and raised both hands simultaneously to draw the verve for Papa Legba over her eyelids. Slashes, circles, dots, and crosses, all as familiar to her as the lines of her own face. They flared with bright blue light, visible even through her eyelids, and then the magic sank into her eyes with a warm tingling sensation.

When she opened them, Parlangua was gone.

And so was the horse.

And the rancid mud-monster.

Illusions. Only illusions.

With eyes unburdened by the magic that had fooled them, Dominique got her first true look at the bounty hunter. “Jacque” still stood near the fountain, but he was no longer the stern-faced, raven-haired stranger. His dark locks had faded to a blond so pale it was nearly white, falling in impossibly straight lines to brush his shoulders. Brown eyes had given way to a vibrant emerald, and his rough hunting leathers had softened to a finely knitted green tunic and leggings with a forest green vest. The dagger and its sheath had vanished too, overtaken by a bow held loosely in his left hand and a quiver full of arrows at his back.

Her face must have given away her discovery because suddenly his eyes sharpened and he stood straighter. “What do you see?”

“You.” Dominique shook her head, kicking herself for being so slow to discover his trickery. “Such games you play. Have you nothing better to do?”

He took a step forward, scrutinizing her from head to toe as if he were only just seeing her, really seeing her. “How did you break the glamour?”

Dominique raised her fingers to her temples. She was tired. Too tired to be standing here chatting aimlessly with a man who summoned imaginary creatures to fight for him. “Go home, Jacque. Your tricks are useless here and I have no more time to waste on this foolishness.”

She took a step back on the porch, ready to dismiss him as the pathetic excuse for a threat he was. Now that she knew he fought with illusions, they would hold no sway over her. Without her belief to fuel them, they would present no more of a danger than a strong breeze.

As soon as her weight shifted, heat flared beneath her, a thick, intense surge of warmth that bit at her feet as though she were barefoot. She jerked and instinctively looked down, lips parting as she found flames curling around the soles of her boots, rising to eat the hem of her skirt. Black tendrils of smoke tickled her nose and panic spiked her blood with a heady shot of adrenaline.
No! It is just another illusion. It is not real.

She raised her head, no longer looking down as she repeated her prayer to Papa Legba, reaffirming that her sight was true, that she could not be fooled by the antics of this stranger. Before she could get the final words out, the flames reached higher, singing her fingertips. Her brain wailed at her to get away from the fire before it ate the flesh from her bones, filled her body with a nigh-overwhelming urge to flee. She clenched her teeth and tried to force her arms to remain limp at her sides. There is no fire. There is no fire. There is no fire.

Her hands shook, her knuckles blistering from the heat of the fire—no, the illusion of fire. Sweat broke out on her forehead and it took everything she had to meet Jacque’s eyes, but meet his eyes she did. “You are the best at illusion that I have ever encountered. But I know what you’re doing and using the same trick over and over expecting to succeed when you have already failed is madness.”

The bounty hunter took another step closer. The change in him went far deeper than appearance. More radical than the change from black hair to blond, from brown eyes to green, was the shift in attitude. No longer did he stand there as a grim-faced sentinel, a calm man focused only on his task. Now he looked at Dominique with true interest, like a child seeing his first birthday cake.

“You are a worthy opponent, Voodoo Queen. It is not many women who could speak so calmly while standing in the center of such a bonfire.”

At the word “bonfire,” the heat intensified, from a sharp bite to an excruciating burn. Dominique swallowed a scream, desperately assuring herself that her skin was not turning black, was not peeling away from her legs, the very bone itself growing warm beneath her damaged flesh. The fire is not real. The pain is not real.

“Can you smell the wood of your stairs turning to ash?” Jacque asked softly. The illusory flames danced in his eyes, haunting reflections that looked all too much like real fire. It gave him the visage of a macabre jack o’ lantern, a gleeful ghoul. “Do you have magic to heal your burns? Your flesh must look like melted wax by now.”

Again the fire intensified, and again Dominique took up her pleas to the loa to help her fight it off. Her eyelids warmed as the verve she’d drawn on them flared with renewed light. A faint chill washed over her face and when she blinked, she no longer saw the smoke or the flames.

But she could still feel them. She could smell the acrid smoke, feel her flesh being eaten by flames. She could even hear the crackling of the wooden stairs as the timber lost its fight against the fire and threatened to buckle into a pile of blackened splinters.

“I’ve never known anyone who could breathe such life into an illusion.” Her voice was cursedly strained, the effort of keeping her spine straight and her arms down too great to allow any control over her voice. The sound infuriated her, but Dominique steeled herself against the humiliation, forced herself to keep talking. “Sight and sound, certainly, but you’ve managed touch and smell and even taste. You have such talent, why do you waste it on being a bounty hunter?”

Jacque’s gaze never wavered, keeping the same intensity a hawk would use when tracking a mouse over the forest floor. That stare was at odds with the jester’s smile that split his face. “I never said I was a bounty hunter.”

Dominique choked on another cry as it bubbled up from the agony in her legs. “But you said you were here for my husband. If you are not a bounty hunter, then what are you?”

He leaned forward, lowering his voice as if about to share a secret. “Bored.”

He glanced down at her feet and winced. She almost fell for it, almost looked down, but she stiffened her neck, locked her eyes on his face. Treating the illusion as if it were real would only solidify its hold on her. She had to resist.

Jacque’s grin widened. “Or I was bored. Before you.” He drew a long arrow from his quiver, the slender shaft perfectly balanced between his fingers. There was nothing illusory about the fierce tip of the projectile, or the strong, lean length of its shaft. “Tell me how you’re resisting the glamour.”

“I told you,” Dominique bit out through teeth clenched against the pain. “I am a Voodoo Queen. I am a servant to the loa, and they help me when I am in need.”

“The loa?” He tapped the arrow against his cheek, a slight furrow in his brow. “These are your gods then?”

“Not gods. There is only one god—Bondye. The loa are his messengers, his means of communicating with his people.”

Jacque quirked an eyebrow when she claimed there was only one god, but he let it go. “Messengers?”

Her legs trembled, threatening to buckle and spill her in an unceremonious heap down the stairs. She was surrounded in a smothering cocoon of heat and pain, her thoughts melting faster than she could gather them. Still, she didn’t dare move back. Her stance was too precarious, one move and she would collapse. She didn’t like her chances if that happened. “I would be happy to tell you about my faith. Though it would be a more pleasant conversation if you would cease your parlor tricks.”

Green eyes narrowed, a brief spark of anger lighting them. “If you are the servant of these loa, who themselves are servants of your god, then my parlor tricks should mean little to you. Do continue your lesson, I am your most rapt pupil.”

She almost apologized. Almost asked him to stop the illusion—almost begged him to stop. But suddenly, the pain was gone. There was no crackling of flames, no groaning wood, no scent of smoke. It all just…vanished. Almost sobbing with relief, Dominique stepped forward.

Or rather, her body stepped forward. She had made no such decision, had moved no muscle to cause the movement. Her flesh behaved as if it had a will of her own, her mind a mere passenger along for the ride.

A sense of awe and gratitude washed over her in a healing wave. It was a possession. Her faith had been rewarded. One of the loa had come to her rescue, had taken over her body and saved her from the agony of the stranger’s powerful illusion. She whispered a fervent prayer of thanks and willingly gave herself over to her savior.

The fingers of both her hands curled into tight fists, the knuckles that had felt blistered just a moment ago turning white with the strain. Her throat, so tight before when she’d been holding back her screams, loosened enough to allow a voice hoarser and deeper than her own to pass.

“Da, da, da,” the raspy voice murmured.

Dominique froze as she realized who had possessed her. It was Ezili Danto, grand matriarch of the loa. To be possessed by her was an experience few dared to dream of, let alone achieve. Even she had never dreamed she would ever receive such an honor.
Jacque slowly lowered the arrow. “Perhaps you’d like to take a moment to fetch a drink of water? You sound rather parched.”
The urge to chastise him for his disrespect tightened Dominique’s jaw, but she consoled herself with the knowledge that the mouthy would-be bounty hunter was no match for the loa.

“I am Ezili Danto. Dominique Laveau is my priestess, a communicator between me and my people. You will stop your attack on her now and return to your own shores.”

Jacque settled the arrow against the string of his bow, not quite nocking it, but preparing for the possibility all the same. “It’s too bad you’re too lazy for ventriloquism. Just changing your voice isn’t much of a trick.”

Dominique’s nose wrinkled, and she felt the disdain of Ezili Danto as if it were her own. “Man child. You hail from the island of Scythia, do you not?”

The blond bowman paused, eyes narrowing as he tilted his head to the side. “And if I am?”

“You have the scent of the emerald isle about you. I know that scent, have met one who called your island home. You say you are bored, little fey. I shall make you a deal. I will offer you a way to assuage your boredom without leaving your island. And you will leave Sanguennay—now. Never to plague Dominique—or her husband—again.”

“You’ve made her rather more interesting now,” Jacque pointed out doubtfully. “I was already quite impressed when she shook off my first glamour, but now that she seems to have more than one person in her body…” He gestured at Dominique with his chin. “Scythia has grown rather dull. What is it you will give me to take her place?”

“A woman.”

Jacque snorted, a loud, rude sound. “Surely you jest? Do you think I need your help to find a woman? I’m offended, really. Why I can’t walk from tree to stream without falling over some young lass only too willing to tackle me into the nearest shady glen. If the pleasures of the flesh were enough to entertain me—”

“Do shut up, little fey.” Ezili Danto sounded as annoyed as Dominique felt, and just as put off by the archer’s bravado. “I am not finished. Seek out the one called Marian LaFey in County Brasil.”

“And what is so interesting about Marian?”

Dominique’s face pulled into a smile, a secretive little curling of her lips. She was intrigued to feel a spark of true amusement in the grand loa. “She has a secret.”

The spark of interest flared anew in Jacque’s green eyes and he lowered the bow and arrow, standing with is weapon at his sides. “A secret can be promising.” He tapped the arrow against his thigh. “But then it can also be very common. What kind of secret does this Marian have that you think will tempt me so?”

Dominique’s head shook. “I will tell you no more. If you want to solve the mystery that is Marian LaFey, then you must go home and find her yourself.”

The fey seemed to consider it for a moment, eyes going hazy as if he were lost in thought. After a moment, he gestured at Dominique again. “And if I do not find her as interesting as your Voodoo Queen?”

“If you do not find her infinitely more interesting than my priestess, then you may return and we will continue our…conversation.”

Several moments dragged by, the fey’s study of Dominique unwavering. Finally, he nodded slowly. “Very well. Until then.”

And just like that he was gone. Vanished, as if into thin air, though Dominique knew it had likely been yet another illusion.

Whatever his personality flaws, the man was truly without equal with his particular skill set. A shiver ran down her skin, alerting her that she was once again in possession of her own body. Images of flames danced in her head, telling her in no uncertain terms that the fey’s illusion would haunt her dreams for some nights to come. She said a heartfelt prayer of thanks to Ezili Danto and turned to glare at the house.

Julien is going to pay for this.

END BONUS SCENE

However…

There will be more “Jacque.” It just so happens that he will be the hero of the next book. Mwa, ha, ha, ha…