Destruction Deleted Scene

The following is a deleted scene from chapter 10 of Destruction (Mystic #5), along with an alternate point-of-view intro, so it contains major series *spoilers*.

You’ve been warned.

Happy reading!

 

 

Banning’s aura was a mess, haunted by depressing blues, tumultuous grays, and flares of deep red; and the haze couldn’t decide if it should expand in anger or shrink in retreat. Quin carefully contemplated the flow and colors as Banning and Brietta argued about Kegan moving in with them. Quin wasn’t shocked by the news, but Banning’s vehement reaction to it had come as a surprise, so while the siblings bickered, Quin paid close attention, searching for the spark that lit Banning’s fire.

“You’ve been playing games for years,” Banning accused. “Not once have either of you taken a serious step. And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Kegan stomping on your heart a week ago?”

Quin glanced at his best friend, making sure he wasn’t missing part of the story, but Kegan’s pale face and evident aura countered Banning’s argument, and Brietta was quick to correct her brother.

“I told you that was a misunderstanding, Bann. Eve wasn’t even here to see Keg. And I was to blame for that as much as he was.”

“That just proves my point,” Banning insisted. “A week ago you were both acting like petty teenagers unable to talk to each other, let alone commit. Now you’re suddenly ready to move in together? Are you trying to fill Mom and Dad’s void or what?”

There it was.

Layla gasped as Brietta snapped her mouth shut, and before Banning could shove his foot further down his throat, Quin cut in. “That’s enough.”

Banning whipped his gaze around. Then Quin held it while speaking to Brietta. “Pull over. We need some air.”

As soon as the car was in park, Quin opened the door and unfolded himself from the cramped backseat. Then he motioned for Banning to follow. He obeyed, shoving his hands in his pockets while heading for a cluster of trees, and Quin scanned their surroundings before leaning into the passenger window. Layla was facing him, ready and waiting for a kiss, so he gave her two before walking away.

Banning had already slipped into the shadows, but he left behind a trail of disturbed nature, guiding Quin through the timber until he spotted an aura. The haze was calmer than before, but Banning’s posture remained rigid as he rubbed his face. “You don’t have to say it. I fucked up.”

Quin dug into his satchel as he moved to the spot beside Banning. Then he lit a joint and passed it over. “Yeah. You did.”

Banning accepted the herb, but then he just stared at it with shiny eyes, his jaw flexing as his throat swelled. “Are you pissed?”

“No. You’re pissed enough for both of us.”

Banning’s chest expanded. “You should have seen her, man. You should have seen what he did to her mere days after our parents died. I’ve never seen her like that, not even close. The way I just hurt her – that’s nothing compared to what he did to her. And it’s only been a week.”

Quin intently listened. Then he motioned toward the joint. “Hit that, because I’m about to tell you something you don’t want to hear.”

“Then don’t tell me.”

“You need to hear it. Now take a hit and chill out.”

Banning sighed and reluctantly obeyed, taking three big pulls off the weed. Then he held in the last one while returning the joint. “Get it over with.”

Quin ignored the demand, giving the high time to kick in as he extinguished the herb and tucked it away, but once the haze beside him began to decelerate, he tentatively continued to defuse the situation. “You’re wrong about Keg. He didn’t do that to her.”

Banning scowled. “What do you mean he didn’t do that to her? I was there, Quin. I’m the one who picked up the shattered pieces.”

Quin stayed silent until the rant halted. Then he calmly explained. “It wasn’t his actions that took her down. She shattered because he wasn’t there.”

Banning blinked and closed his mouth, letting the theory sink in as Quin continued. “Why he wasn’t there is a different story, one I don’t know well enough to judge, but you and I both know Bri won’t let anyone treat her like shit. If Kegan wronged her, she’d make him work a lot longer than a week to get back into her good graces. It seems far more likely that recent tragedies, along with the misunderstanding over Eve’s visit, helped them realize what they want from each other.”

“Or made them jump into something they’re not ready for.”

“I think they are ready,” Quin disagreed. “But that’s not for us to decide. Whatever they’re getting themselves into, it’s up to them to work it out. Not you.”

Banning bowed his head and pressed a thumb and forefinger to his eyes. “She’s all I have left.”

“Now we’re getting to the point,” Quin approved. “And I understand where you’re coming from. Your lives have been flipped upside-down. Now she’s pulling another rug out from under you.”

Banning nodded, but he didn’t reply, so Quin gave his shoulder a squeeze while going on. “There’s no easy fix for the turmoil you’re dealing with, but your sister has found an antidote for the pain, and I don’t believe for one second you want to deny her that.”

This time Banning shook his head no while drawing a shaky breath.

“There is a silver lining,” Quin added.

Banning rubbed his eyes then dropped his hand. “Let’s hear it.”

“She didn’t leave. She could have packed up and left her troubles behind, but she stayed, and I bet she stayed for you more than anyone else. You’re not losing her, Bann. She’s still down the hall. And you have to give Kegan some credit for leaving his family behind to join a coven that’s been plagued by danger for the past month. He’s making big sacrifices and life-altering decisions to be with her, but I bet he didn’t think twice about making them.”

“I didn’t consider what he’s giving up.”

“Now you have.”

“I guess I did fuck up.”

“I’ve seen worse.”

“I made her cry, Quin. I can’t remember the last time I hurt her like that.”

“You must be blocking out the time you cut her hair while she slept.”

Banning’s eyes widened as old memories rushed in, and he couldn’t stifle the grin that twitched his lips. “I forgot about that. Man, she was pissed. How old were we?”

“Nine and seven.”

“She squalled like I’d cut off her arm. How could I forget that?”

“Because she got over it.”

“Only after Mom agreed to regrow her hair with magic. The two of them spent hours fixing my screw up. Dad made me do Bri’s chores until they were done.”

“A just punishment.”

“Theoretically, but he helped me the whole time. Now that I think about it, I can clearly see him trying to suppress his laughter as Mom scowled at him from across the room.”

Quin smiled while recalling Enid’s beautiful face. “Your sister has the same scowl.”

“Yeah. I see them in her every day.”

“And she finds them in you. That’s why you’re going to go out there and make this right. You don’t have to apologize to Kegan. Just give him a chance to prove himself. But you do need to apologize to Bri. She did nothing wrong, and she needs you as badly as you need her. Keg can’t replace you, and he can’t replace your parents. He knows that, she knows it, and you know it.”

Banning nodded while taking a deep breath. Then he sighed and straightened. “You’re right. As usual.”

They turned and headed back to the car. “Do you ever get tired of that?” Banning asked. “Knowing everything?”

Quin kept his gaze on his path as he solemnly replied. “I wish I knew more.”

“It must be exhausting, harboring all that insight.”

“It’s worth it if it helps the people I care about.”

A moment of silence passed as they approached bouncing shafts of cloudy sunlight. Then Banning halted and urged Quin to do the same. “It does, you know? You’ve helped me too many times to count. If Kegan’s half the man you are, he’ll be a decent housemate.”

“You’ll be as close as brothers someday,” Quin predicted. Then he slapped Banning’s back and continued walking, anxious to see Layla’s face.

He found it as he emerged from the tree line, and after meeting her smile, he took another long look at Banning’s aura, making sure he was calm enough to relay a proper apology. Upon finding nothing of concern, Quin wiped his mind of the siblings’ issues. Then he ducked into Layla’s window for a kiss.

Banning lived up to expectations, shedding his pride and grief so he could hug his sister and soothe her worries, and Brietta was eager to forgive so they could move on with his birthday.

After warning Kegan not to eat his food, Banning climbed into the backseat and made Caitlyn comfortable on his lap. Then he glanced between her and Layla. “Sorry about that. Just a little birthday angst.”

“No problem,” Layla assured. “I have some experience with that myself. I almost got arrested on my eighteenth birthday.”

“What?” Quin laughed.

Brietta was in the process of climbing into the car, and she echoed Quin while bumping her head on the ceiling.

Layla giggled at their shock then turned toward Kegan, who sat in the driver’s seat with his hands on the wheel. “Do you know what you’re doing?” she asked.

“I think I got it,” he answered.

“Then go for it. Just let me know if you have any questions.”

“Um… excuse me,” Brietta interjected. “But aren’t you going to explain your little run in with the law?”

“Sure,” Layla laughed, “but it’s not that exciting.” She waited for Kegan to get on the road. Then she shifted sideways in her seat as she elaborated. “I volunteered at the Gander Creek animal shelter for eight years. It was a tiny mess of a place, about the size of a double-wide trailer and always full, so for my senior year community service project, I spent months lobbying for the facilities to be expanded. After about a dozen fundraisers and way too much time sweet-talking local businessmen, I got it done.”

“I like that story,” Caitlyn commended.

“But where do the cops come in?” Brietta pressed. “You’re killing us here.”

Layla laughed as she went on. “Well, two weeks before the expansion was complete, around my eighteenth birthday, there was a scheduled euthanasia at the local pound. They were going to put down more than a dozen dogs, eight of which had reserved places in the shelter’s add-on.”

“Aww…” Caitlyn pouted.

“Right?” Layla returned. “The director of the pound was a real bitch and wouldn’t hold off on the kill date, so as a gift for my birthday and despite her allergies, my mom offered to help me liberate the dogs. We set up temporary cages in our backyard so we could take care of them, which was something I’d already offered to do, but that hag at the pound shot down every reasonable suggestion I made; said it went against city code to have that many dogs.”

“Sounds like she didn’t like dogs,” Kegan noted.

“She didn’t like anything,” Layla confirmed. “But just because she was a bitch didn’t mean her employees were, and I had a friend on the inside who agreed to take a walk around the grounds while my mom and I stole the savable dogs.”

“Are you kidding me?” Brietta countered. “That was your crime? Saving puppies from death? It’s like a… a… What’s the name of that movie company? The one with the theme parks?”

“Walt Disney,” Caitlyn answered.

“Yes,” Brietta exclaimed. “It’s like a Disney movie.”

Layla laughed and shook her head. “It wasn’t like a Disney movie at all.”

“I guess you got caught?”

“We made it out of there okay, but the director knew exactly where to send the police. One knocked on our door later that same day, and it was so funny, because the cop says, ‘I’m looking for some dogs.’ And as the evidence is barking and howling in the backyard, my mom, with her swollen and itchy eyes, calmly looks at the guy and says, ‘What dogs?’ I couldn’t help but laugh. The cop laughed, too.”

Banning grinned and shook his head. “Was that before or after he arrested you?”

“I said I almost got arrested,” Layla corrected. “We eventually confessed to the crime. I showed him our set-up and gave him my story, including proof that the dogs had a place reserved at the shelter. I even had written statements from my neighbors agreeing to temporarily deal with the barking. By the time I finished, he decided not to press charges. There was no forced entry at the pound, and I’d previously offered to pay for the dogs’ release, so the cops decided it was simply a matter of the bitchy director not accepting my money.”

“That’s a sweet story, love,” Quin offered.

“Like a Disney movie,” Brietta laughed.

“It wasn’t supposed to be sweet,” Layla countered. “It was supposed to be about doing uncharacteristic things on your birthday… angst.”

“I’m sorry, Layla,” Brietta returned, “but that story wasn’t very angsty.”

“Angsty,” Layla laughed. “You know who’s angsty? Cinderella.”

“Who?”

“I know this one,” Caitlyn cut in. “Cinderella’s one of the Disney heroines, the one with all the mono-emotion gnomes.”

Layla giggled and shook her head. “No. That’s Snow White and her seven dwarfs.”

“Oh yeah,” Caitlyn mumbled. “Was Cinderella the one who poked her finger and overslept?”

“Nope. That would be the sleeping beauty – Aurora.”

“Was Cinderella the fish?”

“No, and if by fish you mean mermaid, that’s Ariel. Cinderella was the one who had to slave away all day for her wicked stepsisters and stepmother.”

“That’s right,” Caitlyn recalled. “The one with the clever mice, pumpkin coach, and glass slippers, the one with the ridiculous midnight curfew.”

“Yes.”

Brietta laughed and looked at Caitlin. “How do you know so much about movies, Cait?”

“My great-grandma was friends with a hexless woman. She’d take me to visit her when I was little, and the lady would always put on a Disney movie while insisting I eat these awful cookies she made.”

“Did you eat them?” Banning asked.

Caitlyn wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “No way. I’d vanish them to the birds the second she wasn’t looking.”

A few knowing snickers skipped from the backseat as Kegan pulled over. Then he and Caitlyn switched places. “I’m just going to do this so I can say I did it,” Caitlyn noted. “I don’t want to go very far. Bann can take us back.”

“Sure,” Layla agreed. “Do you need instructions?”

“No. I think I got it, but don’t laugh too hard if I mess up.”

“If you mess up, and I’m able to laugh, we’re okay.”

Caitlyn smirked and put the car in gear. “Good point.”

♥♥♥

Hope you enjoyed getting extra insight into Banning’s 18th birthday! Thank you for reading!

~♥~ B.C. Burgess