*Warning: As deleted scenes, they have not been edited and polished. These were cut from earlier drafts, so the writing is not quite as shiny as a finished product. Don't judge the author. ;-)
The speedboat couldn’t reach the island fast enough for Sophia. She stood at the bow, watching with impatience as the island slowly grew larger in the darkness. The wind whipped her dark auburn hair against her face but she didn’t notice the stings on her skin. She was focused on getting there, the upcoming conversation and getting back. She had very little time.
She had told her daughter she would only be gone for the weekend. She hated leaving her there alone with him. She didn’t know if she could trust him and prayed that she hadn’t put her daughter’s life at risk. But that was why she had to come.
She could have made a simple phone call, but she didn’t want just verbal answers. She wanted to feel the responses, to know the truth in them. And that could only be accomplished in person.
She could flash only about a hundred miles at a time, forcing her to the confines and time restrictions of an airplane, just like everyone else. It was frustratingly slow. Each one-way flight was fourteen hours. That didn’t leave her much time to get the information she needed to calm her fears…or to change their minds.
As the driver approached, Sophia could already feel the magic of the island. She could feel her body automatically shedding the years of intense control, as if a second skin was falling off of her and slipping into the water. After so many years of being on guard and mastering control, she could just let go and be herself. She had forgotten the exhilarating feeling. Too anxious to wait, she jumped from the slowing boat and easily cleared the ten feet to the dock.
Although she had such little time and she could have been at the door in the blink of an eye, she strode up the path to the mansion. It was a hurried walk for the average person, but slow enough for her that she could pull her thoughts together one more time.
She hadn’t been to the island since her daughter was just an infant. It hadn’t changed. The tall Cyprus trees lined the uphill path, leading to a walkway framed with stone arches, which had at one time intimidated her with their ancient history. She barely noticed them now. She focused on the primordial stone mansion that glowed white in the darkness, reflecting the moon’s light. She could see dim, flickering lights in the deep windows.
A familiar, lanky man opened the heavy, wood front door for her.
“Good evening, Ms. Sophia,” he said politely. “Ms. Katerina is expecting you.”
Of course she was. It was virtually impossible to surprise Rina, but at least, Sophia planned it so there was not enough time for Rina to call a counsel. As their matriarch, Rina was fully capable of providing the answers Sophia sought. And Sophia wanted straight answers, directly from Rina, not contrived ones from the council.
“Hello, my beloved,” said a soft, feminine voice. The stunning woman seemed to float down the massive stone stairs in a long, silver, satiny gown. Even in the immense, dark foyer, lit only by the flames in the wall sconces, her beauty was remarkable. The resemblance between Rina and Sophia was striking. The average human, with their average eyes, would believe them to be sisters, possibly twins. Sophia’s face was a little softer, though, the angles not as sharp. Although it had been eighteen years since they had seen each other, neither had changed.
Rina wrapped her arms around Sophia. “I have missed you so.”
“Hello, Mother.” Sophia stiffly returned the hug.
Rina took Sophia’s hand and led her through an archway off the foyer into a parlor. They sat next to each other on an antique but perfectly conditioned brown leather loveseat. A fire crackled in the stone fireplace. Candle flames cast dancing shadows on the stone walls and across the women’s faces. They turned to stare at each other, both silent for a long while.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Rina finally asked. “It has been so long.”
“Yes, it has.”
Sophia clearly remembered her last visit. Like this one, she had been reluctant. She had brought Alexis, less than a year old, at the demand of her mother. Rina and the council needed to inspect the child to determine her qualities. Because of the circumstances of the conception and who the child’s father was, Sophia knew it had been necessary. But it had been terrifying for her. She had known if they found the father’s qualities overpowering her own genes, they would take the baby from her. They not only determined the child safe, but were amazed at her hidden power. The plans they had for her before she was even born, knowing the potential, were solidified. Sophia had not been pleased with those plans, so she had kept Alexis away ever since.
But it was those plans that brought her back now.
“I sense that you feel hurried,” Rina said, bringing Sophia back to her current situation. As always, Rina’s voice was soft, her words slow, her tone elegant.
“Yes, I need to get back to Alexis before she suspects anything.”
“So what is it that requires a personal meeting when you have been satisfied with telephone calls all these years?”
“I am worried about Alexis and I needed to talk to you directly, personally.”
“It must be important if you need all of your senses for this conversation.” Rina’s mahogany eyes were wide, mixed with knowing and curiosity at the same time.
“Yes, I find my daughter’s life to be of the utmost importance to me.”
“As do I. So what is it that concerns you?”
Sophia took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to control her emotions.
“He has come for her.” It was a simple statement, yet full of meaning for both women.
Rina studied her daughter for a silent moment. “Sophia, you have known this was going to happen for eighteen years now. Surely you have come to terms with it.”
“I did not know it would be so soon. She is so young!”
Rina nodded with understanding. “Yes, it is sooner than we expected. I suspect he is curious, though. He has been waiting for a very long time.”
Sophia lifted her chin in defiance. “She’s not ready.”
“You will have to trust him to know when it is time.”
Sophia glared at her mother. “Trust him? Do you really trust him?”
“You know we do. He will do the right thing.”
“The right thing by whom? Not her! He will only hurt her.”
“We don’t know that.”
“Be realistic! He is not made to love. It is not in his nature. And that’s all we’re made for. And Alexis even more than the rest of us.”
“More than you?” Rina raised her eyebrows at her daughter.
“Yes! I feel the potential that she can love even more than me. She has built high, protective walls around herself but when those walls finally come down, it will be a more intense love than even you or I have ever known. It seems that he has already pulled more bricks out than anyone else ever has.”
“Then why don’t you just teach her your ways? The humans cannot possibly return the deep love you have for them, so you leave them before they can hurt you. It is potentially the same type of situation.”
Anger bubbled in Sophia’s chest like lava. Her mother had delivered a low blow.
“I leave them before I hurt them,” she said through clenched teeth. “It is a painful way to live.”
“Yet, you do it to protect yourself, too. Alexis can do the same.”
Sophia’s heart immediately softened at the thought. She shook her head. “She’s so sensitive and fragile. All she wants is to love and be loved. I don’t think she could do it my way.”
“She would rather suffer?”
“Yes, if I know her,” Sophia answered with a sigh. Tears sprang into her eyes but did not fall. She diverted the topic away from herself and her daughter and back to him. “Do you know what he has been doing all of this time?”
“He contacts us every now and then. He does not share much when he does, but he does seem to want to keep his ties with us.”
“But has he ever returned to…them?”
“No, we have not sensed that.”
“And do they still pursue him? Are they still trying to bring him back?”
“Most certainly. They did, after all, create him for the sole purpose of being their strongest warrior. They expect that he will eventually come to terms with who he is and return to the dynasty they have waiting for him. But I really do believe he has turned his back on that part of his life.”
Sophia’s voice hardened again. “But we can never know for sure.”
Rina sighed. “No, we cannot. That is true. Our natural tendencies can be overpowering.”
“Exactly why I’m so worried about my daughter.”
“You know as well as I do that he has superior self control. That is one of his natural qualities. And remember, Sophia, his blood also carries that of our ancestors. He is just as much an unknown as your own Alexis. He has enough loyalty to us to at least follow through on his promise. He knows it is the right thing to do.”
“If he does, the Daemoni will kill him in revenge for his betrayal.”
“Yes, that remains a possibility.”
“As well as those close to him.”
Rina did not respond. Sophia knew she was right. She had known this was coming since her daughter was born, but now that it was becoming a reality, she was frightened. All of the potential outcomes were not acceptable.
“So there are three possibilities here.” She could barely allow herself to say it, but she couldn’t keep it in, either. “He keeps his promise, yet hurts her deeply when he leaves, a heartbreak that just may kill her. Or his own nature overcomes him and he fulfills his original destiny of killing her. Or the Daemoni kill them both.”
Rina’s silence was enough confirmation for her daughter. Sophia felt out for the truth behind her mother’s responses. She could feel the tenseness emanating from Rina and realized that neither Rina nor anyone in the council was sure of Alexis’s future. They had their strong beliefs, but there was too much they did not know about the very natures of both creatures involved. Too many unknowns.
Sophia also realized there was nothing she could do to change their plans. Her powers of persuasion did not work on her mother or any of the council. Their minds were too strong. They fervently believed in this future they had planned so many years ago. The results would ensure their survival for many more centuries. It was going to happen, with or without Sophia’s acceptance or approval.
“You cannot stop this, Sophia,” Rina reminded her.
Sophia sighed with resignation, blinking the tears back, refusing to let them fall. She knew in her heart that she couldn’t – and shouldn’t – fight it. Allowing the plan to proceed was the right thing to do, whether she liked it or not.
“She deserves to know what is going on, then,” Sophia said.
Rina seemed to consider this, although Sophia knew she had many times before. She was surprised by her mother’s answer.
“In time there will be the need to tell her some of our truths. Just remember that exposing too much could destroy her…and us. She will not be able to understand it all until she has received her full Amadis power, but she has another purpose before that occurs. Too much knowledge will prevent her from achieving that. You know what I am saying, no?”
“Yes, I understand. She is already working on it.”
“That is good news!” Rina smiled. “Just let her live her life naturally for now, Sophia. Tell her what she needs to know when she needs to know it. Everything else will follow her path the way it is supposed to.”
Sophia pinched the bridge of her nose with her thumb and forefinger. “Exactly what I'm afraid of.”
Rina gingerly placed her hand on her daughter’s shoulder.
“Worrying is pointless, darling. It is how it is meant to be.” Rina paused, then added, “You have forgotten the fourth possibility. The one we prefer to believe. The one that even you could accept.”
Sophia looked at her mother, her brows furrowed with confusion. She shook her head. “I don’t see it.”
“He could return her love.”
Sophia sucked in her breath. “Impossible!”
Rina’s eyes focused intently on her daughter’s face. “Nothing is impossible with these two, Sophia. Alexis is stronger than you could ever believe. And, as for Tristan…well…he never ceases to surprise us….”