Bonus Scene: Panic
Originally, Bluebeard's Children was supposed to follow the same third person perspective as The Eyes of The Sun. I wrote nine chapters before I decided to scrap the story line and switch to first person for the sake of jumping into Lucy's head. The following would have been Chapter eight. Part of what was scrapped was the location of what would become Blackthorn Plantation. The area south of the city is mostly open and flat. Not a very good place to hide a secret compound.
“What are you still doing here?”
Andre regarded Lucy with an amused curiosity. “Nice to see you too. I was just coming to tell you the equipment is packed and we can leave as soon as you’re ready.”
“Oh. I thought you were going with everyone else.”
“Whose equipment did you think we were packing? You’re the one who told me to drag half my lab down to the swamp.”
“Sorry,” Lucy opened the door to her room and motioned for Andre to follow her. “I assumed Abe would send everything with one of the med techs.”
Lucy sidestepped Andre, who was taking up far too much space in the small foyer, and grabbed the two small backpacks she had prepared earlier. Her eyes trailed to the open bedroom door wistfully as she remembered the last time she and Andre had been in this room together.
“Oh?” Andre scowled, “Hoping for the new guy? I hate to break it to you but he seems smitten with Lance.”
Lucy dropped the bags on the counter and shot Andre a withering glare.
“That might be because Darren is Lance’s boyfriend. I you want to play head games with me you should probably do your homework first.”
She stalked around to the kitchen and checked to make sure everything was off, yanking the coffee maker’s cord from the outlet with more force than necessary. Satisfied that she wouldn’t accidentally burn the building down in her absence, Lucy scooped up the bags once again and gestured to the door.
Their journey south was punctuated by torturously quiet. Lucy’s last shreds of hope of salvaging their relationship slipped farther away with every silent mile. Andre’s accusation, the second since his return, stung. The more she thought about it, the more she started to believe that his own guilty conscience was causing Andre to grasp at straws, hoping to catch her when clearly, he must have been unfaithful.
Almost an hour after they left the sky suddenly became as dark as Lucy’s mood.
“I didn’t see any storms on the radar earlier,” She muttered, pulling out her phone and checking the weather map. A band of storms had appeared out of nowhere and appeared to be covering the entire southern region of the state. She ventured a glance at Andre, who appeared just as puzzled by the sudden weather shift. “This could get ugly.”
A moment later the windshield was being pelted by fat drops of rain and Lucy’s phone rang.
“Hey Evan,” she answered.
“Hey Lucy, has the storm hit yet?”
“It’s just started raining, but the clouds came out of nowhere. Any idea what’s happening?”
“The national weather service is saying that it’s a freak storm, but warned that it could develop into hurricane like conditions. If you haven’t hit the marshes yet I strongly advise that you pull over.”
A bolt of lightning flashed somewhere in front of the van, followed rapidly by the loudest thunder clap Lucy had ever heard. Andre swore and jerked the steering wheel back to the left as temporary blindness had caused him to drift off the road. Almost immediately the rain became a wall of water that the windshield wipers had little effect on.
“Evan says to pull over,” Lucy relayed, her voice pitched higher than usual.
“I don’t think we have any other options,” Andre said tersely.
The van had slowed to less than five miles per hour, but with no visibility Andre was having a difficult time gauging where the shoulder was.
“It just hit us, we’ll call back once it’s safe!”
Lucy disconnected the call, gripped the armrests on her seat and didn’t let go until Andre had maneuvered the van as close to the guardrail as he could get it. Andre called Evan back and Lucy sent a message to Miles, alerting the team to their whereabouts. Miles replied and assured her that everyone at the facility was safe, but that there was a good chance the area would flood. She tried not to think about the fact that the entire mission could end in failure simply because the weather decided to take a turn for the worse. Instead she leaned her already throbbing head against the rain cooled window and tried to calm down.
Andre reclined his seat back and let out a sigh.
“Are you starting to feel like the powers that be are telling you something?”
“I don’t believe in omens,” Lucy snapped. “It’s going to take a lot more than weather to make me turn my back on those kids.”
“I never said you would, Lucy. I was merely commenting on the fact that we’ve only been on this mission for half a day and so far everything that can go wrong has and I can’t say that I’d be surprised if this trend continues.”
Lucy shifted away from the window and turned to look at Andre, reclined in the driver’s seat with his eyes closed as if he had simply pulled off the road for a moment of rest. Lucy wasn’t fooled. She knew that despite his relaxed pose his mind was busy calculating every future disaster and planning around it. It was as infuriating as it was admirable.
“How would that be different from any of our previous missions?”
Andre’s eyes snapped open and he turned to look at her. His expression was stern, but there was an underlying tenderness that sent a bittersweet jolt through Lucy’s heart.
“It bothers me that you chose to accept this rather than learn from it. There’s a reason it’s called being fatalistic and in this line of work the emphasis is on fatal.”
Lucy was about to reply that this was the reason she wasn’t a hunter anymore when the already bad weather took a turn for the worse in the form of hail. Large chunks of ice ricocheted off the roof and windows. Andre immediately pushed his seat upright.
“Get behind the seats in case the windows break.”
Lucy wasted no time scrambling over the armrest and wedging herself into the small space behind her seat. Andre followed, folding himself behind the driver’s seat. With their knees bent nearly to their chests, their feet still touched in the middle. After ten minutes the hail showed no signs of letting up and Lucy began to panic in the cramped space. Her breathing became shallow and her heart felt like it was going to pound right out of her chest. Andre noticed with alarm that her skin had gone from pale to waxen and she was shivering.
“Lucy, what’s wrong?”
“I…I can’t move…I can’t breathe! I hate this.” Her voice was a hysterical squeak.
“Here, lean forward, on your knees,” Andre stretched forward and pulled Lucy toward him, stretching his own legs and turning her so that was seated on his lap with her back against his chest, giving her room to stretch her own legs out between his. “There we go, just breathe with me, okay? Deep breaths.”
Unable to speak, Lucy nodded, leaned back against Andre’s chest and took a deep, shuddering breath.
“That’s it, deep breaths,” Andre murmured, “It’s okay, we’re safe, Lucy.”
After a few minutes Lucy’s heartbeat had returned to normal and the panic had subsided, leaving her too drained to be embarrassed. She tilted her head to the side and leaned it against Andre’s chest, listening to the strong, steady beat of his heart.
“Thanks,” she whispered faintly.
“You’re welcome,” Andre whispered back, grazing her temple with the faintest suggestion of a kiss. “What happened? I thought you weren’t claustrophobic?”
“I wasn’t,” Lucy replied with a shiver, “but being locked in a cage for three days then being buried alive scarred me a lot more than I like to admit.”
“Jesus, Lucy,” Andre’s arms tightened around her waist instinctively, “I’m so sorry, I should have realized.”
Lucy chastised herself silently for the hope that swelled with Andre’s protective gesture. Her rational mind knew that the last thing she wanted was for their relationship to reignite based on a vulnerable moment, but at that moment she didn’t care. The only thing that mattered was the fact that despite the deadly storm raging around them, and despite the uncertain future of the mission they were about to embark upon, being in Andre’s arms made her feel more whole than she had in a very long time and she allowed herself to indulge in the moment.
“S’ok,” she half yawned, giving into exhaustion, “We all have scars. Even if you can’t see ‘em.”