***THIS CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS! If you have not read the first trilogy (Restless Spirit, The Dark Truth, and The Devil’s Darling, you are entering at your own risk.***
Here is a scene that didn’t make it into the books. For context, I’ve posted an excerpt from the Devil’s Darling, and below that, is something extra for you:
The Devil’s Darling –
“It’s not Disturbed singing it.”
“Who is it?”
“Tanner,” Eli whispered. “It’s Tanner.”
She gasped and covered her mouth with both hands. “His voice is…”
“Stronger now.” Eli couldn’t help but smile. “When you… when we lost you, he lost himself to music. It was how he coped. He hasn’t written anything new, but he sang his fucking heart out for you.”
Her face paled and she started rocking back and forth. Eli leaned over and grabbed her, tugging her into his lap. “That’s our song he’s singing. Me and Tanner’s.”
“You said some of the lyrics to him… just before you died.”
Eli nodded. “I didn’t want him to forget what he did for me.” When Sara looked at him he continued, “We all mourned you differently. Jack bought mangled metal and beat it all back into shape, sold the cars or gave them away to families in need. Kalen made enough furniture to furnish six city blocks, and would smash them all the minute they were finished and set them on fire.”
“Sounds like Wolf.”
“Yeah,” he chuckled. “I dealt with your loss by being there for everyone else. I took on their pain, focused on making them better in hopes that some of their healing would rub off on me.” He sighed, inwardly his soul was awakening as Tanner hit the notes and sang the melody that always made Eli feel things soul fucking deep.
“Jesus, that voice,” Sara said in awe. “I have goosebumps.”
Eli did, too. “He would sit in his room for hours, days even. Always with those headphones on so he could block out the world. Block out us.” Without Sara, there is no Us, that’s what Tanner had said more than once. “He played that guitar… the sacred one that hangs on the wall.”
She knew the one. He had several guitars hanging in his room, but only one was off limits.
“We all kinda closed up after the hope of finding you became smaller and smaller. There was no more playing loud music in the living room. No more poker night in the kitchen. No laughter. We just hung our heads and kept to ourselves for the most part. I’d go around, checking on each Hound if I sensed they were getting too deep into sorrow. Do what I could to get their heads right again. But the house was always quiet. Too quiet.”
“The Sound of Silence.”
Eli nodded again. “One night, I came in from hunting and the house was dark. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was home but locked away in their rooms. I went to see if Tanner wanted to grab a bite to eat. He didn’t hear me knock because his headphones were on so I barged in. He was singing this song,” he pointed in the direction of the music, “Tanner didn’t hear me or anything else. He just strummed the guitar and sang… He took off with it, Sara. Channeled the music into this soulful… I can’t even describe it.” Eli bit back emotions creeping up, “Then he looked right at me and instead of shutting up like he always did, he sang to me. And the words… his voice… that song… those lyrics. I fell apart.”
Shit this was hard to admit.
“I broke down. Fell to my knees and fucking lost it. Tanner didn’t help me up until the song was over, then he let me take my sorrow and hurt out on him until my fists were bloody and my body ached and I couldn’t breathe past the burn in my lungs.”
Eli took a moment to collect himself. “He played that song every time I needed him to. We connected over it somehow. Grew even closer. Our pack was finally healing as much as it was going to without you. Afterwards, we started coming together a little more. Eating together more often. Hunting in pairs instead of going out solo. But it started that night, the night Tanner helped me carry the weight of your disappearance.”
“He knew you were the last Hound to deal with the loss.”
And this is the scene Eli talked about:
Copyright 2019 Briana Michaels
Eli walked for miles in the dark and as he turned up the long driveway that lead to the pack’s farmhouse, his boots were heavy and his movements sluggish. Cold air blew out of his mouth in puffs of white smoke and he stuffed his hands in his pants to keep them from going numb. It was a cloudy night with no moon in sight.
So fucking fitting that even the moon was gone from the sky right now.
Today was supposed to be so simple. He only had a couple errands to run and then he’d come home and wait until it was his turn to go hunt malanum.
But today hadn’t been that simple because everything felt wrong. The world was off its fucking axis. Without Sara, their world had toppled over and rolled of the cliff of the solar system and smashed to fucking pieces.
They’d all tried to stay so positive in the beginning, but not anymore. Those rare smiles Jack flashed were for show. The stocked fridge was just a habit. The pats on the back from Wolf were most likely so he could ground himself instead of collapsing in grief, and Tanner’s brief music sessions behind his closed door was to keep his sanity for a second longer.
That was their new norm – to hold on by a thread.
And Eli’s thread was fraying fast lately.
Not a day went by that he didn’t walk through the back door and expect to hear his girl laugh or see her sitting at the kitchen table with a smile on her face and long-neck bottle pressed against her sweet lips. Not a night went past that he didn’t reach over in his bed and in his half-dream state think she’d be there all curled up and hogging his blankets. But the chill that ran bone deep wasn’t because she’d stolen his comforter… it was always because he was alone in that bed.
And now, as he stepped into the pack’s farmhouse and got slapped in the face with reality, Eli fought to breathe. His chest ached like a dozen knives were piercing him. His heart actually clenched, as if someone had reached into his body and squeezed the organ into pulp.
It barely beat anymore.
Because it only ever beat for her.
Blowing out a painful exhale, Eli did his best to snap the fuck out of it. If the other Hounds saw him so gloomy-fucking-doomy, they’d downward spiral too and Eli wasn’t going to let that happen. He was going to keep this pack together and hope that one day, even if it took a thousand years, that a miracle would happen and they’d find their girl again. He had to cling to that hope or he’d free-fall into a grief so consuming, he’d never survive it.
Too tired to cook, Eli slugged up the steps, intending to ask Tanner if he wanted to grab a bite to eat. He knocked on the door, and when he didn’t get an answer, he barged in.
Tanner was sitting on the edge of his bed with his back to Eli and the rest of the world. With his headphones on and his precious guitar in his arms, that Hound’s head stayed down while he strummed the chords and sang The Sound of Silence.
Holy Hell, that voice, Eli thought.
Like the Angels were weeping and coming out of Tanner’s pipes with a raw, intense pain that only the damned would understand. Eli waited for the moment Tanner noticed him there and would stop singing. Tanner hardly ever sang anymore… and he didn’t ever sing in front of one of his pack members. Not now, anyway.
Eli took a step closer to him and Tanner either caught the movement, or Eli’s scent, but whatever it was that got his attention, the Hell Hound only turned at pinned Eli with a devastating glare.
Enough so that it cause Eli to freeze.
But Tanner didn’t stop singing. Instead, he stood and sung louder. His voice… fuck, Tanner’s deep, edgy voice rumbled the marrow of Eli’s bones. Every chord, every lyric, every fucking syllable sung knocked Eli down another notch.
And then another.
And then… another.
Eli slammed down on his knees, his chest heaving as he tried to reign in the grief about to erupt from his soul. His vision became tunneled, and solely focused on Tanner. That motherfucker kept singing that song. Like he knew it was draining the pain out of Eli, Tanner belted those lyrics like he was singing for the whole universe and all of Heaven and Hell to hear him.
As if he sang it raw enough, loud enough, with enough feeling – that their girl would hear it wherever she was and would find her way home to them.
Tears burned Eli’s eyes and he blinked hard, letting them fall.
And Tanner kept fucking singing.
Eli couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move, couldn’t get up and couldn’t shatter. He trembled and fought for every heartbeat. Prayed he had the strength to keep his shit together. And begged for someone let him finally fall apart.
Tanner. Kept. Fucking. Singing.
Those lyrics were a summons. That tone, a call for justice. And when Tanner hung his guitar back up on the wall and sang a cappella, that was the final chord that fractured Eli’s carefully constructed foundation.
Eli lost it – driving his fists into the floor, screaming for all he was worth, he let his tears fall and allowed his heart to clatter around in its cage. Tanner dropped down on the floorboards with him and held him tight.
Maybe it was so Eli didn’t punch actual holes in the floor, maybe it was to save him from free falling into oblivion, maybe it was because Tanner was going to fall to pieces too and was using Eli as an anchor. He didn’t know, and didn’t fucking care.
Eli just kept falling apart.
He could count on one hand how many times he’d cried in his lives, but never had he felt sadness of this magnitude. It was debilitating. Numbing. Un-fucking-controllable.
Tanner’s arms were tight around his chest and when Eli finally calmed down enough realize they were both now crying, Eli grew angry. He didn’t want to see Tanner upset. He sure as shit didn’t want to be the one to drag that Hound down to this level of sorrow. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Now Eli was furious with himself. Sadness burned into heat and fury. He was pissed. Pissed at the world for taking her away. Pissed at the pack because they hadn’t found her yet. Pissed that Lucifer couldn’t help. Pissed that the sky was too cloudy to see the moon. Pissed that the grass was still growing and the world was still spinning.
Rage, pure and hot and white, burst out of Eli and he roared with it. Shoving Tanner back, he watched the Hound stumble backwards and hit the bed.
Tanner grunted from the force. His blonde hair hung in his eyes, hiding how bright and blue they were. “Is that how it’s going to be, Eli?”
Is that how what’s going to be? he thought. Is this the way it’s going to be from now on without her with them? Fuck if he knew, but he needed to get this anger out. Now.
Eli’s hands balled into fists. He needed to leave. Get this aggression out of his system. Get right in the head…
He turned to leave.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going, Hound?” Tanner’s voice was deep and gravelly.
“I need to go. I gotta—”
“You gotta take it out on me,” Tanner stepped up and got in Eli’s face. “You’re always the one, Eli. You’re always the one to help us. Let me help you.” Tanner spread his arms out wide, displaying a tone, bare chest. His nipple rings gleamed in the low light. “Come on. Do this for yourself.”
Eli shook his head. “No.”
“Then do this for me.” Tanner looked just as torn apart at Eli felt. “Do this… for all of us.”
Eli swiped his hands down his face. Shaking his head, he closed his eyes and tried to back away.
“Yes,” Tanner closed the gap between them. “Yes, Eli.”
“YES!” Tanner shoved Eli and his back slammed against the door.
Eli. Saw. Red.
He didn’t know how many swings he took. Never once did he feel the impact of his fists on Tanner’s flesh. All that registered was Tanner screaming “AGAIN!” and Eli obeying his command.
By the end of it, both Hell Hounds were on their hands and knees panting. Bloody-knuckled and out of breath, Eli looked over at what a mess Tanner was. “Fuck. Oh Fuck,” he crawled over and grabbed Tanner by the shoulders. “I’m so sorry. I’m… I’m so—”
“Don’t be,” Tanner smiled that big, notorious grin of his. Fucker’s mouth was a busted mess and one of his eyes was swelling shut. “It feels good to feel something. I’ll take suffering, Hound. Especially if it’ll ease yours.” Tanner grabbed him and pressed their foreheads together. “That’s what you do right? Be whatever you need to be for the ones that love you? That’s what you always do for each of us, Hound.”
Too dumbfounded to speak, Eli clenched his jaw tight and nodded once. Yeah, that is what he always did for his pack. This was the first time he allowed himself to be the one in need. But damn… “I’m so sorry I did that.”
“Don’t be. Like I said,” Tanner popped up on his feet and grabbed a shirt, “It’s good to feel something for once. I’m numb all the time now without her.”
Eli rocked back on his ass and buried his head in his hands.
“If you ever need to get that out of your system again, come to me, Hound. No one else. Ever.”
What did that mean? Eli glanced up and – damn – that look blazing in Tanner’s eyes lit a fire in Eli.
“Give me your word, Hound.”
“No. Say it.”
“I’ll only ever come to you.” Eli’s heart pounded erratically as the vow tumbled out of his mouth.
“Good,” Tanner shrugged on his shirt and ran a hand through his faux-hawk. “You feel like grabbing something to eat? I’m starving.”
“Yeah,” Eli cleared his throat and slowly rose to his feet. “Yeah, I was uhhh… I’d come in here to see if you wanted to grab something. Wolf is hunting and I don’t know where Jack is, so it’s just the two of us.”
Tanner stared at him for a long moment, then swallowed and said, “In the mood for tacos? I could totally fucking eat a fuck ton of tacos tonight.”
“Yeah,” Eli’s grin was slow to grow but genuine, “Yeah, Hound. I’d love tacos.”
Tanner beamed him another killer big smile and smacked his shoulder, “Let’s go. I’ll drive.”
And that was the first time, but certainly not the last, that Eli allowed himself to fall apart and let Tanner put him back together…