Spoiler Alert. This flash fiction takes place before the Freed Fae War in the second half of Deceived. It’s a deleted scene from the book.

*****

After a hard run, the shifter cut through a gully. Tempe ran up the more stable hillside, jumped off an overhang, and beheaded him before her feet hit the ground. She stuck the landing. Breathing hard from the run, she felt, rather than saw, the first drops on her brow. Fire, not rain. She called a wall of water to absorb the fire droplets that rained down on her head. She looked around and found her new opponent, a wizard, with serious control of his powers. The fire drops landed only on her, or as was now the case, her water wall.

Okay, she had trespassed, her bad. But since the wizard hadn’t posted a sign, magical or otherwise, how was she to know that he had claimed this territory for his personal use?

The Gorkong (a large ape from the Farseen that gave rise to the various Bigfoot legends) shifter must have led her into the wizard’s land. Smart. He might have gotten away while she battled the wizard, but it wouldn’t have saved him for long.

The shifter had progressed from terrorizing to killing humans, landing him on the shifter sovereign’s radar and Tempe’s to do list. The most important law for preternaturals was keep humans in the dark. No preternaturals wanted humans to find out magic and monsters existed. Humans didn’t have magic but they had numbers, and technology, on their side.

She dropped her water when the wizard quit with the fire. The wizard stared at her for a few seconds before a smile spread across his face. Thinking he had recognized her she relaxed. The wind picked up and leaves swirled in a tight funnel before they flew straight at her. The leaves were sharp as new knives.

*****

Flashing her assets for all to see, Tempe opened a way to Eli’s patio. The wizard in the Black Hills of South Dakota was powerful and the battle had been memorable. His command of casting was impressive and she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he was in the High Coven. Wizards normally kept to their coven, and cloaked their homes to prevent other preternaturals from finding them. They were the casting powerhouses of the preternatural world. Lucky for Tempe she had other magic to call besides casting.

She escaped the wizard’s wrath, but her clothes didn’t survive the encounter. She still didn’t understand how he knew about, and recreated, one of the most embarrassing moments in her long life. That leaves to knives spell was wicked. Aside from the shredded clothes she had little cuts all over her body. They stung. Like a fool she hadn’t immediately set a shield. The wizard would have considered the shield an aggressive move and she had hoped to prevent exactly the confrontation she ended up in. Next time political correctness could take a hike.

She had left the wizard unconscious so at least she wouldn’t have to report to the sovereign that she killed a wizard without the High Wizard’s approval. It’s the little things.

She planned to sneak into her brother’s house unobserved. It was late and she expected everyone to be in bed, snoring or counting sheep. She opened the door to discover most of her Tennessee family hanging out in Eli’s kitchen having a midnight snack.

No one spoke for a second. It wasn’t often that Tempe returned from a mission battered, and her clothes had been sliced rather spectacularly.

Ryan blushed and looked away, but snickered, “Aunt Tempe, do you know your clothes are shredded?”

“Obviously,” she snarled.

“Did you meet another witch with a leaves-to-knives spell?” Sam asked carefully hiding his smile with his mug.

“Witch? No.”

“What happened? Or would you like us to guess?” Eli asked straight-faced.

Bryce shook his head, but remained silent. He had expected her brothers and nephew to be smarter when it came to dealing with Tempe in a mood.

“I’m going to get cleaned up and changed.” Tempe stormed past everyone, took the stairs two at a time, pretending she didn’t hear their laughter. Family, can’t live with ‘em, can’t shoot ‘em. Well, she could, but that might upset her mother, the sovereign.

She entered the room she shared with Bryce, tossed her clothes in the trashcan, and hopped in the shower where the water stung the numerous cuts on her body. Wrapped in a towel she stepped out of the shower to see Bryce holding a bottle of ointment.

“Peace offering.”

“I accept only because I’m a magnanimous person,” came the arrogant reply, before she lowered her voice and muttered, “And because it hurts.”

As Bryce tended to her various cuts and scrapes he asked, “Why do I get the feeling you’re more angry about being seen injured than you are about being injured?”

“Because you’re a smart man,” she replied, and then hissed as he added the salve to a deep cut.

She didn’t believe the songs the fae bards sung about her. The ones that said she couldn’t be defeated. She knew better. But the more shifters who thought she was invincible the better. If they feared her, individual shifters would be less likely to do something foolish that would require her to take the type of punitive action she had taken today.

“This one might need a stitch,” he commented.

“Nah, as fast as we heal, a butterfly bandage will do fine.” She grabbed one out of the first aid kit in their room.

Bryce took the bandage and gently affixed it over the offending cut. “You know. I have a house we could stay at sometimes. That way you could sneak in and tend your wounds before the others see.”

“That might be nice,” Tempe admitted, and then grinned broadly. “How many other people live there?”

Eli’s house was full most days. As the prif he always had visitors.

“Two, including us,” Bryce replied.

“Perfect.”

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