A big part of editing is removing chunks from the rough draft that slow down the pace or aren’t totally necessary. This scene takes place in the hotel in Canada after Leah’s escape from Mythological Affairs custody, and subsequent delivery of her ultimatum monolog on video. In the final version of the book, this argument between she and Drake is summarized in retrospect. I removed it because it’s very dark, which killed the (albeit somber) victory vibes in this part of the book. Since then, I’ve revisited the scene a number of times because it’s important and a necessary part of Leah/Drake cannon. This version isn’t exactly what was written in the first drafts (it’s better, longer, and more detailed! Also a different POV style–third person instead of first) but it’s a very close approximation of what happened between them as it plays out in my head. (As always with extra scenes, this is unedited and pretty raw. So don’t judge, but do enjoy!)
Perched on the end of the bed, Drake reached and took Leah’s wrist as she buzzed by for the third time. The heat was a fuzzy static of distraction. When he touched her, he could feel that it buzzed with agitation and anxiety.
She stopped and looked at him, her brown eyes intense, her brows furrowed but not in concentration or anger. She’d stayed up half the night memorizing the monolog she’d just delivered for the cameras, practicing the series of shifts again and again. She’d worked on it for hours longer than she needed to, but then she’d said she wanted it to be perfect. And it had been. She’d delivered the words perfectly; she’d shifted more fluidly and quickly than anyone he’d ever seen. When she finished, the entire room had sat in stunned silence, awed.
So maybe she was stressed about that, he thought. But she didn’t need to be. He couldn’t think of why she would be. It was over.
“I know what you were planning,” she said, turning her body toward him with her wrist still held gently in his fingers.
He felt his own brow quirk in question, but then comprehension began filtering into his awareness, like sand between stones.
“I know you’ll outlive me,” she went on, her voice soft, her eyes full of matter-of-fact love. “And I know what you plan to do when that happens–”
“It doesn’t matter,” Drake replied quickly, cutting her off before she could finish the sentence. “You’re fine. It doesn’t matter.”
Leah’s eyes closed, then opened again. Her curved, pink lips pressed together, then fell open like she was trying to find words. The heat flowing under his fingers said she was trying to find calm.
But he didn’t want to have this conversation. They didn’t need to. They were fine.
“No,” she said, her head shaking. “No, it’s not fine. Nothing is fine while you hold a suicide pact with yourself.”
Drake shot a look at the closed door through which he knew Wyck and Terry, Teresa and Carrie, Sol and Michael were cleaning up the detritus of the morning’s activity, close enough to overhear them. When he looked to Leah again, he lowered his voice to respond: “Leah, I’ll never leave you alone like that. You don’t need to worry.”
She stared at him for a second, and the heat slowed. She stepped into him and he let go of her wrist so he could wrap his arms around her hips and rest his chin on her flat stomach while he peered up at her and she ran her fingers along his scalp, pushing his hair from his forehead.
“Of course you won’t,” she breathed. “I know that.”
He smiled on a sigh and turned his face into her shirt, glad she understood. Relieved they could drop the subject.
“That’s not what this is about, D.”
He felt his brow furrow. He went to look up at her again but she removed his arms from around her and stepped back, away from his embrace.
She ran her fingers under her eyes, but squared her shoulders. “Tell me.”
Huh? “Tell you what?”
“Tell me what you were going to do.”
That brought him up short. “What?”
“How were you going to do it? Where and when?”
“Leah, Jesus. I hadn’t thought that far into it.”
“If I were going to end my life,” she went on. “I’d do it quietly.”
“Leah, stop it.”
“No guns or rope.”
“Stop.” He fought the urge to slap his hands over his ears.
“And I’d do it somewhere where my family wouldn’t have to clean anything up—“
“I’d take some pills,” he ground out, cutting her off when he saw she wouldn’t stop until he gave her what she wanted. “I was gonna steal a bottle of Felix’s sleeping pills and take them all. Just go to sleep and never wake up. Okay?”
Leah’s heat pulsed, sending a single, terror-laced wave of emotion through him.
She stood in silence for a second. “No,” Leah finally breathed. “Not okay.”
A tide of anger welled in Drake’s chest, pushing words from his mouth. “You have no idea what this is about,” he shot off. “Baring a tragedy, you’ll never have to face the idea of losing me. But I do. Every day. I will lose you, Leah. One day, I will have to stare down a lifetime of years without you—”
“And I hate that for you!” she exclaimed, cutting him off. “I hate it! I hate that you’ll have to live through that, and I’d take it from you—I’d live it a hundred time if it meant I could spare you from it—“
“No, Lee, I don’t want that—“ He reached for her, but she stepped back again, away from him.
“But I can’t!” she went on. “I can’t take it from you. And I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry I’ll die before you. I don’t want it that way, but I can’t change it!”
“Leah, of course you can’t. I don’t expect you to—” If she would just stay still, he could hold her. That would make this better.
“Then why would you put the wager of your life on my hands?”
That brought him up short. He stopped. “What?”
“Do you think I’ve never thought about it?” she asked, her voice less wild now, but no less intense. “You think I haven’t had the thought that if something happens to you, I won’t know how to go on? That I won’t ever be the same again? You don’t have the corner on those thoughts, Drake. You’re not the only one in this.” Tears began skating down her face.
Drake ran both his hands through his hair before digging the heels of his palms into his eyes until he saw stars. “Fine,” he said as he dropped his hands, his head falling back so when he opened his eyes he was staring at the ceiling.
“Fine?” she asked. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He looked at her. “Fine. I won’t say that stuff anymore. I won’t—” He shook his head and heaved a sigh. The truth was, he didn’t know what he was saying.
Yes, he did: he was saying whatever it would take to make her stop talking like this.
But she just stared at him. She didn’t say a word.
So he stepped forward, reaching for her.
And she stepped back. She shook her head. “It isn’t about what you say,” she said. Her eyes skirted away from his, then back like she was searching for words again. “Honestly, if you’re thinking that stuff, I want you to tell me. What I can’t handle is you planning it.”
“I said I won’t anymore!” he shot back.
“No. You said you won’t say it anymore,” she replied, her voice low but firm. “There’s a difference and you know it.”
“Leah, please,” Drake sighed. He was exhausted. He just needed her in his arms. “Please. Let’s talk about this later. Okay? I just—”
“I need to touch you too,” she said, her voice soft—but then it rose, growing in strength with each phrase until tears were pouring down her face. “But I’m not. And I won’t until you mean it when you tell me you’ll let go of this goddamned plan. That you’ll never, ever, hurt yourself. No matter which of us goes first. No matter what happens to me!”
On instinct, Drake stepped forward, the heat calling him to her skin. Calling him across the carpet—at the same time she backed away. She backed away until the backs of her knees hit the chair behind her. Then she turned and stepped behind it, putting it between them.
“I love you,” she said, crying, breath hitching. “I love you more than I knew I could love anyone. And I’ll never let you touch me again if you don’t fix this.”
Drake stood there, stunned.
“If you need help, we’ll find you help,” she said. “Just say the word, and I’ll burn down heaven and hell to get you whatever you need. I’ll never leave your arms again. But I can’t live with you—with myself—knowing that you’re keeping a secret plan that ends in your demise. Do you understand?”
She’d kicked him in the chest—knocked the wind out of him. With those words, she destroyed what last shreds of barrier he’d unknowingly kept as a cage. A cage that kept him separate. That kept her other. That kept them safe. From him.
His head swam and his vision went blurry. When he went to draw a breath, air punched out of his lungs instead so his shoulders bowed.
And then he was sobbing.
Her arms around him were so warm, the heat so strong and full of single-minded love, compassion—commitment.
Both crying, they sank to the floor together, clinging to one another.
It felt so good for someone to know–for her to know. Like the great release of a monster that had been living under his skin, that he’d been fighting silently for longer than he’d known her.
She wasn’t the first time he’d had the plan to end his life. She was just the latest iteration—the latest excuse.
Which was disrespectful to everything they had, everything she was to him. He could see that now, so clearly the truth stung.
“I won’t do it,” he choked as soon as he had his voice again, still clinging to her. “I won’t. I swear, Leah. I won’t. I was just scared. I’m so sorry.”
“Shh…” She rocked with him. “There’s nothing to apologize for, D. I’m scared too, sometimes. But I love you.” She kissed his neck, his jaw. “I’ll always love you.”
He turned his lips toward her lips. “Always,” he breathed before kissing her. “For my whole life.”
“Longer than that,” she mumbled against his lips.
“Longer than that,” he agreed.