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Damian’s Death

The opening scene of Saving Marilee is fairly unchanged from the first time that I wrote it while on a plane headed for Virginia. It just came out right the first time. That doesn’t happen often, especially with the first scene of the book. (Just ask me how many times I rewrote the beginning of Just Ella.) However, there was a time when I considered starting it in a different way. I wrote up the following scene to see if maybe I should start the book a tiny bit earlier in the timeline. This is essentially the first half of the scene that you end up walking into on the first page of Saving Marilee.
Damian's Death

Vincent’s fingers dug into my flesh as he escorted me to my husband’s bed chamber, denying me the chance to protest. Not that I would have protested. If Damian had summoned me then it was best to obey and get the meeting over with as soon as possible.

The door was opened by a footman and I entered, expecting Damian to be at his desk or lounging in front of his fire, but I didn’t see him. I searched the dim room, but it wasn’t until a jagged breath rattled from the bed that I realized he was laid out on it.

I approached with caution, trying to keep my head held high, but tempted to fold in on myself and disappear. Vincent threw the drapes open as I reached Damian’s side.

There was blood everywhere.

I recoiled at the gruesome sight. His face was so badly beaten as to be disfigured, barely recognizable. The rest of him didn’t look much better.

Another breath gurgled from his lungs. I stepped back.

“What happened?” I asked, half afraid, half hopeful.

“Some nave earned himself a hanging by attacking your husband.”

Was it wrong of me to want to thank the nave? “Who would attack the son of a sovereign?”

“Only a fool. The degenerate pushed the master into the road and a horse stepped on his throat.”

“Why is there not a doctor here?” I hated having to ask Vincent, to rely on him for the answers, but there was no one else.

Vincent’s lip curled. “I’ll not speed his death by having a common doctor see to him. His physician will arrive shortly.”

A traitorous drop of hope settled in my chest. I backed up until my back hit the tapestry-covered wall. I couldn’t stand to watch as he struggled for breath, but I would wait, and I would hope. What kind of a person hoped for their spouse’s demise? It was horrible of me. Unforgivable.

Damian managed two more breaths before the physician hustled in. I retreated into the corner, as far from the oily little man as possible. He made an attempt to help my husband, but Damian’s breathing stopped and the physician declared him dead.

The drop of hope spread, seeping into my limbs, unlocking the shackles I had used to tie down my emotions for the past eight months. I stared at his lifeless body, afraid his chest would start to rise and fall once again. But the physician left and Damian remained still.

The magistrate arrived, telling us the story of a stranger who had crossed Damian’s path at an Inn he liked to frequent that catered to wealthier patrons. Damian, being intoxicated had pushed him aside and demanded an apology. The stranger had no way of knowing that he faced the son of the sovereign duke and refused to apologize. A brawl had erupted.

Vincent tried to convince the magistrate to arrest both the stranger and the man whose horse had ended Damian’s life. But despite the weight that Damian Rockwell’s name carried, the magistrate was not inclined to obey the whim of a servant. He gave me his condolences and left me to stare down at the broken body of my husband.

The apathy and numbness that I had nurtured for so long was slowly seeping away. Relief settled in and I wished to shake off the rest of the facade I had adopted. I wished to reclaim my confidence and authority that had been a part of me before my marriage, but I still felt stuck. My confidence was weak from lack of use.