I wanted to post something fun while I worked on the next chapter (which is mostly written…I'm just plotting out detective story stuff…and it's a real challenge trying to keep straight in my head who knows what, how much, and when). So here's an early draft of MWS chapter 15 that I rediscovered and found amusing. This was written before I wrote the first "Heart to Heart" bit. I think it was draft #5? You'll see why I ended up ditching it—it's pretty stupid and totally doesn't fit the tone of the previous chapters. Mostly I was mad at my characters, which probably explains the hose. *lol* You have no idea the amount of crap I pump out trying to get something worth keeping!

Deleted fifth draft: Ash shows up to confront Evie and Adrian

Ash didn't show up immediately, setting my teeth on edge. When he did, he materialized silently behind me. The burnt amber stench gave him away, as did Adrian's sudden wide-eyed expression, but I still wasn't fast enough to dive out of the way or even turn. He'd grabbed and yanked and pinned me against him in a blink. I stifled a shriek when I realized he was shaped all wrong, and that one of the things that held me was a long, sinuous tail.

"Ash?" I gasped, and Adrian lost his footing and landed on his ass, staring slack-jawed at my demon, who'd apparently decided to look the part. "Why the hell are you wearing this shape?" His grasp was painful and I wriggled a little as he drew a deep breath of my scent. Oooooh, shit. Thank goodness Adrian was in a circle.

Ash growled, a strange, vibrating, hissy noise accompanying it. I felt him tap the line, pulling it through me. I huffed with indignation as he used the energy to fire a flashy curse at Adrian. Adrian's bubble held, barely. The white-faced witch recovered from his flinch and began a frantic patting search of his pockets. "Ash! Knock it off!" I managed to grab his free arm, distracting him and throwing off his aim.

"His scent's all over you. I'm going to tear you both apart. Him first." Ash's voice was oddly low and calm, chilling me. There was absolutely no life or mercy in it. Ash had lost it.

"It's not like that," I said, though it came out a little breathlessly as he squished my ribs. "Damnit, Ash, I need you to listen. Please!"

"You're a liar, my Yvette." Ash fired another bolt at Adrian's circle, and the witch ducked and flinched again- this time with the painful effort of holding it. I gasped as talons pierced the skin of my side and shoulder where he held me—and there was only pain, no playful, giddy spin of venom to dull it. He wasn't kidding. He really meant to do it, didn't he? My heart started to pound with familiar terror. Great. Just great. Ash chuckled as he caught the scent of my fear. I called on Therese for advice, letting her rise to the surface to deal with the very real demon behind me.

Therese, as usual, had a very different take on this situation. "What did Al tell you this time?" I hissed, voice too low for Adrian to hear. "If you're going to believe him over me, then I'm going to kill you both."

Ash let out a pained, raspy laugh. "I don't need Al to tell me what I should have known all along."

"And what is that…?" I asked. I realized he wasn't wearing anything, and his mark was right behind my head. I debated my options. Pleasure or pain? I opted for C, and simply opened the connection so he could feel it. Fury and passion had strengthened it to a fiery white cable.

He stilled, his other clawed hand positioning itself right over my belly. "Try it," he growled in my ear. "I'll spill your guts over the stones and stomp them so your witch can watch."

Adrian stared at us, horror and worry and sickly indecision mingled on his face. Shit. The witch was about to do something idiotic and heroic, wasn't he? I flashed him a glare, mouthing "stay there!" at him when he frowned. I ignored the threat, lifting my chin. "Should we cut it? Right here, right now? Are you renouncing me?"

Ash growled again, raking my cheek with a long forked tongue. I was drawing him out of the coldness, at least—I could feel him trembling. "It was already done, the moment you betrayed me."

"The moment I…NOW what the hell are you talking about?" Therese fired up her connection to the ley line, good and riled now. She was about to break his hold and put him in his place, but I couldn't do it- not in front of Adrian, not when pride was all Ash had left to him. "No. I don't want to know. If you're done, you're done. Go ahead and renounce me and be done with it, so I can kill you, you heartless, brainless, clueless idiot!"

Ash hesitated, bewildered again. He huffed, growled, shifted, but he didn't sever the tie. "I am going to make you wish you'd never been born," he said instead.

"You're all talk, you ass." I wriggled, just to remind him that he had me pinned, and that I wasn't fighting to free myself. And if the wriggling just happened to concentrate on a particular portion of his anatomy, well, how could I help that? "You don't really think I betrayed you, because if you did, we'd all be dead. You want me to have betrayed you but you don't really believe it, do you?"

Ash roared, furious and confused. Claws pierced me again, this time tempered with the sweet fire of his poison. Therese uncoiled and preened inside me, and Adrian chose that moment to burst from his circle and attack.

Apparently there was a two-for-one special on brainless, clueless idiots today.

Ash was just startled enough to hesitate, and Adrian's curse smashed him right on the nose like a knuckle sandwich. He dropped me and retaliated, his curse bouncing off of an amulet that Adrian flung before him. The amulet shriveled and croaked, but the witch kept going. He reached Ash—and tackled him. I flopped to the ground, stunned into momentary stillness with horror and fury as the gangly, gawky witch and the huge bat-winged demon wrestled like a pair of teenagers, cursing in Latin, Greek, and perhaps some other languages I didn't know.

Idiots, the pair of them! I made a move to break this up, but some part of me held back, looking at them appraisingly. Adrian seemed to have some kind of body-armor spell on him, because Ash's claws and fangs weren't penetrating his skin. He seemed to have grown in strength, as well, because he was managing to give as good as he got. Ash, I recalled, had lost all of his stored curses, including the ones that could let him turn to mist. Oh, he could still access the demon database and cast any ley-line spell he wanted, but that required gesturing, and it was difficult to twiddle one's fingers delicately when one was punching an angry witch. I realized that in a physical confrontation, they were actually pretty evenly matched.

Shutting my mouth with a deliberate click, I left them to it. I stood and dusted myself off. I expressed a desire for popcorn, but unfortunately Trent didn't allow pixies or fairies in his garden, so my wish remained ungranted. At this point, I wasn't certain who to root for. But it didn't matter in the end, because Quen arrived, and with him….Ceri and the garden hose.

How I managed to keep a straight face, with a soggy demon trapped in one elven circle and a soggy witch in another, I have no idea. Both were glaring at me with baleful stares. I shrugged. "Technically, it's his garden," I reminded them. "Rules clearly state: No Roughhousing." And they did, on a tasteful little sign nearby.

Quen cleared his throat, also managing to keep a straight face. "My apologies for the incarceration, Sir Adrian and Ashmedai. We strive to keep this garden a place of peace and meditation. May I suggest you spend a few moments reflecting on your motivations?"

Adrian just wiped his bloody nose inelegantly on his sleeve. Ash massaged bloody knuckles and touched his eye, wincing to find that it was already swelling shut. They gave each other a "he started it" glare, then returned to glaring at me.

"What?" I asked. "This is hardly my fault. Though I can't say I'm not basking in the glow of having two mature, adult men fighting over me." OK, now I grinned, as Adrian and Ash both started protesting furiously that it wasn't all about me, who did I think I was, how dare you laugh at us, etc.

"Shall I banish him for you…?" Quen asked me solicitously.

I hadn't forgotten I was pissed off at him and Ceri, and his question cut my amusement short. "No. We need to chat. I mean, I need to talk to Ash and Adrian- but I need to chat with you two, as well."

For the first time since I'd met her, Ceri looked less certain of herself, her gaze momentarily falling to her bare feet before rising to meet mine. "I'm sorry we cursed you against your will," she said. "We thought it the right thing to do at the time."

"Al nearly took my head off!" I snapped, shivering at the memory of Al rifling through my memories like old bills, tossing and yanking and generally creating chaos in my ordered mind. "Tell me how to reverse it, and we'll be even."

Quen placed a hand on Ceri's shoulder. "I cannot," she said simply. "If Al goes to confront Rachel—"

"He could do that any time he wanted," I argued.

"No—not as long as she is severed from the collective. He cannot track her, and he cannot use his mentor privileges to come across uninvited. So the only way he can locate her is…if you tell him where she's going."

"And that's locked in my head, too. Great. You do realize he'll just go spelunking in my brain again, the moment he gets a chance. Al's good- he can break me, and he knows it's there." Quen and Ceri exchanged a look. Clearly they were weighing the option of sticking me in bubble #3 and leaving us all here for the duration of Trent's quest. "Don't even think about it. Look, asked me to trust you, and then you turned around and did this to me. I don't owe you two squat. Just about the only person who hasn't screwed me over today is Ash."