But today I have something special as well, which is a deleted scene from the newest book in the series ANASTASIA FOREVER, as well as a guest post from author Joy Preble! Enjoy & let me know what you think of the book after reading more about it.
“It occurs after Anne and Ethan have found Professor Olensky murdered in his office. They are desperately trying to figure out what to do and being chased by Viktor's henchman Dimitri. And my initial impulse was that I very much wanted them to share their first kiss on that El train platform. It felt like the perfect moment -- the classic 'everything is going crazy and this is the person I've been running from but really he's exactly the right person for me' passionate kiss... followed by danger looming and breaking them apart.”
The wind’s whipping our hair and Ethan’s still holding my hand, our fingers lacing together. Neither of us says a word. The wind swirls a piece of newspaper around on the track and a couple of pigeons peck at the platform across the tracks, looking for bits of food.
“I’m sorry,” Ethan says as a twenty-something guy wearing an unzipped grey hoodie over his green scrubs plops himself down on the bench across the tracks and the pigeons, startled, fly off to search for other crumbs. He lets go of my hand and thrusts both his hands in his jacket pockets.
“You’re right. It is your battle. Probably as much as it is mine.” He blows out a breath.
“We were all so certain after the assassination that at any moment we could find a way to fulfill the prophecy. Get Anastasia back. Restore the Romanovs to power through her. But we didn’t. Ten years passed, then another ten. Then – well, it’s easier than you think for the years to slip by. Each time I though I’d found the girl who could do this, it turned out I was wrong. And each time, I think I just slipped a little farther from the person I used to be. The person who was so clear of his purpose. I never gave up, but I think I stopped trying as hard.”
Ethan stops. Looks down the track for a bit. There’s no train in sight. Across the way, a tall girl in a denim mini and black leggings joins scrub suit guy on his bench. She’s bobbing along to whatever is playing in her headphones. Everywhere I look, it seems, the world is going on like normal. Except I know it’s not.
Ethan’s gaze holds mine, his blue eyes so tired and sad that I feel like crying except I think I’ve used up my quota of tears today. “If Viktor’s betrayed us,” Ethan says, “it’s because I let him. Because I just stopped paying attention. And that part, I do have to bear alone.”
I’m not sure what to say to him. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is one of those times where I probably don’t need to say anything. But he’s standing there in such pain that I start talking.
“We’ll find her, Ethan,” I say, even though I’m not at all sure that’s ever really going to happen. “I mean, you found me, didn’t you?”
And then we just stand there. The wind dies down for a bit, although I can tell from the clouds that it’s going to pick up again soon. Underneath my feet I can feel a slight vibration. Far down the track, our train is coming. Ethan steps closer to me. My heart beats harder: thump, thump, hop in my chest.
I study his face. Those blue eyes. That shaggy chestnut hair all tousled from the wind.
He’s going to kiss me. And I guess it should be weird or whatever. But it’s not. It’s just me and him – and okay, the two strangers across the way – and all the other stuff just sort of drops away. Because when you’re going to kiss someone – really kiss someone – it’s got to be just about that and not anything else.
And then he does. Kiss me, I mean.
He bends down a little, cause he’s taller, and presses his lips to mine. And it’s way better than the kiss on the forehead. And way, way better than the dream kiss since this time he’s just kissing me, not trying to suck the life out of me. His lips are warm and full and sweet, and they feel good against mine.
So I kiss him back.
“I almost lost you, too,” Ethan whispers against my lips. His breath tickles and little sparks tingle their way down my spine. “Here, I’ve just found you, and I almost lost you.” We kiss some more. I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck. I rest one hand on his shoulder – right where he’s got that lion tattoo etched into his skin.
In novels, you always read phrases like ‘they kissed and time stood still.’ And until now, I’ve always thought what a load of crap that was. Cause even when I was making out with Adam Greene, time was marching right along.
And maybe it’s because Adam was a sort of slurpy kisser. And that’s why my mind kept wandering to images of Buster lapping water from his dish.
Or maybe he just wasn’t the right one.
But right now, time is still. And Ethan’s lips, and his hands that are resting against the small of my back, are filling my head so completely there’s no room for anything else.
But then our train pulls up to the platform. The doors open, and I let Ethan take my hand and lead me inside. We settle into our seats as the train gives a lurch and starts up again, headed downtown. I’m sitting next to the window. Ethan’s looking at me like I’d always hope someone who’d just kissed me would look at me.
And then he’s not. Looking at me, that is.
Because he’s looking out the window beyond me. Back over, I realize as I turn my head, to the staircase that leads up the platform we just left. Watching as the familiar figure of Dimitri rushes into view, just as the train picks up speed and carries us away.
What’s Love Got to Do with It?: The Anne/Ethan Romance
Guest Post by Joy Preble
The guiding force of the DREAMING ANASTASIA series is the relationship between Anne and Ethan. Anne knows from the second she catches blue-eyed Ethan stalking her at the ballet that there is just something about him. And in fact, he proceeds to turn her life upside and sideways because it is Ethan who peels back Anne’s normal world and reveals a world of Russian fairy tales brought to life, of a hidden princess and an illegitimate royal son driven by vengeance. When they touch – and I always knew that their story would begin with a physical touch setting things in motion—everything changes.
Anne is no longer just the girl who dances ballet and goes to school and mourns the death of her brother to cancer. She is a girl with power to save a princess, power to right ancient wrongs and ultimately, the power to break a curse that is holding her birth grandmother captive. But power comes with a steep price. And when Anne accepts Baba Yaga’s bargain so she can save Ethan in book 2, she steps into the witch’s forest in a way she has up until then refused to do. Of course, I wanted her to do this for love, even if she has trouble admitting that’s what it is.
This is problem for Anne and Ethan: they do not come easily to loving each other. Or rather, Ethan comes easily to loving Anne, even if he feels that he does not deserve her or a second chance at life. Which is exactly what she gives him when she rides out of the witch’s forest with Anastasia, allowing Ethan to regain his mortality. While Viktor yearns to live forever, Ethan wants only to have what he lost for a cause that was never what he believed it to be: to live and die in the proper time. That he has found the love of his life makes him both deliriously happy as well as guilty as hell.
And Anne, well, she’s a smart girl. Even when she’s not, she has Tess watching her back, making sure she sees things as they are. Anne sees loving Ethan as an impossibility. He is too old even if he looks young. He has secrets and a long, long past. She is only sixteen. And yet I think she loves him from the moment he tells her his story. But she holds back; she is indecisive. In fact, these traits hurt her in all aspects of her life. She has trouble committing. Ethan, on the other hand, is an all-in kind of guy.
So what did I do to these two? I made them inhabit a reverse fairy tale. It is Anne who ends up saving Ethan over and over. It is Anne who is the hero. And ultimately, it is Ethan (no spoilers for book 3 quite yet) who needs redemption and forgiveness before he and Anne can be together. A happily ever after, but hard won. And not without suffering and sacrifice. This is after all, a Russian fairy tale. No one knows endurance like the Russians.
And so it goes: Ethan and Anne, circling and circling love, each running from the other, each doing the hero’s job. The question becomes, will they figure out that they belong together before it’s too late?
Of course they will!
But with these two, love isn’t simple. I think that makes them equal parts of smart and stupid. Not forbidden love. Not crazy love where the passion burns out everything else—and I think we all need some of that in our lives.
When Anne and Ethan finally figure out that they belong together, it will be a love that entwines them like two puzzle pieces, marveling at how perfectly and easily they fit. And how foolish they were not to know it.
Thanks for stopping by to share with us, Joy!