Deleted scene from Bound of the Turning Moon series.
From where he hunkered at the base of a pine tree, Michael Vincent watched as Nyah emerged from the pack house, her feet stumbling over the threshold of her childhood home. Dean was by her side, steadying her shaky steps as she paused on the porch to draw in a breath of composure. Michael knew exactly how she felt; unsure if the weakness in her limbs meant she was about to faint, vomit, or release a never-ending scream of terror. “Take your time,” Dean murmured. When her eyes slid shut, Michael’s lips parted as if to cry out a warning. There would be nothing in the darkness but violent reminders of what they’d witnessed, but with a slow exhale, she lifted her face to offer Dean a tiny smile of assurance. “I’m okay,” she told him. And she would be. Nyah Morgan was the strongest, fiercest she-wolf Michael had ever known.
From the murky streets of Blackwater Ridge, pack members were gathering to form a ragged group on the lawn. Every face held the same expression of disorientation as they woke from their shared nightmare, horror fracturing their voices as they began to mutter to one other. Michael lowered his gaze to avoid their looks. His legs were starting to ache from the cramped position he’d been holding, but feeling the strength of the pine’s support against his back was comforting. Since Simon Northfell had vanished and his binding spells had lifted, Michael had fled the house and staggered to a sobbing heap by the tree’s roots. There was nothing left in his stomach for ridding, but it had retched against the revulsion of what he’d done for the third time since Dean had freed him from Northfell’s hex. Blake’s reasoning that Michael wasn’t responsible for the deaths of Eddie and Leanne Stone had been pointless. His pleading words were just that; words. The truth of it was that Michael had killed two of his pack members. People could try to soften the violence of his actions by saying Michael wasn’t in control, that Northfell had spelled the evil inside him, but the end result was still the same. Eddie was dead. Leanne was dead. Nothing could change that truth.
Michael sank to the ground with a grunt. The entire pack were now standing before the pack house. Nyah was sitting on the grass, Dean by her side, his jacket over her shoulders. To her right, Karen was sipping on a glass of water with Blake hunkered by her knees. “Honestly,” she insisted, “I don’t remember a thing. I’m okay, really, I am.” Wishing he had that luxury, Michael pulled his attention away. If felt so wrong to be here, in the company of his pack. They have should shred him to pieces already, not grant him the space to sit and gather himself. There was nothing left of him to gather anyhow. His mind felt as shattered as his body, almost as if he would disintegrate and vanish into the night air if someone were to land him a hard enough blow.
Nyah’s gentle call made him cringe in shame and he angled himself away, turning to where night beckoned at the forest’s edge. His presence here was inappropriate. It was so very wrong for him to be anywhere near these people. With his stomach tightening into another painful clench, Michael clambered to his feet and hurried into the trees.
It was almost dawn when he returned. Michael stepped onto the lawn, shocked to see the pack still sitting in groups on the grass. Remnants of shared food lay around them; plates littered with half-eaten meals, surrounded by flasks and mugs with their dregs gone cold. All that seemed palatable had been alcohol. Empty beer bottles had been collected in a large cardboard box, although a number of whiskey and bourbon bottles were still being passed around.
“Michael—you’re back.” Blake was the first to see him loitering by the trees. “We’ve been waiting for you,” he said, getting to his feet.
Michael allowed himself to be drawn out of the shadows, but kept his eyes down as he neared his pack.
“We’ve been talking,” Blake began to explain. “And we all agree we need to vote in a new Alpha. We don’t—we can’t move forward without a leader. We’re going to hold a Show of Hands.”
Michael nodded. Blake certainly had his vote, there was no question about it. The pack would do well with Blake taking the lead. He’d steer them back to better days.
As Blake moved to the porch and the pack stood, Michael hovered at the rear of the group, close to where the grass gave way to footpath. Nyah was gone, Dean too. He hoped she was on her way to Carter Plains. She needed her mate’s strength and support to get through the next few weeks.
“Are we ready?”
Blake’s question drew a confident shared agreement from the pack.
“It’s been a long time since our pack has held the traditional form of a Show of Hands, but if everyone is still happy to proceed, we’ll begin.”
From his left, Michael felt the pressure of a stare. Leanne Stone’s sister, Maria, was standing beside her husband, her eyes meeting Michael’s the second he responded to the pull. It was a quick glance, but he saw enough to know her tightening jaw and watering eyes blamed him entirely. And rightly so, he told himself, flicking his eyes away as he folded his arms and took another step back to widen himself from the group.
“Okay. There’s just one nomination. So, I’ll get this underway.”
Michael dragged his attention to where Blake stood on the porch, readying himself to raise one hand in support of his best friend. Blake hadn’t yet made Beta, but he was ready and trusted enough to skip straight to Alpha.
“All those in favour of Michael Vincent leading us as Alpha, raise your hands now.”
Michael’s shout prompted the entire group to turn and face where he stood. Their hands remained aloft as he stared in horror.
“No,” he said again, his hoarse voice cracking against the plea. “This—no, I can’t be your Alpha. I—.”
“Michael?” Blake came down off the porch steps and the pack parted to allow him through. Hands began to lower. “Why are you saying no?”
“Why am I saying no?” Michael echoed. “Have you forgotten what I’ve done?”
“That wasn’t you, it was—,” Blake began.
“The pack doesn’t want me. I’m not an Alpha, I never could be. Not now, not . . .ever.”
“Hold on a second, we’ve all discussed this. We’ve all agreed on you. It’s—.”
“Michael, wait.” Rob, the man who had been Alan’s Delta, interrupted Blake from within the group. “We don’t hold you responsible for what happened. None of us were in control.”
Maria’s eyes were quick to slide away when Michael turned to her again. She muttered to her husband and he slid an arm around her shoulder, tugging her into his side. Behind them, Eddie’s parents and his younger brother watched. Michael didn’t know if they had raised the hands to vote him in as Alpha, but from the hard expressions darkening their faces he guessed not. “I’m not your Alpha,” he said, wheeling away. “Pick someone else.”
“Michael, stop!” Blake pleaded. “We have to talk about this!”
“What is there to talk about?” Michael spun to yell at Blake. “I am not your Alpha. I never will be! What I did is unforgivable. I shouldn’t even be standing amongst you!
The pack loosened. A few came closer to where Blake and Michael faced each other in the middle of the littered street. Others backed off.
“The only thing you should be voting on is who ends my life,” Michael ground out. “I took a pack members life, mine is taken in turn; you know the Law.”
“You didn’t take anyone’s life in cold blood,” Blake reminded him. “You weren’t even conscious. How many times do I have to tell you this!”
“It doesn’t matter how you paint over it, Blake. Eddie and Leanne are dead because of me. That’s the cold, hard truth.”
“Michael,” Blake pleaded.
“Maria?” Michael gestured to where Leanne’s sister hung back, still in the comfort of her husband’s hold. “Do you want me to be your Alpha? And what about you, Charles and Anna? You want the pack member who took your son’s life to lead you out of this horror? And you, Russell!” Michael swung his pointing finger to Eddie’s brother. “I don’t think you want to howl obedience to a wolf like me, do you?”
“I raised my hand,” Russell replied. “You were a good friend to Eddie. Never in your right mind would you have hurt him or Leanne. Blake is right; we don’t hold you responsible.”
“I hold me responsible!” Michael shouted back, thumping one fist to his chest. “And you should all do the same!”
“We want you to lead us,” Blake pushed. “Doesn’t that tell you enough?”
“It tells me you’re fools, because only fools could look past what I’ve done. I deserve nothing of your trust. Choose another Alpha, it won’t be me.”
“There is no-one else,” Blake argued.
“No.” Blake’s insistence was as firm as Michael’s. “I’m not ready. I don’t want it.”
“We voted for you, Michael,” Rob said.
“We did,” another voice agreed.
“And I don’t accept! Blake can take care of you. He’ll make a fair and trusted Alpha. Choose him.”
Before more voices could argue, Michael pushed Blake aside and ran for the forest. A crushing weight bore down and he ripped his shirt open against the pressure, his lungs aching for breath as his heart raced mercilessly in the shrinking cavity of his chest. He morphed into his wolf with an agonised howl, taking a final glance over one shoulder at his pack before diving into the darkness.
Blackwater Ridge remained without an Alpha when Michael left the following afternoon. He waited until the streets were quiet before slipping away, his possessions stuffed into the single duffel bag he had flung into the boot of his jeep. He allowed himself no backward farewell through the rear view mirror as the streets shrank behind him. Instead, he vowed to never return. Life for the pack would be better for his absence, and the sooner they accepted this truth, the better.