Dellani Oakes' favorite scene.
I was on her podcast Monday and we had talked about reading this section because she loves it. Because the way the cast was going I chose to read the beginning of Mortals, Gods, and a Muse. It's hard to not read the opening when we are talking about Muses and Schizophrenia.
A bit into chapter six.
She dropped the beer bottle in the trash before letting the back screen slam behind her as she went out, stomping down the stairs she double checked that she had their attention. Before walking straight through the middle of them on her way to the barn.
“Where are you going?” Nick watched as she trudged along, his brother almost catching him with a lucky shot while he was distracted. “No fair.”
“Let her be.” Kale called as he swung again.
They both turned as she came back out of the barn with a sword in each hand. “Which one?” she asked in a tone a little more chipper than her body language expressed.
Nick shot her a look of “Don’t”. “Neither. You don’t know how to use one.”
Kale tried another swing on his brother. Which he saw from the corner of his eye and deflected.
Sonja turned her attention to Kale. He smiled as he said, “The one on the left.”
She turned back to the barn putting away the sword in her right hand. She was beginning to fear that she might have lost the last bit of sanity she had.
When she came back out of the barn, Nick threw his opinion at her again. “Now go put that one back too. Kale don’t encourage her.”
“Take a swing at him. You will feel better.” Kale said ducking his brother sword.
Sonja pointed the sword at Nick trying her best to look mean. Her blood was boiling, she was so mad at him. Still she didn’t think she could hit either of them. She saved that for people who hit her.
She swung, he pushed the blade to the ground with his, leaving the two of them face to face.
“If you are that worried about my safety then teach me. Otherwise, you can take your fatherly concern and shove it.”
Her brown eyes didn’t waiver. She smelled like vanilla and horses, neither of which was unpleasant on her. Nick pulled the sword from her hands, walking almost to the back porch before he stuck it in the ground and half turned back to her.
She refused to back down. If he wanted to play daddy, or knight in shining armor, instead of seeing her point, she would have to push harder. She lifted her head, huffed, and turned back to the barn. She was trying her hardest to act like a spoiled brat.
“Come here Sonja.” Nick sounded defeated despite his fatherly tone. After all, he did want her to be able to defend herself. The bruises that she chose not to cover today were a harsh reminder of how much she needed to be able to protect herself against anyone.
Stopping, she slowly turned around to find Nick looking at the ground. She glanced out the corner of her eye to see Kale leaning against the closest ancient oak, wishing he would jump in with something constructive—or at least tell her to stop pushing.
When she didn’t step toward him Nick decided he needed to concede a little more. “I suggest you come here before I change my mind.”
Carefully she came toward him. He was still armed and fuming. She could hardly breathe as he stepped behind her, wrapped his arms around her, and put the sword firmly in both hands. “You need to keep a firm grip. No one should be able to pull the sword from your hands.”
She tightened her grip. He loosened his. “You need to move from the wrists not the shoulders and elbows.” He manipulated her wrists, turning the sword around several times for her to get the feel for the weight of the weapon.
His breath down her neck and him whispering in her ear made her arms weak but she held firm to the sword. She didn’t want the “father” type back, at least not with him so close. His hands over hers felt good. Felt right. She tried keeping her breath steady, happy he was behind her and couldn’t see her face.
He turned her body, sounding happier, “Want to try to hit Kale?”
Kale watched closely, the look on Sonja’s face told him everything he needed to know. She was frightened and not by Jerry but by his brother—and not of his anger or any physical threat from the sword—but by his being that close to her, touching her.
Sonja answered before Kale could. “After the way you’ve acted since you woke I’d rather take a few more at you.”
“Sorry about that but I was worried. My brother and best friend disappear while I’m asleep. There were endless possibilities.”
“You didn’t sleep last night did you?”
“None of your concern. Now hold firm. Kale take a swing and try to hit the blade so she can feel the vibrations.”
Kale was still leaning against the oak pondering the next move. This one was going far better than he could have hoped. A little more pushing his brother, and Sonja would know exactly how Nick felt about her.
He stepped up and took a light swing at her, she dropped the sword as it vibrated. Nick pulled his arms off her, ran his hands through his hair, and looked at sky as she picked back up the sword and tightened her grip.
Kale met her eyes and, finding them determined, glanced at his brother, who couldn’t look. He swung. Again, she dropped it.
She picked it up and took her stance. She didn’t flinch as Nick wrapped his arms around hers with his hands gliding down on top of hers. He whispered softly. “You are too afraid that Kale is going to hurt you.”
Whispering back, as her heart hammered, “Maybe a little.”
“He won’t. You know that deep down. Just hold tight.” He looked at his brother and nodded.
Kale took a swing and hit the blade. The vibrations coursed through her body but she smiled when the sword didn’t fall to the ground. Even more determined she said, “Again.”
Nick nodded. Kale swung and she grimaced as it rocketed through her body. “Now loosen your elbows and shoulders. Only your fingers should be that tight to keep a hold of it.”
Sonja found it hard to loosen up with Nick wrapped around her. She took a deep breath, “Again.”
This time the hit didn’t vibrate as bad as she smiled at Kale. He swung again. Nick began moving her wrist so she could meet the swings. That made the sword vibrate even less, though a quake was starting in the center of her stomach. Nick was touching her. His hands moved smoothly over her arms. The pushing, to make her body do what he wanted, was gentle. He slowly moved his hand up her arms, giving her more and more control as Kale took each swing.
As they moved back and forth over it, Sonja understood why this part of the backyard wouldn’t grow grass.
When Nick ran out of arm he put his hands on her hips, so if anything went wrong he could move her from Kale’s sword. It might have only been a practice sword but it was still sharp and heavy enough to hurt. They danced in this way for an hour as she improved with each swing.
“Alright I’m done.” Kale finally sighed handing his sword to Nick as he went inside.
Nick looked at Sonja questioning if she wanted to spar with him. The look said she was terrified. “Remember you can’t be scared and use a sword.”
“I’m not afraid of you with that.”
“Really?” He smiled, wondering how ornery he could be. Then chose to take a swipe at her. She deflected it perfectly as if he was still behind her guiding her body.
“Should I be?” She sidestepped to keep him in front of her.
“Never.” He took another swing. Nick saw her grimace as the blow vibrated through her body. He was distracting her from concentrating. “Loosen up.”
“Easier said than done.”
“Do I need to take it way from you?”
“Try.” The smile was back on her face with a good amount of fire in her eyes.
He stepped forward, put the tip of the swords against the ground and his body against hers, and then pulled as the sword slipped from her fingers, never losing sight of her eyes.
“Now you are too loose.”
“I’ll have to try harder next time.” She had no idea what else to say. He was pushing every button and pushing them right. He handed back the sword and went back to a safe distance waiting for her to take her stance, then swung.