Illusion – Top Secret Deleted Scenes

Sometimes scenes don’t work in a manuscript and they’ve got to be cut, no matter how great they are. The following **unedited** scenes were cut from an early draft of Illusion. They’re fun and icky and still make me laugh (maybe that says more about me than I’d like to admit?) but in the end they were too much of a good thing and didn’t propel the plot so they had to go. This is definitely one of those cases where I had to kill my darlings for the good of the book. But lucky for you I held on to them so fans could enjoy a bonus read. Enjoy!….



I wake the next morning with my face on fire. Hot and throbbing, the sunrise spilling through my window scorches my skin.

Wincing, I lift my fingers to my cheeks. They’re tender and swollen, and…bumpy? What the heck? Whipping the covers off my body, I charge across my room, switch on the overhead light, then peer into the mirror on my dresser.

A wail, so breathy and high-pitched it’s nearly inaudible, slips from my throat.

My face is covered with pimples. And not just a few tiny, I-must-have-eaten-too-many-fries zitlettes; these are big, welty, white-headed pustules.

Gently, my fingertips crawl across the cratery surface of my face, assessing the extent of the acne attack, and what could have caused it. I didn’t use any of Jasmine’s make up and I haven’t eaten anything new or weird. Then, in a flash, I remember Taneea’s parting shot about avoiding break out.

Holy sticklewort. She’s done it to me again.

Acrid liquid pools at the back of my mouth. I hate Taneea Branson with every molecule of every atom in my body. Curling my fists, I throw my head back and howl, releasing months of pent-up rage.

My bedroom door blows open and Jack rushes in. “What’s going on?”

Cooper’s arrives a half second behind him. “Are you okay?”

Their jaws drop when they see my face. Frozen, neither says another word.

Dad charges in, huffing for breath as he clutches his chest. “There’d better be a good reason for waking me and scaring me half to dea—.” His words fade as he takes me in.

“Uh, that’s not pretty,” Jack says. As if I didn’t already know that, or needed to hear it.

“Shut up, bro. Emma’s always pretty,” Cooper snaps, uttering the sweetest, but also biggest, lie of his life.

“Dude, I get you’re biased and all, but even you can admit she’s messed up right now.”

“You don’t look so great yourself, Sparky. That hair’s going to take a while to grow back in.” I point to the bald spot on the side of Jack’s head from yesterday’s freak explosion in chemistry. It took the haz mat team all afternoon to figure out the fireball was caused by someone dropping a mixture of potassium and sodium into a beaker of water. Though Cooper and Jack were closest to the action, they swear it wasn’t them. Since there was no damage to the school, or evidence linking them to the prank, the principal had to let them off with a warning. They got lucky. They could have just as easily ended up suspended or in the hospital.

Jack’s nostrils flare and his olive skin flushes magenta. “I told you it wasn’t our fault.”

Dad steps between us. “Emmaline Clare, don’t bait your brother. And Jackson Sawyer, it’s not nice to say such things about your sister. As I understand it, sometimes girls are stricken with these types of uh…outbreaks at their time of the month. So a little compassion is called for.”

Oh my god. If I wasn’t already dying from this obvious assault from Taneea, my father’s commentary about my period would kill me right where I stand. Especially in front of Cooper, of all people.

“Dad, this has nothing to do with my time of the month,” I utter, mortification leaching into each of my bones. “And seriously, when have you ever seen this degree of break out on my face? One or two blips, okay. But this?” I point to the largest boil that’s under so much pressure it’s threatening to blow.

He shrugs. “How am I supposed to know? I’ve been in a boo hag haze for the last twenty-five years. I’ve missed a few fine details.” He sighs, and for an instant, sadness and deep loss color his expression, but then he shakes it off and pulls a smile. “Well, if you’re not menstruating—”

Gripping my scalp, I dig my fingers into my hair. “Please. I beg of you. Stop talking about that.”

Jack laughs and Cooper punches him in the arm.

“Just trying to help, sweetie. Maybe come up with an explanation for the worst case of acne I’ve ever seen.”

I whimper. “I don’t need help. I already know what caused it.”

“Chocolate?” My father asks. “Because if it wasn’t your, uh, you know what, it could be something you ate. Or maybe it’s something you need to see a dermatologist about. Would you like me to call for an appointment?” He attempts a smile, revealing the deep creases in his forehead and around his mouth. He’s trying. Given what he’s been through and how tired and overwhelmed he looks, it must be tough to be a real and present father for the first time.

I shake my head. “No thanks. It was Taneea. Probably with help from that psycho Claude. It’s payback for standing up for myself.”

His eyes brighten, but only a little. “Then good for you. Not for having to deal with that crud on your face, of course. Those pimples will pass. But in the meantime, you showed her you’re strong. Don’t ever let anyone walk all over you. Always fight. Always.” He grips my shoulder as regret clouds his expression, no doubt for all the years he spent as the boo hag’s servant and prisoner. But he was bound by Sabina’s spell, just as all the Guthrie men before him, so there’s nothing he could have done about his situation.

There’s so much I want to say to make him feel better, to let him know his domination wasn’t something he could have overcome by willpower alone. But somehow I doubt that will make him feel better about losing a quarter century of his life. Instead, I offer the only comfort I can. “I’m sorry I woke you. Why don’t you go back to bed?”

Dad rubs his forehead. “Good idea. I’ve got another trip to Charleston today to meet with Miss Delia’s lawyer. We want to make sure we’re ready for tomorrow’s hearing.” His gaze lingers on my marred skin. “You sure there isn’t anything I can do for you?”

I shake my head. “Nah, I’m good.”

“Okay.” He sighs and leaves my room.

When Dad’s out of earshot, Cooper crosses his arms. “So what’s your next move, Dark Avenger? Because every time you do something to Taneea, she punches right back.”

I ignore his jab, refusing to let him get a rise out of me. “I’m not sure. But I’ll think of something.” I turn back to the mirror and the pocky constellation that’s smattered across my face.

“Great,” Cooper says, though his tone makes it’s clear he thinks it’s anything but.

“There’s one thing you can’t do looking like that,” Jack says.

I glance at his reflection in the mirror. “What’s that?”

“Show up at school.”

And of course, once you inflict a curse, you’ve got to find a way to break it. In this case, as always, Miss Delia knew just what to do….


Soon we’re back in Miss Delia’s kitchen just like the old days. She’s ordered Jack and Cooper into the yard to cut back some of the worst of the overgrowth while she gets reacquainted with her old motorized wheelchair. And of course, she’s been bossing me around, calling out ingredients to pull from the shelves that line the kitchen walls. Not that I mind. This is one of my favorite places in the world. And I’d put up with pretty much anything if it means she can get rid of these zits.

Before long, the island in the center of the room is piled with covered apothecary bottles and stone crocks. I’ve ground and pulverized the ingredients, then mixed them together in her small mortar and pestle.

“Now for the secret, last ingredient. Fetch that jar on the end.” She points a crooked finger toward the top shelf.

I read the label. “Fig Tree Sap?”

She nods. “Unscrew the top and give it here.” When I place it in her hands, she sniffs the sticky yellowish-brown substance and smiles. “Still good. Now pour just enough to cover the powder into the mortar, stir it up, then spread it on your face.”

“That’s it?”

One snowy eye brow hitches. “You gonna doubt me?”

“Nope.” I laugh, then follow her instructions precisely. The sap is gummy and fruity, but smears easily under the warmth of my skin. Within a few seconds, the various pepper and other spices start to kick in and burn my face.

“Ow!” My fingers fly to my cheeks.

“Don’t touch.” She warns.

“But its hurts.” I blink back the tears that are welling in my eyes.

“That’s cause it’s working.”

The stinging intensifies, localized in each pustule. I bite my lips and squeeze my eyes shut to bear the pain. A sizzling sound fills my ears. My lids fly open. “Do you hear that?”

“Sound like bacon in a pan?”

I nod but can’t help but notice there are no pans on the stove, and certainly no bacon. “What is it?”

“Your face. We’re burning those marks up from the inside out.”

My heart trips into overdrive. “But what about scars?”

“Child, please. You can’t for a minute think I’d leave that face of yours marred.”

The boils prick as if stabbed by a hundred tiny knife points. “No…” Only my voice trails off so it comes out more of a question than an answer.

“Just hold steady. I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

Gripping my hands into fists, I slide onto one of the kitchen stools and brace to endure the escalating pain. Fire rages on my flesh, but I focus on my breathing instead, striving to keep calm, even though I’m pretty sure whatever’s inside each of these zits is literally boiling to death.

Then, as suddenly as it began, the flames extinguish. I collapse my head on the end of island, next to the jar of Fig Tree Sap.

“Let’s have a look.” Miss Delia puts on her giant, goggle classes, the kind that exaggerate the size of her eyes and make her look like a bug-eyed fish. She peers over me, examining each spot. Finally she cracks a smile. “Not bad. Go wash it off with the Rosemary Water in the bathroom cabinet.”

She doesn’t have to tell me twice. I scurry to the small hall bath, then root throughout the under counter cabinet until I find the bottle. Pouring some onto a washcloth I also found, I wipe down my cheeks, nose and forehead, then swipe around my lips and mouth. Lifting my eyes, I peer into the mirror on the medicine chest. The gritty, ground spices are gone. And so are the hideous zits. Best of all, my skin’s glowing a healthy, rosy pink, and looks better than ever.

I let out an elated whoop, the second of the day.

“Everything okay in there?” Miss Delia’s voice carries down the hall.

“Everything’s awesome!” I cry as the warm swell of tears—the good kind—forms at the corner of my eyes. I know I’m not the most gorgeous girl in the world, but I’m equally sure I’m not ugly, either. I’d even go so far as to say I’m pretty, especially when I take the time to wash paint out of my hair, or scrub charcoal dust from under my nails. And though I’ve had my share of pimples, I’ve always had the comfort of knowing, given enough zit-cream and time, they wouldn’t last forever. But this particular case of acne was different. Magical, vindictive, and bestowed by Taneea, they could’ve conceivably lasted forever. And I’d have had to see her mark of vengeance every time I looked in the mirror. But not anymore, because Miss Delia is amazing.

I hope you enjoyed these deleted snippets from Illusion! As fun as these scenes are to revisit, I have to admit I’m glad Emma was spared the epic zit attack in the final version. My girl’s dealt with enough over this series and this was just one jinx too many!