I thought it would be fun to post a couple of the deleted scenes from Felicity Stripped Bare that didn’t make into the published book.
Most of the cut scenes focused on my hero’s parents. Daniel’s relationship with his father in particular was a big part of his conflict; which meant that bringing together these two men whom she loved dearly became Elle’s personal mission!
If you’ve read the book, you know the hero’s mom is a force to be reckoned with, and majority of reader feedback has been that after Felicity and Daniel she was the favourite character. While I was sad those scenes between Michael and Elle didn’t make it into the final version of the book, on the bright side I can share some of them here with you as an extra treat.
The first deleted scene takes place in the parent’s kitchen. Elle had invited Daniel over for dinner so the two men could have some family time together. Michael in turn took the opportunity to try his hand at some match-making for Daniel.
In the second scene, Elle arranged a family outing to play some golf and, once again, Michael sidesteps her planning by inviting Daniel’s best-friend, Robert, along.
In the third deleted scene, Daniel has just argued with his father at the family law firm. His mother’s arrival cuts the argument short and after he leaves, Elle takes Michael to task.
The sweet tang of freshly cut grass carried to her on the same light breeze that ruffled Michael’s hair into tiny wings and trailed lengths of her own hair into her eyes. Elle stroked the hair back as she watched her husband take his swing.
The small white orb disappeared briefly against a brilliant blue sky then arched to earth, sweeping past the bordering stand of elms and poplars in a perfect landing on the twelfth green.
He hissed a small, “yes”, clenching his fist in victory, before he turned, his gaze honing in on her. The sublimely feminine part of her responded to that primitive claim. Then, as if he knew, he winked, his grin widening as he strode towards the golf cart where she stood.
On the way Rob shook her husband’s hand. “Not too shabby there, Big Mac.”
Michael stopped briefly to accept the compliment by slapping the younger man on the shoulder. “That’s what happens when you leave the training wheels off your driver,” he tossed the joke over his shoulder as he continued towards her.
“Bravo, darling,” she whispered when he leaned in for a kiss.
Hmmm. That was nice. What do I get if I make a birdie the next hole?”
She shushed him. “Not in front of the children, dear.”
At that Rob snorted and Daniel, who stood beside him, sighed, adjusting the bill of his cap down over his eyes.
“You’re up next, bud,” her son said to his best friend and walked off to the tee, his expression making it clear he would rather be anywhere else. Rob gave them an apologetic glance before following, and Elle’s ardor took a nose dive.
Daniel and Michael had hardly exchanged a dozen words since the third hole; even then they’d fallen back on business talk which quickly devolved into a tense volley of clipped questions and answers. Honestly. She frowned. If Rob hadn’t been there she would have given those two a good dressing down. Speaking of which….
She slipped her hand into the open neck of Michael’s short-sleeved knit shirt until she felt the springy whorls of hair on his chest curl around her fingers. He made a murmur of approval that was cut short when her grip tightened.
Michael’s eyes widened as he grasped her wrist. “Sweetheart? That hurts. I can’t wait to get home either, but—”
“Sweetheart?” she purred, “we have to talk. Now.” She gave his short-n-curlies another tug.
“Elle, dammit!” he yelped in a fierce whisper, quickly detangling himself from her grip.
“Why did you invite Robert? Did I not say this was a family outing, Michael?”
“I thought you liked Rob.”
“Don’t try that lawyerly obfuscation crap on me, mister. You know I like him—-he and Daniel have been inseparable since junior high. That’s not the point.”
“Then what is the problem? We needed a fourth—”
No, you needed a-a-” she searched for the right word, “excuse, to avoid spending some intimate time with your son.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” He carefully wiped off the face of his club with a towel then slotted the driver back into his golf bag. “Besides I don’t see you taking Daniel to task,” he grumbled as he busied himself checking the other clubs. “Did you notice he’s not talking to me either?”
Elle rolled her eyes. Lord give me strength. “Michael, you’re the elder here.”
Frowning, he straightened and sucked in his gut. “I’ve been eating that blasted bark and twig cereal you insist on buying.”
“I know dear.” She patted his chest, “And it’s bran and oats.”
“Tastes like beaver bait.”
“It’s good for you,” she continued, unperturbed.
“Every time you say that, I shudder.” Then he did for good measure.
“Michael. You’ve changed the subject.” Elle glared at him through the blonde wisps of hair that had blown again across her face. He stroked the strands away and behind her ear before she could. Then he did it again; this time, purely a caress. Her mouth curled into a slow smile. The air became electric, his gaze fathoms deep.
“Every time you do that,” he whispered, “I shudder.”
But it was she who shivered… still, after all these years.
The passion they shared was just one of the many ways in which the fates had blessed them. But there was one more thing she wanted. One thing their family needed. “Go talk to him, Michael.”
His hand fell away from her, and he stripped of his glove with sharp staccato movements. “This is as good as it get, Elle. It may not be what I— you want for Daniel and myself, but accept it.”
“Never. You might as well ask me to stop loving you both.” She stared at this stubborn, stubborn man who was her heart and soul. Age had dealt with him tenderly. The new lines in his face adding character and strands of silver only emphasizing the midnight richness of his hair. But time had also been unkind. Each year that went by as he and his only son grew further apart, she sensed his burgeoning bewilderment. Saw the way his shoulders drooped after each conflagration and the sadness that all the arrogant blustering in the world couldn’t completely hide.
Elle reached out and grasped his hand, pressing naked palm to naked palm. “Michael,” she pleaded softly.
But her heart sank as his mouth tightened.
Daniel glanced at his parents standing several feet away and allowed a small smile to tweak his lips. Looks like his mother was at it again, judging from her determined expression and his father’s stiff posture. Daniel felt sympathy for his dad; Elle Mackenzie could’ve given Napoleon lessons on siege and attack strategies. Then his smile faded. This was one war she should admit defeat, though.
He turned his attention back to Rob, who still hadn’t taken his shot. Instead his best bud wiggled his neon-plaid covered butt, looked over yonder-—being the direction of the next hole—-then performed his duck imitation one more time. Daniel suppressed the urge to kick the moving target. “Enough already, take a swing!”
Rob was offended. “If you please? I’m addressing the ball.”
“You’re making love to the damn ball. Just hit it.”
“Unlike some people,” he wiggled some more, “I pride myself on my prowess—-on and off the course. I do not just Hit. It., as you so crudely advise.” Rob stared down at the tee one more time, did his little dance and— “Hey,” he looked back at Daniel, “I think I may just be onto something…make love to your balls.”
“You were onto that concept at puberty, when you tried to mimic the family dog,” Daniel said as Rob’s club arced down—
—Slicing the ball all to hell. A big beautiful banana of a shot that veered to the right.
“Shit!” Rob turned round with murder in his eyes.
Daniel barely noticed since he was laughing his ass off. He walked over and slapped him on the shoulder. “If that’s an example of your prowess, it’s a wonder you aren’t still a virgin.” He paused, becoming serious. “You’re not, are you?”
Rob took the razzing as he elbowed him away. “Jerk.” Then he looked past Daniel. “Oh great, here comes your old man to rub it in.”
Daniel felt his good humor dry up. More like his dad was coming to give Rob a few pointers, maybe talk a bit of smack. These two were getting on like free condoms in a frat house. His mouth twisted. He’d never been on the receiving end of his father’s teasing encouragement. It had always about doing better—-pointing out the base he failed to steal in T-ball or the goal he miscalculated in junior hockey, the higher grade to achieve or the opportunity for a higher fee missed.
He watched as Rob pretended to sob on his dad’s shoulder, and the easy way the old man went along with the joke, patting Rob’s back. It was like watching a Twilight Zone version of Michael Mackenzie and the realization it shook loose caused his breath to gel in his throat. How long had it been since he and his old man did more than exchange a formal handshake?
He thought back, but could only pull up a series of brief nods and smiles that got more abbreviated with each successive year. Then a scene flashed before his eyes, superimposed over the one playing out in front of him now, of his father comforting a six year old after he’d crashed his brand new remote control car—-Daniel’s favorite present from Santa that year.
Several other scenes popped up one after the other, and he could almost feel the large hand on his small little boy’s head, rubbing playfully, and the deep voice that seemed to come from a place way, way up, calling him ‘son’ with real warmth.
“Daniel?” That voice, shades cooler, intruded on his current thoughts and he met his father’s guarded scrutiny.
“I’m ready,” he answered the unspoken question and went to tee up his ball. A throat cleared as he sighted the shot. Then cleared again.
“Quit it, Rob,” he said without looking up.
“It’s not Rob. Here, give this a try.”
Daniel turned to his father, and slowly straightened. The old man was offering his Citation iron—-his baby. The whole set, not just the driver, had hardcovers. And after each and every shot, the club used was lovingly wiped down with a towel attached to his father’s golf bag. That baby.
His question was met with a shrug. “We’re about the same build. See how it feels.” He came to Daniel and traded clubs, adding casually, “The larger head might help with that slight slice you have.”
Daniel felt his hackles rise, then realized the fault-finding note was missing from Michael Mackenzie’s voice. As was the conviviality shared earlier with Rob, he thought sourly. Then again, the offer to use the Citation hadn’t been extended to Rob either. His inner beast reluctantly lay back down but Daniel didn’t know what to say to the unexpected gesture, so he kept it simple—“Thanks”—and heard the stiltedness in his voice.
Betraying his own awkwardness, his father gave a short nod before he walked back to Rob, and watching him go Daniel swallowed the lump that bound up his tongue with the need to say more.
Instead, he took his time to find his grip. Focusing beyond the strange sense of hope…he swung. The ball soared high, infinitely free, taking along a little piece of Daniel. It was a beaut of a shot.
“Right on!” He looked over at the guys. Rob said something about a fluke. His father just nodded again and gave a thumbs up. But there was a certain glow in the other man’s face that caused Daniel to do something he hadn’t done in years, he smiled at his old man.
He should have taken a picture.
Made the moment last. The golf club loaner led to a slew of coaching tips, and then it was all downhill from there.
‘Did you miss the memo?’ “This is a game.” Daniel had let the sarcasm drip from his voice, three holes later. “For fun and relaxation.” Or in this case, for placating his mother. He wasn’t training for the PGA. He didn’t give a shit about improving his game or perfecting his form. In other words he didn’t want to hear about what he was doing wrong. Again. “Especially not from you,” he’d stated icily to Michael Mackenzie before stalking off.
“You know, your old man’s only trying to help,” Rob noted minutes later.
“Like you are right now?” Daniel adjusted the position of the golf bag on his shoulder. “Change the subject.”
Rob fell silent and they walked on with his parent a few yards behind them. Daniel didn’t check to see how far behind, he was looking ahead. Just two more holes to play and he was free.
“Okay, then,” Rob sounded all businesslike, “when are you going get a move on the evictions?”
Daniel’s step faltered. “Soon.”
He didn’t have an answer. It could be tomorrow; it could have been yesterday. There was only one reason why he hadn’t done anything yet. Felicity’s smile filled his mind and her husky laughter echoed in his ear. A chill settled inside him.
“It’s all systems go, Dan. And scheduling’s light for September.” Rob paused to let his point sink in. “We can guarantee the men full hours if we’re working on Southview.”
“I’ll get started with the notices next week.” Daniel dragged the words out from some cold dark place deep in his gut. That’s how he felt. Gutted. “That’ll give her-the tenants a full two months to find somewhere else.”
Quiet wedged between them, then finally Rob said, “I’m sorry, man.”
“Yeah, so am I.”
“Dear, why don’t you help me with dessert?” Elle gave her husband the warden’s eye as she stood up.
“Oh, let me help.”
“No, you and Daniel stay right here. You’re our guests.” She gave Deirdra a perfunctory smile and took in her son’s tense face, before returning her attention to her dolt of a mate.
“Honey?” She didn’t wait for Michael to rise from his seat at the head of the table before making her way to the kitchen.
Under her breath, she counted out the steps to the refrigerator, where she removed the cheesecake baked earlier.
“Is it too much to ask that you be pleasant to our son for one evening?” She kept her voice low as she walked over to the marble-topped island.
Michael opened a glass-fronted cupboard and brought down four dessert plates. “Maybe if our son came to his senses—” He broke off and turned to her. “There has always been a Mackenzie at Mackenzie, Phillips, and Basset.”
“Michael let it go!” she said with hoarse frustration. Elle went to him and pressed a palm against his jaw. He hadn’t bothered shaving again this evening and the scratchy stubble prickled her skin as she looked up in to dark eyes that still made her heart flutter with just a glance.
“Some men don’t want it handed to them, sweetheart. They need to make or take it for themselves. I know it’s hard, but you have to accept, and respect, that Daniel is a man like that. Dan has always and will always make us proud. Why can’t you let him know that?” she pleaded, watching as her wonderfully mule-headed husband wrestled with himself.
When he pressed a kiss into her palm and moved away, Elle sighed, willing to cede the battle tonight; but he wasn’t getting off totally. She had another bone to pick with him.
“Why did you—” she glanced over her shoulder at the door, then moved closer, lowering her voice, “—for God’s sake what possessed you to invite Deirdra? This was supposed to be a family dinner.”
Michael removed the required cutlery from the drawer, passing her the cake server. “Why not?” he asked with all innocence. Huh uh. She wasn’t fooled for a second.
“Dee and Daniel have known each other for years; Godfrey and I went to school together—she’s like the daughter we never had.”
Elle’s mouth unhinged. Oh no, he wasn’t….
“And I’ll tell you what else, she’s got a pretty damn good head on her shoulders. Deirdra will be making partner in the firm soon, never mind making some man a fine partner in life.”
She was flabbergasted. Only momentarily, mind you. “Michael Mackenzie, don’t you dare tell me you’re playing matchmaker!”
“It’s not as if they weren’t romantically involved before.” Michael wore a cautious look on his face, as he stepped around her.
“Before!” Elle followed, waving the utensil at his back, sotto vocé-ing at a furious pace. “That was before. Besides, Daniel is more than capable of handling his own love life and would not take kindly to your meddling.” She brandished the server at him one last time, and then sliced into the cheesecake, placing the portions onto the plates Michael slid to her from across the safe distance of the countertop.
He harrumphed. “He hasn’t had a serious relationship since that fiasco of an engagement. What’s he waiting for? Maybe if he settled down and had some kids of his own he’d understand about loyalty to family.”
Elle froze. She stared at her husband with tortured eyes. “Michael that was a low blow.” Did he not remember the heartache, and, yes, embarrassment the family had gone through? Never mind the irreparable damage it had caused to long-standing relationships.
“Calling the wedding off was one of the hardest things Daniel’s ever done. If he’d gone through with it, think of the mess that would have followed eventually. And how can you forget you lost a good friend and business partner. Craig still holds a grudge to this day. I can’t believe you’d want to risk that again.”
Color stained his cheeks, but his mouth firmed. “He loved Sandy. You don’t know it wouldn’t have worked out,” he said stubbornly as he reached for the serving tray.
“Yes, I do. Because he wasn’t in love with her. Not in the way a man should love the woman he plans to spend the rest of his life with. Not the way you love me,” she added quietly.
She saw the fight go out of Michael at her words, his gaze turning intense, but she ignored the resulting warmth that spread in her belly and continued in the same gentle tone.
“You and Craig just kept pushing those two kids at each other every opportunity you got. They didn’t stand a chance.” She took a deep breath then added, “Personally, I think Daniel was trying to please you all along.”
Michael paled and Elle was sorry that the truth hurt, but he needed to hear it. Then she felt the bite of her own guilt. Maybe she’d wanted the romance to succeed a little too eagerly herself, but never at the cost of her son’s happiness. She wanted Daniel to have what she had, a deeply committed love for someone who felt the same for him. Albeit, someone far less pigheaded.
“Michael, promise you won’t try and push this thing any further with Deirdra. If Daniel wants to get involve with her again, let them work it out on their own, okay?”
Her sweetie had always had a problem with admitting his own wrongs, and now he didn’t bother to hide his disgruntlement as he attempted to steal a forkful of cake.
“Ah-ah!” She slapped his wrist. “Put that down.
“Michael? Promise me.”
“All right, All right.”
Satisfied, Elle she began arranging the plates on a tray. “Parents should never meddle in their children’s love life. Imagine if my mother had had her way. We’d never gone out on that first date.”
“Your mother loved me.”
She gave Michael a sideways glance. “Mother thought you were impossibly arrogant and a terrible kiss-ass, sweetheart.”
Michael shocked into silence was a rare experience; Elle lapped it up, chuckling as she added, “And she never did like those roses you gave her every birthday and Mother’s Day. Peonies were her favorites.”
“Peonies?” Chagrinned, he looked through the French doors out to the yard where several prized bushes, cuttings from her mother’s own celebrated garden, were planted.
“Peonies. Now, here.” Elle lifted the tray and held it out to him. When he took it, she waved him ahead and as she followed, couldn’t resist giving his bum a pat. Mom had also thought Michael had a very nice butt.
Daniel’s departure had left an awkward silence, but Michael shrugged off his irritation and went to greet his wife properly. At the last minute she averted her head and his kiss missed its target by a fraction of an inch. Michael chuckled; her little show of defiance only aroused him. As she well knew it would.
He grasped Elle’s chin, turning her mouth to him, then he took his full satisfaction and gave her hers in his own sweet time. When he was done, a lovely blush warmed her cheeks and her eyes glowed with the same heat they’d held from that very first kiss thirty-five years ago.
“That’s better,” he murmured.
The words had barely tripped off his tongue, before the light dimmed in her gaze and her succulent mouth firmed with displeasure.
Michael sighed, releasing Elle as she pushed against his chest.
“No, it’s not better.” .
“Now, now, honey.” He quickly stepped back around the desk, not under any illusion that he was escaping.
“Then when, Michael? You and Daniel have to stop this constantly being at each other’s throats.” She followed him and perched on his lap, her perfume wrapping him in a whispery veil of desire and memory. He shifted in his seat. Dratted woman.
Elle feathered light caresses at his temple. “I really want you to try with Daniel, darling. So, no arguing at dinner on Friday. Promise me.” She smiled at him.
Sometimes he could throttle his lovely wife’s lovely neck. This was no smiling matter. Michael had nightmares about these incessant get-togethers she planned. The three of them trapped at the table for another interminable dinner. He and Daniel having nothing to say to each other. Nothing in common. Bile scrummed at the back of his throat.
“Especially no talk about business,” Elle continued as she smoothed her slim hands down his chest. She plucked lightly at his tie pin and he felt the tug clear down to where the soft curve of her bum nestled in his lap. The woman would be the death of him. He cleared his throat.
“If your son came to his senses, there would be no problems,” he groused.
“Our son,” she jerked his tie a bit tighter and her mouth turned into a sweet rosebud of a pout, “has the same amount of sense his father has.”
Michael shook his head. Daniel’s decision wasn’t based on straight thinking. “This was all for him.” He gestured to the spacious well-appointed room.
“In part, yes. But this is your dream, Michael. Our son has other dreams. This,” she swept her hand to encompass the large surface of his desk, “—represents your success. Daniel will have his own—”
“Here,” he choked out, his anger whiplashed back into existence. “I want him to have success here at Mackenzie, Phillips and Basset, Elle. Here, goddamit! Three generations of our family have helmed this firm. And my son is going to spit on everything to follow some half-assed pipedream.”
“They’re his to follow, sweetheart.”
“That’s not how it works.” Michael sighed, wisely not giving voice to his thoughts. She’d always coddled the boy. He on the other hand had striven to instill the importance of the family name, the firm, and all it represented in Daniel. He’d failed.
“You’re going to lose your son,” she whispered.
“I already have.”
The acknowledgement weighted too heavily on him. Gently, Michael encouraged Elle to get up, then he drew a file towards him. “Now, was there something else? I’ve got some important things to attend to.”
“More important than your relationship with Daniel?”
He felt a burning in his chest. It burrowed and lived there. He slipped his reading glasses back on.
“I won’t let this happen, Michael. You two men are going to bond, so help me God, if I have to handcuff you together in a very small locked room somewhere.”
Michael stared at the door long after Elle had shut it with a short sharp slam. He felt a chill on his lip and wiped away the tiny beads of perspiration there. She would do it too.
The thought scared the bejeezus out of him.