SPOILERS – Don’t read if you haven’t read the first two books in the Sevens series!!!!
The Wild Wood went through many revisions (including one revision that was a complete rewrite thanks to some great feedback from Ms. Kasie West). Many things changed in the telling of this story, even important details about the ending of the book. I have to say that I sometimes wonder where the story would have taken us had Cecily made these different choices in the final version, though I am very happy with the way the stories have evolved.
Deleted Scenes: The Wild Wood © 2016 Julie Anne Nelson
Cecily kissed Bay a whole lot more in earlier versions:
I sought Bay’s lips, growing bolder as the dawn broke around us. He seemed entirely receptive to the experience and eased me back to a reclined position on the pillows, as he wrapped his solid arms around me and took possession of my mouth, pausing only to kiss my neck and drive me insane. For my part, I was only too happy to disappear into his embrace, yearning only for him and a world in which a war wouldn’t divide us, where nothing would tear us apart, and where we could hold onto each other for another thousand years.
Hours later, while Bay and I were still attached at the lips, a not terribly subtle cough separated us. I flinched and looked up at one of his infinitely displeased advisors—Tobias, I thought. And then I noticed Morgan and Abigail peeking out of the tent. I would say we’d been caught, and strangely, this was much less frightening than when Nate and I had performed great feats of kissing in front of an audience.
This time, I could only giggle and bury my face against Bay’s chest, while his body hiccuped with laughter.
“They should be happy,” I muttered into his ear. “Now that I know how talented you are at kissing, it’ll be harder to think of you as my enemy.”
“That wasn’t my plan,” he insisted. “You know that, right?”
I grinned. “I know. Maybe an enemy, but never a liar.”
He nodded, his eyes suddenly so earnest, my heart caught mid beat.
Alternate Ending: The Wild Wood © 2016 Julie Anne Nelson
Cecily makes a Different Choice
I rushed through the crowd, my eyes locked onto the golden hair that shined above the most tortured, incredulous face I’d ever seen. I threw myself into his arms while his shaking body held me so tightly I couldn’t tell where he ended and I began.
“Cecily,” Bay stammered. “Cecily, I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“If you ever do anything like that again, I will kill you myself.”
He swayed slightly as he held me, and I breathed in the peace I felt in being held and realized that I felt strong—stronger than ever. Just as I was about to ask why I was still alive, Dusty snatched me away from Bay and crushed me in an awkward hug.
“You are not allowed to come up with a plan ever, ever again. Do you hear me? Your plans are just plain stupid… like two incarnations of stupid.”
“They really are. I’m sorry, Dusty. But you let Stephanie and the others come join me.”
“Yeah, because I knew you’d never give up if her life and the others were at stake,” he said in a low voice. “Now, if we could just get you to fight as hard for your own life.”
“Your brother has a point, and he doesn’t even realize what you’ve won… or how many years,” Bay said.
“Does this mean I’m not dying anymore?”
I noticed my sisters paying close attention.
Lille moved in, her chin high. “Immortal apricots, I’d say.”
“What?” Stephanie demanded.
Bay ignored Stephanie and looked directly at me. “You might be killed someday, but your body will never die naturally, nor will your sisters.”
“How?” I sputtered. “How did we become immortals?”
“You kinda stole it,” Lille said.
“Nice going, sis,” Dusty said.
“I don’t understand,” I said, and looked to Bay.
“You used the power of the Source to steal from the flames, and all flames are tied to the sun. So, basically, you burned your way into immortality, in a way no being ever has. You even look different on the map.”
And we did, no longer that shiny grey, we were gold, even more dazzling than Bay.
Hope lit inside me and I smiled at Genovan, Mortimer, and the other soldiers I’d live to know better in both the Protectors and Conquerers armies. But one person was missing from this celebration and I searched for him.
“He left,” Bay said, once the crowd had dispersed around me. “After he knew you were safe.”
“Annisha was his wife. Why didn’t you tell…”
“He made me swear not to. He didn’t want to burden you with Annisha’s history.”
“Is that why he can hear my thoughts?”
Bay nodded. “Remember when I told you that marriage is the pinnacle of a very long ladder and carries some strong sacrifices?”
“Marriage in Darienne is the joining of two souls… joining, meaning every single thought and feeling. Marriage is the ultimate denial of individuality, for who can remain an individual when feeling everything his or her spouse feels and hearing every single thought?”
“Why can’t I hear him?”
“Because you didn’t make the vow; Annisha did.”
“I want you, Bay. I love you, but how I can be with you, even now, knowing that he can hear this, feel my love for you, feel what it’s like when you touch me? It’s cruel.”
“It is, but it was his choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“Annisha wanted him to divorce her, to free himself before she sacrificed herself. He wouldn’t do it, and accepted this burden. But Cecily, Finn’s feelings are the least of our problems.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sweetheart,” he said, his voice filled with pity. “You’ve made your ruling. You’ve taken their side. The war begins again tomorrow and to even touch you at that point is treason.”
“What?” I said, shaking my head, until he forced it to be still.
“We have tonight, Cecily,” Bay said. “Just tonight.”
“Then let’s get out of here.”
21: The Downs
Bay released my hand and I felt how much he struggled to walk away from me. But before we could disappear together for one night, he had an army to orchestrate and advisors to confer with about the coming battle. I hated watching him walk away, but was grateful to see his soldiers disappear into the Wild Wood.
Finn’s army minus Finn waited, standing near the trees, watching over the sevens as they scattered around, some talking to their families, others looking like they wished they were talking to their families, and Stephanie, arms crossed, huffing as her family tried to talk to her. Dusty had found his way to our parents and they talked quietly.
I stood alone, wondering how long I could stand to remain. I’d watched as the people of Stoughton had journeyed north to their homes, where they would hopefully live out their lives and never come close to the Wild Wood again. I’d given them a chance to live as they wished, though I certainly hoped they’d become kinder to anyone who was different.
Bay’s words made me ache and I wondered if I would have made the same decision if I’d truly known what I was going to lose. It was a stupid thing to wonder, because all of this was about so much more than me and the man my soul loved, twice.
Morgan touched my shoulder and I leaned my head against hers. “You over Dunlowe?” she asked with a grin.
“I’d rather kiss an evil goat than talk to anyone here.”
“I guess they came through in the end.”
“Not for your parents, though. Not for our childhoods. Not until I was ready to burn.”
“Don’t you wonder…”
“If maybe Pastor Rowe has some powers of his own. I mean, he wasn’t entirely wrong about us—the evil part, yes, but not the power part, or that we were entirely different from the people of Dunlowe.”
I laughed, nervously, but I still laughed. “Can we worry about that tomorrow?”
“Sure. Let’s get out of here,” she said. “I’m sure the soldiers can look after everybody… or you could from anywhere.”
“Morgan and I are heading back to camp. Come when you’re ready… no rush. The soldiers will look after you,” I sent out to my sisters, who studied me to see if they should come, but I assured them they should stay.
I walked toward Dusty, who stood with our parents. He immediately turned to me, with a flash of guilt, and stepped closer.
“No, Dusty, stay, talk to them. I’ll see you later. Unless, you want to stay,” I choked out.
“Silly, I picked my side.” He winked at me and added, “Besides, I know where my girlfriend is going.”
“Steph said if she survived, she’d date me. It’s the only way I’d let her go.”
“Nice job. I’ll see you back at the camp,” I said and, with Morgan, turned toward the Wild Wood.
“Honey,” my dad said, and I turned back and held up my hand to stop him.
“No. Not your honey. Not your daughter. Not anymore. I hope you live wonderful, safe lives and I’ll give everything—as if I haven’t already—to make that happen, but that’s all.”
Without waiting for another word, I walked with Morgan, Lille, and Genovan into the darkness of the wood. Morgan took hold of my hand.
“You think we’re ever going back there?” she asked.
“Doesn’t feel like it, does it?”
After Morgan fell asleep, I sat alone under the stars, hoping Bay didn’t make me wait much longer, our hours were draining rapidly as it was.
“Finn’s the better man,” Lille said from behind me.
I sat up a little straighter. “Good thing you aren’t a judge, huh?”
“Bay is a butcher.”
“Careful, Lille, I’ve seen how many people you’ve killed and how much you thrived while doing it.”
She moved forward and sat down next to me. “He’s the enemy.”
“You sided with us. He’s your enemy now. Don’t think he doesn’t know that. I don’t know why you think he’s going to come for you tonight. Right now he’s probably trying to figure out how to kill you.”
“He’ll come for me.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes before I said, “Where’s Finn? He won’t answer me and I can’t find him on the map.”
“He’s gone to the Downs.”
“Where we’re all heading in the morning. Our leaders and the Conquerors leaders have decided that waging war in the Wild Wood stinks—I could have told them that years ago. So we’re heading for the peninsula and from there to the Downs… to make our war.”
Lille stood up. “We leave at first light.” She took a few steps. “For you, I hope he comes.”
I listened as she walked away, leaving me in silence as I turned her words around.
“I hope he comes for me.”
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