In case you didn't get the chance to read the Eternal Starling deleted scene on the Scavenger Hunt, I've posted it below. Happy reading! :)
In an early draft of Eternal Starling, Evie’s ex-boyfriend, Loser Luke, was a central character. As I started revising, I realized my plan for Loser Luke wouldn’t work, and I got rid of him. This was the scene where Luke shows up in Gunnison. The scene happens while Evie, Alex, Jasmine, and Zach are at dinner in chapter 4.
I was in the middle of telling everyone about how the horn on my car had started honking on its own the other day when I heard a male voice say, “Evie?”
I recognized the voice and hoped it was a figment of my imagination. The look on Jasmine’s face assured me it wasn’t. Crap. I slowly turned my head. Alex read my expression and seemed puzzled as he glanced toward the voice.
“Luke?” I said with a mixture of surprise and disdain. My war with Luke Woods over his cheating had lasted three months and had already gained legend status in White Sulphur Springs. I hadn’t seen him since the high school graduation party when I dumped a glass of Sprite on his head after he told me he still thought I looked like a marshmallow, but I had a pretty face and he’d hook-up with me anyway.
Luke got up and came over to our table. He put his arms around my shoulders in a kind of half-hug from behind. I cringed at his touch. Alex bristled next to me as he watched Luke with a slight sneer.
“I didn’t think I’d run into you tonight,” Luke said.
“Well you’re the last person I expected to see,” I answered, using the opportunity to wiggle out of his grasp and turn around so I could talk to him more easily. “What are you doing here?”
“I came down to look at some apartments. School starts soon and I didn’t want to end up with a crappy place to live.”
I shook my head as his words sank in. “Wait, you’re moving to Gunnison?”
Luke smiled. “Yep. Remember? I applied to Western State when you decided it was the college you wanted to go to.”
My eyes widened. “Yeah, but that was a long time ago. I didn’t think you’d end up here!” He shrugged. “I liked it the best.”
I gave him a fake half-smile. “Great. That’s just great.”
“What are you guys up to tonight?” Luke asked. He looked around the table noticing the ratio of girls to guys. His eyes fell on Alex, who was smiling, but the muscles at his jaw were working hard. I could tell Alex wasn’t happy, but he was still stubbornly confident. A flicker of anger appeared in Luke’s eyes. I was sure he was jealous, who wouldn’t be after assessing Alex.
“We’re just eating dinner,” Jasmine said, trying to intervene.
“How is it?” Luke asked, his eyes never leaving Alex’s. Alex returned the same cold stare.
I jumped in. “Probably about the same as the food you’re eating.” I thought maybe if I was talking, Luke would shift his attention to me and the stare-off between the two guys would end.
Alex decided to use this moment to make his dominance known and reached toward me, putting his arm around my shoulders. Luke stepped back. I wasn’t comfortable with either of them trying to claim me. This wasn’t the jungle; there was no need to mark their territory, but you wouldn’t know it by the way the two of them were acting.
“Do you know what your schedule’s going to be like?” Luke asked me.
“Maybe we’ll have some classes together,” Luke said, winking at me. Alex immediately moved his hand lower on my back, snaking his arm around my waist.
If we did have classes together, I would change my schedule. “Yeah, maybe,” I answered, still watching the silent struggle going on between Alex and Luke, and still just as bothered by it.
“Well,” Luke said, finally taking the hint that he wasn’t welcome at our table, “I’ll talk to you later, Evie. Have a good night.” I nodded, and Luke walked back to his table, glancing over his shoulder at Alex and me.
Once Luke was out of earshot, Jas said, “Well, that was awkward.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “it was.”
Alex seemed to be analyzing the three of us and our expressions, then he grabbed the check the waiter had left and went up to the counter to pay for our food. Zach started to follow him but Alex told him not to worry about it, he was buying everyone’s dinner.
As soon as Alex was out of earshot, Zach was the first to speak. “I thought they were going to kill each other.”
“It wouldn’t have been much of a fight,” I scoffed. “Have you seen Alex’s arms?”
“Luke is still looking at you, he’s been watching you since he got back to his table,” Jasmine said.
I shrugged and sipped some of my water. “I’m not the one who cheated. Luke’s just mad that I found someone better than him.”
“Does Alex know about him?” Jas asked.
“No,” I winced. “We haven’t really gotten into dating history specifics yet.”
“Well, you’ll have to now,” Zach said, laughing.
“You’re welcome,” he said. “It’ll be a fun ride home for you.”
We pulled up to a stoplight and Alex turned to me as he rolled his tongue over the inside of his cheek. “So. Was he an old friend?” he asked.
I hedged for the second time tonight. “You could say that.”
“What would you say about him?”
“His name is Luke and he’s an idiot.” I smiled unconvincingly.
“He seemed especially interested in you,” Alex pointed out.
I sighed. I didn’t want to get into this, but saw no way around it. “We . . . used to date.”
“That was obvious,” he frowned. “You could have at least introduced me as your boyfriend.” Alex sounded hurt.
“Sorry,” I said, feeling bad I’d already hurt his feelings. I really needed some sort of girlfriend handbook. “We just decided we’re in an official relationship four hours ago. I wasn’t thinking about it.”
He seemed to accept my answer, though he wasn’t happy. “How long did you date?”
“Not long, a few months. Then I broke things off.”
“We had a difference of opinion involving a cheerleader. What’s with the interrogation?”
Alex sighed and seemed to relax a bit. “Sorry, I’m just on edge. The guy seemed pretty intense about you.”
I raised my eyebrows and gave a short laugh. “Have you looked in a mirror lately?”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “Point taken.”
“What was with all the alpha-male, this-is-my-woman crap you were pulling?”
Alex shrugged. “I just thought the kid should know you weren’t interested.”
“The ‘kid’ is only three years younger than you, and I could have told him I wasn’t interested without all the posturing.”
“Yes, but you didn’t.” Alex’s voice was reproachful. I felt guilty, but I was pretty new to all this serious relationship stuff, like having to consider how something would affect another person. Real relationships are kind of a pain.