Ice Like Fire - Deleted Scene 2

One of my favorite deleted scenes (that I constantly tried to work into the finished version but always ended up cutting because it just doesn’t serve any purpose beyond the “Awwww” factor) takes place towards the middle-ish of the book, when Meira, Theron, and their group are about to leave Summer. It’s just . . . cute. And happy. In a book where not much is cute and happy.
This scene takes place in Meira’s room in the Summerian palace. Nessa and Dendera are packing to leave when Theron comes in, and they all start talking about Yakim. This is SUPER UNEDITED, so be gentle.

            Nessa stands and shuts the trunk. “Have you been there?”
            Theron smiles at her. This smile is real, and it makes my heart cool to know he’s still capable of truly smiling. “Many years ago. The climate is much less aggressive than Summer, and the parties are . . .” He pauses, jaw dropping as his eyes wander. “Appropriate.”
            Nessa tugs on her skirt, the simple linen a pale yellow. Her eyes drift out as her hand lingers on the fabric. “A party,” she whispers like even the word is bathed in gold and pretty, fabulous things. “I bet they’re gorgeous.”
            Her awe is contagious. I want to bottle her joy and keep this moment preserved.
            Theron bounces up and holds his hand out to Nessa. “You’ll need to know a few Rhythm dances if you wish to go to a proper ball. Lady Nessa, would you do me the honor?”
            I can’t contain my smile when Nessa’s whole face flares as red as the popping, crackling embers in the fire pit. Even more beautiful is the grin that sweeps across her face, an embarrassed yet thrilled happiness that makes me giddy. Her eyes shoot to me once, read my joy, and flit back to him. She lays her hand in his palm, her cheeks morphing into a beautiful scarlet-purple as he drags her toward him.
            Theron shows her where to position her hands, how far apart they should stand, then counts out a few beats. On the second round of one-two-three-four, he dives, sliding one arm behind Nessa’s back and guiding her with the other. Both of them spin around the room in steady circles, lulled by Theron’s repetition of one, two, three, four. Nessa’s giggles are incessant, and even Dendera smiles, bobbing her head back and forth to made-up music.
            Movement at the door catches my eye, and Henn, Conall, and Garrigan file in. Henn moves to tuck a hand behind Dendera’s back while a blinding smile explodes across Garrigan’s face and Conall laughs.
            “A Winterian can out-dance a Cordellan any day!” Garrigan calls.
            Theron whips his head over his shoulder, smiling. “Winter beats Cordell in many respects.”
            His eyes find me and he winks. That smile, the careful way he guides Nessa through the movements, how everyone in the room is smiling because of him—he chased away the darkness in a matter of seconds.
            I lean forward, hands digging into the bed’s quilt. This respite startles my system with the sudden switch from stressed to happy. Theron has done this so many times, fought off misery with a long, careful look, a simple connection of our eyes that clicks everything back into place.
            Whatever Theron is to me, whatever pain he hides, he is still an undeniable source of joy.