Oh, this series is the top of my shelves. I've loved all the books as I venture through this series, Demons of Oblivion. I have to admit 9 Crimes is on my list as it eased my bruised heart a bit. Skyla wrote so much emotion into Exhumed, I wanted this. NEEDED this. And reading these lines that Skyla picked...ooooh, I love them so much...
Skyla was gracious enough to add in bits from Exhumed to help explain what 9 Crimes is centered around and why.
Betrayal, Hurt, & Consequences
(Or, Wherein Skyla Turns a Request for 2-4 Lines into a Full-Blown Guest Post on “Behind the Scenes” with Exhumed and 9 Crimes)
9 Crimes is a bit of an odd novella, as it’s supplemental to the main series. It takes place during the fourth Demons of Oblivion novel, Exhumed, from the point of view of another character. It’s hard, then, for me to look 9 Crimes on its own; for me it’s a piece of a puzzle, integral to Exhumed, and every scene, every line is directly influenced by the novel it mirrors.
And so I give you my favourite lines that appear in both pieces:
“You hurt me! And there are consequences to breaking my motherfucking heart.”
Of course, they need a little context. So I’m going to look at the scene they take place in, along with a few words on each point of view.
(Now picture an argument/physical fight on a lawn at night; in this moment our heroine, Zara, is on her back, flipped over by our hero, Nate, and who is holding her down as she just had a knife to his throat—LOOK, I am not a romance writer, okay? Love is ugly in my books.)
Exhumed (Zara’s point of view):
“I am a fucking monster and don’t you ever forget it.”
He leaned in, not so much gripping my wrists as putting his weight on them, pushing me into the ground and I wished it would just fucking swallow me whole. His face was six inches from mine, hair near enough to touch my face, and this close, this near, I couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t handle looking at him, thinking about him, feeling anything. Panic clawed up my chest, emotion rising past the walls I had in place, strength draining as moments in this timeless dimension stretched on.
“What do I need to do?” he whispered. “Tell me what I can do to—”
“You can’t. There’s nothing left.”
“I love you.”
I flinched like I’d been slapped. “You hurt me!”
It was the last thing I expected to say—the very last thing I wanted to say—but there it was out on the table, the crux of the matter. The truth. My eyes burned but I didn’t blink because I felt like if I lost the battle and closed them, I’d open them again and be crying—and he’d lost the goddamn right to see me cry. I ground my teeth together, tried to calm my jackhammering pulse.
“And there are consequences,” I continued darkly, “to breaking my motherfucking heart.”
Zara is a monster. She has always labeled herself as such from the very first book (Bloodlines). Sure, she’s snarky and funny. And she has damage a lot of people would understand—she was turned as a teenager, betrayed by her husband, lost a baby, etc. A lot of people felt she softened in Bloodlines by the end, calling her merely a wounded woman and suggesting her attitude was a front to keep others at bay.
In Exhumed, that assumption is proven rather patently false.
What happens when a three hundred year old vampire—who has killed for survival, killed for pleasure, and is adept at expressing her feelings through violence—finally lets someone close to her only to find herself betrayed? Zara deals with pain by inflicting it on others, exacting revenge in ways that will utterly annihilate her target on all fronts. And because I know precisely everything she is capable of, her admission that she’d been hurt and the consequences she plainly lays out for her former lover gives me chill every time.
This moment was the culmination of a long, heartbreaking exchange, where two people who loved each other found out there was an extreme, insurmountable disconnection between what they thought they knew and reality. Zara is cut deep and raw, and admitting her pain—admitting she let someone in enough to hurt her like this by declaring “You hurt me!”—is the moment shit gets real.
(Bonus: I had “So Cold” by Ben Cocks http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga94wVeFBac on repeat for Zara’s POV scene.)
Now let’s check in with Nate...
9 Crimes (Nate’s point of view):
“I am a fucking monster and don’t you ever forget it.”
This couldn’t be it. This couldn’t be her, couldn’t be me. I couldn’t deal with this again—couldn’t stand to be left, again, wondering what the hell happened to the girl I fell in love with. She was hurt, yes, but she couldn’t be serious.
I had to fix it. Had to...fix us, somehow. Had to get her to a place where we could talk and she would actually listen. I learned closer, staring in her eyes, trying to find some semblance of my Zara there—the one who hated my father for hurting me, who came back for me when I was bleeding in Peter’s house, who was so patient while insanity gripped me and I tried to hurt her over and over again. That Zara had to be real.
She still had to be in there somewhere.
“What do I need to do?” I whispered. God, anything, please... “Tell me what I can do to—”
“You can’t,” she said harshly. “There’s nothing left.”
No. “I love you.”
She flinched, tears brimming in her eyes, and she screamed, “You hurt me!” Her voice pitched lower, darker, chilling me through. “And there are consequences to breaking my motherfucking heart.”
And I ached, then, because I knew it was over.
Whatever walls she’d let down for me were back up. Whatever part of her that had softened, had laughed, had loved me was gone. Whatever had been there between us was dead. And it didn’t matter that whatever she’d thought had happened didn’t, didn’t matter that I would do anything for her.
It was over.
So for Zara, her admission that he’d hurt her was more of a “Duh!” moment. Like you’d have to be a moron to not know what she was capable of—to not know there are consequences to crossing someone with her history and violent tendencies (incidentally, it always reminded me of Kill Bill Vol. 2, where Bill’s all like “Of COURSE I shot you in the face, what the hell did you expect?”).
|9 Crimes, 8/2012|
Because he loves her. He thinks he knows her. He thinks beneath everything she’s still human. He can’t comprehend why she won’t talk to him, how she reacted so badly without even speaking to him first, how what was an ugly argument and misunderstanding from his point of view was the tail end of a situation already broken from hers. He doesn’t understand this side of her, or that there’s an entirely different person suddenly staring back from her eyes. He saw the good in her without seeing the bad. Now the bad has risen to the surface, which he must reconcile with his previous view of her. He made the mistake of thinking she was more bite than bark.
He’s angry, but he still wants to fix things—he’s stubborn and has trouble believing it’s possible for anything to be so badly broken that they can’t survive it. The man has a bit of a White Knight Syndrome—he comes from an abusive childhood and domestic violence situation, and he wants to Save Everyone. Especially her—like if he can just love her enough, that’ll somehow fix her damage.
Of course, you can’t fix damaged people. Either they repair themselves or things just eventually implode—and when she screams “You hurt me!” it is the precise moment when he realizes that.
(Bonus: His scene ended up with a lot of Damien Rice, specifically “I Remember” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fqdeR_f9-8.)
As a writer, these scenes were extremely challenging and rewarding to write—especially with 9 Crimes, to take the same dialogue, the same scene, and flip protagonist to antagonist. I’d been deep in Zara’s head—her pain, her vulnerabilities—and to switch that perspective to his was just as heartbreaking. Both people have valid points of view, despite seeing their entirely opposite perspectives, and it drove home for me just how subjective “truth” often is. And that there are consequences to breaking the motherfucking heart of a monster.
Award-winning author Skyla Dawn Cameron has been writing approximately forever. Her early storytelling days were spent acting out strange horror/fairy tales with the help of her many dolls, and little has changed except that she now keeps those stories on paper. She lives in Southern Ontario where she dabbles in art, is an avid gamer, helps the helpless (as long as they’re four-legged and furry), and watches Buffy reruns. If she ever becomes a grown-up, she wants to run her own Irish pub, as well as become world dictator. Currently she’s being held hostage by a houseful of cats.
Send tuna before they eat her alive.
You can visit her on the web at www.skyladawncameron.com.