Escape to wondrous worlds

Nicole Murphy & Elizabeth Dunk

Nicole Murphy & Elizabeth Dunk

Winning the King - deleted scenes

I always post the deleted scenes from my books - I think they offer an interesting insight into how the book came into being, and can also give you a taste for the book (although generally they do contain spoilers!)

Winning the King was written very quickly - all 80k blasted onto the page in four weeks (helped in no small way by the fact two of those weeks were my annual writing retreat with my writing buddies and  I can generally get 50k down in that period). This was the first time I’d ever written Diana’s story - I’d always known she’d have one, but for 30 years I’d been fixated on Cassandra’s. So it was quite cathartic, to finally have it on the page. Some books just flow out of you, and Winning the King was one of them.

This book has a different tone to the first - lots of action, at times it’s very dark and bleak and horrible things happen.

Originally, my way to show how Diana had changed from the woman we met in ‘Loving the Prince’ was to show her at work at the Rican Balcite Mining Company. It ended up not being the right approach and I took a different line, but what was one of the early scenes in the novel was a pretty good way to get to know Diana.

“Petro’s peace isn’t Patriza’s peace, but Patriza’s peace is Petro’s peace and peace is present in Petro and Patriza and so they have peace.”

“Again,” barked the vocal teacher. “Soften those p’s. Soften them.”

Diana Wiltmore took a deep breath and tried the tongue twister again. Presenting the best possible face of the Rican Balcite Mining Company was important to her, so she’d been taking these thrice weekly vocal lessons to improve her public speaking.

She tended to hiss a bit when pronouncing the letter s, so after she’d softened her p’s enough they moved onto other strange sentences.

“Seldom seen is the southern swantil but swallowed softly seems stunning.”

She’d laughed when Cassandra had spent great swathes of their adolescence walking the house muttering these phrases. Now she was living irony.

“Luise Tantro is demanding entry,” the door announced.

Diana frowned. Demanding wasn’t a word the doors used unless the person on the other side was being extremely forceful.

“Entry granted.”

“Miss Wiltmore, I must protest,” the voice teacher said. “We’re in the middle of a lesson.”

Diana ignored her, instead watching her protector race into the room and come to a sliding halt just before her. Luise was young, in her first role as a protector. Diana’s role didn’t really warrant her having a protector but one day, she would need one and her father wanted her to have one she’d grown with and who understood her. Like General Blerdon understood him. Like Kernan had come to understand Cassandra as her protector.

“Miss Wiltmore, my apologies, but there’s been an accident at the mine.” Diana drew in a sharp breath as fear chilled her body. “No one was killed and the injuries are minor.” Diana let out the breath. “However production is going to be halted for the rest of today and possibly tomorrow for investigation. The board would like an announcement sooner rather than later to offset the expected panic from distributors.”

“Do they have any wording?”

“The president said it would be ready by the time you get to the studio.”

Diana turned to the teacher. “Apologies. I’m afraid I must go to work.”

“Soft p’s and sharpen your esses.”

Diana turned and rolled her eyes at Luise who barely managed to hide her grin. They strode out of the office and down the corridor. In the next room, Diana could see one of the writers hurriedly slamming their fingertips against the tablet. In the next room, she overheard an argument about the use of the word ‘accident’.

The studio was at the end of the corridor and was security locked. Diana placed her palm against the reader and there was a click before the door slid open. She walked through the security space and repeated the action to get the next door to open.

This let her into the studio proper. It was set up to broadcast directly to all the balcite distributors on a secured channel. Many businesses around the planet – mostly advertisers – would have given anything to have access to this room.

“Good afternoon, Diana.” Blake Shor, the studio technician, approached her. “Here’s your wordage.”

She read it through. They’d decided to go with ‘incident’. She practiced it mentally a few times, getting used to the words, then started saying it aloud, again and again.

“Your instructions are to be calm, not to smile too much but not to look grim either. You’re to give a wide, reassuring smile at the end.”

“Thanks Blake.” Diana stepped to the middle of the room, facing a large screen on the wall.

“Right, let’s do the test.” The words appeared in the middle of the screen before her. Diana read them aloud, hearing changes in the sound around her as levels were set.

“Your father would like you to take your hair out. He says you look a bit severe.”

Diana complied. She knew that her beauty was one of the reasons she’d got this job – talking about balcite mining was either harrowing or boring. At least she gave them something nice to look at while it was happening.

She read it again, and this time was able to soften her eyes so they didn’t appear focussed on the words before her but instead looking at the viewer.

“Right, we’re ready to go. In three, two one.”

A green light appeared in the top corner of the screen, showing they were live. All the distributors had been notified a message was coming through and they would either be watching live, or would see the recording in a few minutes.

“Good afternoon, and greetings from the Rican Balcite Mining Company. Where ever you are, I hope you’ve been having a successful day. I come to you today with news of a disruption in the production process. Due to an incident in the mind, all production has been shut down. The crews are working to rectify the situation and have the mine re-opn in the morning. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to give you a more definite time for when production will commence. Let me assure you that this is just a temporary measure and with the stockpiles in our warehouse, we are capable of continuing to fulfil your orders. If you have any queries, please contact Plissa Waltric, the head of distribution. Our best wishes for your continued success. This is Diana Wiltmore, on behalf of the Rican Balcite Mining Company.”

Diana gave everyone a wide, bright smile and then a red light signalled transmission was over.

“Perfect as always, Diana.”

“Thank you.” Diana dipped her head at Blake. He’d been incredibly supportive of her from the moment she’d begun working in the public relations section of the company. Not everyone had been so welcoming and the first few months had been difficult. But she’d proven herself to most and the ones she hadn’t – well, they didn’t matter.

Luise was waiting for her in the corridor and escorted her back to her office. “See if you can find out some details for me,” Diana asked. “Media will be asking questions soon, and I want to be prepared for the answers I’ll be given.”

“Sure,” Luise said.

Diana walked into her office and stopped, surprised to see the voice teacher still there. The old man jumped to his feet. “Is she an explosion?”

“Is who an explosion?”

“Plissa Waltric. Is she an explosion?”


“Then stop popping your p’s.” He stormed out. Diana shook her head and laughed, then went back to practicing her tongue twisters without him.

Half an hour later, Luise was back with all the details. There had been a build up of gas in one of the shafts, but the warning procedures had worked and the workers had evacuated before the explosion. It was only small and there was little debris to move, but the shaft needed to be re-supported and the warning systems set up again before work could re-commence.

“What about the injuries?” Diana said.

“A couple of men panicked and banged their heads as they tried to escape. They’ve got headaches, but they’re fine. One person has proven sensitive to the gas, and they’ll stay with the healers until their body is clear. The RBMC will then find antoher job for them.”

One of the writers came in. “Here’s the media statement,” he said, handing the tablet over. “We’ve decided on no questions.”

Diana read through the statement. Apart from no wishes for a successful day, it was almost copy of what she’d delivered to the distributors. “I think we need to put more in here,” she said. “Such as reassuring them it was in the mine, not the enrichment plant, otherwise they’ll speculate.”

“Good thing we don’t pay you to think, isn’t it?” the writer said and stormed out.

“What do you think, Luise?” Diana studied the tablet she held thoughtfully. “Should I take questions?”

“I think if you did, and you got it wrong, your father and Plissa Waltric will be really angry with you.”

“My sister would.”

“From what I’ve heard of the trouble your sister got herself into, she might not be your best role model.”

Diana grinned. There was no doubt that as good as Cassandra had been at her job as head of distribution for the company, she’d also had a talent for trouble that had almost cost them everything. “All right. I’ll be the beautiful, blonde, brainless spokesperson.”

Despite the bravado, Diana was shaking as she made her way to the media room. This was the first time she’d had to face the media contingent that covered the RBMC in this way. In the past, her media interactions had always been coming in or out of a nightclub, with photographers yelling for her to look to get the best pictures. Diana had always obliged because she hated the idea of an ugly picture of herself being circulated.

The media room was a half circle of screens, one on toop of the other, each with an individual station sign. There was twenty in total. When the connection opened, on the other end would be reporters, trained investigators, wanting to hunt down the secret of what was going on on Rica.

Diana took her position, nodded her head and smiled. Instantly, she was looking at twenty faces and everyone one of them wanted first bite.

“Diana, is it true someone has been killed? Diana, is this the end of the RBMC? Diana, should the planetarium have granted the licence that was applied for earlier this year?”

Diana smiled serenely and waited. Eventually, they all got the message and stopped yelling at her. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you. I’ll be reading a brief statement on behalf of the Rican Balcite Mining Company and there will be no questions.”

The yelling started again and again, Diana waited for them to quieten before she began.

“Just over one hour ago, an incident in the mine caused all production has been shut down. The crews are working to rectify the situation and we currently expect the mine re-open in the morning. There were no injuries. The Rican Balcite Mining Company will continue to fulfil orders during this time. Thank you.”

She turned to walk away and the reporters started yelling. One question got her attention. “Diana, it was in the enrichment plant, wasn’t it? How safe are the people of Rica?”

Diana stopped and looked at one of the reporters from Tatryn. She smiled. “Let me read this for you again.” She lifted the tablet up. “Just over one hour ago, an incident in the mine caused all production has been shut down.” She emphasised the words ‘in the mine’. “I hope you heard it that time. Thank you.” Then she walked out.

“Chanelling your sister,” Luise murmured.

“Just a little,” Diana said with a grin. “With Cass, a little goes a long way.”

Yeah, Diana’s beautiful and she can be a bit ice-queenish sometimes, but she is Cassandra’s twin and she can bring the sass as well as anyone :)

So I did a second draft, revised and so on, and then sent it to my beta readers. As the comments started to come back, they triggered something in my head and although none of them had mentioned it I had a major realisation - I’d copied a plot line from ‘Loving the Prince’. In LTP, Kernan was badly injured and developed amnesia, forgetting about Cassandra and how he felt about her. While I did it differently in WTK, the same thing happened - Diana forgot how she felt about Gareth. Dammit, thought I. I’ll have to change it.

I’m not going to tell you what I came up with - you’ll have to get the book to find out - but here’s a scene from the original plotline showing how Diana’s family reacted to this strange change in her.

“Here you are!” Cassandra’s happy voice rang out across the rooftop. Diana and Cassius were reclined on neighbouring sun lounges, holding hands and planning their wedding. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“And here we are,” Diana said. “What’s up?”

“I was hoping for a little sister on sister time. Dinner, drinks perhaps?”

“Isn’t that inappropriate, with everything that’s happening?” Cassius said.

“Quite right,” Diana said. “Besides, anything you want to say to me you can say in front of Cassius.” She squeezed her husband-to-be’s hand. With every moment she spent with him, her love grew.

“I don’t doubt that, but still you’ll be married soon, and living on Tatryn, and I’ll barely see you. Please, Di. For old time’s sake.”

Cassius lifted Diana’s hand to his lips. “Go with her, my darling. But no drinking. That’s just not right. And don’t stay out too late.”

Diana leant over and kissed him, and Cassius grabbed the back of his head and pressed his tongue into her mouth and a cascade of memories ran over her, causing her body to heat and her nipples to harden.

Although, it had to be said, Cassius was a terrible kisser. But her memories told her he more than made up for that in bed.

“I certainly won’t stay away from you for too long,” Diana said in a throaty whisper.

Cassandra took her to one of the cafes in the huge park at the centre ofRicminCity. Dusk was being brought in with the lights of the dome changing slowly from white through yellow and orange until finally black. Once she got to Tatryn, the dusk would be natural and would occur at different times, not by the clock like it did in Ricmin.

Diana wondered if she’d every get used to it.

They ordered a selection of finger food and non-alcoholic cocktails and once the waiter was gone, Cassandra leant forward.

“All right, Di. Spill.”

“Spill what?”

“Peace, you’re going to frustrate me to death, you really are. I mean about what’s going on.”

“Oh, the wedding plans. Well, the wedding is going to take place next week, in Tatryn. It’s going to be an amazing ceremony. I’ve sent my measurements to a designer down there and Cassius is promising me a dress that will be spoken of for decades. It will take place in the great hall of the palace, with only dignitaries and the like invited, but will be beamed into all the homes on Jorda. After, Cassius and I will go on a coach ride, to receive the congratulations of our people.”

“I’m going to kill you. You know that, don’t you?”

Diana frowned. “What is your problem?”

Conversation stopped as the drinks arrived and didn’t resume until the waiter was gone.

“I’m not the one with a problem, you are, and you need to tell me so I can help you.”

A suspicion entered Diana’s mind. “Did the King of Angonia speak to you?”

“Yes, but I knew there was something wrong before that,” Cassandra said. “This morning, when you said you were happy to marry Cassius. No fucking way is that true. So tell me what the hell is going on.”

Cassandra’s voice was deepening with anger, and Diana felt a similar rage rise in her. “Why do you and Gareth both think there’s no way I could love Cassius? I’ve been in his mind. I’ve seen him, the truth of him, the way no one else has. How can I not love him?”

“Because he’s old and disgusting and you aren’t attracted to him.”

“What are you talking about? We’ve made love, countless times. It’s been amazing. One time, he took me up against the wall and Peace, I came so hard.”

By the end of that little speech, Cassandra’s eyes were wide. “You have not slept with him,” she screeched.

“I have. Numerous times. I can remember it, Cassie. Just thinking about it makes me hot.”

“No, not possible. When did you have time? You weren’t even in Tatryn for one night. You saw him again briefly when you took the bodies back to Tatryn. Since he arrived, you’ve not spent the night with him. How is it possible you’ve had all this sex?”

Diana frowned. What Cassandra said made complete sense. She and Cassius hadn’t spent much time together. But her memories were so clear, so vivid. She could feel Cassius touching her, making her moan, making her so hot that she was desperate for the feel of his large cock pressing into her.

“Why are you trying to confuse me?”

“Di, I’m not trying to confuse you. I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with you, so I can help you.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.” Then a realisation struck her. “You’re jealous.”


“Yes. Right now, it’s supposed to be about you. You’re the Heir of Rica. You just had a glamourous wedding. But now I’m going to have an even better wedding, and I’ll be the spouse of the Pontifex of Tatryn, the greatest country on Jorda, while you’ll just be Prince of Rica. You’re jealous of me, and that’s what this is all about.”

“Peace, you’re talking shit. I’m not jealous of you. I’m fucking worried about you and with every word that comes out of your mouth, I become more worried.”

Diana stood. “Well, don’t be,” she said coldly. “I’m marrying a wonderful man and I’m going to be very happy. Everything else doesn’t matter.”

She stormed away, hoping and praying Cassandra wouldn’t follow her. Thankfully, she didn’t and so Diana was able to walk home in peace.

Cassius was in the loungeroom. “Well, my darling?”

Diana sat next to him, and sighed with relief when his arms came around her. “Why can’t people understand that I know you and I love you and you are all I need to make me happy?”

“When they see us wed and see how happy we are, then they’ll understand.” Cassius stroked her back. “What did your sister say?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Diana said. She leant in close. “I just want to kiss you.”

“I want to kiss you too.” He did, his tongue sliding around in her mouth.

Terrible, terrible kisser, Diana thought with affection. How could he be so bad at this and so good at the rest?

“Make love to me,” Diana said.

“Certainly.” Cassius stood and held out his hand to her. Diana smiled as she rose and walked alongside him to her bedroom.

Yes, being with Cassius was all she needed.

In her bedroom he undressed her, slowly, his hands worshipful on her skin. “So beautiful,” he murmured, over and over, as he touched her. Diana felt like a goddess. “I will never forget this moment. Never.”

Then he held her close against him and kissed her. Diana remembered being overcome with passion and the thought of what they’d done in the past aroused her, but this kiss, right now, did not.


Cassius released her and pushed her onto the bed. Diana watched as he started to disrobe. At the sight of his erection, a thrill ran through her. It felt so good inside her. It would again.

“Andar Wiltmore requests admittance.”

Diana sat up at the door’s pronouncement. What was her father doing here?

“I guess your father’s come to ensure I don’t have you before the wedding,” Cassius said.

Diana jumped up, threw a robe on and directed Cassius into bed. Then she opened the door.

“Hello.” She gave her father a hug. “I’d love to chat, but Cassius and I want some private time, if you don’t mind.”

“Actually, I do,” Andar said. “I know you are to be married, but it’s my preference you do not sleep together until you are.”

“Father, that’s very old-fashioned of you. Cassius and I have already been together, why shouldn’t we be now?”

“Diana, please, humour me in this. I can guarantee it will make your wedding night that much more special.”

“I suppose so.” Diana looked over her shoulder at Cassius. She did only have to wait a week to have him again. And it would guarantee that they would blow the roof off on their wedding night, they’d be so hot for each other.

“Trust me, my darling,” Andar said.

Diana looked at her father and smiled. “Of course I trust you. Very well, no sex until after the wedding.” She kissed Andar’s cheek then turned to Cassius. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“I would rather be with you,” Cassius said.

“I know, but Father’s right. It will make next week all the more special.”

“Andar, perhaps you can leave Diana and I to talk,” Cassius said.

“I think if I left you alone now, there wouldn’t be much talking and I want this for my daughter.” Andar took hold of Diana’s hand. “Come, Diana. I want to spend some time with my beautiful daughter before you are taken from me.”

“All right,” Diana said. As she stepped out of the room, a terrible thought came to her. “Did Cass send you?”

“No, your mother did. She’s downstairs. We want to spend as much time with you before you leave for Tatryn as we can. We didn’t tell you because we wanted it to be a surprise.”

“It is. It’s a lovely surprise. Thank you.” Diana kissed him again, then went with him downstairs to enjoy a lovely evening with her family.

Cassius is a complete and utter jerk. Both in this version, and in the final one. Jerks are fun to write, even if something they make your skin crawl.

The final scene I’m going to show you is the original end scene of the novel. The change I had to make because of that wrong plot line completely changed the final part of the book, and the closing scene now shows Diana and Gareth together. But this was sweet, and shows such a lovely relationship between the sisters.

Diana and Cassandra lay on sun lounges on the rooftop of the Wiltmore home, staring at the stars above. It was Diana’s last night on Rica. She’d been here for a month overseeing the initial construction of the Rica Design workshops and finalising the designs for the Castina Collection.

Now it was at a stage where it could be controlled from a distance, and that meant she could return to Gareth. She couldn’t get over how much she’d missed him. Talking to him several times a day, messaging him, writing him had been nice but not enough. She wanted to see his smile. To smell his incredible scent. To feel his body moving against hers.

Hopefully when she arrived tomorrow, he’d have some time free so they could get naked and get happy.

“So, here we are,” Cassandra said. “This time last year, we couldn’t be in the room with each other without biting heads off. I was Ms Workaholic. You were Ms No Commitment. And now here we are. We get on well. I’m married, you’re about to be. All that change.”

“Not sure you’ve changed that much,” Diana said. “I’ve heard Kernan whinge about your work habits.”

“I’m going to be the next Prince of Rica, Di. If he dies. A part of me hopes he does, a part doesn’t. But, you know, there’s work involved. You’ve seen that with Gareth, surely.”

“I have. Who would have thought that when I finally settled down, it would be with someone like Gareth.”

“Not me. I mean, I couldn’t imagine you settling down at all but if I could, I’d think it would be someone who would spoil your rotten. Whereas Gareth won’t let you get away with anything.”

“True, but he’ll still spoil me in all the right ways.”

“It always comes back to sex with you, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, please. Are you telling me that you’re not a little obsessed with getting Kernan into bed as much as possible?”

“Maybe a little.” Even without looking at her sister, Diana could tell from her voice she was smiling. “My big problem at the moment though is what the hell will I wear to your wedding?”

“I’d just go with something basic. There’s nothing that you could do that will outshine me that day.”

“I could try going naked.”

“You could, but it still wouldn’t work. Besides which, Kernan wouldn’t let you.”

“True. He does tend to curb my more excessive ideas.”

“About time someone did.”

Diana felt Cassandra’s hand on her wrist. “I really am sorry about the whole Mentatnet thing. I should have tested Cassius myself before I let you do it.”

“Then he could have taken control of you, and what would that have done? No, it’s fine. I’ve stopped have nightmares about him.”

Cassandra squeezed her hand. “Still, I do owe you.”

“Yes, actually, you do.” Diana turned on her side to look at her twin. “I’m going to have to figure out a way to have you pay me back.”

“It’s not going to be good, is it?”

“Not at all.”

Cassandra turned her head and smiled. “I’m going to miss you. It feels like we’ve only just found each other again, and now you’re leaving.”

“Just to Angonia,” Diana said. “We can visit. Talk often.”

“But it won’t be the same.”

Diana sat up and gave her sister a hug. “I’m going to miss you too. We were stupid, to waste all those years. But then, maybe we wouldn’t be so close now if we hadn’t been such enemies.”

“And now you leave me and I have just enemies around me. Well, one enemy.”

“Leave Plissa Waltric alone, Cassie. She’s paid the price for what she did to you.”

“Oh, I agree with that. But she’s in general a horrible, terrible excuse for a human being and that I cannot forget.”

“You know what I think?” Diana lay back down again. “I think the issue with you and Plissa is that you’re both the same person.”

“Diana Wiltmore! How dare you say such a thing?”

“You’re both workaholics. Both smart, determined, ambitious.”

“I’m nice.”

“Plissa has to have something going for her. She’s extremely well regarded in the business community and her staff are extremely loyal. Not one of them has left her business. They’re all hoping she’ll come back.”

“Oh, great. Now you’re the fricken’ president of the Plissa Waltric fan club.”

“Not at all. But she is Angonian, and soon I’ll be her queen.”

“Good. Make your first royal decree that she is returned to Angonia, so I never have to face her again.”

“I’ll think about it.”

Cassandra flopped back onto the sun lounge. “You do that.”

“That will make it two you owe me.”

“On second thoughts, Waltric can stay here. I can avoid her. It will be fine.”

Diana chuckled. “And trying to get away from her gives you the perfect excuse to come visit Angonia.”

Cassandra touched her hand. “I won’t need any excuse but that I’m missing you.”

Diana turned her hand over to hold Cassandra’s and they stared silently up at the stars.

Hope reading some of the scenes and ideas that didn’t make the final cut has whet your appetite to read the real thing!

Recent release

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Trix Leon has put her heart and soul into Messina, and now it could all be taken away from her. Ben Anthony seems to have the ability to save her but while she trusts him with her pleasure, will she trust him with her love? Based on the Shakespeare play 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

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