Life fell into a comfortable pattern of work, recreation and rest, a balance of the mundane. Meanwhile, Resistance activities continued to simmer.
On Monday mornings, Keira met with her committee. Although she assured me she was being friendly, I didn't think she was exactly making friends. The meetings seemed to stress her out a great deal. Whether it was because of the ladies or because of my mother, she wouldn't say.
Monday and Wednesday evenings found us at the gym. This was Keira's area of expertise. She especially enjoyed the climbing wall. However, she bemoaned the fact that we couldn't practice grappling, wrestling or tumbling. Those simply weren't activities for a lady. At least training seemed to relieve some of her stress.
On Tuesdays when the gallery was closed, Aimee and Keira focused on the orphanages of Tkaron. They purchased much needed supplies: clothing, bedding, furniture, dishes and medical supplies, and donated it all in the name of the Resistance. They forged alliances.
In the evenings, we enjoyed dinner together. While Aimee and I prepared the food, Keira and Eberhardt set the table and kept us company. One evening, I held up a green pepper and had a brilliant idea. I grabbed a knife and a cutting board and demonstrated how to slice and dice. It was as I'd expected, Keira was good with a knife.
A few times, Aimee invited Brody to join us for dinner. I suspected he was also taking her to lunch more often than not. In my opinion, he was good for her. He made her laugh, and she began wearing brighter colors and trying her hair in different styles.
Everything was going so well, and then my parents invited us to dinner.
“I still can't get over this house!” Keira exclaimed as we drove under the canopy of leaves that welcomed us to my parents' estate. “Did you always live in houses this...this extravagant?”
“Yes, but so do most Elite.”
“Oh, I know that. But I still can't get over how different you are, how much you understand, how much you notice about... Well, about everything. About the world. About people like me. You see what's happening, how much pain the Divide causes. How did you do that? How did you break away?”
“I don't know exactly, but I'm glad I did.”
“Me too.” She tilted her head to the side and smiled at me.
Keira raised a good point. Why had I started asking questions that most people avoid, and how could we get others to do the same? Was it when my family moved to Tkaron, or had I begun asking questions much earlier?
My parents' butler, Simon, had been with them for 20 years. He hardly ever smiled. I'd been a mischievous nine year-old when he was hired. As a child, I'd tried to make him smile at least once a day. It wasn't easy, but I was determined. I held open the polished wooden door for Keira and watched as Simon hurried over.
“Mr. Burke. Please, allow me.”
“Oh, it's not a problem.”
“It may not be a problem for you, but you're doing my job.”
“Well, you may greet us and announce us to my parents. Will that do?”
“I suppose.” Simon frowned. “Wait here.”
“Come on.” I grabbed Keira's hand and pulled her along behind me.
“What? But, he won't like it,” she whispered.
A minute later, Simon stopped in the entrance to the dining room. “Richard and Miss Kendra James have arrived. Shall I show them in?”
“Yes, please do,” my mother said.
Simon turned and bumped into me. He sighed. Not even a hint of a smile. “You may go in.”
“Thank you, Simon.” I slipped a packet of cigarettes into his pocket as we maneuvered past. It was his favorite brand.
Keira squeezed my arm and whispered, “That was sweet.”
My mother hurried over when she saw us. “Welcome.” She grasped Keira's hands and kissed her on the cheek.
“Thank you for inviting me to dinner, Mrs. Burke.”
“My dear, you're to be my daughter-in-law. You may call me Bea.”
I leaned over and kissed my mother just as my father entered the room. “Good evening, Father.”
“Good evening, Richard. Miss James, it's nice to see you again.”
My mother may be ready to drop the formalities, but my father was not. I looked around. It wasn't every day that my parents lit the dinner candles, brought out the best china and...I glanced at Cadence. She blushed and looked down. So the intricately folded napkins had been her idea.
I directed Keira to a seat and pulled out her chair. My mother, now seated at the foot of the table, smiled in approval.
My father and I began as we always did, by discussing business. My mother soon cut in with, “Richard!” She spoke rather sharply and looked first at Keira and then at my father. He started to sigh but caught himself and raised a napkin to his mouth instead.
“Son.” I looked at him in alarm. He rarely called me that. My mother didn't say a word. “You'll be married soon.”
I nodded and looked across the table at Keira. Then I returned my attention to my father.
“When that time comes, you'll be receiving a promotion.”
I blinked in surprise. “But what about you?”
“I'll keep some stake in the company, of course. But I will no longer be taking such an active role. Those duties will become yours. Congratulations.” Again, he gave my mother a look I couldn't decipher.
“Yes, congratulations, dear,” she echoed.
The air felt thick. Is this his idea or hers?
“Thank you.” I cleared my throat and changed the subject. “This steak is delicious! My compliments to the new chef.”
“Yes, it's wonderful,” Keira chimed in.
“It's why we hired him. You know how much your father enjoys steak,” my mother said.
Again, a look passed between them.
Keira tactfully looked down at her plate.
“Have you heard?” my mother asked. “Someone has been donating supplies to the orphanages in town.”
“That's wonderful! It sounds like you've started a trend,” I said.
“To all of the orphanages. Donations for all of the children. Do you see what I mean?”
“Oh, I see.”
Keira was still staring at her plate. She'd stopped eating.
“Yes, and people have been talking.”
I set down my knife and fork, and sighed. “And what are they saying, Mother?”
“They're saying that the Resistance is helping the Working Class children. The Gov really should crack down on things like that, don't you agree?”
“What's the problem exactly?” Keira asked, finally looking up to meet my mother's gaze. “They're just children.”
“Well, it's an outrage, that's what it is. All your hard work with the committee, gone.”
“But they're still receiving funding from us too, so I don't understand what...”
“It can't be allowed,” my father cut in, his voice deep and steady.
We all turned to look at him, and he continued, “If Working Class children receive the same privileges as the Elite, they'll expect more than is available. Competition will skyrocket, and as the children mature into able bodied adults, Working Class citizens will begin to take on Elite jobs, leaving Working Class positions unfilled. It cannot be allowed,” he repeated.
“Can you imagine?” It was my mother again. “The Working Class and the Elite working side by side.”
I looked at Keira, and she stared at me.
Somehow we made it through the rest of dinner. Keira took my hand even before Eberhardt started the engine. “Please say you're coming over tonight,” she pleaded.
“Better not. I have an early morning meeting tomorrow. Turn around.” I nudged her gently. As the car began to move down the drive, I squeezed her shoulders, gently at first, then increased the pressure. I worked my way down her back. “Better?”
She leaned her head first to one side and then to the other. “Yes, thank you. How often will we have to dine with them?”
“They'll expect it frequently, I'm afraid. Probably about once per week.”
“Kill me now.” Keira's voice was deadpan.
Gaiman on Copyright Piracy and the Web http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI
Noah Maddock has spent his childhood in the prosperous and peaceful realm of Mediterra. With a change in leadership and assurances that the societal Divide has closed in his father's home realm of Terene, the family returns. But after a generation of mistrust, have the people truly changed? Diabetic Noah and his younger sister, Nadine, will see for themselves as they navigate their way through a school that still has bullies and through a society that still suffers from prejudice.
Captive by Sarah Williams - http://www.amazon.com/Captive-ebook/dp/B005ITYF2W/
Unrequited by Jay Merin http://www.amazon.com/Unrequited-ebook/dp/B005IHDSMC/
Redemption by R.K.Ryals http://www.amazon.com/Redemption-Series-ebook/dp/B005Q22CEY/
Darkness Falls by Mathieu Gallant http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Falls-Outage-Series-ebook/dp/B008QO41VG/
Corie, Universe Feeder by Walter Eckland http://www.amazon.com/Corie-Universe-Feeder-ebook/dp/B00520ICW6/
The writing style was captivating, with excellent sentence flow, good descriptive material, and natural dialog. The author uses the convention of telling the story from the perspectives of the 4 main characters, in alternating chapters. This is tricky ground, because the material can become repetitive, but the author travels it without stepping on one land mine, or falling into one pitfall. The overall effect is that it makes it much easier to relate to all of these people, and to get to know them in a way that is only possible with first person narrative. Once I got used to it, and it didn't take long at all, I really enjoyed this touch.
The plot is complicated, involving, as it does, several major elements, any one of which could have provided material for a full length book. Again, the author handles her themes with ease, and her action scenes are extremely well done. There's lots of action, but it never overwhelms the basic story.
The thing I liked best about this book, though, is the way in which the author presented her world. There is no long explanation. You enter the scene in the middle of the action, and you are given the information you need to understand this rather frighteningly possible world as you go, just enough so that you don't become confused. This, to me, is world building at its best! I did keep trying to figure out, at first, whether this was supposed to be a not to distant future Earth, or a fantasy world created by the author. I soon decided that the book was good enough that I didn't really care, though my instincts tell me it is Earth. If so, then the author has extrapolated her future strongly based on trends we are seeing now, and that extrapolation is more than a little plausible, which should give us serious pause.
But, in the long run, books, all fiction, at least, are essentially the stories of people. Settings may vary. Genres may vary. But people are at the heart of any story, and in this, again, the author excels. Yes, the issues are important, as is the fight for equality that we see. But at the heart of things, it is the people who matter, and, bless her, the author never looses sight of this. These folks are real, with real issues, and what motivates them at bottom is love. Love of family, love of mates, love of friends. Everything they do is rooted in that love, and that, I think, is why this book is special. It's also a whopping good read, and I am eager to start book 2 in the series.
Currently, Price of a Bounty is only available for Kindle (as an ebook), but the others are also available in a variety of other formats at Smashwords.
Canvas Skies http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286579
Heart of Humanity http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/286593
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reliance-on-Citizens/269905359690713
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/author.slwallace
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/S.-L.-Wallace/e/B006NDH8C6/
Smashwords Author Profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/slwallace
I'd like to thank Sarah L. Wallace for answering this (admittedly long) interview. If you like what you read, click on her purchase links, like her FB page, and her author pages. Independent authors need the support of their readers. As always, thanks for reading.