So………….y’all! I literally haven’t had a whole lot of time to update the blog here on the ole websitey-witey. Believe me, I’ve been writing like crazy–2 new novels and a hand full of short stories in the past 8 months. To fill you in, On the Brink, the second book of the Orleans Exodus, is now in the editing phase with 48fourteen! I can’t wait for y’all to read this book. It’s been such a labor of love in writing the next part of Hilaria, Anthony, and Job’s journey. They are so much a part of me that letting them go for awhile hurts, and I mean that quite literally. But one of the things I kept having to ask myself in the process of writing the second book was, “Where do I go from here for the third installment?” And the answer I kept giving myself was, “It’s all about Ramsey.” Honestly, the more I dig into the universe of Orleans and the dynamics which move the world forward, the more I realize the story is as much the 3 major players’ as it is Ramsey’s. To me, that is the fascinating! Who knew the bad guy would become the star of the third installment? Believe me: it was never my intention. Providence however shined down upon me when a blogger asked me to do a character interview for her website. I did these way back when I was outlining the novel; they help a writer to get to the know the characters better. Anyway, I sat down one Saturday night to tap out a “small” interview between Ramsey (the bad guy), Job (the bad guy’s beautiful son), and Hope (the bad guy’s loyal ally). Why? Because I wanted to let Ramsey finally speak. Y’all! Once you flip that guy’s switch, he *doesn’t* stop talking, and along with his now strong and resolute voice came the sounds of Hope, a character I knew little about…until now.
Below, you will find what I wrote that night, when I only expected Ramsey and Job to speak up. The way I imagine it, this conversation happened only a few weeks before the opening of On the Other Side. If you haven’t read On the Other Side yet, the bonus scene won’t ruin anything for you, but it will fill in a lot of blanks that my other readers have been curious about until now. and maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you hungry for more of Ramsey…so you’ll grab your own copy soon! On that note, happy reading, and may Hope always be on your side. 😉
“Traitor Among Us”
An Orleans Exodus Bonus Scene
I twiddle my thumbs as I sit waiting patiently as any good Ward should. Back straight. Facing forward. Pleasant expression upon my face. That, in the end, is what makes us different from the Quarters. We can suffer anything with a smile.
My name is Hope Newsome, by the way. I’m the twenty-seven-year-old liaison to the head of the Name Acquisition Program himself, the esteemed Ramsey Farreaux. I have been privileged to work alongside him for eleven years now as his loyal and trustworthy assistant. He names it, I do it, and my obedience has brought me in close proximity to some of the amazing things to come to Orleans in my lifetime: the building of the NAP Tower, the new construction at the Wall, and the highest participant numbers enrolling in our NAP chapter’s history! It’s an exciting time to be a Ward, and I am proud to be tasked to help the masses better understand the heart of our handsome leader.
The door behind me opens, and I turn to see Ward Farreaux enter with his son, Job. If I were ten years younger, Job would own my heart, but I know I am not the only Ward woman to notice his beauty. Unlike his father, Job is fair and blonde, but Ramsey is also striking in a white robe that drapes over the muscular build remaining from his days as a Quarter and bronze skin that shines as if it once enjoyed the sun.
“Hope,” Ramsey drones with a nod in my direction.
“Sir,” I say. My thumbs stop their nervous movement, and I pick up my notebook and pen. “Job.”
“Hello, Ward Newsome,” Job says and lowers a lithe frame into a chair beside his father. “As always, it is a pleasure to see you.”
He smiles, and I blush. Ramsey clears his throat and gestures to my paper.
“This is nonsense, Hope,” he declares, dark eyes serious. “The Wards know who I am. They respect me. More importantly, most fear me. Why all this fuss about a press release then?”
“Sir,” I say and add a placating smile, “our latest polls are such that your approval in the Quarter is less than twenty-five percent. With unrest growing in the flooded part of the city, we—your publicity team, I mean—believe that making you more personable to the Quarters could do well to continue the increase in enrollees we’ve seen the last few years. And, too, maybe it will help the rumblings behind the Wall settle down a bit.”
“Oh, let us be entirely honest, Hope. You want to make my father more likable to the unwashed masses,” Job says, a smirk brightening his startling blue eyes.
I look away to the table. “Yes, exactly, Job,” I agree. “But, sir, with all due respect, you are a powerful man. The position you hold is an intimidating one, and the Quarters don’t relate to you.”
My eyes flick up to find Ramsey running a long finger over his chin. Our eyes lock, and he shows me a rare grin.
“Fine,” he says. “If you think it will help my so-called ‘bad’ reputation, proceed. But Hope, you are limited to five questions. Do you understand? So choose wisely.”
Job snickers beside his father, and Ramsey throws him a look that could make flowers wilt. I flip through the pages and pages of questions I’ve prepared for this interview, and none seem appropriate enough to complete the job I’ve been given. I feel panic dry my mouth, and I cough. The braid over my shoulder feels like a noose, so I grab it and toss it behind me.
“Well?” Ramsey prompts. “I don’t have all day.”
I feel both his and Job’s gazes on me. It’s now or never. What image do I want the Quarters to have painted for them of the man I serve day in and day out, the Ramsey Farreaux? I have no idea. They’ll never understand what I see when I look at him.
So, I ask the first thing that pops into my mind. “What is your favorite color?”
Ramsey groans and crosses arms over his wide chest, his immense presence filling the room. “That’s what you drug me in here for? My favorite color, Hope?”
Job sighs and turns to his father. “You said five questions, Father. Shouldn’t number one be the easiest of them all, a warm-up, perhaps?”
I telepath my thanks to Job for the explanation of my reasoning and ready my pen over the paper. “Sir?”
Ramsey rolls eyes to the ceiling then his chin drops to his chest. “Blue,” he mutters, and I almost miss it.
“Blue?” I repeat.
“Blue,” he barks. “Next question.”
I stifle a giggle. I’ve never seen the stoic Ramsey so put out over a single syllable. Job and I share a glance, and he has a hand pressed to his mouth, probably holding back laughter, too.
“When you were a little boy, what did you want to be as an adult?”
“That is an easy one,” Ramsey says, waving a hand to dismiss me. “I wanted to be a king over a glorious domain full of minions to do my bidding.”
I stop writing at his candor. “You do not mean that literally, sir. Do you?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Ramsey says. He spreads his arms wide. “Do you see what I’ve accomplished in my time as General Operating Director, Hope? I’m so very close to making that dream come true.”
“At the expense of us all,” Job murmurs. Ramsey glares at him, but I quickly record his response and decide it’s best to move on from the current line of questioning. I’ve seen these two become physical with one another over Ramsey’s desire to strengthen NAP’s grasp on the city, and now isn’t the time or place for that to happen again.
“What is your biggest fear?” I ask, my eyes dancing between father and son to measure the tension. Ramsey exhales loudly and runs a hand over his bald head. Job leans away and keeps his eyes to the floor.
“If I have to answer this one, I would say my biggest fear is mediocrity. I hope I never have to hear someone say that I could have done something better. I want to be the most gifted person in the room, the best G.O.D. in NAP’s history—I want to be the brightest star burning in the sky.” When he finishes, Ramsey slams a fist against the table and leans back into the chair, as if he wasn’t aware he pushed forward during his speech.
I smile because that is the man I know. “And you will have it, sir. I feel it in my bones.”
“Thank you, Hope,” Ramsey says, nodding, seeming to have settled from Job’s remark. He flicks his pointer and middle fingers into the air. “Two more questions.”
I return his nod. “What is your biggest accomplishment?”
“Aside from the obvious?” Ramsey asks, and I’m not sure if he’s speaking rhetorically. “My biggest accomplishment is what I’ve brought to Orleans—a sense of peace and purpose to those who trust me to lead them.”
Job’s lashes flutter, and his cheeks flush pink. His shoulders slump, blond waves swarm his shoulders, and he looks, for want of a better word, hurt.
“Sir, would you like to include something personal in your list of achievements, such as successfully raising, as a single father no less, a son to be the next G.O.D.?”
Without hesitation, Ramsey proclaims, “No.”
Something in my stomach pinches, and I’m suddenly very sad for Job. Then following, without my permission, is an incredibly unsettling sense of disloyalty to Ramsey. It originates from the fact I am now thinking he may be something less than the stellar man I believe him to be. I know the lie isn’t true, but I can’t help but feel it—the doubt, the uncertainty. And as a Ward, emotions are both unwelcome and unsettling. As a result, I feel myself begin to shut down.
“I think that will be all for today, sir,” I whisper.
A chair screeches across the tile, and Ramsey’s boots thud as he makes his way to the door. “I want to see a mock-up of this promotional material on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. And, Hope?”
“Yes?” I ask without looking back at him.
“Make sure the photo you use has me from in profile. You know how much the light loves my left side.”
With that, the door slams, and I am left with Job across the table from me.
“I am sorry, Hope,” he says. “You know how he can be at his worst, but today has been a good day.”
“You do not need to apologize. I am used to it. Nothing will make me do less than my best at my job, though.”
A cool hand covers mine, and I look up to see Job smiling at me. My heart skips a little, and I swallow.
“You have one question left, yes? Ask me,” he says.
“Are you sure?” I say and pull my hand back to retrieve my pen.
“Absolutely,” Job says. “I have a few minutes.”
“All right,” I say and pick the first from the many questions I’d prepared for Ramsey. “If you could add anything else to Orleans to make it the ideal city, what would it be?”
Job clasps hands in his lap and takes time considering the answer. His eyes float to the door then back to me. “Must it be something in addition to what exists? Could it possibly be something of which we suffer too much?”
I twist the pen in my fingers. “I had not thought of it that way, but I suppose.”
“Will my answer remain in your confidence?” Job asks, a hint of desperation to his voice.
I am a Ward. Most do not have the ability to lie, but I do. I cannot tell you how Ramsey has exempted me from the rule, but he has. The use of my dishonesty is one of the many ways I prove my allegiance to him time and time again. And it’s because of his intervention in my life that I will remain loyal to him, no matter the doubts I might have.
“Of course, Ward Farreaux,” I say. “Please, know that you can trust me.”
“Then,” Job says quietly, “I would remove my father. That last thing our city needs is more Ramsey Farreaux. He is a curse upon us all.”
My jaw hangs open as Job rises from the seat. All six feet, two inches of him tower over me, and his blue eyes burn into mine.
“Your loyalty to my father comes with very dangerous consequences, Hope,” Job warns. “Be careful trusting him with your life as you so clearly do.”
Job moves around the table, and I hear the door close behind me. If Job himself fears his father’s reign, I have no reason to doubt Ramsey any longer. At once, feeling restored to my former self, I scramble to write down all that Job’s said; then, I rip the paper from the pad. I slip it into my pocket and decide to pay Ramsey a visit earlier than tomorrow morning.
We have a traitor among us, and he is none other than Ramsey’s son.