Book Three in Demoted Series
Under the Miller System, anyone who doesn’t pass their standardized tests is “demoted” to a life of slavery to the educated elite. Cashiel Michaud is one of the elite. His lover, Sascha, should have been as well, but an impulsive decision to save his less talented brother ultimately made him Cashiel’s personal slave. Luckily, Cashiel understands the true value of a brilliant man like Sascha, and put him to work rooting out the dirty secrets of the system that drew them together. It was a risky decision, and one that put them both in terrible danger. Now the news is out about Cashiel involvement in research to undermine the Miller System. He and Sascha have been placed in separate jails as their high-pressure legal case develops under the scrutiny of the establishment and abolitionists alike. Trapped in a harsh slave facility, Sascha must work blind in parallel with Cashiel’s efforts to get them both released, making sacrifices and delicate arrangements along the way. Sascha and Cashiel face numerous threats from the outside world, and some from the people closest to them. They don’t know who to trust and their plans and their love are being put to the test. The results of this test could change the world. (M/M)
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On the third day, I’m informed that I have a visitor. I’m hoping that my lawyer will be waiting for me in the private room that I am taken to.
When I see my mother, I’m glad that I’ve been handcuffed again. I would strangle her with my bare hands if I could.
“Mr. Michaud,” she starts, giving me a fake, professional smile.
The guard pushes me to sit in the chair across from her, cuffs me to it, and leaves without a word.
“I have nothing to say to you.”
“Now, Cashi, is that really the way you want to talk to the one person who wants to visit you?”
I seethe. “I want my lawyer. Or my business partner.” Or anybody except my mother. Not only is she the cause of my problems at the moment, she’ll have nothing to do with solving them. I need someone who can get me out of here, someone I can use. Kristine Miller is an impediment.
She shakes her head. “Your lawyer made a statement this morning that he knows nothing about your project and wants nothing to do with it. Oliver is refusing to comment on anything, even whether he’s truly in business with you or not. And I thought you might want news about your pretty little pet.”
I pause. I do want news about Sascha, but every time my mother gets involved with him, it goes badly.
“How did your evaluation go, Ms. Miller?” I ask, pretending we’re just business rivals. If she wants to ignore our history, I can only assume it’s because she’s meeting her own needs or protecting her image in the event that our conversation is being recorded. I want to expose her history with me, let the world know what she’s done to me in the past, but it would damage my case as well. I’ve had plenty of time to think in the past few days and I know I need to be cautious, especially where my mother is involved.
“It got interrupted,” my mother admits, a frown deepening on her face. “It seems that someone made the decision to release a vast amount of incriminating research. That same someone was taken into state custody just as you were being arrested.”
I smile. We hadn’t planned the release, but it makes sense. Sascha has always been a step ahead of my mother, often a step ahead of me as well. His action contributed to my arrest, but it was inevitable, and worth it. Obviously, my mother’s plans were interrupted by this action as well. Sascha is smart, sometimes too smart for his own good, but today I’m just pleased that he was smart enough to come up with this. I know he did it at considerable risk to himself, and I’m sure he’s miserable wherever he’s being held. But I also know that he can survive, especially if he’s out of my mother’s reach. She wouldn’t be here, taunting me about him, if she had the authority to actually do anything to him.
“Have they told you anything about what’s been happening out there?” my mother asks.
“No. Nobody’s talked to me at all. I assume I’m being held under some sort of terrorism charges.”
“Terrorism, treason, something of that sort. You’ve been naughty; they’re trying to make an example out of you. You’ll get a trial eventually, but for now, the state is far more interested in shutting down any and all information about you. You’ve created quite a stir with your little research project.”
“Where did he release the research to?” I ask. I hate engaging with her, but she’s sharing information. I know it’s a ploy to get me to talk, to try to trust her, but I don’t have any other options.
“Everywhere he could,” Kristine replies, looking extremely irritated by the fact. “And the few places he didn’t reach, someone else passed the message along. Congratulations, Cash, you’re the most notorious man in the country right now.”
I smile widely at that, only to have the smile slapped off my face. My face burns, and I taste copper where the inside of my cheek grazed my teeth. For a moment, I feel like I’m ten years old again.
“Do you realize you could spend the rest of your life in here for this?” she demands.
I just shrug. It’s unlikely, but if it happens, it’s done already. “I thought you’d be happy about that.”
My mother gives me a confused look, like she actually cares about me. “Cashi, I never wanted you to suffer. I just wanted you to behave. To fall in line. To uphold your responsibility to this country… and to our family.”
So it seems we do have a private room.
“Besides, you aren’t the only one at risk of going down as a result of this idiocy. It’s bad enough that the Miller System will likely be destroyed, but your research makes some particularly incriminating accusations about me. Some of the statements you prepared—that your pretty little pet released—they point to me, personally. They say I covered it up, that I was hindering our nation’s progress all along! You say that I tried to foil international development just to promote my own image.”
“You did,” I remind her of the truth.