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Kate had done it yet again with her conclusion to her Beyond the Wall trilogy.Amazon Reviewer
The main characters, Jerrick and Drea are both flawed in their own ways but manage to finally (in Jerrick’s case) overcome those flaws and learn to deal with life.
The rest of the cast of characters are as well thought out…you come to care for them all. The world Kate builds for them is harsh, and discovery after discovery only reinforces their desire for something better.
You will certainly enjoy this series, I can’t recommend it highly enough."
In the Society, everyone is at risk.
Separated from Jerrick and the rebellion, Drea once again finds herself living in the shadow of a wall. Only this time, the stakes are higher than she ever could have imagined. And her life isn't the only one on the line.
When Jerrick found out Drea was gone, he thought his world was collapsing. Now, with no idea where she is or what she’s going through, he throws himself into the rebellion, knowing destroying the Society might be the only thing that can save her.
With little chance of escape, Drea must use her wits to learn as much as she can about the Society in hopes of helping the rebellion from the inside. But things are more complicated than they first appeared, and as the days tick by, she finds herself wondering if she’ll ever see Jerrick again. Or if the wall surrounding her will be her home forever.
Grab the final book in the exciting new dystopian series by award-winning author Kate L. Mary now! Perfect for fans of dystopian novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent, this series is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat!
Release date: July 30, 2021
Publisher: Twisted Press, LLC
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Beyond this Fight
Kate L. Mary
It feels like hours have passed since I was tossed in the back of a windowless vehicle. Feels because there’s no way to know exactly how long I’ve been here. The duration isn’t the only thing I’m in the dark about either. I have no idea what will happen once I reach my destination, how long my stay will be, or if I’ll ever see Jerrick again. Only two things are certain at this point. One, I’m on my way to Polaris, and two, Janus wants me for a snack.
That’s what his glares feel like, at least. When he climbed into the vehicle behind me and the door slammed shut, I experienced real fear for the first time in my life. Knowing I was headed to Polaris to meet Stark was bad enough, but learning Janus would be my escort added a whole new wave of horror to the situation. He hasn’t spoken since we started driving, but that hasn’t stopped him from glaring. Thankfully, other than the fiery looks he shoots my way, he’s been on his best behavior, which means only slapping me twice. Considering my situation, I count myself lucky.
My head pounds when the vehicle’s tires thump over something, and I close my eyes against a wave of nausea. It hasn’t eased. Add to that the fact that my tongue feels like a dried-out sponge, the constant ache in my head, as well as the painful throbbing in my body from my beatings, and I can pretty much say I’ve never felt so miserable in my life. I’d gladly shoot another Protector if it meant getting a glass of water – even if I have serious doubts that it would stay down – but I wasn’t given anything to eat or drink when I was thrown in here. Janus has a water bottle, but there’s no way he would ever consider sharing. Even if I didn’t already know he hates me – and blames me for Annalise leaving – the malicious looks he gives me every time he takes a drink would tell me that.
When the truck rocks and another wave of nausea moves through me, I close my eyes. Maybe it’s better that I don’t have water since I’d probably just throw it up.
My body is heavy with exhaustion, and within seconds, I can feel myself slipping into unconsciousness. It’s all I want right now, because when I’m awake, all I can do is worry. About what’s going to happen to me. About what’s going on with Jerrick. About the possibility of a hitchhiker on this quest that I didn’t plan for or know about until after it was too late to make a different decision.
I let the darkness engulf me, grateful for the break from reality.
“Wake up.” Janus’s growl is as rough as the hand that slaps against my leg.
I jerk awake and sit up, looking around in confusion. The truck is still moving, so we haven’t arrived. Why did he wake me?
The evil glint in his eye tells me what I need to know. He’s found yet another way to torture me.
He must see the understanding in my eyes, because he grins. “We have a while yet.”
I want to ask how long until we get there, want to ask how long we’ve been on the road. Want to know what’s happening in The Colony and if the rebels have made contact. I want to know if Ransom and my mom made it there okay. I want to know if I will make it out of this alive.
I say nothing, not wanting to give him the satisfaction. I asked a lot of questions in the beginning. After Ransom and Mom escaped and I was thrown into the very cell we’d just rescued her from. Each inquiry was met with stoic silence. The Protectors don’t care about my growing panic or desperation to know what’s happening with the people I love. They don’t care about my discomfort. It’s part of being in the Society. I’m nothing to the people in charge. A pawn to be moved however best suits the Superior’s plans then thrown out once I’ve served my purpose. It’s what all citizens of the United Society of the Reestablishment are. Too bad most of them don’t realize it.
I turn my back to Janus and do my best to get comfortable on the hard floor as the vehicle bumps down the road. It isn’t easy – I must be black and blue from head to toe – but I’m so exhausted that I soon find myself starting to doze off again. My body has just slipped into the weightless state the proceeds sleep when a boot slams into my leg, jolting me to consciousness.
I glance over my shoulder to see Janus grinning.
I turn away from him again.
This time, I do everything I can to stop myself from dozing, but it’s impossible, and the same thing happens whenever I start to slip off. A boot slams into my leg or a hand slaps my arm, and it’s always followed by an evil chuckle from the man at my back. I don’t want to glance his way, but I can’t help it. I’m dumbfounded by his cruelty. I’ve known Janus since I was fourteen and started attending the Teen Center, and while I never had a good feeling about him – it was something I couldn’t name, just a gut feeling – I never thought he could be this sadistic. He’s enjoying himself, though. I can tell by the way his brown eyes light up when I glance his way. It’s such a shocking contrast to the boy my best friend gushed over for years, and it makes him look nothing like himself.
It’s only been a year since we left Antares, although it feels like longer, but Janus has changed so much in that time. His blond hair is longer than it used to be, curling behind his ears and at the nape of his neck, and several days’ growth dots his chin. It’s the same pale color as his hair, as are his eyebrows and eyelashes, giving him a feral look.
He was always a big guy, broad and tall, but he seems to have grown a few more inches. His biceps, too, have increased in size. They strain against the sleeves of his gray uniform when he lifts the water bottle to his lips, making me shudder. The multiple memories of his fists slamming into me are only a small part of the reason. The rest is the recollection of how pointless trying to fight him was when he held me down. I pray to Luke’s God that never happens again.
His grin stretches wider, and a wave of revulsion moves through me.
I look away.
Finally, after what feels like days, the truck begins to slow. I push myself up, and my stomach flips, forcing me to take a few deep breaths through my nose. Saliva fills my mouth, which should be a relief considering how dry it is, but it’s foul-tasting and makes my insides even more uneasy. I tell myself I’ll be better once I’m away from the constant rocking of the vehicle, but deep down, I know it isn’t true. While I’m not certain how much time has passed, I do know that if the nausea was caused by a concussion like I first thought, it would have eased by now. I’m just not ready to accept why it’s hanging on.
The truck starts moving again, slower this time, and I mentally try to prepare myself for what comes next. Too bad I have no idea, which makes it impossible. Still, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I think about everyone back in the rebel colony. Jerrick and Annalise, Ransom, Chase, and Van. Mom. I have to be strong for them. No matter what, I need to keep it together.
The vehicle lurches to a stop.
“Get up,” Janus says.
He grabs my arm before I have a chance to comply, his fingers digging into my flesh in an unforgiving way. A second later, the doors open. Light floods the vehicle, blinding me, and I squeeze my eyes shut as Janus pulls me forward. My feet can’t keep up with him, and I stumble when he drags me out. His tight hold on my arm is the only thing that keeps me from falling – not that I’m thankful for it.
He doesn’t wait for me to regain my footing, and I crack one eye against the blinding sun as he drags me forward.
The largest house I’ve ever seen looms in front of us. Dozens of windows are set in the ornate, gray stone, and a huge staircase leads to the double front doors, which are made of dark wood and inlayed with gold. Armed Protectors stand on either side of it, their gray uniforms identical to the one Janus is wearing except for the emblem on the right shoulder. A red bird with a yellow sun behind it, its wings out as if in flight.
I have no idea what it could mean.
My eyes still haven’t completely adjusted to the light by the time Janus begins pulling me toward the steps, and I’m shaky and weak – either from my uneasy stomach or the lack of food. Or possibly both. My feet trip over one another, but each time I almost fall, he jerks me up and his fingers dig deeper into my forearm. That doesn’t stop my shin from slamming into one of the stone steps. What’s one more bruise when my entire body already throbs?
We reach the doors, and one of the Protectors opens it. His expression is stoic, his dark eyes unreadable as we pass through.
My already pounding heart doubles in speed.
Janus stops in the middle of the room, my arm still gripped in his hand, and I take in my surroundings. There are no people in the room, which is twice as ornate as the exterior of the house. It’s circular, with a set of stairs on each side and a ceiling that towers over my head by at least twenty feet. Most of it is taken up by a brightly colored window similar to the one in the rebel colony, except this one doesn’t depict a man, but is instead covered in red and blue and purple flowers set in a green backdrop. Sunlight shines through it, painting the room in a rainbow of colors and decorating the white marble floors and gilded walls.
A doorway to my right leads into another, equally elaborate room where a pair of couches sit in front of a huge fireplace, while to my left is a dining room. There are two other doors just past the stairs, but they’re both shut, making getting a glimpse of what’s beyond impossible.
Footsteps echo through the house, and a second later, a man flanked by two armed Protectors – their uniforms bearing the same insignia as the ones I saw outside – appears in the doorway to my right. The man is young, perhaps only twenty-five, and handsome despite his small stature, with dark hair and a neatly trimmed beard, and soft brown eyes that look me up and down as he approaches. He can’t be more than five foot eight, but there’s an air of confidence about him that demands attention. Then there are his clothes. I’ve never seen anything like them. Black pants and a jacket over a white, button up shirt, and black shoes so shiny I’m surprised when I can’t see my reflection in them.
His mouth turns down in one corner, but he doesn’t look angry. More upset. His brown eyes seem to darken when they move to Janus, who squirms and tightens his grip on my arm.
“My dear Ms. Young,” the man says when he stops in front of me, “what have they done to you?”
“She’s a prisoner,” Janus says.
At his words, the man scowls, and the expression is so terrifying it makes him seem ten times larger than he is. “And you are?”
Janus’s hold on me eases, but just a little. “Janus Cauffield.”
“Well, Mr. Cauffield,” the man responds, “I realize you’re new here, so I will give you some leeway. Just this once.” His expression grows darker. Harder. “Protectors don’t speak unless addressed directly. Do you understand?”
Janus releases me completely and takes a step back, and I take the opportunity to rub my sore arm. It will bruise for sure.
“That was me addressing you, Mr. Cauffield.”
“Yes,” Janus manages to get out, the word shaky. “Yes, sir.”
The man turns his focus to me without even the tiniest bat of an eye.
“I’m Caesar Stark,” he says, his lips pulling up into a smile as he holds his hand out.
The whole situation is so unexpected that I take it without thinking. I don’t know what I expected Stark to be like, but he’s so much younger, and so much more composed than I ever could have imagined. I remember the word gentleman from a book I read in the rebel colony. It was one of dozens of terms I wasn’t familiar with, and I’d had to look up the meaning. Even then it was difficult to really grasp the definition, but now, as I look at Stark, I suddenly understand with perfect clarity. A realization that is both shocking and disturbing at the same time.
I’m still reeling when Stark leans forward, his smile widening. “I was named after Julius Caesar from Shakespeare, something I always knew but didn’t quite understand until I got older and read the play. That was when I realized what a fool my father was. He gave me the name because Caesar was a leader, completely disregarding the fact that the man ends up getting stabbed in the back.”
It’s like a repeat of my first day in the rebel colony, because I have no clue what he’s talking about.
As if understanding my confusion, Stark gives me a sympathetic frown before turning his focus back to Janus, his expression darkening once again. “Have you been hitting this young woman?”
Janus actually takes a step away from Stark. “We were interrogating her, sir.” He shifts from foot to foot. “She wasn’t cooperating.”
Stark shakes his head, his eyes growing fiercer by the second. “We don’t hit women.”
Considering all the atrocities I witnessed in the correction colony, I’m more than a little taken aback by his words. Maybe he doesn’t know what happens there, or maybe he’s one of those people who can’t be bothered with things he doesn’t personally witness.
Stark waves his hand toward the front door. “I’ll deal with you later. For now, you’re dismissed. Find your CO.”
Caesar watches as Janus hurries to the front door, his mouth pressed into a hard line, but turns back to face me once the other man has disappeared. The smile returns, only this time, it’s tinged with sympathy.
“I’m sorry for what you’ve been through.”
His voice is soft and gentle, as is his touch when he runs his fingers down my cheek, over a spot that throbs worse than the rest. Even so, I flinch and take a step back. He’s the enemy. It doesn’t matter if he carries himself well or that he’s being kind. He’s a monster, and I can’t let myself forget that.
Stark doesn’t seem the least bit bothered by my revulsion.
“Let’s get you cleaned up,” he says, gesturing for me to follow.
He heads for the staircase on the right, and all the Protectors but one stay where they are, as unmoving as statues. The one who follows holds his head high, his shoulders stiff. He’s older than Stark, maybe fifty, and a head taller. It’s not just his posture that makes him stand out among the other Protectors, but his serious dark eyes and thin mustache as well. He looks more dignified. More important. He must be Stark’s personal Protector.
He glances my way after a couple steps, and I follow. Only partly because I know I don’t have a choice. The idea of getting clean is more than welcome. My cell in Antares held nothing but a metal bed and small toilet, and I haven’t had the chance to shower or even wash my hands since being thrown in there who knows how long ago. My skin is gritty, my hair stiff and greasy, and I can actually smell myself. It’s a wonder Stark was willing to touch me even long enough to shake my hand.
My legs are weighed down with fatigue as I start up, but Stark and his bodyguard move slowly, allowing me to keep pace with them. Still, I cling to the railing, not certain I’ll be able to make it. The staircase is twice as high as the one in the main building of the rebel colony, and my knees wobble each time I lift my foot.
Despite my uncertainty, I make it to the top without collapsing, but I’m weaker than ever and now out of breath. As if sensing I need a moment to rest, Stark pauses and gives me a smile that’s meant to be sympathetic and maybe even comforting, but all it does is make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. The understanding air he’s trying to exude has me more uneasy than if he was hurling threats at me, and I have no idea how to react.
His personal Protector stops as well.
“Shall we?” Stark says after a minute, his head dipping toward the hallway to my right.
I give a slight nod but remain silent.
The Protector leads the way this time, and Stark and I follow him down yet another breathtakingly beautiful hallway. Tall doors made of dark wood line each side, with paintings mounted between them. An unsmiling man who resembles Stark, a floral landscape, a dark-haired woman with what can only be described as a smirk on her face. Above us are light fixtures made of gold and shimmering clear stones that remind me of the ring Jerrick tried to give me, and the carpet beneath my feet is thick and lush, cushioning my steps. It’s all so overwhelming that I actually find myself beginning to relax. Then a door to my left opens, and an armed Protector steps out.
I shake myself.
Get it together, Drea. You’re a prisoner. Don’t let this man or this house fool you. He is the enemy.
The twinkling sound of children laughing floats into the hall just as we pass an open door, and I find myself slowing so I can peer inside. Five boys, all of them younger than six years of age, sit in the middle of the room, a collection of brightly colored blocks in various shapes spread out before them. They’re playing, smiling, and laughing, but there’s nothing lighthearted about the sight. It reminds me of the things Rick told me on the train on our way to Antares about the Stark family and their heirs. About their desperation to hold on to power at all costs and the people they trample and use in the process. Revulsion twists inside me once again.
“My sons,” Stark says, motioning for me to move on.
I obey, casting one more glance into the room just as a woman I can only assume is one of the children’s caretakers sweeps up a dark-haired toddler.
Stark is watching me closely when I turn back, making it impossible for me to hide my scowl.
He waves it away. “The women come to me voluntarily. I’m aware of the stories, but they are not true. At least not when it pertains to me.” The doubt in my eyes must be obvious, because he says, “I have to continue the family line. It’s important to keep what my great-great-grandfather started going, to keep the Society in the hands of my family, but I am not a monster. Neither were most of the men in my family. We are simply people who enjoy power, and elegance, and an easy life. It’s only natural, and most people would do the same things we have if given the opportunity.” His expression darkens. “My father is another story.”
It’s the second negative thing Stark has said about his father since we met. Obviously, he doesn’t hold the man who helped create him in very high regard. I’m not sure if the information will be useful, but I file it away, anyway. Who knows what might help me get out of this situation?
The Protector stops when he reaches the end of hallway, waiting until we’ve reached him to pull the door open. Stark waves with a flourish, gesturing for me to enter, and I obey without comment, avoiding his gaze as I cross the threshold. Almost reaching up to hug myself when a shiver moves through me. Since I don’t want him to know how much he’s getting to me, I resist. It isn’t easy.
The room is bigger than the house I grew up in. There’s a lavish four-poster bed to my right, and to my left is a stone fireplace and sitting area. Six floor-to-ceiling windows line the wall, and a light made of the same clear stones as the ones in the hall hangs over me. The room is all gold and red, dark but welcoming at the same time, and a far cry from the cold, metallic cell I woke up in this morning.
What’s Stark’s game?
The door clicks shut, and I spin around to find only Stark and myself in the room. He’s still smiling.
“This will be your room while you are a guest in my home.”
Not wanting to engage him in conversation, I’ve been silent since arriving, but the absurdity of the statement makes it impossible to remain quiet. “Guest?”
“Doesn’t guest sound so much better than prisoner?” Stark’s grin stretches wider. “This is only temporary, and I want to assure you, I will not harm you. You are merely a pawn. A means to an end.”
It’s not a surprise – I had the same thought not that long ago – but hearing him acknowledge it still makes my stomach twist uneasily. “Am I to be sacrificed, then?”
“You play the game?”
“I used to.” My throat tightens as I remember the hours I spent in front of that checkered board, my father’s grinning face watching my every move. “With my dad.”
Some of the light fades from Stark’s smile. “I’m told he didn’t make it. Believe me when I say I am truly sorry for your loss. My own father was a brute of a man, so I don’t take the death of someone who was so clearly loved lightly. Unfortunately, he was a necessary casualty in this war.”
“Like me?” I ask, the words nearly getting caught in my throat. “Will I be a necessary casualty as well?”
“That,” Stark says, “will depend entirely on your fellow rebels. One in particular has grabbed my interest, which is why you find yourself here. Jerrick Carter.”
I thought I’d experienced real fear, but I was wrong. Never before have I felt the terror that grips me when Stark says Jerrick’s name.
“What do you want with him? Jerrick isn’t in charge of anything. He’s no one. Just another citizen who wants the Society gone. That’s it.”
“Things change, rebellions evolve.” Stark’s shoulders rise and fall in a half shrug, his mouth once again turning up into a smile. “Your Jerrick has become much more important than you know, especially now that your friend Luke is gone.”
A stab of pain twists my heart, and I shake my head. It can’t be. Luke gone?
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of sad news,” Stark says, “but it’s true. He was killed when the rebels took The Colony.”
“How?” I manage to get out. “How do you know all this?”
“I have inside information.” Stark looks down, pausing so he can brush a piece of lint from his otherwise spotless black jacket. “I know your Jerrick isn’t calling all the shots, but he’s important. Plus, I’m well aware of the things a person will do when they’re desperate. With you in my possession, there’s a very good chance I can lure young Mr. Carter here.”
I hold my breath, waiting for him to say more. To reveal more. My already uneasy insides have twisted into knots, the nausea an unpleasant reminder of just how dire my situation has become. Despite the nice quarters and Stark’s hospitality, there’s a lot at stake. Jerrick, the rebellion, all the people I love, and a small life that has just begun to grow inside me.
“You’re free to roam the room,” Stark says, switching gears so suddenly it catches me off guard, “but you may not leave it. You’ll find plenty of clothes in the armoire,” he waves to a solid piece of dark wood furniture to my left, “so help yourself to them once you’re washed up. Is there anything else I can assist you with?”
I hesitate, hating to bring it up, hating to put words to it. Hating how vulnerable it will make me. I have to, though. Even if I hadn’t received a brutal beating at the hands of Janus, I need to know.
“Is there a doctor?”
Genuine concern flashes in Stark’s eyes when he looks me over. He’s such a complex man. He’s evil and calculating, there’s no doubt about that, but I can already tell there’s more to him. He has layers to his personality, as if he’s had to box his emotions and pack them away to survive in this world, and now he only takes them out when absolutely necessary.
“Are you ill?” he asks. “Or perhaps you were injured by that brute who brought you in?”
“No,” I say. “Nothing like that.” I take a deep breath, preparing myself, then say the words out loud for the first time. “I think I may be pregnant.”
The worry melts from Stark’s eyes, sliding back into the compartment he’s created for it, and a slow smile spreads across his face. “Wonderful news! I’ll take you to a doctor later this afternoon. Once you’ve had a chance to clean up and rest.”
“Thank you.” I have to force the words out.
I don’t want to thank this man for anything, but the truth is, I am grateful. Even if he is a monster, he’s treating me well. It’s all relative, of course – I’m still a prisoner – but I’m not in a cell, and he’s giving me not just the chance to get clean but is also making sure I get the medical attention I need. It’s more than I could have hoped for, as insane as that sounds.
“Devron will be outside your door if you need anything. All you have to do is knock.”
So Devron isn’t Stark’s personal Protector. What does that make him then? Some kind of trusted advisor? It’s hard to say for sure.
“Thank you,” I repeat.
Stark takes a step backward, still smiling. “And now I will take my leave.”
He bows then slips from the room, the smile on his face never wavering.
A second later the door clicks shut, and another click follows, telling me it’s locked. Then I’m left alone.
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