The following is an excerpt from Queen of the Skies (Book One in the Steam & Mettle Christian steampunk series). Keep in mind that any of this may change between now and when the book is published, but it will give you a sneak peek.
This series takes place on an alternate Earth in the present day. This scene is between the main character, Merritt Baxter, and her best friend, Blaze.
Carlton Bram “Blaze” Kaylock helped Merritt step into the luxurious sidecar attached to his custom-built, steam-powered roadcycle. She settled into the seat, put on the spare helmet, and clicked her seatbelt harness into place. Blaze had built the sidecar with his best friend in mind. The suspension and cushioned seat allowed for maximum comfort. And its paint job matched the cycle’s: a deep maroon with wavy dark patterns woven throughout with a shiny finish.
Noting Vinnie peering at them through the front window, she waved at her before putting on her helmet. Vinnie walked away from the window, which Merritt expected. Blaze revved the engine and then they were off, driving through the neighborhood and then onto the highway. Less than ten minutes later, they arrived at the parking lot for Fletch’s Z-Repair, a large facility with two hangars for airship reconstruction and calibration.
Blaze parked, got off the roadcycle, and walked around to offer his hand to Merritt. She stepped out of the sidecar and stood at his side.
“Thanks for bringing me here,” she said. “Will you help me fill out the application? I’ve never done this before.”
“I don’t think you’ll need much help,” he said with a shrug. “You’ll do fine.”
She nodded and they went inside the building, emerging twenty minutes later.
“Do you think they’ll consider me?” Merritt asked nervously.
“They have to consider everyone who applies,” he answered confidently.
She pondered that a moment. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“Back home then?” he asked.
Merritt sighed, looking in the direction they’d come from. “Do I have to?”
Blaze grinned. “Of course not. We can go to my apartment and order pizza.”
“That works!” she replied whimsically, looking relieved.
Blaze strapped his own helmet in place over his bushy long brown hair. Then he gave Merritt a smile as he pushed a button on the dashboard which made the engine roar to life. Soon, it settled into a low rumble, and they took off down the road.
Fifteen minutes later, they entered his second floor two-bedroom apartment. Blaze had converted the spare bedroom into an art room where he could paint or make digital art on his computer. The living room walls were off-white, but he had adorned them with framed art and photography, all maroon themed. The entertainment center was next to the entrance and close to that was a small glass case filled with action figures from the Super-Advanced Monster Racing Squadron Gamma anime. Facing the entertainment center was a soft and cozy gray couch and a rectangular obsidian-colored glass coffee table. The carpet was dark gray.
Merritt walked over to the refrigerator and looked inside. “Got any soda?”
“No, but I can order some with the pizza,” he answered, sounding apologetic.
She grabbed a bottled water and returned to the living room. She took a sip and relaxed into the couch, closing her eyes.
He thought about which pizza toppings she liked and started to order through the Loggie’s app on his mobile phone. “I placed the order,” he said a few moments later. “It’ll be here in about thirty minutes.”
He gazed at her briefly. She seemed to just be staring at the blank television screen — at nothing really. He knew she did that sometimes, though he didn’t know why. Blaze sat down next to her and softly patted her arm a few times to get her attention. “So, if you get this job, are you finally going to get your own place?” he asked with a wily smile.
She turned to look at him with confusion. “What? If I get this job, I’m getting a bike.”
He leaned forward, still looking at her expectantly. “And what about after you get the bike?”
She looked uncomfortable with the topic and his insistent attitude. Realizing that, Blaze relaxed some. “I guess what I’m saying is, you could easily afford a one-bedroom apartment on what you’d make at Fletch’s,” he continued in a friendlier tone. “So, I think you should.”
She shook her head. “You know I’m bad with money. And bills. I don’t need the stress.”
“Isn’t living with your relatives stressful? They don’t respect you.”
She shrugged. “I’m used to it.”
Now, Blaze sighed loudly.
“What?” Merritt wondered, narrowing her gaze at him.
“I don’t get you, Mare,” he fumed, using his special nickname for her. “You might be trading one set of stresses for another, but you’d be so much better off on your own. You can see that, right?” He didn’t wait for her answer. “So, what’s holding you back?”
She put her hand on his shoulder and her eyes held a sweet look that matched her smile. “Blaze, you’re kind. I see how much you care. You’re my best friend. But you’re right. You don’t get it.”
“Help me understand, please,” he insisted.
She smiled, looking surprisingly content. “It’s simple at home,” she continued. “Vinnie’s a bully and a jerk, but I’m used to her. And Marjorie and Henry are barely home. But they pay for things and make sure I have food and a place to stay and sleep.”
“But —” Blaze started to protest.
“They never hit me," she interrupted. "And they’ve never said they’d kick me out.”
Blaze understood her viewpoint, but one thing still troubled him about it. “They don’t love you.”
She smiled in response. “They don’t have to.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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