Cierra collected her winnings and tucked them into her purse. She took the deposit to a bank machine and put the money into her savings account. She nearly had enough for her first new car.
Going to the casino alone was not something she enjoyed, but it was a necessary evil if she wanted to obtain the funds to get herself a new vehicle. Her job covered her living expenses and her loan payments, but there was no room for anything else. She wanted to have one thing that was new, bright and untouched.
Once her money was safely stashed, she returned to her car and gingerly closed the rusting door. It shook her bones on the way home. Each mile was nerve wracking, but by her own ability to predict outcomes, she knew it would get her home tonight.
If she could get two more days out of the car, she would have enough to replace it. Some days looking forward was the best part of her day and the worst.
She pulled into the driveway of her small house and smiled at the neat and tight construction she had so carefully made over into her ideal home. Everything was where she wanted it to be and that was the way she liked it.
Cierra checked and double checked to make sure that her doors were locked then flipped through her mail while reaching for the ripest apple in the bowl on her counter.
An ad for the Volunteer Project was stuck to her water bill. She peeled it off and stared at it. It glowed the way an important bit of information sometimes flared when it was part of an approaching event that affected her personally.
She sighed and finished her apple before she sat down and paid all her bills. She enjoyed her weird, little, buttoned-down life.
An email from the Volunteer Project made it past her spam filter when she checked her email. She looked at the invitation to apply to see if she had what it took to make her life in the stars.
The email glowed, and she wrinkled her nose. She had no urge to make her life in the stars, but she was getting the hint.
With a deep sigh, she closed her computer and headed to bed. Two notices in one day didn’t constitute an emergency. She could ignore it, and it would escalate if she really needed to pay attention. Twice could simply be coincidence.
Her car collapsed less than two full days later. It coughed, it spluttered and it died. The nearest building was the Volunteer Centre, and just as she was rolling her eyes at the irony, it started to rain.
Cierra ran into the building and shook out her hair. There was no one in the Centre except three amused attendants standing behind the counter.
Sighing, she gave in to the inevitable and said, “I would like to fill out an application, please.”
She filled in the data form with precision, and when she was done, she handed it over.
An attendant smiled, thanked her and retreated to the back.
A moment later, she was invited inside and she followed the attendant into the deep and secretive parts of the building.
She settled in a conference room and waited. There was nothing inside the space to give her a clue as to what was going to happen next, but she calmed her nerves and waited.
As she kept looking casually around, she noted that there were small nodules tucked into the creases of the ceiling where it met the walls and the corners of all the walls. Electronics. Someone was watching her to see what she was doing.
A seam in the wall behind her became apparent, so she got up and walked around the table, sitting so she could see both doors.
As she settled, the seam in the wall opened. “Cierra McAffee, good evening.”
Blinking, she took in the man in a neatly tailored suit, his silver skin and wide black eyes that took up a quarter of his face. Bureaucrat was the first word that came into her mind and alien was the second.
He smiled and sat across from her. “I am Recruiter Norz, and I must say, you have a talent for observation.”
Cierra inclined her head. “I pay attention to what is around me.”
He grinned, showing bright shark-like teeth. “You do more than that. The moment you noticed the door and the monitors, you shifted to see who could come in through the hidden door. It was impressive.”
“Um, thank you?”
“Why did you come here today?”
She made a face. “My car broke down and it started to rain. I would not have normally come down here, but there was construction on the three alternative routes. I can take a hint when it is hammered home.”
The signs have strenuously pointed her in the direction of space so Cierra reluctantly volunteers to be part of the second wave of Terran volunteers. Her skills have landed her a job as a contract proofer, but when she is kidnapped life takes a drastic turn. She has no one to pay ransom so she must rescue herself, or must she? Ahket is unsure why he is directed to kidnap Cierra. She is not on the list of woman to be ransomed. But when he is unwilling to allow Cierra her freedom, will keeping her cost him more than he can afford to lose?
Naked by Viola Grace is seventeenth in the Terran Times Second Wave series. This story can be read as a standalone. Okay, this story was a bit different than Ms. Grace’s other writings, but I liked it. Cierra found herself applying for the program even if she wasn’t sure it was what she wanted. Signs pointed toward space and they were determined to be recognized and followed. I loved that Cierra tried to follow the beat of her own drum even if the band wanted her to march in a different direction. She was so comfortable within her own skin and it was obvious. Ahket couldn’t figure out why he was drawn to Cierra. She wasn’t profitable, at least on the surface, but he knew she was important to him. I loved seeing Ahket and Cierra together. Cierra was determined to escape, and Ahket was determined to figure out why he needed her. The fact they managed to fall in love was a happy coincidence, but I loved how Ms. Grace wove their journey.
This story was quirky and fun. I found myself smiling at the most innocuous things, and I enjoyed the feeling. If you are looking for a sweet quick read, then this story is perfect.
Manic Readers receives books from authors, publishers, and publicists which are given to
reviewers in exchange for their honest opinion. Each review represents the opinion of the reviewer
which may or may not have been influenced by receiving the book at no cost.