Sunset Rising by S.M McEachern
February 2024: Desperate to find refuge from the nuclear storm, a group of civilians discover a secret government bio-dome. Greeted by a hail of bullets and told to turn back, the frantic refugees stand their ground and are grudgingly permitted entry. But the price of admission is high.
283 years later… Life as a slave in the Pit had never been easy, but for seventeen-year-old Sunny O’Donnell it was quickly careening out of control. Her mother was killed in the annual spring Cull, leaving her alone with a father who decided to give up on life. It’s not that she blamed him for grieving, but if they didn’t earn enough credits to keep their place inside the Pit, they would be kicked out into a world still teeming with radiation. That left her to earn the credits for both of them. It didn’t help that her boyfriend, Reyes Crowe, was pressuring her to get married and abandon her father.
Sunny didn’t think life could get any worse, until she was forced upstairs to the Dome to serve and entertain the elite at a bachelor party. That’s where she met Leisel Holt, the president’s daughter, and her fiancé, Jack Kenner. Now Sunny and Jack Kenner are wanted for treason. If they catch them, they’ll be executed.
She thought Leisel’s betrayal was the end…but it turns out it was just the beginning.
Sunset Rising is Book One of a series.
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Praise for “Sunset Rising”
“Sunset Rising is thrilling; there is no better word for it. Romance, intrigue and action all come together beautifully here to create an experience that will leave anyone asking for more.” – Molly Burkemper for Readers Favorite
“Sorry to all the Hunger Games fans but Sunset Rising surpasses my expectation. Sunset Rising is a rollercoaster ride with a terrifying drop at the end. A beautiful love story filled with danger and horror.
The Greatest Book I’ve Ever Read.” – Selena Liaw, reviewer for Books and Sweet Epiphany.
“FABULOUS!!! I fricken loved this story! I have to agree with another reviewer who said this is 7 star book not a 5 star ~~seriously it is THAT good! How is this not on every bestseller list yet? Listen to me now, please… if you love Dystopian YA novels ~~~ READ THIS BOOK!” – Paula Fetty King, Goodreads Reviewer.
I had decided I didn’t want to give up on my plan to help change things. After all the hardship I had brought on my father and Summer, I owed it to them to try to make things right. I didn’t want to fail.
Jack stood up and went into his T’ai Chi stance. I followed. He began the fluid movements and I tried to keep up, but he seemed to be going a lot faster tonight.
“So you want to start stopping people in the hall and ask them if they want to join the rebellion?” Jack asked, his tone light.
“Well, it sounds stupid when you say it like that.”
“Alright, we’re all warmed up now.” Jack faced me in a defensive stance. “Take your best shot.”
“I don’t feel like it anymore.”
“Come on.” He flicked a hand out at me, stopping inches from my face. “Pretend I’m Reyes. You must be mad at him.”
I threw the heel of my hand toward his face, which he blocked easily. I followed with a roundhouse kick at his stomach. He pushed me away.
“That’s weak, Sunny,” he said. “Come on. The other night you just about ripped my head off when you were mad about Summer.”
I had been really mad about Summer. Even the thought of her now in the clutches of that crazy president was making me angry. He had my father, too. My anger snuck out of the place where I thought I’d had it tucked safely away and gripped me again.
I threw a punch as hard as I could at Jack, then another. He blocked them both, but I kept coming at him. First with my right leg followed swiftly by my left. He threw a right punch at me, but I pulled my head back and he missed. I instinctively knew he was going to follow with his left fist, and I ducked. He missed again. He was smiling at me. I came at him to wipe the smile off his face, but he turned, and I missed. He grabbed me from behind.
“I see the boyfriend isn’t the key to getting you mad. Your best friend is,” he whispered in my ear.
I drove my elbow as hard as I could into his stomach. As soon as I made contact, I heard his breath forced out of him. I realized I might have hit him too hard.
“I’m sorry!” I turned around to see if he was okay. He was bent over, holding his stomach. “Jack, are you hurt?”
“I’ll be fine,” he choked out.
I felt a little helpless watching him struggle to get his breath back. He finally straightened up and gently touched a couple of his ribs.
“Nothing broken.” He limped off to sit in a chair. “Maybe I should have told you the first rule of sparring before I started teaching you. You don’t actually hurt your partner.”
“Sorry. I guess I let my frustrations get the better of me.”
“I don’t suppose there’s a hot shower in here?” he asked, even though he must have known the answer.
“No.” I laughed at the thought. “But I can take you to the common bath.”
He got up from the chair. “Take me.”
I found a couple of towels and a bar of soap in a cupboard. “We only have about forty-five minutes left before lights out. We need to be back by then.”
We left the apartment and headed toward the bathroom. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jack changed his mind when he saw where he had to bathe. It wasn’t anything like the private hot shower in his apartment. When we reached the common bath, I was silently relieved to see that the water had been changed recently. It wasn’t bad at all.
“It’s freezing!” Jack exclaimed when he put his hand in the water. “I’m not getting in there.”
“You don’t actually get in. Soak your towel in the water and wash off that way. You can dry with mine. You go first.” I started toward the door.
“Wait. We’re supposed to be married. Isn’t it going to look weird if we’re taking turns in here?”
“I’m not watching you have a bath. I’m only prepared to take the pretend marriage thing so far.”
He gave me a wry look. “We’ll just turn our backs on each other. It will save time, and we can get back before lights out.”
“I don’t know. It seems a little…intimate.” But there was a guard on duty within view of the bathroom, and he might wonder why we were taking turns.
“I promise I won’t peek,” Jack said, but I wasn’t convinced. “Hey, I’m taking a big risk here, too. You know how many girls would love to see the Jack Kenner naked?”
That made me smile. A week ago, that was probably true. “I can’t believe I’m going to do this. Turn around.”
We both turned our backs on each other. I stripped as fast as I could so I wouldn’t have time to change my mind. I heard his clothes drop to the floor. An image of my hands on his naked chest came back to me, and a feeling of excitement began to grow in the pit of my stomach. If I turned around right now we would both be naked and only inches apart. A warm sensation spread through me at the thought, and my chest tightened, making it difficult to breathe. I wanted to banish the thoughts from my mind. I didn’t want to think of Jack in that way.
I dunked one of the towels into the water and scrubbed my arms. The water was freezing and made me shiver, but at least now I could blame my heavy breathing on that. And I was grateful it was helping to douse the heat that seemed to be consuming me. When I was done, I rinsed the towel and stuck it out behind my back to pass it to him.
“That was quick,” he said. I heard the water splashing behind me then Jack sucked his breath in. “Oh my god, it’s cold!”
I dried off, put on my clothes and waited for him to finish and get dressed before I knelt down to wash my hair.
“Not so bad,” Jack said, but I could tell he was lying.
He dipped his head in the water, ran the bar of soap through his hair, and then rinsed. I was still working on my long hair. A lot of coal was coming out, darkening the water and I felt a little guilty considering it had just been changed.
I wrapped the towel around my head to hide my red hair until I could reapply the coal. “We better get back before lights out,” I said.
Jack opened the door for me. “Even though it was freezing, it feels good to be clean,” he said.
“I like the cold. It’s refreshing.” Maybe I would have to have a bath every night if my body was going to continue to respond to Jack like that, I thought.
Back at our apartment, I busied myself hanging up the towels and brushing out my wet hair. I was feeling a little vulnerable without the coal, but knew I would have to wait until my hair dried before I could reapply it. The lights would go out any minute now. I put the brush away and turned around to find Jack flopped in a chair observing me.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He looked away. But there was something about the way he was looking at me…
“Did you peek?” I asked.
“Sunny,” Jack shook his head, but a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and his cheeks turned pink. “Of course I peeked. I’m a guy.”
S.M. McEachern (also known as Susan) currently resides in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. With a background in international development and resource management (Dalhousie University), as well as being the wife of a military officer, Susan has had first hand experience in international affairs and policies. She attributes Elizabeth Mann Borgese—daughter of Nobel prize winner, Thomas Mann—as one of the greatest influences on her view of world politics. Susan had the privilege to work and study under Mann Borgese, an author, teacher and political activist for world peace. The first book of a series, Sunset Rising combines Susan’s knowledge of politics and resource management with her love for romance, action and adventure. In March 2014 she published Worlds Collide, the second book in the series. She is currently writing the third book.
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