Hello! Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for ‘The Kindred’ by Alechia Dow and have an exclusive excerpt for you all to read!
Alechia Dow is a former pastry chef, teacher, and librarian. When she’s not writing, you can find her having epic dance parties with her little girl, baking, reading, or traveling.
Author website: https://www.alechiadow.com/
“Utterly swoony…an endearing reminder that true love can change the world”
—J. Elle, New York Times bestselling author of Wings of Ebony
To save a galactic kingdomfrom revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…
Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.
Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.
Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.
Looking this pretty takes time.
The clothes must be expensive but not gaudy, complex but not as if I put in all my effort. My hair must look styled but like I’ve walked through a gentle, aimless breeze, and I cannot be sweaty, which, on a planet known for having three suns, is rather difficult.
Parties that start early are the worst anyway. Everyone should be thanking me, not giving me the stink-eye, which they are. For some reason, they expect me to actually show up on time.
“Look who decided to join us,” the drummer from The Monchoos mutters as I step into the dimly lit hallway. We’re from the same planet, Maru-Monchuri, but there’s no comradery between us. Who could be friends with a pompous, spoiled duke like me, right? I could be better, could be the person I’m expected to be, but why waste the effort?
I give him a quick wink as I look around. This coveted, hard-to-get gig’s on Outpost 32: a man-made station between XiGra and Hali-Monchuri—Joy’s homeworld. XiGra’s a rich planet that’s not a part of the Qadin Kingdom (yet), and Hali is a part of the Qadin Kingdom, but also extremely poor. Thankfully, this outpost is the perfect mash-up of the two: international enough to be popular among wealthy travelers, cool and gritty enough to reflect the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic.
The black stone walls are plastered with band posters, grime, and beneath it all, the touch of musicians that would either make it or break it onstage. I wonder which one we’ll be tonight.
Joy humphs in my brain, but doesn’t elaborate.
She said she wouldn’t watch me choke, couldn’t be a part of another concert experience that sets off her anxiety. And yet, she can’t stay out of my head.
Of course, I’d be paired with the most judgmental Kindred in the system.
A coordinator peeks out from the curtain, a detached comm-ball hovering around their blue tentacled head. Dosani. They’re music geniuses, and probably the friendliest species in the universe. They speak Dosan into the comm, and then it flies over to us, translating.
“You’re late. Get onstage.” The voice doesn’t sound all that friendly. Weird.
My bandmates stalk behind the curtain, leaving me there in the deserted hallway for just a second. My nerves begin to spiral in the pit of my stomach, and I reach out to her, because she’s there, she’s always there—well, usually there—and she knows what I need.
Joy, I say through our connection. We’ve been together since birth. I’m exactly three minutes older than her, and I had to wait for our chips to sync for those three minutes. Not that I can remember. Still, that’s the longest I’ve been without her in my life.
The Kindred Program was created decades ago, after The Second Chaos, aka “The Revolution.” Apparently, the poor rose up, feeling like their voices weren’t heard by the rich, powerful rulers, and so the lower classes threatened a reckoning. Maru’s top scientists offered a solution: the citizens of the Monchuri system could be paired, one from the upper class, one from the lower. Establishing this would allow everyone to have a voice that could be heard, blah-blah-blah, and no more revolution. How could anyone ignore a mind pairing?
Given that I’m a duke and cousin to the Qadin royals, I was supposed to be paired with someone a little closer in economic class, because not just anyone should have a voice with the royals. Yet, I got paired with Joy.
Joy, who is dreadfully poor, living on the most impoverished planet in our system. Joy, who is my best friend, my moral compass, my judge, jury, and sometimes executioner. She’s not always my biggest fan, but she supports me in whatever I choose to do. Which isn’t much. I like traveling, adventuring to new worlds as long as my amenities are acceptable, and playing in a band. We both love music. She loves listening in as I practice, hearing new melodies outside of her Halin hymns. She thinks music has the power to transform you and make you feel anything and everything. She believes in it, just like she believes in me.
Which is why I need her right now.
Because as much as I love music—and I do, with all of my small black heart—my stage fright keeps me from making it. Already, the nausea creeps up my throat and my breaths come too fast to let oxygen into my lungs.
Joy, I say again with some urgency.
Yes, Felix…? Her question whispers through our connection. She’s there inside my mind like a perfectly clear radio channel, the only one on my brain’s frequency. She can read my thoughts, converse with me, feel my emotions. She can see what I see. She’s the one consistency in my world, and I can’t live without her. Even if our worlds seem hell-bent on keeping us apart… Nah, I don’t need to be thinking about that now.
Tell me I can do it. I run a hand through my hair and blow air out between my teeth. My feet bounce on the dirty tiles. Tell me it’s not a big deal. Easy.
You’re the most talented person I know. You can do this. And I swear, if you make me sick again, Felix, I will murder you.
I chuckle. It’s not my fault you get sympathy pains.
The stronger we accept the bond in our minds, the stronger the feelings, including negative ones. Pain, illness, anxiety, sadness, anger… It can be so intense in such bonds that if one Kindred were to die, the other might follow shortly after. It occurs in maybe one in a thousand pairings, but it happens. Until recently, I would have thought Joy and I would be one of those pairs. But she’s been pulling away more and more.
Go get onstage! They’ve been waiting hours for you and your beautiful voice. She laughs, shifting her body on the couch in her apartment, nearly toppling her sketch pad off her lap. Get up there, she commands again, and then she’s gone. She’s turned the volume down to a whisper and tuned me out.
I hate when she does that. I also don’t know how she does that. Why can’t we just always stay connected? Who needs space? Not me.
With that thought, I take another deep breath and strut down the hall. I tug on the velvet red curtain and step through onto the sticky levitating stage. We lift a few feet off the ground, but thankfully, unlike in most of the more modern venues, the floor doesn’t spin. Thank the Gods.
My bandmates stare at me, wide-eyed as the crowd goes wild. The excitement in the room is palpable, like a glittery haze that coats my limbs and makes me want to sing and dance and be alive. My chest rises and falls in sync with their cheers and stomps.
I both love it and hate it up here.
The band’s set up and the microphone’s hot. The lights are low, the room’s packed, and I’m going to sing, even if my stomach churns and threatens to upchuck my dinner of steamed hopfal leaves packed with gooey black rice.
I swagger up to that mic, my legs wobbling like jelly. “Hello. I’m—”
“I love you, Felix!” someone in the audience shouts, though who it is, I can’t see. They’re all shadows and faceless bodies from up here. Just the way I like them.
The light beats down on me, and sweat prickles at the edge of my scalp.
“I love you, too.” I laugh into the mic, which earns a few grumbles from my bandmates. “Now I want to…” I trail off as a shadowed body comes into view. Their eyes bore into mine. The face is one I’d know anywhere. A face that shouldn’t be here.
My throat dries up as he stalks through the crowd, waiting for me to finish. I step back, almost stumbling over my own feet. With a fleeting glance at my bandmates, I trip offstage and toward him.
The crowd boos. My brain’s short-circuiting. He’s not supposed to be in this part of my life. He’s part of the Duke’s life, the one I shrug off and leave at home whenever the opportunity arises. His being here can only be bad for me. It can only mean trouble.
My feet are on autopilot as he nods his head over to a private booth reserved just for us. I can feel my bandmates’ glares, but they begin strumming on their guitars as if I was never really a part of their group anyway—which I wasn’t. The drums pick up and the audience forgets all about me and my promises of a good time as they dance.
My visitor wears a long black tunic embroidered with crimson thread and matching pants. His golden hair’s slicked back and his vibrant golden eyes flash as I slide into the booth first. He takes the seat opposite me, flips on the privacy switch in the center of the table, and then folds his hands on the table as a translucent wall falls around the perimeter of the booth.
We sit in silence for only a moment but it feels like a lifetime as my heart hammers unsteadily in my chest.
“Do you know why I’m here, Duke Hamdi?” he asks finally, his head tilting to the side.
I suck my teeth. “My parents think I’m at some interplanetary summit for the children of dignitaries on Kippilu and they found out I was lying?”
“I don’t work for your parents.” Arren huffs, leaning back. “I work for the Qadins. You may remember them as the royals that pay for the pricey state-of-the-art ships you use to jump planets and slum in music halls—” he waves his arm at the room “—your flashy clothes and instruments that you seemingly never play onstage, and the countless opportunities that have been provided to you over the course of your short life.” There’s a bitter edge to his words that has me sitting taller. “You are a disappointment to their name.”
Arren’s a royal advisor—the royal advisor, and he has done enough over the years to earn my fear and respect. But there has to come a time when I crack.
Tonight, I was going to finally get over my stage fright and make a name for myself that had nothing to do with my actual name. All of my hard work, practicing until late at night, and pushing myself to new limits both artistically and mentally would have paid off. Instead, I’m here, missing my chance, being scolded for chasing my dreams by the royal advisor that threatened my Kindred’s life.
I will not forget, and I will not forgive.
“Do you think by doing all the Qadins’ dirty work, it’ll make you one of them? Do you think they consider you their equal?” I try to twist my lips at the corners, even if dread sinks into the bottom of my stomach. “What’ll happen if I go into politics like they so desire and come for your job?” I’m balancing on the tip of a sword, and at any second, I’ll get cut.
“You’re a fool.” Arren chuckles, though there’s no humor in it. “I do not wish to be a Qadin. I am not their equal. And you…” He trails off suddenly to look at the carefree dancers and the band that went on without me. “You have responsibilities that come with your title.”
“There are other dukes, other cousins.” My nostrils flare as I watch him. “Why do they hold me to such high standards when the others are free to do what they want?”
“Because you are meant to be much more than you are. Soon, you’ll need to step in and step up.” He holds my gaze now, and in it, I see a flicker of something that’s not frustration. It’s a thoughtful, plotting look. Arren’s got plans, and he wants me to follow them. “Soon your Kindred will marry and move on with her life. But where will you be? Failing on the stages of dingy bars—because at some point the good ones will stop booking you no matter your title—and burning through your trust fund? Do you know how many people would kill for the opportunities you have?”
Something about that question furthers my unease. Who would kill for opportunities? The Kindred Program makes sure that people are heard and happy. Murder doesn’t happen anymore. Citizens are content with their roles in life.
“Don’t you have other things to do, like I don’t know, figure out the Ilori conflict or something? Aren’t they trying to colonize us? The Qadins should be putting their energy into that, not whatever this is. What could they possibly want with me? I have no power or ambitions in politics.”
“The Qadins didn’t send me, so I don’t rightly know.” He stands, running his hands down his spotless tunic as I digest that news. If they didn’t send him, why is he here? “I came because I am looking out for your best interests. King Qadin would have no issue ignoring your existence, but I know you have a great destiny. One day, you may have power, and you could create change. Stop this music nonsense and join me, join my side. Together, we can pave our own paths in this kingdom. You could find your voice, since you can’t seem to find it onstage, and finally reach your potential. I believe in you—can you say that about anyone else?”
I barely keep the anger from my voice as I shuffle my legs beneath the table. “Is that why you threatened my Kindred?” I remember the way he had guards surround her without her noticing, pointing their weapons at her as he made me promise to never see her. Never allow her into my heart. “Was that your way of believing in me?”
“I was following orders. I work for the Qadins, but I am not one of them, and with Princess LaTanya’s impending nuptials with her Kindred, Johann Kao, I never will be.” He shakes his head, as if he didn’t mean to say that. Admittedly, it was a weird thing to say, but then I do know from the tabloids that he’s enamored with LaTanya… Still, that thought flees my mind as he continues, “They were right to make sure you keep your distance from your Kindred. There is only one person you can rely on, Duke Hamdi, and I believe, in time, you’ll come to see that. Someday soon, you will need my help. And I won’t hesitate to give it.” He slips a card onto the table and with that, he strides off, disappearing into the dancing fray.
My fingers edge the tip of the card. It’s solid black. It’s an upload, something I’d need to stick into a holo-frame monitor to access. It probably has Arren’s private info encrypted for me, so that I can learn to live up to my potential and what—overthrow the Qadins and stage a coup with him? Why would I do that? What makes him think I want any responsibility that big? Despite what he says, I learned early that my name gets me in doors, gets me a seat at the table, but that’s it. I don’t matter. No one cares about my opinions or thoughts, so why should I have them anymore?
I shove it deep in my pocket and punch the button in the center of the table for service.
He chose this night, this moment, on purpose. He probably even had Outpost 32 book this gig for me just so he could ruin it. So I would be miserable and malleable to whatever he’s plotting. But he underestimated my indifference.
At least I’m here where I can get drunk enough to drown my sorrow as the crowd dances and the music thrums through them, and me.
At least his newest power move will keep me from thinking about Joy.