Balance of Power, 8

~How it all began~

Sabrina DuMonde felt oddly out of sorts. It was early evening and she was not sprawled across her bed poring over manuals or curled up reviewing notes in one of the new chairs in the reading library. All that was a thing of the past for her now. In five days she would graduate with honors from Dartmouth College.

Who would have thought it?

The scholastic accolades she was to receive came as no surprise to Sabrina. As far back as she could remember, academics had presented no major problem for her. Education was merely another obstacle in her life that she would have to hurdle.

From age nine, Sabrina approached her schoolwork with a kind of stoic acceptance. The young woman knew that in exchange for a safe daily environment and free warm meal she was obligated to fulfill the demands of her teachers.

It seemed like a reasonable trade-off. Every night from 11 p.m. until midnight Sabrina dedicated herself to her studies. She resolutely fought off sleep and fatigue from her part-time job so that she could ensure her lessons for the next day were correctly done. By the time she reached the ninth grade, completing her daily studies was a natural part of Sabrina's routine.

With Cassandra DuMonde a very absent part of her life, it was important that Sabrina stay just beneath the radar of adult attention. The young woman had come to value her independence, and if she did not wish to be swept up into the foster care system then she would have to ensure that no one ever noticed that she was a child living on her own.

Certainly Sabrina had attracted the attention of her teachers over the years. She was a dedicated and promising student. But none had become overly concerned with their inability to connect with the young woman's parents. It was a fact, Sabrina discovered, that children possessing academic promise were most often left to their own devices.

And that was fine with her. Sabrina completed her homework assignments, maintained her place on the school honor roll, and held down various little part-time jobs that kept the apartment's rent paid and the cabinets filled with canned goods.

Friday's graduation would be the payoff for a life of discipline. Sabrina's dual diplomas would be the fates' reward for denying her a childhood.

Balance of Power, 9

“Another beer?”

Sabrina smiled saucily. “What? Do you think getting me drunk is gonna help your chances any?”

“It sure as hell can't hurt.” The handsome young pool shark slanted a flirtatious glance Sabrina's way. His dark Latin good looks had never failed to turn the heads of his female targets. “Damn, girl!” He eased closer and lowered his voice seductively. “You know that you're about to make me look bad in front of my boys.”

Sabrina indulged in an examination of his taut form that was as extensive as the one he had given her. “That is not even possible.”

The young woman turned her attention back to the pool table. A successful shot on her part would result in something her opponent had never expected – a victory against him.

Well aware of the interest being generated among the young men watching their match, Sabrina slowly leaned over the table and lined up her shot. She wiggled her hips playfully and then crisply sent the cue ball flying toward its target.

She did not wait to watch the successful completion of her shot, but instead sauntered back over to the open-mouth young man. “I will take that beer now,” Sabrina announced arrogantly. With a gracious smile the Latin stud conceded the victory.

Sabrina strutted back to the pool table and began to gather the balls from the various pockets. Coming to the secluded little pool hall was the best decision she had made in some time. With all her studies completed and graduation impending, the young woman needed the distraction that the seedy little joint provided.

“Alright,” Sabrina threw back over her shoulder, “whoever wants to be my next victim had better grab a stick.”

Fluidly she took her opening shot. An inch away from striking the multicolored triangle of balls, the white cue ball was casually lifted from the table.

What the hell are you doing?” Sabrina scowled at the neatly dressed man who had interrupted her shot. Dark of hair and eyes, he was clad in a creamy ivory-colored suit that hung beautifully upon his lean frame.

“We would like a moment of your time.”


The stranger's eyes flicked over toward a far corner. “ We ,” he repeated as another stranger stepped out of the shadows. “My uncle Michael and I.”