Chapter Seven

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Having said farewell to her father after the his wedding banquet, Snow spent several days behind closed doors away from her step-mother. She was drawing in her sketch book one afternoon when Raena barged into her room.

'I know it is you, you wretched little rodent! How dare you.' She snatched Snow's sketchbook from her hands, looked at the image of Edison Snow had been drawing, then threw it across the room.

'What are you doing?' Snow cried. 'That is mine, give it back, you horrible...'

SLAP!

Shock hit her system like never before and tears stung her eyes. Raena had slapped her so hard across the face that pink welt marks spread instantly. She couldn't believe that someone would do that to her.

'What do they see in you? I made you, gave you everything and this is how you repay me.' She held up a newspaper with a sketched picture of Snow in her bridesmaid dress, hair trailing down over one shoulder. She looked beautiful. She took the paper and stared at the image in amazement.

'If I ever find it is you drawing this rubbish, so help me, I will deliver you to that boarding school faster than you can blink.' She took a step into Snow's personal space, her voice scratchy and low. 'And if I ever see that mutt of yours again, I will have it put out of its misery.' Her eyes were narrowed with fury before she turned and stormed out of the room, knocking a bedroom maid over in the process. 'Out of my way!' she screamed.

With shaking hands, Snow picked up her broken sketch book. The maid helped her pick up her pages as she tried to cover up what was on them, but it was too late. The woman saw what she had tried to hide. Caricature pictures of various gentlemen and women, Lords and Ladies in various humiliating and embarrassing situations. Lord Thompsom bowing low with his toupee flapping over his brow; Ms Handleman and Mrs Tallerway slurping wine with gusto; Lord and Lady Meyer hiding silverware up their sleeves. She quickly picked up the last few sketches of an overweight Raena being fitted into a white gown while two seamstresses struggled with the bodice laces, a foot each on Raena's rather large bottom. The maid giggled and handed paper she'd collected back to Snow.

'These are really funny, Miss Peto,' said the maid.

'Please,' she begged. 'You can't tell anyone it is me.' She held her drawings to her chest, imploring the maid to keep her secret.

'Oh, Miss, on my honour, I won't breath a word of it. You can trust me,' she said with a smile. 'You really are very talented Miss. That is a beautiful image,' she said, pointing to the newspaper article with her face on it.

'Oh, no, that one wasn't me. I didn't draw that sketch.' And she hadn't. She could lay claim to every sketch by The White Maid that graced the pages of The Mirror since Skylands launch five months ago, but this beautiful sketch was breath taking. She hadn't draw this one but wondered who had.

A porter arrived that afternoon with a letter from her father. He hadn't been 'grounded' for long before he'd sent word that he had been commissioned to design and build a floating castle estate for a wealthy baron and a floating kingdom for King Hereford. He was very excited as he wrote of the many technical details that Snow knew were for her brilliant mind, only.

As the letter was address to both her and Raena, she decided to take it to Raena's drawing room and leave it there for her. She peeked into the room and thought it empty before she slipped in quietly. She laid the letter on a tray next to a tea set carefully, only to be startled by an angry voice.

'You promised me 50 women and children, Raena!' said a deep, husky voice. 'I asked for 50 and according to your ledger...' paper was rustled, 'I got 22. That is not acceptable!'

'Do not speak to your step-sister in that tone of voice.' the baroness' voice screeched in reply. 'I am trying to run a business here. I have to deal with keeping this city afloat and keep everyone busy. If you want another 28 slaves, go get them yourself!' Raena was very angry.

Snow was frozen on the spot. She couldn't believe what she was hearing.

'Liam,' her step-sister's voice became sultry, 'I have been keeping up appearances and doing my part to build our empire. I've had men taking children from all over the northern provinces and moving them to the coast, but I'm doing my best.' Footsteps came towards the doors.

Snow panicked, jumping around to find a quick escape, bumping the tea tray in the process. Tea cups and saucers crashed to the floor, knocking her out of her fumbling panic as she dashed through the drawing room doors and down the hall. She thought she heard someone follow her towards the servant's stairs but by the time she crashed through the first floor service exit, she was too frightened to look back.

She kept running, trying to find a place to hide. She ran past the local markets and past the train tracks. She passed a new fairground that was still being built and through ally ways that was too narrow to service anything. It was under a bridge near the sky-dock that she finally stopped to catch her breath. '

'Oh goodness, slaves, Raena is kidnapping children?' She placed a gloved hand on her forehead that was a jumble of information and her heart a whirl-pool of fear. 'Oh, goodness, the letter!' and she knew straight away that there was no going back. She had left evidence that it was her that had overheard a damning conversation. 'Oh what, oh what am I do do now?' she asked herself in the growing dusk.

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