Early prologue for The Promise
Although the original concept for The Promise was fairly clear in my mind, I had trouble finding the right starting place. This is an early effort at a prologue when I was still thinking about opening with Michael and Cara’s original meeting as children. You can see that the final version of their first meeting turned out very differently and not as a prologue. Proving that the road from first ideas to final book can be a really long and twisted one.
San Juan Mountains, Colorado
"He hates me." Cara frowned at the bit of rock she was holding, then tossed it aside, turning to look up at Michael.
"Nah, he only hates your Ma, and maybe because of that he takes it out on you." Michael swung the pick and the sound of metal hitting stone reverberated through the tunnel.
"Well, he's leaving both of us." Cara grabbed another rock and held it up to the lantern light. "What is it we're supposed to be seeing again?"
"Flecks of silver, I imagine. Pa always says to look for amethyst. Where there's quartz, there's usually silver." He dropped the pick and squatted down beside her, peering at the rock.
"Amethyst is purple, right?"
"Yup." He reached for her hand, turning the stone in the flickering light. "Nothing."
Cara sat cross-legged on the ground, leaning back against the tunnel wall. "Well, you said there was probably a reason this place was abandoned."
Michael sighed and tossed the worthless stone aside. He settled down next to Cara, his long legs extended comfortably in front of him. "I'm sorry about your Pa, Cara."
Unbidden tears welled in her eyes. "It doesn't matter, really. It hasn't been too bad. He hasn't been around much lately. I just thought…" The tears were coming in earnest now and she swiped at them with the sleeve of her jacket. "Well, I thought that Daddy was bringing us here for the summer to make a new start. I thought that he wanted us to be a family again."
Michael tipped up her chin and with a gentle finger wiped away a tear. "Hey, don't cry. Families are overrated. Look at mine. My Pa's gone for months at a time, prospecting, and with Ma dead there's just Will and me to see to things. And half the time he's gone, too, away at that fancy school in Del Norte."
Cara sniffed. "Well, in my opinion, you should be the one going to boarding school." She met Michael's gaze and blushed at the look in his eyes. Confused, she picked up a pebble and pretended to study it. "Anyway, I thought you were going in the fall."
"Maybe, depends on if there's money for it. Will was always the smart one. So I reckon he ought to be the one to get the schooling."
"I think you're smart."
Michael smiled and pushed a strand of wayward black hair back from his face. Cara suppressed an urge to stroke it back herself. He draped an arm around her and she leaned into him. They sat for a while in companionable silence. Cara let the warmth of him surround her and for the first time in ages felt safe and secure.
"Hmm?" She felt the steady beating of his heart and wished this moment could go on forever.
"I've been thinking." He pulled her around so that they sat eye to eye, his arms linked around her shoulders. "Why don’t we be a family. You and me."
Cara bit her lip, and tried to assimilate the thought. He was so close she could feel his breath on her face. "How would we do that?" Her words came out in an unsteady whisper and she felt hot and cold at the same time.
"We could get married." He held her gaze, his steady and sure. She felt her heart skip a beat. Married. To Michael. It sounded like a dream come true. The pebble she'd been holding dropped from her hand, clattering against the floor of the tunnel. Reality returned.
"My father would never let me get married. We're too young." Her voice quivered with regret and she pulled back from the intimacy of his embrace.
He shot her an indignant look. "I am not a kid."
"Okay, maybe at fifteen you're not a kid anymore. But I'm only thirteen. That definitely makes me a kid."
He ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. "All right then, we'll bind ourselves together like the Indians did. I read about it in a book. It'll be better than being married."
Cara raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"Do you want to stay together or not?" he asked, his angry voice filling the cavern.
She grabbed his hand and held it to her chest. "Of course I do."
"All right then, we'll make a blood oath. In the book it says that once you share blood, you form a bond that can never be broken." He pulled out his knife. "Give me your hand."
"Is it going to hurt?"
"I figure most things that matter in life hurt a little, Cara."
She hesitated, chewing on the side of her lip. Finally, with a weak grin she held out her hand. Michael was the best thing in her life and if letting him cut her meant they could always be together then it was worth it.
They bent their heads together and with a quick flick the knife bit into her palm. Blood welled from the cut. She watched as he turned his own palm face up and quickly inflicted a similar wound.
With a graceful twist, he captured her hand, their palms together, their blood mingling. Their eyes met and for a moment Cara would have sworn that time stood still.
"Forever, Cara. We belong to one another now."
She felt her breath quicken and something deep within her tightened. Suddenly she knew that this wasn't just a childish game. This was real. This was important. She tightened her grip on his hand. "Forever. I promise."
He leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers. Heat seared through her at the touch. She pressed against him, her lips opening slightly to the warmth of his mouth on hers. He pulled her closer, their clasped hands crushed between their bodies.
"Cara? Are you in there?"
Cara jerked back. "My father."
Michael looked dazed, his breathing coming in gasps. He moved to pull her back into his arms. "I didn't hear anything."
She pulled her hand from his. "He's out there. I've got to go." Blood dripped onto the tunnel floor.
Michael's eyes cleared. He grabbed the bandana from around his neck and quickly wrapped it around her hand. "Come on. I'll go with you."
"No." The word came out more harshly than she had intended. Michael flinched. She squeezed his uninjured hand reassuringly. "I didn't mean it like that. It's just that I'm not supposed to be here. And it will only make it worse if he thinks I was meeting you."
"I see." He frowned and pulled from her grasp, concentrating on tying his handkerchief around his palm.
She put a hand on his shoulder. "Michael, please."
"All right. Go."
Her father called again. With a pleading look at Michael, she turned to go.
She looked back. He stood strong and tall, like a young god, his ebony hair curling around his face. He took a step forward and reached for her.
She stepped unhesitatingly into his embrace. His lips found hers and she tasted the salt of tears. Almost before it had begun, the kiss ended and he stepped back. They stood for a moment, eyes locked.
With a nod, she turned and ran from the cave.
"I told you not to come out here on your own. It's not safe. These mountains are riddled with old mine shafts. If you fell into one, you might never be found."
"But I wasn't alone. Michael was with me."
Benjamin Renault looked at his daughter sharply. "You've been alone in an abandoned mine with a boy?"
"He's not a boy." She blushed as she thought again of their kiss. Her first. "He's fifteen."
Her father's face turned a deeper shade of red. "And just what were you doing in there, may I ask?" Cara opened her mouth to speak, but her father held up a hand to stop her. "No, never mind, I'll find out for myself." He strode into the opening of the tunnel. Cara had to run to keep up with him. He stopped suddenly and she careened into his back.
"There's nobody in here, Cara. In fact, from the looks of it, I'd say there hasn't been for quite a while."
Cara edged around her father and peered into the dim recesses of the tunnel. It was shadowed and dark. Her father pulled out his pocket flashlight and moved forward, disappearing around the first bend of the shaft. Following closely behind, Cara's emotions shifted from anger at her father to fear for Michael. Where was he?
Finally, rounding the last curve, they stopped as her father's light illuminated the solid rock of the tunnel's end. She turned, frantically searching for another way out, even though she knew there was none.
Her pulse throbbed in her ears. Her mind whispered no. But there was no denying it.
The mine was empty.
Excerpt from THE PROMISE by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2002 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.