by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Writing the first chapter of a sequel is tricky.
You must give enough background information on your characters and their stories so that new readers can follow. Yet, you don’t want to over explain for you risk boring those who’d read the first book.
But because so many things have already happened before the sequel begins, (enough to fill a whole book, as a matter of fact) and these things define who your characters are and where they stand now, to hit the right balance is difficult, and the first chapters can drag a little.
That’s why it’s so tempting for the writer to add a teaser before Chapter One.
And by a teaser I mean an action scene from further on in the story, that will lure the reader to stay with you through those slower first chapters.
I don’t like teasers when I am the reader. Yet, I must confess I have written one for The King in the Stone. Whether I will include it or not in the final version I do not know.
In the meantime, here it is for your enjoyment.
Hope you like it.
The King in the Stone
A flash of lightning shatters the sky and, almost immediately, the deafening explosion of close thunder shakes the ground. Startled out of her trance, Andrea looks up. Dark clouds, heavy with rain, have turned the day almost to night, dressing in shadows the valley below and hiding the peaks across the ledge from where she stands.
As if waking from a dream, Andrea takes in her surroundings, surprised to find herself by the tomb of the unknown king, for she has no recollection of climbing the mountain. The last thing she remembers is Kelsey’s voice, so eerily clear through the phone even though she was six thousand miles away, telling her about Julián.
Andrea moans at the memory and, bent in two by the sudden pain twisting her stomach, leans forward. Images of the man she has tried so hard to forget flash through her mind. Julián bleeding in her arms, an arrow through his chest. Julián by the broken arch telling her how much he loves her. Julián rejecting her, stealing the ring from her finger . . . From the slab that covers the tomb, the lying figure of the king carved in the stone stares at her with unseeing eyes.
Another lightning flash streaks the sky and the earth trembles under her feet as thunder rolls once more over the mountains. Heavy drops fall on her face, washing away her tears.
Andrea forces her mind to reason. She has no claim over Julián. He broke their engagement and made it clear he didn’t want to be with her. That was the reason she left California these three weeks past. Whether he’s with Kelsey now or with somebody else should make no difference.
But it does. She can’t lie to herself. She’s hurting too much to pretend anymore. The truth is that moving to Spain has changed nothing. She has not forgotten Julián. His memory has haunted her dreams every night, stolen itself into every one of her waking thoughts.
Her hands clenched into fists, Andrea hits the stone, swearing at Kelsey for her betrayal. How could she? Kelsey is her cousin, her confidant. Kelsey knows how much she cares for Julián. How much she wants him back.
Not anymore. Knowing he doesn’t love her is one thing. Learning he is with Kelsey quite another. Now, at last, she will forget him.
She turns her back to the tomb, and starts toward the trail. But the rain has turned the soil to mud, and, losing her footing, she falls face down.
Spitting water and dirt, Andrea scrambles to her feet. By the light of the next lightning flash, she sees the gap on the mountainside, an open mouth calling to her, and dives through the sheets of water pouring from the angry sky toward the wall. The rope she remembers from the previous evening is still hanging down into the cave. She grabs it in her slippery hands and climbs down.
She has barely reached the ground—welcome, dry ground, firm under her feet—when the mountain shakes again. Andrea stumbles and, falling on her knees, raises her arms over her head, a weak protection against the gravel falling around her like solid rain.
When the noise finally stops and Andrea opens her eyes, the cave is in total darkness. Has she gone blind? she wonders as she fights back her fears. I’m not blind, she reassures herself. That’s absurd. But if she isn’t, why is it so dark?
She looks up, squinting her eyes. But it’s useless: no ray of light steals through the wall of rocks. The opening is gone. Of course, the thought breaks into her mind. The earthquake has provoked a slide and closed the entrance.
A wave of panic washes over her as she realizes she’s on her own. No one will ever come looking for her. Why should they? She told no one where she was going when she left. She’s buried alive, and this cave, up in the mountains of this world that is not hers, will be her grave.
Andrea screams, a name, a broken word, a feral cry for help that, as she feared, dies unheard against the cavern’s walls.