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I have many plans in store for The Texas Promise Series, and you can rest assured that all five of the friends who make the marriage pact at the beginning of the first book will get their own love story. (Yes, even the boys who swear not to get married.) If you want to stay up to date on when the newest book release…

Texas Promise Series Overview

Book 1—Tomorrow’s First Light (Sam and Ellie)
Book 2—Tomorrow’s Shining Dream (Daniel and Charlotte: releasing 2020)
Book 3—Tomorrow’s Constant Hope (Wes and Keely: releasing 2020)
Book 4—Tomorrow’s Steadfast Prayer (Harrison and Alejandra)
Book 5—Tomorrow’s Lasting Joy (Cain and Anna Mae)

And just in case you missed the infamous marriage pact scene…

Prologue from Tomorrow’s First Light

Twin Rivers, Texas; September, 1869

“They’re kissing.” Sam Owens tried to keep his voice to a whisper as he peered around the canyon wall at the couple standing near the entrance, wrapped in each other’s arms twenty feet away. He glanced back at the shallow crevice where his four friends sat with poker cards held tight to their chests. “Don’t the preacher know he ain’t allowed to do that?”

“The preacher’s kissing someone?” Harrison scrambled up, his cards forgotten on the rocky ground.

“Who’s he kissing?” This from Daniel, who set his cards aside and came to join him and Harrison. “Oh, that’s Miss Emmaline. He’s been sweet on her ever since he showed up in town.”

“Reckon they’ll get married?” Wes asked as he came up behind them to take a peek.

“Never can tell.” Cain was the last one to put down his cards and join them. “Sometimes men just like to kiss women.”

“Nuh-uh.” Sam peeked back around the corner, where Preacher Russell had now tilted Miss Emmaline’s chin to the side and wrapped his arms tight around her. “A man kisses a lady like that, and they’ve got to get hitched. It’s in the Bible.”

Cain scratched the back of his head. “I don’t never remember reading no Bible verse like that. My ma says…”

“Don’t reckon your ma counts.” Daniel muttered the words to himself, but they rang through their nook of the canyon like a shout.

Sam winced and looked back over his shoulder. “Sorry Cain, Daniel didn’t mean—”

“Y’all best get your hides back here, unless you’re wanting to forfeit.” Cain was already sitting back in the crevice, poker cards in hand.

“I don’t know. I still don’t think it’s right for the preacher to be kissing a woman like that.” Sam pushed away from the cool rock, shielded from the sun by the towering sandstone walls jutting up toward the sky.

“It’s fine iffin he’s going to marry her, you mule.” Harrison gave him a little shove.

“But they ain’t married yet, and that ain’t no quick kind of kiss like Ma gives me before bed.” Daniel sank to the ground and took up his cards.

“Still don’t think he should be doing it.” Sam sat and crossed his legs in front of him, snatching his cards off the loose earth. “Should we tell Deacon Sutherland come Sunday?”

“Don’t look like Miss Emmaline minded it too much. Probably best to keep your mouth shut.” Cain scowled down at his card hand. He’d not bothered to look up once since Daniel had said Cain’s ma didn’t count.

Sam shifted away from the hard rock poking his thigh. Was Daniel right, did Cain’s ma not count? She was a woman, sure ’nuff. But she wasn’t a married woman. Lots of folks around Twin Rivers said…

Well, he wasn’t sure what all they said, but whatever it was, it meant Cain’s ma didn’t count the way a married woman did.

“Pa used to kiss Ma like that, and no one ever said there was nothing wrong with it.” Wes sat beside Sam and blinked, a tear streaking down his dusty face and plopped into the patch of sand between his legs.

“Don’t cry.” Sam reached for his friend’s shoulder.

“I’m not.” Wes shrugged away from him, then swiped at the wet streak on his face and grabbed his cards.

Sam hunched his shoulders and looked at his friends. It was the first time the five of them all managed to sneak off since Wes’s ma died a month ago, and they were supposed to be having an afternoon of poker and fun, like cowhands on Wes’s ranch. But here they’d somehow managed to get Wes crying and Cain scowling.

“All I know is, I’m never going to get tangled up with some stupid woman like Preacher is. All they do is ruin things.” Cain jutted his chin out and gave a firm nod. “Now let’s play poker.”

“Maybe your ma ruins things but mine didn’t.” Wes tossed his cards onto the sandy dirt. “My ma was one of the finest women to ever walk Texas soil.”

“Then how come you’re crying over her like some ninny? My pa says crying makes a man weak. Don’t reckon he ever cries over my ma neither.”

“Reckon your ma’s cried a whole river full of tears over your pa, seeing how he’s only ever around for a few days before he up and leaves you.” Daniel’s voice was as hard as the sandstone surrounding them, his eyes as sharp as a knife’s blade.

Cain’s lips twisted into a sneer. “Which just proves kissing and love and marriage only make you stupid.”

Wes shot to his feet, his hands clenched into fists. “My ma wasn’t stupid, and neither is my pa.”

Sam scratched behind his ear. He didn’t rightly know about love and kissing and marriage, but he’d seen Wes’s ma and pa together. They were always smiling at each other, always hugging on Wes and his sisters.

The only thing Mrs. Codwittle gave him was a switching on the hand for taking too much porridge at the orphanage.

“My parents aren’t stupid either.” Daniel stood up next to Wes.

Sam pushed himself up to stand beside Wes and Daniel, which only left Cain and Harrison sitting. “I don’t think getting hitched is stupid. I think the stupid people are the ones who spend their lives all alone.”

“As if you know anything about it.” Cain tossed his cards on the ground and rose to stare him down. “You’re an orphan.”

“True, I ain’t never had a ma, but anyone’s got to be better than Mrs. Codwittle. Besides, if Wes and Daniel say mas are worth having around, then I believe them.”

“I plan to get myself hitched just as soon as I have a place of my own. Then we’ll see which one of us is happy.” Wes’s voice trembled as he spoke, but he thrust his jaw up all hard and angry as he glared at Cain. “You’ll be the stupid one, all alone.”

“I ain’t stupid neither.” Cain dug his heel into the ground and swiped away a strand of dark blond hair—hair that was much longer than the hair of any other boy their age. “You’re stupid for wanting to get yourself married to some woman who’s going to yell at you when you track dirt into the house, complain when you get your clothes dirty, and cry every time you leave.”

“My ma didn’t do that.” Wes crossed his arms over his chest. “And I’ll find me a woman who’ll take care of my house without complaining.”

“So will I.” Daniel leaned closer to Cain, bringing their noses so close they nearly touched. “‘Two are better than one.’ Means a man is better off getting married than being alone. That’s in the Bible.”

“It is not,” Cain spat.

“Is so. In the book of Ecclesiastes.” Daniel scratched his head. “Or maybe it’s Lamentations. Or Song of Solomon. Anyway, it’s in there. And if God says it’s so, then I’m going to get married just as soon as I get me a house. Or you can… can… can shave my head.”

“Blood swear?” Cain took his knife from the sheath strapped to his belt and shoved it at Wes.

Blood swear? Sam gulped. “Wes, no, think about…”

But Wes grabbed the knife and slit his hand, his dark eyes never leaving Cain’s. “If I had any money, I’d wager you end up getting hitched too.”

Cain spit. “I ain’t never gonna get hitched.”

“Yeah?” Daniel sneered. “Then maybe you should swear it too. Unless you’re too yellow-bellied to stand by your word. I’m going to swear here and now that I’ll get myself a wife one day.” Daniel took the blade from Wes.

Sam stared at the knife. What was Daniel thinking? Wes could be goaded into just about anything if he was mad enough—and he’d been in a mood ever since his ma died—but Daniel had no business making a blood oath alongside him.

Daniel gave the blade a quick slice down the center of his palm, then thrust the knife back toward Cain. “Your turn to swear. And if you do get married, we get to shave your head.”

“Fine.” Cain’s eyes flashed as they met Daniel’s. Cain didn’t even wince as he sliced the blade of the knife against his palm.

“Well, what about you two?” Wes jutted his chin toward where Sam stood. Harrison had set his cards down at some point and now stood between him and Cain in a misshapen sort of circle. “You both gotta swear too. Are you going to get yourself a wife one day or not?”

“By the time you’re thirty,” Cain growled. “You don’t get to live as no bachelor all your life and then find a wife right before you die. And if you’re not married by the time you’re thirty, then you better believe I’ll tie you down and shave your head.”

“Harrison?” Sam turned to his friend. Surely Harrison had enough sense not to go cutting up his hand over some silly marriage pact.

Harrison bit the side of his lip, his forehead wrinkled in thought. Then he took the knife from Cain’s hand. “My pa’s gotten along just fine without a wife. Guess I’ll do the same.”

No! The word burned on Sam’s tongue, but he held it in as Harrison ran the blade down his palm, then held it out for Sam.

The leather hilt felt warm from being held by four others before him. His hands were already bruised enough from Mrs. Codwittle’s switch. Did he really have to go cutting one of them on purpose?

“Sam?” Wes’s voice had turned deep and raspy. “Are you with Daniel and me, or with them?”

Did he want to get married one day?

Maybe with a wife, he’d be as normal as Wes and Daniel. He could get himself some land too, a regular place that belonged to him with a regular wife and little ones running around. That sure seemed a heap better than staying an orphan all his life. “I’ll get me a wife before I’m thirty. And Cain and Harrison can’t get married until after they’re thirty.”

“I won’t need no wife after I’m thirty.” Cain’s lips twisted into a scowl. “I won’t need no wife ever.”

“I’m keeping the thirty part.”

Cain glared at Harrison.

Harrison just shrugged. “What? Could be I change my mind, if I find a nice enough woman anyway.”

“Chicken liver,” Cain muttered.

More like fools, the whole lot of them. Wasn’t it foolish to decide when they’d get married at twelve years old? And to seal it with a blood swear, no less? But Cain was determined to prove women were useless, and Wes wasn’t about to let anyone insult his ma’s memory while fresh dirt still covered her grave. And the rest of them… well, they were probably all chicken livers and fools for getting caught up in the argument.

A bead of sweat trickled down Sam’s cheek. But of everyone here, he was the only one truly alone. Cain might say he wanted to be alone one day, that he didn’t care if he had no one to love him. But he didn’t know what that truly felt like.

Sam looked at the silver blade in his hand, then at the swell of blood rising from everyone’s palms. His friends didn’t make a family, but they were the only people in the world who’d care if he up and disappeared tomorrow or died in the night. And if the rest of them were swearing…

“Before I’m thirty.” Sam looked away as the sharp blade bit into the soft skin of his palm. “Reckon it’s settled now.”

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