Endless Mercy (The Treasures of Nome #2) - Tracie Peterson Page 0,1

Mama’s metronome ticking the beats in vivace.

Vivace. The word was fun to say.

V-i-v-a-c-e. A letter with every stride, she repeated it over and over. Mama made her a new spelling list this week, and it was all tempo words. Words like larghissimo and adagietto weren’t as fun as grave and vivace. Probably because they were harder to spell. But Mama insisted. And Maddy didn’t mind. She loved music.

Almost as much as she loved running.

Cripple Creek didn’t have a lot of areas that made for good running. Active mines everywhere, rocks all over the place, and adults always telling them to go play somewhere else.

At least no one would bother them here. She could run as fast and as much as she wanted. Picking up speed down the slope, she leaned back so her momentum wouldn’t cause her to tumble. Too many times—when she was little—she’d made that mistake on the side of the mountain.

The air grew cooler with every breath she took. No way Jeb could catch her now.

How she loved the feel of her feet pounding the ground. Faster and faster. At times, she dreamed her feet didn’t even touch it. The damp air pressed into her face as she practically flew over the surface of the earth. Just like eagles. Except they never flew in mines.

Running and music. She could do them all day long. Even though Mama told her that ladies shouldn’t run.

Better get in all her running now while she had the chance. Probably had three good years of running left in her before she grew up and got old. By then, she’d be ten and almost a full-grown lady. But she wouldn’t be serious like Whitney. No. Her older sister didn’t know how to have fun anymore. But Maddy did. She let her smile widen.

The path leveled out, which meant she was almost to the end. Slowing down, she made it to the back of the shaft and touched it with her hand. “I win!”

“Ah, shucks! No fair, Maddy!” Jeb slowed to a stop and bent over to set his lantern down. Putting his hands on his knees, he sucked in air with great big gulps.

A deep rumbling beneath her feet made her gasp and turn around.

“Maddy!” Jeb’s voice wasn’t playful anymore.

She held up her lantern toward him and watched him tumble to the ground. “Jeb!” The rumbling stopped. But for how long?

He jumped back to his feet and wiped off his hands. “I don’t think we should be in here.” He picked up his lantern and held it high, turning in a slow motion.

Madysen frowned. Pebbles and dirt fell from above.

Several seconds passed while they caught their breath.

Then everything quieted.

Good. She didn’t like the rumbling.

“I think you’re just sore that I beat you.” Throwing him a grin with her taunt, she raised her eyebrows.

“This time . . .” He turned around and ran. “Race you back!”

“Hey!” She took off after him.

“You won’t beat me again, Maddy. Just watch!”

Silly Jeb. He thought he could beat her. But even with his head start, she was gaining on him.

The rumbling sound started again, but this time it made the ground shudder like God had picked up the mountain and shook it out like a rug. They tumbled to the ground as rocks and dirt rained down on them again from above.

“Run, Maddy!” Her friend looked over his shoulder and jumped back to his feet, his eyes wide.

“Jeb!” She got up and made it a couple of steps before she fell down and hit her knees to the hard earth, gripping the lantern for all she was worth. The tunnel was no longer smooth and straight. Rocks of all sizes littered the path.

Maddy looked up and watched the ceiling open and pour its contents in front of her. “Help!” Her scream bounced off the wall of stones and dirt that now blocked her path and separated her from the one way out. “Help! Please, help!”

Several moments later, her voice was hoarse from yelling. Swallowing against the raw scratchiness in her throat, she lifted the lantern higher. The thumping in her chest grew faster. Her ears pounded, and everything in her wanted to scream and cry all at the same time.

She lifted her chin against the urge and bit her lip. Brave. Be brave.

She wasn’t a fraidycat.

But as she blinked, hot tears escaped.

The ground stopped shaking, but tiny pebbles and dirt skittered down from the wall in front of her until everything halted and the cool air stilled. A