Here’s a snippet from the prologue of The Secret of the Lost Pharaoh (Matthew Connor Adventure series):
The sun had barely broken the horizon, but Alex was wide-awake and strapped into her safety harness. She had dreamed of this moment her entire life, and now that it was becoming reality, she could hardly believe it. Here she was at the age of forty and leading her first archaeological dig in Egypt’s Western Desert. Even more incredible was the fact that she and her team were on the brink of a monumental discovery.
They had detected a manmade tunnel that ran thirty-five feet beneath the ground and over 3,600 feet to the east. Where the tunnel ended, there was in a large open space that the ground-penetrating radar couldn’t identify.
Alex stood at the opening of the hole with her site foreman, Jeff Webb; a hieroglyphics expert named Jasper Blair; and two of four laborers, Seth and Timal. They would be responsible for lowering her down.
She took a deep breath, preparing her mind for the descent and the cramped space. Her team had only dug out a well of about four feet in diameter. The position she was in when she went down would be the way she’d stay, as there would be no room to flip over.
She wiped the back of her arm across her forehead to wick away the sweat that kept dripping down her face. She pinched her eyes shut, wishing she had her favorite blue sweatband from high school, when wearing one had been all the rage—back around the time when belonging to a Tape of the Month Club was the thing to do.
She let her long, blond hair down from the ponytail she’d had it in and redid it, tighter this time, pulling it into a messy bun. Back home in northern Michigan, she rarely put her hair up, reserving that for times when she was focused on her work or studies, but in this part of the world, she often wore it up. Even a warm breeze on the back of her neck was better than none at all.
“Good thing you skipped the second course last night,” Jeff teased her.
Not that size was an issue for either of them. She was lean and athletic, and while Jeff had a solid build, he was trim with narrow shoulders.
“Same goes for you,” she tossed back with a smile. She’d known him for years and worked on several digs with him. He’d been the one who had removed two of the stone bricks from the tunnel’s ceiling to create the small opening through which they could descend. He’d been down there to set up a radio module and transmitting antenna that enabled communication between whoever was underground and whoever was on the surface.
Jeff moved behind her and tightened her harness. “Ah!” She sucked air in through gritted teeth. “Maybe just leave enough room for me to breathe.”
He loosened the restraints slightly. “Good?”
She managed to slip her fingers between the straps and her rib cage. “It’ll do.”
He turned to face her again. “Here’s your radio.” Jeff handed her an earpiece that worked with the radio he’d put in place.
“Talk into it for me,” he told her.
She tapped a button on the earpiece and said, “Hello, hello, hello.” She smirked at her mock echo.
Jeff laughed. “I heard you loud and clear. In surround sound, actually. All right, one more thing.” He popped a miner hat on her head, and she fastened the chin strap. “I think it’s best if we lower you feetfirst so that you can be positioned upright in the tunnel.” Jeff’s demeanor became serious.
Alex nodded and looked down again. It was a good thing that she wasn’t claustrophobic or afraid of being suspended by a rope and lowered helplessly into the ground. And while she might not battle with many fears, part of her was as terrified as she was excited about the prospect of setting foot where no one—besides Jeff briefly—had likely been in thousands of years. But this was just meant to be a brief look-see, and she’d be going solo. When she set out in earnest to explore the tunnel, she’d take members of her team with her.
She reached for the gold chain around her neck and pinched the tiny pendant that dangled from it. The Eye of Horus, also known as the Eye of Ra, was an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection. Out here in the desert, she needed all the help she could get. She kissed it and tucked it back beneath her shirt.
“Are you ready?” Jeff asked.
She met Jeff’s eyes and flicked on the headlamp. “I’m ready.”
Jeff pulled an LED flare from his back pocket, turned it on, and tossed it into the hole. Watching the light descend emphasized just how far down it was to the tunnel.
Once it hit the ground, Jeff rolled his hand toward Seth and Timal. “You heard her. Down she goes.”
More sweat dripped from her brow, and she wiped her forehead again. And things were just heating up out here—if you could call already being a hundred degrees “just heating up.” As it was, waves of heat were cutting through the air like ribbons on the horizon, and it was only eight o’clock in the morning.
She looked around at her crew, steadying her thoughts and locking on to her resolve to make history. Great men and women made a habit of stepping outside their comfort zones, living on the edge, and testing out unchartered waters. And she wanted to be among them, to make a difference in the world by unearthing what remained of long gone great empires. Sometimes that required delving into the unknown.
She shook her fanciful musings aside. After all, they may not have discovered anything more than an empty tunnel.
She sat on the ledge, dangling her legs inside the hole. She tugged on the rope secured to her harness, which was connected to a rigging system that Seth and Timal would use to lower her. She glanced at Seth and Timal, confident in their abilities to guide her safely down and back up again. And with one more look at Jeff, she pushed off, letting herself become suspended.
Her heart thumped against her rib cage as she was lowered. She reached out and touched the makeshift walls that her men had put in place to prevent a cave-in. Her fingertips brushed against some sand, and it was slightly cool to the touch, but the air around her was still hot. A few of the granules sprinkled down the shaft.
About six feet beneath the ground, she felt incredibly alone. Although, it was also quiet and peaceful.
As Jeff’s form continued to become smaller above her and the space she was in became more shadowed, brief apprehension lanced through her. But the allure of what lie ahead silenced her anxiety.