Cassandra screamed as the iron seared into her delicate skin. Her brain wanted her to lose consciousness, but the plucky brunette wasn’t about to give her tormentors the satisfaction.
“Put her in the cell with the other dissenters,” a tall, willowy redhead laughed. As two men began to drag the young woman away, the redhead thought better of her command. “Wait!” The word was almost a scream. Walking forward, she put her hand under Cassie’s chin and raised her head even with hers.
“This has been a long time coming,” the redhead smirked, her emerald green eyes fiery with hatred. “You thought you could hide your proclivities, did you? We are smarter than that child.”
“I’m not a child,” Cassie spit out, her mind still reeling from the pain. “I’m the same age as you. Besides, you can’t catch us all,” she mumbled through pursed lips. “You’re not as smart as you think you are.”
A slim hand drew back and slapped the girl hard. Cassandra did not react except to smile at her enemy. “Is that the best you can do?”
“We’ll do much more once we establish our case against you,” the redhead grinned. “Then you’ll face execution just like the rest of your rebel friends.”
“Do you seriously think you can keep on killing us and get no response from the general public?”
“We’ve managed so far,” the redhead laughed. “Besides, I’ll make certain you go to the head of the list. You should have listened to me, Cassie. You should have headed my words, my one time friend. Now not even I can save you,” she chuckled as she turned to walk away. Then she threw a few more chilling words over her shoulder.
“Not that I would, even if I could. You betrayed me, Cassandra. No one does that and gets away with it.”
With a snap of her fingers, the men began dragging the athletic brunette once more. It wasn’t long before she was crammed into a cell full of other dissenters. One familiar face caught her eye. He saw her before she connected with him and recognized that she was within moments of blacking out. The last thing Cassandra Mills felt were Joshua’s strong arms lifting her. Then the room went completely black.
Cassie wasn’t sure how long she’d been out. When she awoke, she looked directly into Joshua’s piercing blue eyes. “We failed,” she murmured.
“Not yet,” his deep voice said evenly. “We only fail if we give up.”
“No one has ever escaped from a government prison.” Cassandra felt the sting of the brand on her wrist and turned to examine it. “With this,” she said holding her hand before her lover’s eyes, “we can’t buy or trade for food or supplies even if we do manage to escape.”
“I never pegged you for a quitter,” Joshua scolded. “I’m usually the pessimistic one. What has gotten into you?”
“I saw ‘her’,” Cassandra whispered. “She’s the one who chose my brand.”
“I’m sorry,” Joshua returned, his eyes turning darker. “Daphne doesn’t take rejection well. She expected you to tow the party line.”
“I know, but there really was no other choice for me. I don’t believe in what our government is doing.”
“I wouldn’t let anyone hear you say that out loud,” Joshua cautioned. “Some in here would turn if they think it will save their own skin.”
“No they wouldn’t. They are dissenters like us,” Cassandra said as she untangled herself from Joshua’s arms.
“To begin with perhaps. But wanting to live is a powerful motivator.”
“Not everyone will die. They will keep some of us as slaves,” the brunette returned.
“Yes, and some want to make sure they are among that group. Here me, Cassandra, it isn’t safe to speak publicly of your beliefs.”
“I would rather die for those than live in slavery. Besides, I’m pretty sure Daphne intends to make sure I land on the chopping block.”
“She wouldn’t,” Joshua began. “The two of you were best friends.”
“Like you said, Daphne doesn’t take rejection or betrayal well. She’s going to make me pay for it.”
“That can’t happen,” Joshua stated firmly. “We have to get you out of here. You are too important to the cause.”
“Shhh.” Cassie put her finger to her lips as she watched a hooded man move closer to them.
“Whatever you are planning, I want in,” he said flatly. “That is unless you want me to inform the guards of your last words.”
Pulling the hood away from his face, Cassie gasped at the sight of it. One side was completely scarred. There was no second eye and half of the man’s nose had been eaten away by the flames.
Cassie’s mind scrambled to remember the stories her mother had told her about the scarred man. Sadly, the pain still clouded her mind.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you are talking about,” Cassie said with a wide grin. “My boyfriend and I were just talking about failing our indoctrination tests. We are certain it is all a big mistake; one of which we will be cleared.”
“Sure, like I haven’t heard that one before. You’ve already been branded. There’s no changing that,” the man said seriously. “Besides I know who you are Cassandra Mills. I was on my way to find you when I got caught in the raids. I was coming to offer my sword,” he said as he got down on one knee. “I pledge my allegiance to you and the Children of Freedom.”
“Get up, quickly,” Cassie scolded. “Before others get suspicious. If you heard what we were saying, then you know we have to be careful. Our lives depend on it.”
Note: This is the prologue for an upcoming book. Tell me what you think. Is it a keeper or an idea that should be discarded? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.