This week I want to explore the three faces of Luke, the main male character in my “trilogy” of three books from one idea. Luke’s first name remains the same in all three versions, mainly because I think it goes so well with the vision I have of him, but also because I like the balance of the name Luke paired with that of his twin brother, Zeke.
Zeke is pretty much the same in all the books, as is the reason Luke is hiding in Sarah’s barn (Miranda in Through the Dark and Eyes at the Window versions). Zeke, the irresponsible twin, has disappeared. Luke believes Sarah’s neighbor knows something he’s not telling so he is spying on him, staying out of sight since he looks exactly like his brother.
In the original idea, this is actually Luke’s second visit to the area. Early in that story, he was caught breaking and entering the neighbor’s house, and was sent to prison. In the version written for PersonalNOVEL, however, I had to play down the bad boy image per their guidelines (plus all I really remembered from the original manuscript was that he’d spent time in prison, not why). Therefore, Luke’s stint in prison was a few weeks earlier, much shorter, two weeks, and was the result of mistaken identity for a crime his brother committed.
I haven’t really decided if Luke will be an ex-con in the new book I’m writing. Instead, I made him ex-military, having served in Afghanistan along with his German Shepherd named Mac, a K-9 Military Working Dog. One of the main reasons for the prison background originally was I wanted Luke to be (pardon my language, Mom) horny, thus he is conflicted about Sarah’s presence. She is an obstacle he resents, yet a lure he wants to get to know better. If you know what I mean.
On the other hand, not telling Sarah about his prison time also serves as a reason for her to doubt him when she finds out about it, so if I don’t use that idea, then I need to come up with another good reason for her to have second thoughts.
In this third reincarnation, I also wanted Luke to be a little darker, more layered and complex. That thread is there in my first versions of him, but I want this book to reflect the dark, gritty realistic tone I put into my Street Stories books. Compare the following excerpts to see if you think I’m succeeding in that.
Mac had been the one to let him know a car was coming the night before, long before the headlights reached the top of the hill. Luke had quieted the dog, then watched from the loft as the old Chevy shuddered to a halt by the house.
He had waited, but nothing happened. No one had left the car or even turned off the motor. Eventually he had been unable to stand the suspense.
Quietly, he had crept up to the car with Mac a silent shadow beside him. Her dog spotted them just as he reached the car, raising an uproar, but Luke still could not resist one look in the car window.
Blurred by the glaze of rain on the glass, her deep brown eyes had still been startling enough to make him pause, standing there a fraction of a second too long. Her scream had broken the spell, lending mobility to his muscles. Pulling his collar up to disguise his retreat, he had trotted away, counting on the starless night to camouflage him.
(NOTE: I did not exactly tell that first encounter through Luke’s eyes. In fact, we don’t even read anything from Luke’s view until Chapter 3, whereas he is Chapter two in the other manuscripts. This is all I put in the remembered version.)
When he saw her pull up to the house the night before, he thought she must be lost, pulling off the road to wait out the storm. Butch’s barking had alerted him to the intruder.
“Good boy.” He’d been sure it had to be Harlan Hunter or Bob Meeks in the car, just waiting for the rain to let up. It had been a Sunday the last time they’d shown up at the farm. But when he approached the car and looked in, he’d seen only the woman and her small dog.
Luke had stationed Mac outside right after he’d scouted out the inhabitants of the car who’d pulled up so late last night. The young face he’d seen through the window didn’t appear to be an imminent threat, but he had to avoid discovery of any kind, even friendlies.
Mac had been the one to let him know a car was coming, long before the headlights reached the top of the hill. Luke had quieted the dog, then watched from the loft as the old Chevy shuddered to a halt by the house.
When nothing happened he had crept up to the car, slithering on his belly the last few yards until he was close enough to listen. After a few silent moments, he’d raised up and looked through the driver’s side window.
Blurred by the glaze of rain on glass, the sight of a feminine profile—long lashes and slender neck—had been startling enough to make him pause, standing there a fraction of a second too long. A dog he hadn’t noticed before set off the alarm. She turned to him and screamed.
Luke kissed the dirt, face buried in muddy grass, heart racing.