Authors: Cambria Hebert
Tags: #Romance Speculative Fiction Suspense
Table of Contents
Heven and Hell #2
CHARADE Copyright © 2012 Cambria Hebert
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form without written permission, except for use of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews
Otherworld Publications, LLC
125 ½ Main Street
La Grange, KY 40031
Interior design and typesetting by Lynn Calvert
Cover design by Mae I Design
Edited by Amy Eye, The Eyes for Editing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-936593-36-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-936593-37-8
To my writing buddy, Cocoa. For all the days you curl up in my lap, keeping me company while I write, and scratch at my arm for belly rubs and treats. Your furry ears have heard more about my characters than anyone and it is you that I tell their secrets (and mine) because you are always so interested and willing to listen.
Who knew the second book in a series could be more nerve wracking than a debut novel? Well, besides every other author with more than one book out there…
came easy… the rewrites, the editing and everything in between (marketing, proofreading, scheduling) was a challenge. I really dug deep to get to know the parts of my characters they wanted to keep hidden. It wasn’t always comfortable, but I truly believe that this book is better for it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned over the past year about publishing, editing and writing. I could write a book! But I won’t. Not about that anyway.
There are many people who have supported me, cheered me on, and were there to give me my meds… just kidding! Well, kidding about the last one, anyway. But I have had a lot of support. I would like to acknowledge and thank my husband, Shawn Hebert. Ten years (almost!) together and I still like you—okay, I love you. If it wasn’t for you, I would never take my pills (not crazy pills, its Nexium. I have reflux! Really, it’s true). I would always be out of toothpaste (I squeeze the tube from the center) and I would sit around in the dark like a creepy woman (light bulbs + me = disaster). Thank you for taking care of me, putting on your glasses and beta reading this book and for supporting me when I was feeling discouraged. If it wasn’t for you I
need pills—and not the kind for reflux.
To Kaydence and Nathan, for telling me to put down my phone or to get away from the computer. To Kaydence, for always keeping me grounded and asking me why I would replace the background on my phone from that pretty girl (Heven) to a guy showing his chest hair (Sam). He he he he. To Nathan, for not really caring that I write and reminding me that ice cream is indeed the ideal food because you don’t have to chew it before swallowing.
To Amy Eye, my editor and my friend. For faithfully fixing all the text abbreviations in my manuscript (Is that a sign of a texting problem?), for telling me that I can do better and then holding me to it, while ignoring all the notes in the manuscript where I call you a poo poo head. Thank you for taking time out of your life to help me achieve my dreams and for teaching me so much about writing and editing (but you should just give up on the commas).
To Regina Wamba, my cover designer, I don’t think that anyone quite understands my excitement over this cover but you. You knock me over with your talent and with your designs. You gave my Sam an identity all his own and brought him alive on the page. You gave me weeks and months worth of inspiration to write the hardest character I have yet. And to Forres Rasmussen, thank you for lending your face to Sam. I know your name is Forres, but you will forever be Sam in my mind and therefore more of a celebrity to me than anyone on TV.
To my Beta readers, Cassie McCown, Jenn Pringle, Shawn Hebert, Candice Wade Terry and Adriane Tait–Boyd. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy lives to help read Charade and spot anything that Amy’s and my tired eyes might have missed. Also, to Lynn Calvert and the staff at Otherworld Publications, the best publishing house in KY. You have my eternal thanks for giving me a chance and putting my words into print—again.
To my fans, do not underestimate the power of your tweets, Facebook posts and emails. On the days that I felt unmotivated, it was you who gave me motivation. On the days when I wondered what all the work was for, you reminded me. With every single email, word of encouragement, and “like,” I am truly humbled by you all and I hope that
lives up to everything you are expecting because you deserve it.
And finally, I would like to acknowledge myself. Ya made it, girl! Now do it all again for
. He he he he.
“Chop it off,” I declared and motioned with my hand just how far I was willing to go. The stylist nodded and smiled. I squeezed my eyes shut and waited, the snipping of the scissors followed by the blasting heat of the hair dryer made my stomach cramp with nerves. Was I really doing this?
“You can look now,” the stylist said over my shoulder.
I opened one eye then the other.
I gasped. “Holy crap.”
“I know.” The stylist shook her head. “If we all could be so lucky.”
“It’s…” I stared at my image in the giant mirror for several beats. It occurred to me just how big this moment was. I was staring in the mirror—a
mirror—with bright lights blazing and I was doing it willingly. Just a few short weeks ago, this would have sent me into a full-blown panic attack.
. “I think I like it.”
“You look gorgeous,” the stylist said, smiling. Then she went about putting away her tools. I knew she was telling the truth. Auras don’t lie.
I stared up at the mirror once more. I was no longer the girl who felt the need to hide. I didn’t need a baggy sweatshirt with a hood… I didn’t need a heavy, long mane of hair.
My days of hiding were over. So I cut it off.
Still stunned, I reached up to finger the new style, which just skimmed my collarbone. It was a blunt cut with the ends slightly layered. The stylist also got creative and added a long, sweeping bang toward the right, leaving the left side of my face exposed; the side where my hideous, disfiguring scars use to be. Now, the skin was smooth and creamy. It was bright and clear. My eyes seemed wider and more exotic, my nose smaller, perkier. And the dramatic way my bangs fell made me appear aloof and confident. I wasn’t any of these things.
Staring into the mirror now, I realized that I didn’t really recognize this girl. I had accepted who I was with the scars, but now they were gone. I tilted my head, considering this new feeling, this new look. I could be whomever I wanted. Maybe I’d give this new me a try.
Hev? You’ve been quiet awhile.
Sam’s voice purred through my mind.
A shot of nerves jolted me out of my pep talk. What if he didn’t like it? What if he thought it was horrible? Oh, boy, what did I do?
I cut my hair off.
Come see me, beautiful.
I smiled. The stylist came up behind me and ruffled my hair, giving it a playful, windblown look. “I don’t mean to hurry you, but my next client is waiting.”
“Of course!” I jumped out of the chair. “I’m sorry.” I paid her, gathered up my bag, and slid on a pair of dark sunglasses.
Outside on the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but notice the way the breeze tickled my neck and flirted with the ends of my hair. Wanting to get to Sam, I walked while rummaging through my bottomless bag for my keys and ran smack dab into someone.
“I’m so sorry,” I gasped as the person grabbed my arms to steady me.
“Heven?” Cole leaned down so he was level with me.
“Oh! Hey, Cole.”
He whistled between his teeth.
“Is it bad, then?” I asked, taking in his blank, shocked look.
He reached up and pulled off my sunglasses. My new bangs fell over one eye and I laughed, pushing them up out of the way.
“You look… awesome.”
He nodded, still staring. Colors of the rainbow burst around him. “It’s so shiny,” he murmured and caught a strand between his finger and thumb. Magenta bloomed around his head. It always caught me off guard because he was still the only person I have ever seen with that bright mixture of pink and purple permanently in their aura. Usually pinks and purples were temporary clouds of color that burst, then faded. But with Cole, the two colors mixed, creating a color all their own and it was there all the time—it never faded. It puzzled me because I wasn’t sure what it meant, and I always knew what the colors meant.
“What are you doing here?” I blurted, suddenly uncomfortable.
He grinned, releasing my hair, but not stepping back. “I work here.” He motioned at the grocery store right next to the salon.
“Well, I was just going.” I nodded toward Gran’s new car. It’s a wonder that she trusted me to drive it at all after I totaled the last one. Not that the accident had been my fault. I thought back to the months of being watched— stalked—by China, a hellhound that Sam had been living with. She was an evil person who did everything she could to kill me. She actually succeeded when she ran my car off the road. The crash was so severe I died. But thankfully, China wasn’t the only one watching me. Airis, an angel who had also been keeping an eye on me, brought me back to life. But my life had come at a price. Now, Sam and I were indebted to her in way of the Treasure Map and getting it to where it belonged. “I’ll walk you.” He fell into step beside me, his palm resting on the small of my back.
I couldn’t help but think about Sam’s reaction if he saw Cole and me together. He wouldn’t be happy. Time definitely had not mellowed Sam and Cole’s major dislike for one another. If anything, it was worse.
When we reached the car, Cole snatched the keys from me and opened the door, leaning in to start the engine and turn on the AC. When he pulled back out, he shut the door and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “Let it cool down for a sec.” His eyes skimmed from my toes to my head.
“Cole,” I began, but he spoke over me, his voice quiet, serious.
“We’re friends right?”
“Of course we are.” I was surprised he had to ask. “Besides Kimber, you’re my best friend.”
He nodded, his eyes going warm. “I wasn’t sure anymore.”
“You mean because of Sam?”
He nodded. “You could do better, Hev.”
I sighed—this wasn’t the first time we have had this conversation. “I love him, Cole.”
He made a face. “I just want you to be happy. And safe.”
I felt my face freeze. My safety was not really a good topic these days. Not with all the attacks that Sam has had to ward off. “I’m happy,” I said softly.