Masquerade

By: Cambria Hebert

(Heven and Hell #1)



Dedication





I dedicate this book (at the risk of sounding corny) to anyone who has ever had a dream. To anyone who has had a fire in their belly and a determination in their bones. Don’t ever give up, even when it seems like the world works against you. If my dream can come true then so can yours.

And also,

I dedicate this book to myself. What? I worked really hard.

And always,

For Shawn.





Acknowledgements





Being a writer is a solitary journey but becoming an author takes a team of people. My journey from writer to author could not have been possible without the help and support of a lot of people.

First, I want to thank my husband, Shawn, who patiently endured my far away moods when I was lost in my own head. For not saying a word when the house fell into disarray because I was pounding at the computer, chasing a dream that might not ever be realized and for always believing that it would. Without you I might never have put my butt in that chair (and stayed there) long enough to see this through. I want to acknowledge my children who patiently waited while I wrote “just one more line” before getting up to play.

I am lucky enough to have a great group of friends who never told me I was crazy (even if they thought it) when I announced I was writing a book. To Andrea, who always read everything first and would call me at all hours of the night so we could dish about it all. Our talks kept me motivated when my motivation dipped. To Jenn Pringle, who has been there to support and champion me. Your support got me through some stressful times. To Christy, who listened to me go on and on (and on) about cover design, characters and networking. Thanks for never acting bored. And for reading everything and always giving me the truth when I asked your opinion. Oh yeah, and for naming your daughter Heven, so that I might come along and borrow it. For Melanie, one of my oldest childhood friends, the sister of my heart, your unflappable personality and phone calls sometimes got me through the day. And to my Mom and Mommom, who never asked me why I didn’t get a ‘real’ job because you understood that this was the only job that would ever matter.

To my editor and good friend, Amy (theeyesforediting.com), your eyes saw things that mine never did and you made me think about my characters in ways I never had. Without your insight this book would not be as good as it is today. I never dreaded the red on the pages because I knew that with the red would come laughter. You are my accomplice in all things literary and my partner in crime. Thank you for all your support and willingness to do whatever you could to see this book in print. To Regina Wamba (Mae I Design), your cover designs blow me away every single time and so does your willingness to work until it’s just perfect.

To Lynn and the entire staff at Otherworld Publications for taking a chance on me and this book. You saw potential where others did not and you gave me the path to my dream.

Finally, to all the others in my life who have supported me and cheered at the top of their lungs when I told you the news. I am beyond blessed because your names alone could fill pages of this book. Never doubt how much every single bit of support or praise I received meant to me. You all honor me by being my life and nothing could ever replace you.





Chapter One





Heven





The street was dark and deserted. I wished, not for the first time, that I had a car. But I didn’t, and I’d spent too long in the library, so now I had to walk home in the dark. It was a clear night, and there were a million stars nestled in the sky, twinkling brightly alongside the moon. I was nearly home, my street just yards away. The night was quiet, exaggerating the sound my heels were making on the pavement. Usually, I liked the clicking sound; it made me feel womanly, and it announced my arrival. However, at this moment, it seemed I shouldn’t announce my presence. I slowed slightly, gentling my steps and glanced to my right at a wooded, overgrown lot. I imagined something hiding in the brush, watching. I laughed a little at my silliness, but quickened my pace. This time, allowing my heels to slap loudly on the pavement, hoping the sound would ward off any animals that might be around. Behind me I sensed movement and whirled around to confront it.

There was nothing there.

I began walking again. I’d walked this street many times, I knew it was safe.

Wasn’t it?

Just as I passed an empty lot, I heard some rustling and turned back. Something was definitely there, a dark shape unfurling from the weeds.

My heart beat fast, and my stomach cramped with nerves as I began to run. I wasn’t fast enough, and whatever was stalking me caught up. I fell forward, something heavy and warm pressing me down onto the cold pavement. I tried to scream, but the sound lodged in my throat. A hideous sound built low and filled my ears…

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