Masquerade

Even behind the mask, no one is what they seem.

Brenna has been in the shadows for years. Veronica has been trying to escape her ex forever. Each is living lives they never assumed would be theirs. Each is hiding behind a mask they never desired to wear.

True love has finally come to Brenna in the guise of Cain. Before she can fully realize her affections, her life is shattered by something that steps out of the darkness. This intrusion threatens her growing relationship.

Veronica stumbles into Brenna and her world is thrown upside down. Drawn to a woman she doesn’t know. She sees Brenna’s growing affection for Cain as a hindrance. She tries to warn Brenna that not all is what it seems. However, she doesn’t want to listen and now danger is on their doorstep. Veronica’s ex, Devon, has caught up with her.

Will Brenna and Veronica survive their ordeal? Will Devon come for them both? Or will all masks finally come off?

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Excerpt from "Masquerade"

The heaviness of the atmosphere rolled around my tongue, lingering in my nose like a fine vintage of wine. It was a hot, humid day. Clothes stuck to every inch of skin, and a sane person hungered for a shower after the slightest exertion. Traces of spices and sweat clung to the fragrance of the day as exotic food was prepared on every corner. Even a hint of magic wafted on the day’s aroma. Spells had been cast to bar intruders and ignite passionate love affairs.

As these scents carried me into consciousness, a slight breeze blew through the Quarter, pulling the bouquets of the day with it. My nostrils flared at the odor on the back of the wind: the wet, dark, musty smell of death and an oncoming storm. Death was part of the culture here, always lingering like the ghosts in the city. Rain came often, but never lasted more than an hour or so, making this place more like a tropical paradise than a bustling city. Even the downpours couldn’t keep the sightseers from exploring the small shops, as well as admiring the balconied apartments in the Quarter. Many were small oases, housing lush plants, which allowed the inhabitants to escape from the cameras and voyeurs. I inhabited one of these sought-after lodgings, but kept the windows shuttered so the sun couldn’t creep in and disrupt my slumber.

I rose, yawning as the heaviness of sleep had not yet left me. Darkness caressed my naked form while the whirling fan cooled my bare skin. Stretching, I urged my body to rise and face the night. I opened the shutters to see the sun painting hues of purple and pink in the hazy air, signaling the fast approaching blue-greens of twilight. I smiled. This was the scene that had greeted me for years. I flicked on the light. I shielded my eyes from the sudden illumination until my pupils adjusted.

I admired my body in the bureau mirror. The overhead lamp gave my milky skin a jaundiced tint that contrasted against the pink of my nipples. My appearance attracted both sexes; it was something in the pheromones. The sex of my partners didn’t matter. I only wanted the ones who could fulfill my desire.

The jasmine-touched breeze danced through my apartment as the coolness of full night blossomed like a moonflower inside my chest. I stretched, now entirely awake as the sluggishness of the day fell away like a misty shroud. The moon’s silvery light already warmed my skin. Its blaze had replaced the sun in my memories and the power of it ignited my heart, night after glorious night.

Staring at my body a moment longer, I realized tonight was not the night for me to turn into Narcissus and be captured by my own beauty. I had eons for that. My gums ached, and hollowness filled my insides. Tonight I’d dress to kill, so to speak. I donned a black velvet dress, black thigh-high stockings, and black Doc Martens.

My gaze fell on the things I would need to complete my disguise. A contact case and scattered makeup: everything I needed to fit in better. From the lot, my tarot cards called to me. I smiled, wondering what Fate had in store for me tonight. Mentally, I checked my schedule and knew I had no clients to read. No one to tell a husband was cheating, or a sickness was devouring them, or a fortune would be lost in the stock market.

I smirked at the thought of how easily I peered into the minds of my clients, divining their futures and reading their emotions. After one session, they always came back. I had a good reputation, unlike the phony psychics who lined Jackson Square. Hotel managers and local occult shops referred tourists to me. I loved unearthing secrets from my unsuspecting clients.

I studied the cobalt backs, admiring the golden stars. I had owned them for years. My right hand passed over the line of cards, automatically settling on one in the middle and then another at the end. Energy sparked between the cards and my palm. I pulled those two cards to see how the evening would progress and to give me a glimpse into the more distant future. The first card I flipped was the Lovers. It signified I would meet someone to spend eternity within the next couple of nights.

Yeah, right! I giggled, wondering who my next conquest would be.


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