Deceptive Cadence (Katie Hamstead)
$5.99 – $19.99
Cadence Book I
Cadence Anderson has the perfect definition of happily ever after . . .
Until she doesn’t. A freak earthquake shatters her life as surely as her home, taking away everything she holds dear. She wakes in a hospital to find that her beloved husband and infant daughter have been killed, crushed by the earthquake’s wrath. Disoriented, injured, and alone, Cadence refuses to accept the loss. So when a man claiming to be her guardian angel appears and offers her a chance to go back in time to save her family, she doesn’t need to give it a second thought. She accepts.
Thrust back eleven years, she now faces the ordeal of high school all over again. But this time, she’s armed with all the knowledge of her adult life and the determined to do everything better, from preventing the loss of her best friend to avoiding her original, drama-inducing boyfriends. She’s focused solely on Austin, her future husband, and is content to bide her time until she meets him again.
But then James Gordon crosses her path. Cadence wants to remain single, but James has his sights set. He is determined to win her over, and he’s very hard to resist. As Cadence starts to develop unwanted feelings for him, she realizes he threatens to disrupt everything, changing the future and distracting her from her original goal. Now, Cadence must choose: deny the unpredictable and exciting path James offers her, or stay true to the life she had and is trying desperately to resurrect. Second chances are more complicated than they seem.
Deceptive Cadence combines the soaring emotion of a heartfelt romance with the innovative storytelling of magical realism, crafting a uniquely moving, intricate tale about love and loss that asks: what would you do if given the chance to right all your wrongs?
ePub (Nook), Mobi (Kindle), Paperback, PDF (Other)
Read The First Chapter
A steady beep brought me out of unconsciousness. My eyes felt heavy. I struggled to open them. The distinct aroma of cleaning products hung in the air. My brain switched on as I realized where I was and forced my eyes open. The beeping sped up. White walls encircled me in the hospital room; directly across from me was a closed bathroom door. I was completely alone. Where was my family? My husband? My baby daughter?
I tried to sit up, but my whole body writhed with pain. I moaned, and a second later, a nurse dressed in aqua scrubs burst into the room.
“It’s all right. Just don’t move,” she said in a soothing voice.
I wanted to ask a million questions, but I couldn’t form any words. She gently pressed me back onto the bed and checked me over. I watched her; she seemed to avoid looking directly into my eyes. As I followed her movements, I became aware of the cast on my arm. My right leg was bound and raised in a sling, and I appeared to have large bolts sticking out of my thigh.
“What happened?” I finally managed to utter.
The nurse slowed. “You have a fractured femur, ulna, and radius. You also sustained substantial head trauma, which is why you’ve been unconscious for the past few days.”
“Few days?” I groaned. “What day is it?”
“But how? The last thing I remember was . . . was . . .”
I didn’t actually know. Monday was a haze. I’d come home from university and found my husband, Austin, had cooked dinner, and our eighteen-month-old daughter, Melody, was bathed and in her pajamas. I’d been so surprised. I kissed him, his dark scruff tickling my nose, and felt as if I’d never be happier. We’d sat and eaten together, enjoying our family time. Our little Melody rambled about this and that, while Austin told me about his day.
“There was an earthquake,” the nurse said.
I snapped back into focus. “But we don’t live near a fault line.”
The nurse dropped her gaze. “It was an accident. Your leg was crushed under a ceiling beam, and your arm broke when you hit the floor.”
“When I hit the floor?”
“You were found wedged between your bed and the collapsed wall and roof.”
I tried to remember. Austin and I had put Melody to bed at her normal time, and a few hours later, we’d gone to bed. How had I ended up on the floor? I rubbed my forehead.
“Where’s my family?”
“Your parents arrived yesterday,” she answered.
“My parents?” I lived a long way from my parents, clear across the country, in Perth. For them to come last minute like that . . .
“Where’s my husband?”
The nurse didn’t answer.
“Where’s my daughter?” My voice rose.
Again, no answer.
The beeping sped up. “Where are they?”
A doctor—wearing a white coat and carrying a clipboard—entered the room, my parents right behind him. Mum rushed forward and grabbed my hand. I felt sick. Before the doctor even said it, I knew what had happened.
“Your husband was found holding your daughter in her room. We believe it was fast . . .”
I couldn’t hear any more. My ears buzzed. My heart ached.
“No.” I pulled my hand free. “No! I don’t believe it!”
“Cadence, honey,” Mum said as tears streamed down her face. “Austin is gone. He died trying to protect you and Melody.”
“Melody! Where’s Melody?”
Mum sobbed uncontrollably. Dad stepped forward to grab her shoulders.
“I’m sorry, Cadence.”
I gasped, feeling as if my heart had been ripped from my chest. “No! I don’t believe you! I’m dreaming. This has to be a dream. It can’t be real.” I closed my eyes tightly. “Wake up, Cadence, just wake up.”
Mum’s hand squeezed my arm as she continued to sob. But I couldn’t wake up from it. It was all real.
My eyes shot open, and I threw up. The nurse rushed to clean me, but I shoved her away. The beeping from the heart monitor increased.
“Cadence.” Mum grasped my shoulder. “Breathe, honey.”
“No, no!” I pushed her away, trying to pull free of my restraints. “I don’t believe it. I want to see them, now.”
“Nurse,” the doctor said firmly.
The nurse grabbed my drip, and the next thing I knew, the world became hazy.
The drugs kept me relaxed as I drifted in a strange, semi-aware state. Mum’s sobs echoed around me. I shut my eyes, willing for it all to end.
Austin appeared over me, his dark eyes sparkling as he smiled. “Good morning, gorgeous.”
I glanced around. My belly bulged out, full of our almost-ready-to-emerge daughter as I lay in our bed.
“What day is it?” I asked.
“Saturday.” He kissed me softly. “What do you think about heading out to Rottnest today?”
I groaned. “You’re joking, right? The whales might think I’m one of them.”
“It’s the wrong season for whales.” He wrapped me in his arms, kissing my temple.
Then, I heard a woman crying. I sat up, glancing around. “Who’s that?”
Austin’s smile faded as he sat up beside me, meeting my gaze. “Cadence, sweetheart, I have to go.”
“What do you mean?” I grasped his bare, strong shoulder.
“I love you.”
Fingers over mine dragged me from my sleep. Mum clung to my hand as Dad leaned forward and stroked my brow.
“Austin,” I said weakly as tears rolled down my cheeks.
Dad brushed them away. “Do you feel up to seeing him? To say goodbye to him and Melody?”
Still weak from the drugs, I could barely move my body. But I had to see them. To prove they weren’t dead. They couldn’t be dead. So I gave Dad a nod.
He hurried out to get the nurse. They both returned with a wheelchair. I felt numb as Dad pushed me down the endless corridors to the morgue.
When they pulled out Austin’s body from the cool room—his strong body covered in a white sheet—I shook my head. “That’s not him.”
Dad squeezed my shoulder. “Yes, it is, sweetheart.”
“That’s not my Austin.” Tears built up in my eyes.
“It is. I’m so sorry, Cadence.”
My tears burst out, along with sharp sobs.
“No!” I reached across and grabbed his hand. “No, no, no! Austin, if this is some sick joke, you better sit up right now!”
He didn’t flinch.
I pressed his hand against my face. It felt ice cold. It never felt that cold, even after he’d been crazy enough to go diving in the ocean mid-winter. I trembled at the reality of his death. My Austin; my warm, loving husband.
Then, a tiny body was brought out and rested in my arms. I couldn’t control my tears as I looked into my daughter’s lifeless face. That little face that mirrored my own. I held her tightly against me as I wailed in agony.
Dad squeezed my shoulder, leaving me in peace to grieve.
I sat with them, talking softly and pretending they were just asleep. My heart ached. Austin was only twenty-five, the same age as me. Both he and Melody were too young to die. I longed for them to open their brown eyes and smile at me like they always had, but all that happened was that their pale skin grew wet as my tears soaked their lifeless faces.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to remember what happened. I remembered climbing into bed while Austin finished in the bathroom. As I’d tried to fall asleep, he’d climbed into bed and tickled me . . .
I struggled to fight free while he laughed. “Austin!”
“Shh, you’ll wake Melody.”
He pinned me down and kissed me. I yielded, and his hands wandered. I knew exactly what he wanted. Without any resistance, I willingly gave myself to him.
After that, we’d fallen asleep, but nothing else . . .
Wait. A noise had woken me. He’d shoved me onto the floor. Then everything went black.
“Austin.” I ran my fingers through his dark, thick hair. “Don’t leave me. We need you. Melody and I . . .” My voice caught in my throat. Melody was gone too. “How can I go on without you? You’re the calm to my crazy. I didn’t even know what love was until you. Please, please don’t be dead.”
I brushed my fingers over his cheek, hoping maybe, just maybe, my touch would bring him to life. He remained pale, motionless.
“Austin.” I pulled away, burying my face into Melody’s soft blonde hair. “Couldn’t I have at least kept you? You’re barely more than a baby. I should have protected you.”
The sobs came uncontrollably as my heart shattered. I couldn’t see the point in living anymore.
Finally, my nurse returned and insisted I rest. She helped me up so I could kiss Austin on the forehead, and after I’d kissed Melody goodbye, the mortician took her from my arms.
Dad sat in the room as I entered, but I didn’t acknowledge him. He helped the nurse lift me back onto the bed, then sat beside me, stroking my hand. I didn’t care.
“Cadence, sweetheart.” He lifted my hand to his lips, softly kissing it.
I drew a deep breath. “What happened?”
His chin trembled as he gazed up at me. “It was an accident.”
“How can an earthquake be an accident?” I shot him a fierce glare.
He glanced away, squeezing my hand. “Let’s not talk about it right now.”
I pressed my head back against the pillow as my tears threatened to push free again. “Wasn’t there something I could have done? Why did they die, but not me? I just want to be with them.”
“I know it hurts, but don’t give up.”
I looked away, ashamed to let him see my tears. How could he know when Mum and his children were all alive?
“You know I loved Austin like a son.” A warm tear fell on the back of my hand. I watched him out of the corner of my eye.
“And Melody was so beautiful, just like you.” He hung his head as he slipped his hand into his coat jacket. “I found something in the house I thought you’d want to keep. It’s perfect, and although we’ll help you move on with your life, you shouldn’t ever forget.”
He opened my palm and pressed a photo into it. I glanced down, then stared. I’d taken the picture only a few months earlier and loved it so much that I’d insisted on having it printed and framed. But it seemed the frame was gone now, just like Austin and Melody.
“They’ll always be with you.”
Tears ran down my cheeks as I covered my mouth. The two grinning faces of Austin and Melody gazed up at me. So alive. So vibrant.
“Dad, how can I . . . ?”
He wrapped his arms around my head, letting me cry into his chest. “I’m here, baby girl. I love you so much.”
I clutched the photo to my heart. If only my love could bring them back.
That night, I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake, staring at the ceiling, unable to find the will to live. I set the photo aside and shut my eyes, trying to tell my heart to stop beating so I could be with my little family again.
“You don’t want to do that.”
My eyes shot open at the voice. There, standing at the end of the bed, stood a man dressed in white scrubs. He had cropped silver hair, a scruffy beard, and penetrating dark brown eyes. He ran his fingers along the foot of the bed. “Your time to die hasn’t come yet.”
“Get out!” I reached for my button and pressed it.
He came up beside me and sat on the chair. “Does that help?”
“Yes! The nurses will come in any moment and take you away.”
“Will they?” He gestured toward the open door.
I looked out. The nurse at the desk stood motionless.
“Why don’t we go for a walk around the ward?” He motioned beside him and I saw a wheelchair.
“Was that there before?”
He smiled. I blinked and found myself in the wheelchair. I glanced around in alarm, but then I sighed. “I’m dreaming.”
“No, you’re not.” The man pushed me into the corridor. “This is very real. If it wasn’t, would this hurt?” He reached down and pushed at the pin in my leg.
I screeched and slapped his hand. “You freak! Who are you? What do you want from me?”
He didn’t answer. As we moved down the corridor, I stared at the frozen people we passed. I even touched the night doctor’s coat. The man pushing my wheelchair leaned in close. “They’re all frozen in time. I made it happen so we could talk.”
A knot formed in my stomach. “Talk about what, exactly?”
“Your options.” He turned me around, and we headed back to the room. “Hospitals are much nicer than I remember.”
As soon as we passed through the door, I found myself in bed again as he sat beside me, making himself comfortable. The photo of Melody and Austin now rested on top of my belly.
My eyes narrowed on him as I slid the photo protectively under my thigh. “What are you?”
A wide smile spread across his face as he met my gaze. “Now you’re getting the idea, sweet Cadence.” He paused and leaned closer to me. “I’m a guardian angel, of sorts, here to give you some options on how you are to proceed.”
He nodded. “Oh yes. Your first option is to continue your life as you’re currently leading it, unaltered. The next option is a chance for you to change certain events.”
I sat up. “Change events?”
He beamed. “I knew that would interest you. Would you like to go back and redo the events you regret?”
He had my complete attention. “Of course.”
“Well, then, here’s your chance.” He gestured toward the bathroom door. “All you need to do is pass through and you’ll go back to the year in which the course of your life changed to head down this particular path.” He pulled out a notepad. “I believe you will find yourself in the second term of your ninth grade year.”
He nodded. “You will be allowed to live your life normally, but with the knowledge and memories you currently have. The memories will often feel like a dream, and sometimes they will blur, but you will never lose them.”
I stared at the door. “What’s the con?”
“The con?” He grinned. “Good question. The only limitation is that you will not be allowed to warn anyone of the natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, and so on, that determine and shape human history. Those things are what we call ‘fixed in time.’ Events like 9/11, the Bali bombing, the tsunami in Southeast Asia, and Hurricane Katrina are fixed, unchangeable. If you try to prevent or change them, you will be brought back here to this moment and everything will return to the way it is.”
I took a deep breath. It sounded too good to be true. To go back and be able to prevent my husband and child from dying was incomprehensible. I couldn’t refuse such an offer. But I knew I had to be cautious all the same.
“Do I need to sell you my soul or something in exchange for this trip?”
He stood and I found us both standing beside the door, me with a crutch under my arm. I held tightly to the photo.
“No, no soul selling,” he said. “I’m not one of the Devil’s angels. This is an honest offer, a chance for you to change your life, save the innocent life of a child, and possibly help some people along the way. You have regrets just like everyone else, and this is an opportunity for you to change them for the better. You’ve lived a good life, Cadence Jones―or should I say Anderson, if you go back? ―and you did the best you could, which no one can fault you for. But just imagine the possibilities. Friendships wouldn’t be broken . . .”
An image of my best friend from seventh through tenth grade flashed through my mind.
“Painful moments could be avoided . . .”
I remembered a few breakups that left me humiliated and wishing they’d never happened.
“You could even save someone you didn’t know.”
I turned to face him. “Austin, he would be alive again. I wouldn’t know him for a few years, but he’d be alive.”
“And Melody, I could save her. My little angel.” Tears burned in my eyes as I clung to the photo. “She didn’t deserve to die. She’d only just begun living.”
“Yes, Cadence, you could change whatever you wanted. But remember, events will start to change from the moment you arrive. The choices you make will be different, but some things will surprise you when they stay the same. Other people make their own choices too, so not everything you do will alter the events of your life.”
“I don’t care. As long as Austin’s alive and I can save Melody, I’ll be happy.”
I reached across and opened the bathroom door. On the other side, I saw my bedroom at my parents’ house in Sydney, set up like when I was a teenager. Everything was the same: the pale blue walls; my desk—straight in front of me—with my clunky old desktop computer on it and piles of school books and paper junking it up. Clothes, mostly my school uniform, lay strewn across the floor, with my two navy pleated skirts hanging over the back of my desk chair and several light blue blouses scrunched up on the carpet. My closet doors hung open, shoes and clothes spewing out of it. I’d forgotten how much of a slob I was.
As I passed through the doorway, a numbness took the edge off my grief. I paused, surprised by the odd sensation, by the relief. I knew I felt sad, but the intensity had gone. I glanced at the angel.
“You can’t live this life properly if you are carrying around overwhelming grief,” he said in a deep, soothing voice. “So, to assist you, the emotions will be dimmed.”
Taking a deep breath to regain my composure, I finished stepping through the door and found it was night. My leg was no longer broken, and my arm was free of the cast. The hospital robe had gone, exchanged for an old set of teddy bear pajamas I hadn’t seen in years. But the photo remained in my hand.
I rushed to the mirror on the wall beside my desk and stared at my fourteen-year-old self. I had thought myself chubby, but after school, my participation in sports had ceased and I’d gained some weight. Then, after having a baby, my body had become completely altered. I now stared at myself in awe. Setting the photo on the desk, I lifted my shirt and ran my hand over my stretchmark-free belly and sag-free abdomen. My waist was tiny and my boobs two bra sizes smaller, probably a comfortable C-cup.
I glanced up to see my face. I looked so young! I’d never noticed how different I’d looked from photos, but as I stared at my youthful face with my clear skin and shining dark blue eyes, I couldn’t help touching my cheekbones and feeling the plump, soft skin. My mouth felt odd, so I pulled back my lips to see braces. I ran my tongue over them, remembering the relief I’d felt to have them taken off. I turned my attention upward, running my hand through my long hair and admiring the foils that appeared to be recently done. I’d always loved the golden blonde foils in my hair; they lifted the drab sandy color.
“I look amazing! How did I not know how incredible I looked?”
The man appeared in the mirror behind me and smiled.
“You were always humble, not to mention that the world around you told you that you needed to look like this.” He gestured at a teen magazine on my desk. A skinny, blonde celebrity with a sexy pout and smoldering eyes graced the cover.
I dropped it in the trash. “I’m not going to fall for that crap this time.”
He chuckled. “So you agree to this journey?”
I looked him steadily in the eyes. “I do.”
He waved his hand, causing a contract to appear. “Read it carefully. You don’t want any surprises.”
I took it, grabbed a pen, and sank into my chair. I read it through, seeing the terms he’d told me about. I also couldn’t tell anyone about what would happen to them in their own lives. When I read the next section, I paused. “I get one item to help me remember?”
He sat on the edge of my bed. “Oh, yes. Here.”
He reached down behind him, and, as if out of thin air, procured a thick, spiral-bound black book.
I took it, opening it to the first page. It had my name in my handwriting, and the year: 2001. “What is this?”
“I guess you could call it a record, or a journal.”
I flicked through the pages and photos appeared. School photos, photos with my old high school friends, with family . . . all alongside journal entries. “It looks like a scrapbook of my life.”
Then, I flipped over to a picture of Austin at fourteen. “Or not . . .”
“Usually, it will show you your life, but if you really want to see someone, it will show them, too.”
“Austin.” I ran my fingers over the image of his chubby cheeks. “All of this . . . is it real? I’m not dreaming? Why me?”
He bowed his head. “Sometimes, we don’t see how we affect the people around us. Sometimes, people need second chances to improve the lives of those around them. You are one of those people. But most importantly, a child needs you to save her, to give her the chance she was denied.”
He nodded. “Good luck, Cadence Anderson. Make the most of this second chance. Not many people are given this kind of opportunity.”
He stood and walked toward the doorway leading back to the hospital room. He stepped through and slowly closed the door.
I glanced around my room, suddenly apprehensive about my decision. To change my past could lead me down a completely different path. I flipped through the scrapbook and found that all the journal entries came from my journals, but times when I wasn’t consistent with my entries were in typewriter print.
I opened to the first entry and found a note. It read: To help you keep track of things. I’d recommend reading a week in advance.
I turned to the first week. As I read through, I learned I was dating my first boyfriend, Tyler, and was about to start the second term of my ninth grade year. I planned on dumping Tyler sometime that week, and I would spend most of the week avoiding it.
I thought about what I remembered from that time. Tyler had been furious when I dumped him and refused to talk to me for the next few months. Although the least dramatic of all my breakups, I would do it with more grace and class this time around.
I also made the decision to have no boyfriends at all. I thought about all the boys I’d dated and knew I didn’t want to date any of them again. I needed to remain faithful to Austin anyway, even if we weren’t married yet.
I turned to Austin’s picture again. He was so small. He hadn’t hit puberty until the middle of tenth grade, so the Austin I knew hadn’t surfaced yet. His dark hair was ruffled and scruffy, and he looked positively adorable with all his baby fat. I smiled and touched his face, knowing that if I had known him at fourteen, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to him.
I plucked up the picture of him and Melody, and my heart felt heavy. My baby girl. Her golden locks looked just like mine when I was a child. How I loved her, and how my heart ached at the memory of her tiny lifeless body. More than anything, I needed to do this for her. She didn’t deserve to die. I had to do this second chance right and prevent her death.
Sliding the photo into the scrapbook as a bookmark, I shut the book and slid it under the bed, covering it with a blanket and books. I climbed into my bed and sighed. As I drifted off to sleep, I felt hopeful again.
Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.