Diverging Cadence (Katie Hamstead)
$5.99 – $17.99
Cadence Book II
When Cadence Anderson woke to find her husband and infant daughter had been killed, she thought her life was over. Instead, she was offered a second chance and sent back in time to do it all again.
She’s made the most of this opportunity, repairing her relationship with the best friend she lost the first time, avoiding the romantic mistakes she made originally, and even bringing her family closer together. But she’s also done something she wasn’t planning on—she’s fallen in love with someone other than her future husband.
Stepping onto a plane and flying across country to attend university is the hardest decision she’s had to make. But unless she follows through with it, her future with Austin might never happen. And what becomes of her beautiful baby if she stays with James, the man she was never supposed to love?
The only thing she knows for certain is that she has to see Austin again, and she’s intent on reliving that part of her previous life exactly like she did the first time. Even if that means she has to lie to James to do it. Because, deep down, she can’t quite bring herself to let him go.
Now, past and future are about to collide, and Cadence has to make her final choice—follow the uncertain path of a life with James, or the one she came back to save . . . with Austin.
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Read The First Chapter
The plane shuddered as it touched down on the runway. After five hours in the air, I was more than ready to get out and into the sunny West Coast heat.
During the flight, I’d wished I had James by my side. The pain in his eyes and the ache in his kiss lingered with me. I sucked my lip, glancing at the woman beside me while we taxied toward a gate. After being together for more than three years, being apart from him felt strange. Had I done the right thing?
The seatbelt light blinked off, and the plane filled with clicking and murmurs as the other passengers prepared to disembark. I sighed, pulling my bag out from under the seat. Although eager to get off the plane, I wasn’t in a hurry—check-in at the student accommodations ran all day, and classes didn’t start for almost a week. After opening the bag to replace my Discman and novel, I noticed a little wrapped package had fallen to the bottom. I pulled it out, staring at the mystery gift.
The lady beside me filed into the aisle with the other passengers, leaving me alone. I unwrapped the gift and a silver charm bracelet fell into my hand. I found a note in the wrapping:
The bracelet is just something I hope will help you remember me. The basketball is the closest I could get to a netball, so I put it next to the soccer ball to help you remember our crazy winter Saturdays, and because you’re an insane sports nut. Then there’s a musical note to go with your name, and a wing because you’re my angel and I hope you will fly back to me.
I love you,
My heart melted as tears blurred my vision. Taking a deep breath, I clipped the bracelet around my wrist and stood to join the last of the people disembarking.
Although years had passed in this new timeline, returning to the place that had changed my life made the memories of my first vibrant again. Austin, Melody, our friends and family, they all waited for me, but I’d also left family and friends behind. Geri, Harper, Dusty, and especially James hadn’t been in my life the last time I’d done this, or at least, not like now. Harper and Dusty might be my siblings, but this time around, they were my friends too. And Geri and Dusty. . . their secret stolen kiss over New Year’s had me excited about the possibilities between my best friend and brother.
I hurried through the airport to collect my bags. I’d become so accustomed to the Perth airport in the first timeline that I didn’t bat an eye as I found a taxi for the half-hour journey to my student accommodations.
In the cab, I turned on my phone. Three texts popped up immediately—one from Dad, another from Geri, and of course, one from James—all asking me to check in with them once I’d arrived safely.
I typed out quick messages to each, taking a little longer to work on James’s and to make sure I thanked him for the bracelet. I missed him already. I imagined how obnoxious he would have been on the flight over, and again I doubted leaving him behind. But I had to do this. I had to know what could happen with Austin, if I could get back the life I’d had ripped from me. The whole point of reliving this part of my life was to save him and Melody—to get my family back.
The taxi pulled up at the student accommodations. I climbed out and looked up at the dormitory where I’d lived my first year before moving into a small flat with my soon-to-be friend Lyla. The red brick buildings brought back more memories—hours of studying, hanging out with Lyla, flirting shamelessly with the guys—but despite the familiarity, everything felt so new. A rush of adrenaline pulsed through me. Like high school, I’d do university better this time around.
As I dragged my suitcases behind me, I gazed around at the familiar faces of people I didn’t know yet. It felt exciting and nerve-racking all at once. If Geri were with me, she’d comment on all the guys, telling me I was lucky I didn’t have to worry about them because I had James, who, according to her, was perfect for me.
“Cadence Anderson.” The woman at the check-in desk scanned a list. “A Sydney girl, huh?”
I nodded. “I wanted to try something new.”
“Hopefully we can make your wish come true.” She gave me a winning smile. “Your room is on the top floor. Turn left, and you’ll find it about halfway down.”
I shuffled along toward the stairwell and dodged a football after I heard, “Heads up!”
A guy with dirty blond hair, who I remembered would develop a major crush on me, grabbed one of my suitcases. “Hey, need some help? Where are we going?”
I didn’t want to encourage him. I tried to protest, but he charged ahead of me.
“Just take it up to the top floor and I’ll be fine from there.” I met him at the third floor and took my bag from him. “Thanks.”
“No worries. I’ll be seein’ ya ’round, unless you’re one of those hermit types.” He winked at me. Oh, good heavens.
I hurried to my room and shut the door firmly behind me to block out all the noise. The room looked exactly how I remembered it, with a bed by the wall, a small desk with shelves built over it, and a wardrobe with mirrored sliding doors.
Exhausted, I kicked my bags against the wall, then lifted one onto the desk to unpack. I made my bed, put my clothes in the closet, and finally pulled out my scrapbook. Setting it on the desk, I ran my finger over the black cover.
When I opened it, the picture of Austin and Melody rested on the title page for 2005. I smiled, excited by the prospect of seeing Austin soon. We could start all over again, fall in love again, have Melody, and more . . .
Except . . .
Moving the picture of them, I found the picture I’d taken of me and James underneath. I still loved James so much. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath. How would I handle that? Our relationship wasn’t supposed to last this long. I was fifteen when we started dating! How many fifteen-year-olds date the same guy for more than three years?
And he wanted to marry me.
Grabbing my jewelry box from my suitcase, I set it on the desk and opened it. Inside sat the necklace he’d given me for our first anniversary, the sapphire ring he gave me for our second, and the engagement ring he gave me for our third. I had other jewelry too, but those three items stood out. They were a testament to James’s love—our love.
I lifted the engagement ring and turned it in my fingers. The diamonds glittered in the sunlight coming through the window. Missing him more than ever, I slid it on my right hand. I had a year before Austin came along, so putting off losing James seemed like the best thing. I didn’t want to lose him, ever, but so much could change in a year.
Flicking through the pages of the scrapbook, I remembered struggling with homesickness for the first few months. Since I had left so much behind this time, especially compared to last, I set my mind to avoiding the longing.
Grabbing my handbag, I set out for the campus. First things first: student services.
Unlike the first time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed and confused. I headed directly for the office and jumped in the line for my student ID. No drama, all done in minutes. I remembered it being far more complicated.
Once “official,” I signed up for the netball team and the gym. Being involved and busy always kept the homesickness at bay. Then I checked the notice board and found my job from the first timeline advertised as open. I grabbed the details for the local supermarket twice, since Lyla would also need the information once we met. It would be a good job with reasonable pay and flexible hours; the owner had kids of his own in university and high school.
Since it was getting dark as I left the campus, I stopped for a sub. Once back at the dorm, I headed straight for the stairs.
I glanced back at the male voice. The blond guy from earlier trotted over to me. “Are you coming in for dinner?”
“Ahh . . .” I raised the bag with my sub. “Not today.”
He tilted his head, his eyes gleaming. “Bring it in with you.”
I glanced toward the stairs. “I’m kind of tired. I had a long flight, and I came in from the East Coast, so . . .”
“Ah, okay. A few hours out.”
“Yeah, time zones.”
He thumbed toward the dining hall. “Next time, then.”
I just smiled and headed toward the stairs. There was no way I’d consider him. Plus, I had James, who outshone him in my eyes. I didn’t want to lead on the poor guy.
Back in my room, I called Geri while I ate. She screamed as her “hello,” nearly deafening me. We talked about my flight and my room, and she dodged my questions about Dusty.
Next, I called home. “Cadence, sweetheart,” Dad answered.
“Hey, Dad,” I said, grinning. “Just letting you know I’m safe.”
“Great. Is the security like the website explained?”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah.”
“Good. Make sure you lock your door and window.”
“Dad.” I shook my head.
“I just want you to be safe,” he said gently. “I can’t be there to watch over you, so I worry. There’s no boys nearby, are there?”
“The boys are in a separate building.”
“You wouldn’t be the only one upset if we shared a building. I think James would have a thing or two to say about it.”
“James has no room to complain,” Dad mumbled. “He came here after you left.”
“Oh yeah?” I grinned, lying back on my bed.
“Yeah. He and Dusty spent the day together. They went out and Dusty came back battered and bruised, so I don’t know if I’ll let that happen again.”
I chuckled. “Dusty can hold his own. He’s not a kid anymore.”
“He’s sixteen! Of course he’s a kid.”
“Dad.” I smirked. “Chances are Dusty brought it on himself.”
“Your boyfriend is a bad influence on him,” Dad grumbled.
“Anyway,” I said, redirecting our conversation. “I went down and picked up my student ID . . .”
Dad and I talked for a while. He let Mum talk to me for a few minutes before he snatched the phone back to warn me about the dangers of university boys. I told him not to worry because I had James. He responded by pointing out that James was one of them too.
When we finally said goodbye, my eyelids drooped. In Sydney it was ten p.m., even if my clock showed eight p.m. local time. I’d had a long day, and a long flight, but I needed to make one more call.
“Hey, beautiful,” James said.
I sighed, smiling. “Hey, James. Would it be pathetic of me to say I miss you already?”
“Pathetic, yes, but completely understandable. I am a stud.”
I chuckled. “Do you miss me?”
“I dunno,” he said with a sigh. “There were these girls at the airport today—I think their names were Geri and Harper?—and they were hugging me and basically all over me.”
I groaned, rubbing my forehead. “Oh my gosh.”
“They were pretty hot.”
“You don’t think your sister and best friend are hot?”
“You’re not going to make me jealous,” I said, smirking.
He laughed. “I can try.”
I shook my head, curling up in bed. “I’m in bed right now.”
“That’s so hot. Are you naked?”
“What? I can fantasize.”
“Anyway,” I said with a grin, “Dad said you hung out with Dusty today.”
“You called your dad first? I’m offended.”
“James.” I rolled my eyes. “I wanted to be able to talk to you for however long I wanted.”
“Oh, I guess that’s okay then.”
“So, you went out with Dusty?” I said, trying to get him to be serious for a moment.
“Yeah. The kid’s psycho. He’s probably worse than you.”
I smirked. “What did you two do?”
“I thought it would be fun to go to the raceway, you know, to drive the go-karts. But he has that insane competitive streak too! He tried to force me off the track any time I came near him.”
“It’s not funny! You two are way too similar at times. It borders on creepy. No wonder he has a thing for Geri and loves me so much.”
“Did he mention Geri at all?” I grinned as I climbed out of bed to change my clothes.
“Um, yeah. Did you know he kissed her over New Year’s?”
“Of course you did. But he says she’s avoiding him now.”
My heart sank. I loved the idea of Geri and Dusty together. Even though he was two years younger than her, I could see them working. Dusty had never settled down in the first timeline. In fact, I couldn’t remember him seriously dating anyone. “Should I talk to her?”
“No,” James said sharply. “Dusty needs time. He knows he’s got a steep hill to climb—he doesn’t need her best friend getting involved.”
“Trust me. Dusty talks to me about everything. Sometimes it’s kind of annoying, but he’s a cool kid. He’s got a lot of game for a sixteen-year-old.”
“Okay, I’ll leave it.” I pulled a baggy t-shirt over my head. “So if you were go-karting, how did Dusty get all beaten up?”
James laughed. “Because he’s an idiot. Somehow he managed to flip his. I have no idea how he did it, because those suckers grip to the ground. The staff guy was pretty pissed off, but luckily the kart wasn’t damaged, just Dusty’s face and shoulder.”
“What did he do?”
“His helmet knocked his jaw around, and his shoulder got all grazed up, but he still wanted to take me on. Come to think of it, I definitely think he’s worse than you.”
“But it was fun. A great distraction.” He sighed. “I wish you were there too. Seeing you leave . . .”
“I’m sorry,” I said softly as I sank back onto the bed.
“It’s okay,” he said with a trembling voice. “You said you need this, so I’m going to go along with it. I trust you, and I love you. We’ll get through this.”
I snuggled my pillow, wishing it was James. After sleeping by his side for more than a month, I missed his warm presence, his arm draped lazily over my waist. “I wish you were here.”
“Cadence,” he said gently. “I’ll call you every day, or at least, I’ll try. Work and uni might get in the way for both of us, but I’ll do everything I can. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll always be right here for you.”
I yawned, closing my eyes. “That means so much to me.”
“You should go to bed,” he said. “Goodnight, beautiful.”
“I love you,” I muttered.
He hung up, leaving me drifting in a contented haze. My family and friends, despite the distance, were still close to me. And James wasn’t going anywhere.
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