By Nyrae Dawn
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"Phen-om-enal! Nyrae Dawn paints with words in a way that made me drink Facade down in one big gulp. This is one of those books you can read again and again." — New York Times bestselling author, Courtney Cole on Facade.
From bestselling author, Nyrae Dawn, comes Book 2 in her New Adult, Games Series!
Can love save them?
After her father commits a crime that shatters her family, eighteen-year-old Delaney Cross is tired of pretending everything is alright. Packing up her car, she sets out to find the people her father hurt. Her search leads her to places she's never been–and into the arms of Adrian Westfall.
To the outside world, Adrian is a sexy, charming ladies man. But his playboy persona is just an act. Secretly his soul is tortured by a memory too painful to share. Only Delaney seems to see through his favßade to the real man underneath. And for the first time in his life, Adrian feels he can begin to open up about his past.
Together, Adrian and Delaney share a passionate, carefree love they never expected to find. Yet both still harbor their own secrets. When the dark truth is finally revealed, will it bring them closer together, or tear them apart forever?
Table of Contents
A Preview of Masquerade
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I didn't sleep for shit last night. Not that I ever really sleep that well, but last night was particularly bad. About 1:00 a.m., I was sick to death of all the drunk, high, loud-ass people in my house. Jesus, I wanted them gone. Wanted quiet, normal, but instead I'd smoked another bowl, lied and said I was going to bed before locking myself in my room.
The party went on without me because that's what people do. It's not that they really need me to have fun. I just have the house, shitty as it is, and everyone thinks I'm always down to have a good time. Scratch that. I am always down to have a good time. One look at me shows I'm stoned half the time. Weed? It clouds out the past. Parties drown out the stuff in my head I don't want to hear. But last night of all nights? I deserved to hear that shit, since I'm the one who caused it. So that's what I did. All night. Got blazed out of my head but kept myself awake so I could think about today.
Around six this morning, I jumped in my car like I have every January 12 for the past four years and drove my ass here. Rockville, Virginia. Home sweet fucking home, except I hate this place with a burning passion. When you spend your childhood getting beat by your dad, all you want to do is escape where you came from. I wouldn't have come if I didn't have to, but after everything, I figure it's the least I can do.
Not that my sister, Angel, will ever know I came.
After all this time, I wonder if she'd want me here. If I were her, I wouldn't.
Shaking my thermos, I realize I don't have any more coffee. I toss it onto the passenger side floor and lean back in the seat. Four hours is a long-ass time to sit in my car, but I don't want to risk getting out and her seeing me. Probably a good thing I ran out of coffee; otherwise I'd have to piss again.
Looking across the street, I see all the headstones. Most of them are laid flat, so I can't see them from a distance, but I still know exactly which one belongs to Ashton. It's under the big tree. He would have liked that. I bet he would have wanted me to lift him up and put him in that tree if he'd ever had the chance to see it. He thought it was cool to ride on my shoulders. I'd carry him all around the house and he'd laugh like it was fucking Disneyland or something.
Pain grabs hold of me, threatens to pull me under, and for the millionth time I wonder why I don't let it. It would be so much easier than walking around in the masks I do now.
"Fuck." I drop my head back. Run a hand through my dark hair. Feel my pocket for the pipe there and wish like hell I could light up. Seems kind of wrong to smoke weed at a cemetery, especially under the circumstances.
I hate the drugs anyway. You wouldn't know it, though. No one does. Adrian's always down to smoke. Adrian's always good for it. That's what everyone thinks, but really I just want to be swept away. To ride a tide or the wind or whatever the fuck will take me far from here. Weed is the only thing I can find. Sometimes it works; most of the time it doesn't.
I'm itching to shove the key into the ignition, to push down on the gas pedal and get the hell out of here. Not that I ever went real far. I only live four hours away in Brenton because I couldn't make myself leave the state. But I can't live in Rockville anymore. I don't want to see this. Don't want to be here. I wish I could wake up and find out this has all been some fucked-up nightmare. Even if it meant going back in time before Ash and having to deal with shit from my parents.
Leaning forward, I push the useless thermos out of the way and reach for The Count of Monte Cristo, which is shoved under the seat. The cover's all old and ripped. The spine's cracked from how many times I've read it. It'll probably fall apart any day now.
The thing is, I've always respected Edmond. He went through hell and back but fought despite it. He didn't fold. He pushed through and worked his ass off to become so much more than he was. He was strong. Not me. I just can't seem to make myself overcome the past.
There's nothing to do but deal with it. And maybe lose myself behind a cloud of smoke or a girl.
I need to turn off my thoughts.
Even though I can't stand hats, I grab the one beside me, push it low on my head, open my book, and read. Maybe Edmond can help me clear my head.
Hours later, when I see my sister, Angel, walk over to Ash's grave, I don't get out of the car. When some guy walks up and grabs her hand, I don't know who he is and yet, I don't bother finding out. They hug, and I don't walk over and do the same thing to her. It's not our thing to stand around having some group mourning session over the two-year-old boy who died too soon.
Nope. This is real life. Not like all the stupid fucking books I read or the movies people watch or the reality shows that couldn't be further away from reality.
Without moving an inch, I watch her. Watch as she sets flowers on Ashton's grave. As the guy pulls her into a hug. As they kneel on the ground, probably talking to him in a way I'll never have the balls to do.
The guy says something to her and then gets up and walks away. I duck lower in my seat, but no one is paying attention to me. He heads back to a little car and waits.
Angel's hands go to her face and I know she's crying in them. Know she's mourning the loss of Ash, the boy she loved so much. The boy she took care of better than any mom could. I know she sent the guy away because she's like me and needs to handle shit on her own. Only unlike me, she'll never run.
She cries out there for probably thirty minutes. The whole time my chest is tight. Aching. It's hard to breathe and I want to turn away, but I don't. I deserve to feel this way and deserve to see this.
A fist squeezes tighter and tighter around my heart. My face is wet, but I don't bother to wipe away the tears, either. Real men don't fucking cry. That's what Dad always said before he hit me in a series of body shots, until I couldn't stop myself from doing just what he said I shouldn't do.
Then he'd beat me harder for being weak.
Angel's shoulders are shaking. I can tell from this far away.
I'm not an idiot. Never have been. I know it wouldn't make me weak to walk over there and hug her. To hold her and tell her it'll be okay, but I still won't do it. What right do I have to try and console her when I'm the one who destroyed everything?
When I'm the one who let Ash die?
So I sit here and watch her, just so I'll never forget the pain I caused.
I'm yanked out of a deep sleep by the sound of my cell. My room is still pitch-black, which means it's the middle of the night. My heart immediately starts setting off rounds to the speed of a machine gun.
"Hello?" my voice squeaks out.
"Is this Delaney Cross?"
The official-sounding female does nothing to slow the rapid-fire beating in my chest. If anything, it makes it worse. "Yes. This is she."
"I'm Doctor Marsh over at Three Valley's Hospital. Your mother was brought in a little while ago. She's okay, but—"
"What happened?" Now I pray for my heart to pick up again. It's silent, almost as if it's gone, and I miss the pounding in my ears. Miss it because as ridiculous as it sounds, it takes the loneliness away.
"We'd really like you to come down. It's not—"
"It's not something I haven't dealt with before," I cut her off again. I don't need her to try and make this easier on me. The fact is nothing would make me deal with it better. Saying it on the phone won't make it any less real than in person.
"We're assuming it was a suicide attempt. She took pills. We don't know if she changed her mind or if she wasn't lucid enough to make decisions, but sometime after, she must have tried to leave her apartment. A neighbor found her collapsed in her doorway and called nine-one-one."
The tears that I didn't realize had formed in my eyes are brimming over and starting their slow descent down my face. This is her third suicide attempt in the last four years.
"I'm sorry," the doctor tells me.
"Me too," I whisper. I'm sorry about all of it.
I push out of bed and race to my closet. "We'll be there soon," I tell the doctor before dropping my cell to the dresser. Yanking a sweatshirt over my head, I'm already shoving my feet into my tennis shoes. My heart seems to have found its beat now and as I finish shoving my other foot into my shoe, I try and concentrate on it. It's a crazy thing to do, but it keeps me from cracking apart.
"Maddox!" I yell as I run into our small hallway. "Get up!" My fists come down on my brother's door hard. "Come on! We have to go." I try for the doorknob, but like I knew he would, he'd locked his room. Before I can knock again, he's jerking the door open, his eyes wide and frantic with worry.
"What the fuck happened? Are you okay?"
"It's Mom. She…"
Anger washes over the worry on Maddox's face. His jaw tenses. Veins pulse in his hand; he's gripping the doorknob so tightly I think it could break. Quite the pair, aren't we? While I worry, he gets pissed.
"What did she do?" It's almost as though he blanks out in times like this. Goes numb. All I have to do is bring up either of our parents and I can see the emotion drain from him and I hate it. He and Dad used to be so close… and then something switched and I was the one who got his attention, yet Mom was all about Maddox. Now he can't stand to talk about either of them.
"Pills. We need to go, Maddy."
"Don't call me that. I hate it when you call me that."
I reach for my older brother's hand, but he jerks it away. "Yeah, because that's what's important right now. We need to go see her."
He's shaking his head and I know what he's going to say before he speaks. That he doesn't want to go. That he doesn't care if she needs us. Before he can, I say the one thing that I know he can't say no to. "I can't do this without you. I need you."
"Fuck," he mumbles under his breath. "Gimme two minutes." The door slams, guilt tingeing the edges of my pain. I shouldn't manipulate him like that, but he's my brother. Her son. Mom and I both need him. She can't help that she fell apart after what Dad did.
Realizing I forgot my phone, I grab it and the car keys, and I'm pacing the living room when Maddox comes out, his dark hair all disheveled. He doesn't look me in the eyes. He's pissed and I know he knows what I did.
We head out to the car and I drive us to the hospital because I don't trust him to do it when he's mad. He likes to go too fast, and the last thing we need is to get into an accident on the way.
I'm shivering by the time we walk through the hospital doors and only part of it is from the cold. Maddox isn't wearing a jacket, even though it's a frigid, cold January in Virginia.
"We're here to see Jennifer Cross," I tell the desk clerk. Maddox doesn't step up beside me. He has his arms crossed about five feet away from me.
"Are you family?" the clerk asks.
"Yes. We're her children."
She puts bands on each of our wrists and directs us where to go, as if we don't know where the ER is. We could find anywhere in this place.
I'm not surprised when my eyes pool over again. No matter how many times this happens or how many times she slips back into her depression, it doesn't get easier.
Right before we leave the sterile white hallway and head for the emergency room, Maddox grabs my wrist.
"Don't cry for her, Laney. Don't cry for either of them."
Maddox is so much older than his twenty-one years. He's always been the strong one and both of us know it. It's not that simple for me. My mom just tried to take her own life. My dad is in prison and my brother—my best friend—hates the world.
"Why did this happen to us?" I ask. He grabs me and pulls me into his arms, letting me cry into his chest.
I can feel his awkwardness as he holds me. He's not real big on affection and it makes me feel like crap that he has to console me again. But that's what he does. He hates it, but he tries to make everything better. Mom couldn't take care of stuff, so Maddox did. He's still doing it.
"I don't know" is all he says. Honestly, I'm a little surprised I got that much out of him.
"We need to go see her." I wipe my eyes with my sweatshirt.
Maddox nods at me, but before we can go in, a nurse stops us. As soon as I tell her who we are, she gets that small smile on her face that says she feels bad for us, but she's trying not to let it show.
"Let me get the doctor first, okay? She wants to speak to you." She disappears behind the sliding doors, the sound echoing through the halls. The emergency room is quiet tonight and I almost wish for more people around to distract us.
Right away, the door slides open again. A woman with graying hair, wearing the same smile as the nurse, comes out. "You're Ms. Cross's children?"
"Yes." Of course it's only me who answers.
She leads us over to a small room with a couch. Goose bumps blanket my skin the second we walk in. It reminds me of the place they take family members to let them know when someone has passed away.
She's okay… she's okay. They would have told me if she wasn't.
"As I told you on the phone, your mom overdosed on pills. Some of them seem to be medications that have been prescribed to her, but we're not sure if that's all she took."
Oh God. Has she been buying pills illegally? How did this happen? How did we go from a normal family—with a mom and dad who used to laugh together, a mom who used to love cooking dinner for her family, a brother who could have gotten a football scholarship, and me, who was just happy to have the people I loved close—to this? "Okay…"
"She's sleeping right now, but she's been in and out of it. You need to know that she's still a threat to herself. She…" The doctor pauses for a second before sighing. "She's continued to say she wants to die, and she attacked one of the nurses. I just want you to be prepared when you go in. We had to strap her down for everyone's safety."
A cry climbs up my throat and I clamp my mouth closed, hoping it won't be able to escape. Why aren't we good enough to make her want to stay? I don't understand her not wanting to be with me. With Maddox.
My brother's hand comes down on my shoulder and he gives it a comforting squeeze. No matter how angry he is, he's always here for me. I hate how all of this has scarred his soul.
"Where do we go from here?" Maddox asks her, but I want to be the one who's angry now. I want to yell that we've been through enough. That I'm eighteen fucking years old and Maddox only twenty-one. We're not supposed to be dealing with this. We're supposed to be in college and going home for long weekends instead of being alone.
"We did a psych consult and we think it's best that she be admitted to our inpatient ward. It's a thirty-day stay. They'll be able to help her better there. I would hate for her to be in a situation where she's able to hurt herself further or, God forbid, someone else."
It feels like a fist squeezing my chest so tight it shatters my ribs, shatters everything inside me, but I just want to be whole. Why can't we all be whole again?
I look at Maddox and he's emotionally gone again. His hand is still on me, but the rest of him looks as though he's checked out, leaving me alone.
"Okay… I agree. Can we see her now?" Is it bad that part of me doesn't want to? That I'm scared to death to walk in there and see her? To risk that her anger will come out at me like it always does?
"Of course. Follow me."
I know before he stops me that Maddox isn't going. His eyes that look so much like mine soften as though he's trying to tell me he's sorry—words he'll never say out loud.
"It's okay," I tell him, but really it's not. I need him and he knows it. Mom needs him. We both know she'd rather it be Maddox with her than me.
My legs tremble slightly as I walk into the room. She looks so small in the bed. Her blond hair, so different from my dark brown, is stringy and matted. I just saw her two days ago. Two days, and she didn't look like this.
"Hey, Mom," I say. The doctor is gone, leaving me alone in the room with her. Gray cloth shackles keep her hands tied to the metal on her bed, almost covering the scars on her wrists from the first time. The time I held her while she bled.
Of course, she doesn't answer.
I stand next to her bed and touch her hair, but then pull back, afraid to wake her. Instead, I stand there wishing I would wake up and we'd be the family we were four years ago before everything changed. Before my dad got drunk and, while his girlfriend went down on him, drove into a yard and killed a little boy. Before we found out about his gambling and the other women. I guess we were never the typical family I thought we were. That isn't true either. I knew that even then, when Mom would get pissed at me for spending time with Dad, and Maddox stopped playing ball with him.
Tears roll down my cheeks in synchronized wave after wave, like a crowd at a football game. Maybe one of Maddox's old games.
I think of the woman, Angel, who I visited a few weeks ago.
The pain in her eyes when I told her who I was. But also the forgiveness she showed even though my father took away her little boy.
Maddox hates the idea bogging down my brain, but I don't know what else to do. Maybe the only way to end our family's suffering is to continue to make amends, the same way I did with Angel.
Party at my house. Are you in this time or does Cheyenne have that collar too tight around your neck?" I ask my best friend, Colt, when I sit on the chair in his studio apartment. He hooked up with his girl Cheyenne not too long back. She's good people. Loves his ass something fierce. She didn't leave his side while he watched his mom die or when we almost lost Colt the same night.
A little flash of Colt on the ground jumps into my head, so I pull a pipe out of my pocket and fill my lungs with smoke, hoping the high will cloud it away. Too close to home, except unlike with Colt, when it was Ashton there was blood. So much fucking blood.
Colt falls onto the bed, on the other side of his place. "Don't talk shit about her, fucker, or I'll kick your ass."
I smile at him because I expected him to say something like that. The cool thing about them is he loves her just as much as she loves him. She's changed him, and I don't think he even realizes how much. I might give him hell, but I'm happy. One of us deserves that bullshit storybook ending.
"Don't look at me like that. I hate it when you give me that dissecting look like you're trying to pull out all my fucking secrets."
I tap my head and play that stupid psychic game that he likes to give me hell about.
I don't see the future; I just notice shit. When you're seven years old and scared of your own fucking shadow, too scared to get close to anyone like I used to be, you learn to pay attention. To study people's lives because it's the only way to feel like you're living and to think about how differently you'd be doing it if you had the balls to man up. Or, hell, if you hadn't been given such a shitty hand to begin with.
"You know I'm just playin' about Cheyenne. And I'd be more afraid of her than you," I tease, putting the pipe to my mouth before taking another pull. I hold it out to Colt, knowing he'll say no. He found his solace in Cheyenne, and I have as close to it as I'll ever get right here.
Colt shakes his head. "I have shit to do. I'll talk to Chey about tonight. You act like having a party is something new. It's just like every other night, right?"
Yeah, except for tonight I'm trying to forget watching my sister cry over Ash's grave. Trying to forget I didn't have the balls to go to her. That I watched him die.
"Just another night." Inhale. Exhale. Then I stand, hardly feeling the tickle of my high, and follow him out the door. When we hit the bottom of the stairs, which lead to the parking lot, his girl shows up all dark skin and dark hair. She's half Native American and has an exotic look about her.
"Hey, baby." I wink at her, teasing both her and Colt. Cheyenne gives me a smile before Colt wraps his arms around her and kisses her.
"How are you?" She runs her hand through his hair, a dark look washing over her face that tells me she's probably thinking about that night a couple months ago when he got his head injury.
"Better now," he says before glancing at me. "So, Adrian's having a party tonight that he wants us to go to."
"No! Adrian having a party? I never would have guessed," Cheyenne replies.
She steps away from Colt, so I grab her and throw an arm around her shoulders. "Don't give me shit. I thought we were a team now?" When two people watch someone who means something to both of them almost die, it creates a bond. I know how fast someone can be taken from you, and I don't take that shit lightly. People come in and out of my house all the time. They party with me and use me for whatever the hell they want, but Colt's real. Cheyenne too. They're the only people besides Angel I let myself give a shit about.
"Quit hitting on my girl." Colt shakes his head, but he knows nothing's going on. He might have turned over a new leaf by trying not to be such a bastard all the time, but he would have tried to take my ass out a long time ago if he thought I really wanted Cheyenne.
I think he likes that we're cool.
"I wouldn't have to try—" My words are cut off when I see a dark-haired girl get out of a car. She's tall, wearing some kind of yoga pants or some shit with a big-ass sweater. I don't even have to use my imagination to see how nice her legs are. She's got these long curls in her hair that I want to weave my hands through and gently tug.
And I talk about people using me? It's no secret I do the same fucking thing. I don't know who this girl is, never saw her before in my life, but I know I want her. Want to use her to forget.
"Oh my God," Cheyenne says, and I know she sees the girl too.
"Your boyfriend used to be just as bad," I say without taking my eyes off the girl.
"What the fuck?" Colt says, but then Cheyenne starts talking.
"No, he wasn't. I know he wasn't an angel, but he didn't go out looking for girls the way you do, Adrian. You're like a lion or something, stalking your prey."
Glancing at Cheyenne, I wink at her. She huffs and Colt starts laughing.
The brunette walks to the trunk of her car and starts to pull out a box. "Hold that thought. I'm about to go be a gentleman and help the lady out. We'll argue later tonight." I wink at her again. "If I'm not busy."
Colt shakes his head and Cheyenne looks like she wants to punch me, but I'm already walking away. Looking at this girl—hell, any girl—I see a distraction. When I'm concentrating on a girl's body, there's not much room for the stuff from my past creeping in, like the way Ash used to try and sneak up on me. I'd pretend to jump and he'd laugh and laugh before covering his face and sitting on the couch, thinking I couldn't see him.
She's still fumbling with the box when I get to her. There are a few more of them in her trunk. "That looks like a lot of work. It'd go much quicker if you let me help you and then we'll go somewhere and celebrate a job well done together."
She jumps, obviously startled, and hits her head on the trunk. "Ouch!"
Shit. That wasn't part of the plan.
"You okay? I'd offer to kiss it and make it better, but I'm guessing it's too soon for that."
She takes a step back, her cheeks this sweet pink that I'm not used to seeing so much on girls anymore. I hold my hands up and smile at her. "Don't be scared. Other than my shitty lines, I'm not so bad." Pointing to Colt and Cheyenne, I continue, "My friend's girl is over there. She'll tell you I'm nothing but a huggable teddy bear." I almost throw in a "Wanna cuddle?" but I think it's too much.
She smiles and I know I just got a point back after making her hit her head. Maybe two.
"Well, then, I think we're going to have a problem." Her voice is as sweet as her blush. Her eyes dart around a little and her fists clench, telling me she's trying to sound a lot braver than she feels.
"And what's that?" I ask her before taking a step back. Not a big one, but enough to give her a little more comfort.
"I've always had a thing against teddy bears."
Her answer comes out of nowhere, but I have to admit it's kind of fun. It's been a while since a girl made me give any kind of chase. "How do you have a thing against teddy bears?"
"Because they're frauds. I used to have one and thought it would protect me when I slept, but it didn't. I think that's their plan. They lure you in with a false sense of security."
I hold in my laugh. She's good. Really good. She managed to insult me and shoot down my game in one swoop. It makes me want her more. Want some kind of challenge. Maybe that's what I need to take my mind off all the things that I don't deserve to forget. "Now, that wasn't very nice. We don't even know each other's names, but here you are calling me a fraud. All I wanted was to be a gentleman and help you with these boxes and then welcome you to the neighborhood by inviting you to a party tonight."
I lean against her car, watching her. Wanting to see what's going on in her gray eyes. She's thinking about what I said, trying to come up with a reply.
"I can't," she finally says. She seems a little sad when she says it. She looks at the ground and bites her bottom lip. I really want to tell her I'll do that for her, but I don't. She's gorgeous as hell. Even more so up close than she was from farther away. Plump lips. A little mole under her nose and damned if she doesn't look both sexy and innocent at the same time.
She sighs. "I don't even know you. Even if I did, that's not what I'm here for."
Her response is a little strange. I'm about to ask her about it when a motorcycle rumbles up next to us. The girl's eyes shoot over to the bike, and fuck if I don't know this is some guy for her. I look over and he's pulling off his helmet and looking at me like he wants to take a shot at me because he knows exactly what's going through my head.
"Maddox, you're late." She looks at him and I look at her. She could have saved me a whole lot of trouble by telling me she was taken from the beginning.
"Who's this?" he says.
"My bad," I reply. "Have fun with those boxes."
I'm not in the mood to fight for some girl I don't know, so I turn and start to walk away. Not like I won't have more to choose from tonight anyway.
- "Charming new adult addition."—RT Book Reviews on FAÇADE
- "Phen-om-enal! Nyrae Dawn paints with words in a way that made me drink FAÇADE down in one big gulp. This is one of those books you can read again and again."—New York Times bestselling author, Courtney Cole on FAÇADE.
- "Facade is an emotional journey from the very first page until the very last one. Never before have two broken people needed each other more to become whole again."—J. Sterling USA Today bestselling author on FACADE
- "Beautifully executed with gorgeous prose and unforgettable characters, FACADE is a heart-wrenching, emotional journey of redemption coupled with the healing power of love. Be prepared for tissues and a fan to cool off because Adrian and Delaney's story is worthy of both."—New York Times bestselling author Katie Ashley on FACADE
- " 5 Stars! It's so good I couldn't put it down...This book has depth and characters I love...you MUST pick this up."—http://www.stuckinbooks.com/ on FAÇADE
- "This book single-handedly made me fall in love with the New Adult genre...I also adore Nyrae Dawn's writing style. I can't wait for the next one."—http://bookslikebreathing.blogspot.com/ on FACADE
- On Sale
- Sep 24, 2013
- Page Count
- 304 pages