Hey everyone! Here is a little sneak peek from my upcoming release, Fakers. It’s a contemporary romance novel about a young girl who struggles with depression. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, but this book may hit close to home for some of you in terms of the theme of depression running through the book. If this is the case, I hope this book brings you some respite from your troubles but also that it gives you the courage to open up and talk about your struggles with someone. Even better, I hope it gives you the strength to seek a treatment, whether that’s therapy or cannabis (learn more about that here). I really hope you enjoy the first chapter! If you do, add Fakers on Goodreads! Click Here.
The Jeep ran over the curb and came to an indelicate stop, rattling the assortment of surfboards strapped to the top and leaving the large U-Haul trailer poking slightly into the road. Neighbors walking on the quaint road slowed to catch a glimpse of the new owner of 22 Gardenia Street; others simply peered out of their kitchen windows and waited with pursed lips. Finally, the car’s door opened and a leggy blonde sprung out.
Kyra Aberdeen whipped off her aviator sunglasses and peered up at her new house.
“I own a freakin’ house,” she said, her voice full of wonder. She’d never bought a home before, let alone a house that needed a bulldozer more than a fresh coat of paint.
It was a tall Victorian with turrets and crooked shutters that had paint peeling off in clumps. Some windows were boarded up and some were just broken shards. Thin, scrappy trees grew along the base of the house, uprooting the foundation and making the poor house look like it had hairy legs. The grass was overgrown and patchy behind the collapsing picket fence line, where powerfully fragrant confederate jasmine vines had taken over.
It was a total disaster, which was fitting, because Kyra was a wreck too.
Her shoulders slumped, and the wonder of being a homeowner crumbled away almost faster than it had come. Staring at the house now left her with a powerful knot of buyer’s remorse tightening in her stomach. Sure, it had seemed like a good idea to buy her mother’s childhood home on Canaan Island when it had come up for sale, but now…now it felt like one of those colossal mistakes that made people cringe to think about even years later.
It’s not like Kyra had boatloads of money to sink into restoring an old home. She uploaded videos to Youtube for a living. Granted, they were pretty popular. Her tutorials on makeup and health tips had millions of views each. Since she’d started college, her channel had grown to over half a million subscribers. She could be funny, sexy, or easygoing at the drop of a hat. People proposed to her over the Internet, which wasn’t weird at all. But she sure as hell didn’t know how to use a jackhammer. And this house needed a jackhammer.
Thank God she’d had the foresight to hire a contractor.
And the contractor in question was just pulling up. His white work truck parked in front of her Jeep, carefully aligned to the curb. They had spent some money on it, upgrading it for the job with parts from Peragon, or somewhere, making it a hardy vehicle. Kyra turned and watched as a tall man with light brown hair emerged, carrying an armload of rolled up papers. His impressive grin widened when he caught sight of Kyra.
“Hey!” She called, shoving her queasiness away. She flashed her perfect white teeth. “You must be Mr. Cooper. I’m Kyra.”
The man was all legs and arms, making him seem more like a gangly teenager than a business owner, but he stuck out his hand with confidence. “Nice to meet you, Kyra. Please call me Cade. And welcome to Canaan. We may be the most boring little island of the southern states, but we are the prettiest!”
Kyra laughed, shaking his hand and noting the way he carefully enunciated every word he spoke, as if he had to think about how his tongue moved to form the words. “Thank you! Is that the town’s motto?”
“It should be,” Cade said with an eye roll.
Kyra felt the smoothness of his palm before she released his hand. “You’re the contractor?” she asked. No man who worked in construction had such soft hands.
Cade flushed a little, showing a chink in his confidence. “Actually, my brother is the contractor. I meet with clients and go over plans.”
“Ah, I see,” Kyra nodded, keeping her words playful. She looked back up at the house and sighed. “I bought a piece of poop, didn’t I?”
Cade’s green eyes widened as a laugh escaped his lips. “Well,” he said, smiling genuinely at her. “It is going to need some work. How about I show you around and go over some ideas?”
“Sounds good!” Kyra took a deep breath and headed toward the gate, which hung from its rusted hinges, the wood rotten and warped. Kyra had to kick it open.
“So, you will see the front garden is quite overgrown,” Cade said, indicating the tangled forest of shrubs and vines.
Kyra stopped and looked around. The garden was a mess, but she saw the potential after what would likely be hours of pruning and hacking. The jasmine was lovely, if not a little overpowering. Wisteria weaved around the broken porch rails. Some of the flowers had taken over, but most were drowned by weeds.
“I think that’s an understatement,” Kyra said. She reached down and snapped off a pretty blue iris. Carefully tucking it behind her ear, she glanced back at Cade. “I can tame it, though.”
The sound of his laugh was rich and warm, and the more she heard him speak, the more she liked the odd cadence of his voice. Kyra smiled, wiping her hands on her frayed jean shorts. “Hold on to that optimism,” he said. “The structure of the house is actually pretty good. We will need to examine the foundation thoroughly and replace some of the beams. Beams in houses this old were just set in the ground. So most of the time, the beam’s wood will be eroded by moisture and be unstable.”
“But it’s safe to live in, right? I want to live here during the renovation.” Kyra said she wanted to, but the truth was, she needed to. She made a good living with her videos and her blog, but most of her savings had gone into the purchase of this house. After setting aside some for renovations, she didn’t have much left.
“It is safe, but it will just be noisy and dusty.” Cade looked at her like he pitied her. “Living in a house being renovated is torture, but if you want to, you won’t be in danger.”
Kyra nodded thoughtfully. “Where will you be starting?”
“Let me show you.” Cade took her elbow before she stepped onto the rickety step. “Watch these porch stairs. They may be a little rotten.”
They carefully made their way up the house and onto the porch. Even though some floorboards were missing and vines ran like snakes across the porch, Kyra pictured herself here, swinging and sipping tea. She smiled even as her loose teal tank top snagged on a thorn.
“Here,” Cade said, plucking the thorn from her shirt.
“Thanks.” Kyra shot him a grin before she pulled out her keys and unlocked the door. Cade had to shoulder it open before they stepped inside.
The entry was dark and musty. A set of stairs swept up in front of Kyra. To the left was the parlor with murky windows and giant, swooping cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. To the right was a dining room, and through an archway, Kyra just made out a tiny kitchen. All the walls were coated in peeling, faded wallpaper. Dusty, dated light fixtures hung lopsided from the ceiling, where large water stains added their own décor.
“That’s bad, right?” Kyra asked, pointing to a particularly large stain.
“It is not good. But most of the things you see can be fixed. They are typical in an older home like this.” Cade walked farther into the space, showing her through the dining room and into the kitchen. They walked through the entire first floor, weaving through tiny rooms filled with more dust and cobwebs.
“What we will do first is make sure the foundation and beams are solid. Once the structure is sound, we can start opening up these walls so there is more of an open concept from the kitchen into the dining room. All these back rooms will be converted into a large living room and office space for you,” Cade said. They stopped at the kitchen counter, where he laid out his floor plans. He pointed to one drawing and walked Kyra through the technical aspects of load-bearing walls and where they’d need to add support beams in the ceiling.
Kyra tried to listen, but she was already looking around the space, taking in the wide windows. The room would be flooded with natural light if it were open. Already she could picture her eclectic, beachy style in this place.
“And this is where we will put in a small powder room…”
Cade trailed off as Kyra walked away from him midsentence. She spied a back door leading out of the kitchen. Prying it open, she stepped onto the back porch and took in her new backyard.
“Oh, shoot yeah!”
The ocean was just beyond the reach of her entangled, wild backyard that was dominated by two large magnolia trees. The crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and salty air instantly soothed Kyra’s frayed nerves. She took her phone out and snapped a few pictures for her social media sites. Cade was right; with its Spanish moss-laden trees and bright houses along her street, Canaan Island was the prettiest island off the coast of Georgia that she’d ever seen. She imagined the town of Canaan would be just as picturesque.
“It does have great views,” Cade offered from behind her.
Kyra laughed. “Man, I want to be out in the water so bad.”
“I saw your boards. You will fit right in here.” Cade leaned against the doorframe, watching her.
A familiar darkness descended in the pit of her stomach at Cade’s words of fitting in, but she brushed it off with another laugh. She came here to get rid of all that. “Do you surf?”
“No, but my brother does. I do not like…” Cade’s voice stumbled slightly, and he stuttered the tiniest bit, “…the water much.” A shadow passed over his eyes, but he brightened up as fast as Kyra had. “So what made you want to move out here?”
“You mean what in the world possessed me to buy a rundown, piece-of-crap house?” Kyra said with a crazy grin to put Cade back at ease. She realized now that he likely had a speech impediment, which would account for the practiced, pre-thought out lilt to his speech.
“You could put it that way.”
Kyra thought about telling him some lame story about loving old homes and wanting to be near the ocean, but her therapist had encouraged her to be sincere with her friends. She didn’t know him well yet, but she already liked Cade Cooper. And she wanted to start being more honest with people instead of keeping them at arm’s length like she normally did.
“Actually, it was my mom’s house,” Kyra said carefully. From the corner of her eye, she saw Cade’s surprised expression. “My grandparents are Florence and Garlan Aberdeen. They’ve lived on Canaan their entire life.”
“Oh! Yeah, I know the Aberdeens. Florence is…well, she is interesting.” Cade coughed, clearly uncertain about how to be polite in the situation.
“She’s pretty awful, I know.”
Cade relaxed, raking his hand over the slight scruff along his jaw. “She is not the nicest lady I have ever dealt with.” He laughed. “So your mom lived here? Funny, I never knew the Aberdeens had a daughter. I’ve only seen Thomas around town.”
Kyra shifted uncomfortably, sweat slicking across her palms. “Thomas is my uncle. He and his wife raised me. My, uh, well, my mom died when I was really little.”
“Dang.” Cade put his hand on her shoulder. “Kyra, I am sorry. I did not mean to pry.”
“No, it’s okay.” She offered him a shaky smile.
“Well, how about I finish going through the house with you? I am sure you want time to settle in and start unpacking.”
They spent the next hour talking renovations and room layouts. After the walls came down and everything had been demoed that needed it, they would redo most of the plumbing and electrical so everything would be up to code. While they did that, all the windows, doors, and slate roof would be replaced. Only then could they patch the walls and ceilings. Painting and reviving the ragged wood floors would come last.
Kyra’s head was full, a headache settling in just from realizing the full extent of the cost. “And you’re sure you can do all this under my budget?”
They stood in what would be her bedroom and temporary office during the renovations. A huge window seat filled the back wall. It was one of the few windows not shattered. The sun streamed in, flooding across the original wood floors.
Cade nodded. “Pending any unforeseen issues the home inspection missed, we will stay on target with your budget.”
“So this can all be done in a month? With no delays, right?” Kyra pointed her finger at Cade, a crooked grin on her lips.
Cade held up his hands in surrender. “That is Hale’s job. So you will have to talk to him about that.”
A small tingle filled Kyra’s stomach at the mention of the brother’s name. She liked the name Hale. It sounded…sexy.
“And he’s coming here today?” Kyra asked.
“He will be by first thing in the morning to start work,” Cade said. He was adjusting his papers, readying to leave.
“Okay, great!” Kyra needed to start unpacking and settling in, but she mostly just wanted to sink her toes in some sand. “You’ve done amazing work with these plans. I know I’m going to love it. It’s like you took everything I wanted and made it so much more. I can’t wait!”
Cade flushed slightly at her enthusiasm. “Hale draws up the plans. I just relay them to clients.”
“Oh, well you do a great job!” Kyra said cheerfully, if not a little awkwardly. She followed Cade out of the room and down the stairs, wondering what exactly it was that he did if he didn’t do construction or draw up the design plans. It sounded like he was a middleman between clients and Hale.
Like he heard her thoughts, Cade paused at the door and said, “Hale is the best contractor on the island. He is going to make this house into your home. Just prepare yourself. He is a little different, and he likes to keep to himself. So if you have any questions, feel free to call my cell.”
Cade handed her a business card, which Kyra stuffed in her pocket and promptly forgot. “I’ll do that. Thanks for meeting me and showing me around.”
Kyra stood in the open door, watching as Cade navigated his way down the steps. He stopped at the bottom. “No problem. Let me know if you need anything. Most of your neighbors are…” Cade blushed, the redness making him incredibly adorable. “Well, they are a little old. Stevie Andrews lives next door.” He pointed to her neighbor. “She is younger and…um…fun.” If it was possible, Cade flushed even more, and Kyra could tell just by his manner that he had a crush on her neighbor. Cade cleared his throat. “Anyway, if you want a tour of the island, I could take you around, if you want?”
Kyra beamed. “Sure! I’d love that.”
Cade seemed slightly surprised at her enthusiasm, and it took him the tiniest bit longer to speak than normal. “Uh, great. I mean, that is great. Just give me call whenever, and I can show you around.”
She watched him pull away from the curb with a smile on her face and a warm feeling in her heart. If she could meet a couple more people as nice as Cade, she would be well on her way to making a life here on Canaan. And his brother sounded…interesting.
Standing outside again, she took the opportunity to check out her neighbors’ houses. Gardenia Street was in the more historical area of Canaan, which meant all the houses around hers were restored to their former glory. Kyra sighed; her house was the eyesore of the community, which meant she really needed to start unpacking so she could get ready for the construction crew arriving tomorrow. Her eyes settled on her Jeep and trailer.
“You really need to learn how to park,” she told herself. She’d been too excited to worry about pulling her Jeep off the curb. And a large dumpster was parked in her narrow driveway, waiting to be filled with demoed material from the house.
Just then, her phone rang. “Hey, Aunt Carol,” she answered.
“Kyra! How are you? Did you make it down there okay? Your car didn’t give you any trouble, did it?”
Her aunt spewed out the questions like any concerned parent, and technically, she was Kyra’s mom. Her Aunt Carol and Uncle Tom had taken her in when she was a baby, just like she’d told Cade. But the rest of the truth was that her mom had been in prison when she had Kyra, and she’d never made it out to be a part of Kyra’s life.
But no one talked about her mother. She was the sore spot in the Aberdeen family.
“I made it fine,” Kyra said patiently. “The drive was easy. I just talked with the contractor about the house. It looks…” Kyra looked up at the house. “…It looks fun.”
“You watch those contractors, now. They will take advantage of a young girl like you.”
Her aunt and uncle hadn’t approved of Kyra buying the house. Uncle Tom had grown up here with her mother, but he had no love for his old home. “He was actually really nice. I doubt he would do that,” Kyra said, defending Cade instantly.
Aunt Carol sniffed. “Well, just be careful down there by yourself.” Her tone softened. “Are you sure you’re okay? I can come down there and help you settle in.”
Kyra nibbled on her fingernail. “I’m fine, I promise. I feel good about this.”
“Have you talked to Dr. Standifer yet?”
“No,” Kyra sighed. Aunt Carol was already worried about her, which Kyra really did appreciate. She’d just had a long drive and her nerves were shot. In truth, Aunt Carol was the closest she’d ever had to a real parent. Uncle Tom had hated her mother too much to really show his love for Kyra.
“You’ll need to get in touch with a new therapist down there soon,” Aunt Carol reminded her for the millionth time.
“As soon as possible. You don’t want to have to go on medication again.”
Kyra cringed. She’d been on medicine once before for her depression, but that had been a dark time in her life. Since then, she didn’t need medication if her therapist believed she was coping with her darkness in a healthy way. Unconsciously, she rubbed at the stack of bracelets on her left wrist. “Yes, Aunt Carol.”
Her aunt breathed out in relief, the sound rustling in the phone. “Okay. I won’t take up any more of your time. Get settled in and rest.”
“Thanks. Tell Uncle Tom I said, ‘hello.'”
“I will. He misses you,” Aunt Carol said, but Kyra knew it was a lie.
“I miss him too,” she lied back. “Well, I better go…”
“Right. Right. Call the therapist Dr. Standifer recommended tomorrow. I love you, Kyra.”
“Love you too.” She hung up and looked down her new street. She wondered if her mother had played on the street, riding her bike or chasing Tom around.
Lila Aberdeen had killed herself in prison when Kyra was only one year old, but Kyra would always feel the darkness of losing her mother for the rest of her life. The sadness tugged at her, but Kyra steeled herself. She fought it off and forced a smile even though there was no one around to convince she was a happy, carefree girl.
She tried to tell herself to walk down the porch stairs and start unloading boxes, but instead her feet carried her away, toward the back of the house and into the backyard. She picked her way through the overgrowth and out the back gate. Tugging off her flip-flops, she walked down the path to the beach.
Her toes hit the sand, and Kyra knew she was home.