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Authors: Cindy Davis

Final Masquerade

BOOK: Final Masquerade
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The Wild Rose Press

Copyright ©2008 by Cindy Davis

NOTICE: This work is copyrighted. It is licensed only for use by the original purchaser. Making copies of this work or distributing it to any unauthorized person by any means, including without limit email, floppy disk, file transfer, paper print out, or any other method constitutes a violation of International copyright law and subjects the violator to severe fines or imprisonment.

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Final Masquerade


Prelude to a Kill
















































A word about the author...

* * * *
His lips brushed her left ear...

As she waited at the crosswalk two blocks west of her hotel, the familiar sound of a diesel engine welled behind her. Paige spun around, crashing into a dark suited gentleman with a cell phone to one ear. The phone clattered to the sidewalk and broke in dozens of pieces. She muttered an apology as a bright yellow tractor-trailer bore down on the intersection. Paige stepped off the sidewalk and into the street.

The semi screamed to a stop not two inches from her left shoulder. Immediately horns began honking. Paige, who'd frozen at the sight of the shiny chrome grill in her face, felt herself being wrapped in strong arms and dragged onto the sidewalk.

She knew she was sobbing but couldn't hear the sound of it over the horns and the shouting. She melted against the plaid cotton shirt. The arms tightened. His head bent against hers.


His lips brushed her left ear. “I've looked everywhere for you."

A loud pop. Then another. Something screeched past her ear. Paige was suddenly heaved sideways. Her elbow jolted up into her shoulder as she slammed to the sidewalk. More gunshots rang out. Something heavy landed on top of her, punching the air from her lungs.

What people are saying about
Final Masquerade...

Review By: Sherry Derr-Wille

Cindy Davis has woven an intriguing story with more twists and turns than the ribbon of highway that takes her from coast to coast. This is a must read for any lover of suspense and mystery. A real page-turner, FINAL MASQUERADE, will hold your interest from its unpredictable beginning to its surprising end.

Inside The Cover Book Reviews

Review by: Amy Brozio-Andrews

The book never meanders into unrealistic plot twists; the drama of an ordinary woman finding herself in an extraordinary situation is suspenseful enough, and Cindy Davis has written a novel sure to keep readers turning pages long past their bedtimes.

Review by Tammy Falkner

Cindy Davis creates a fantastic story of betrayal, suspense and intrigue in FINAL MASQUERADE. The tension in this novel makes this book hard to put down. The reader suffers along with Paige as she tries to make a new life for herself and feels her pain when she leaves friends behind each time she is found again. This reader would like more detail at the end of the novel but it was well worth the time it took to turn the pages. Cindy Davis has certainly created a winner with this novel.

Review by: Romance Junkies

While the romance between Paige and Chris comes to fruition in the most roundabout way I have ever read in a romance, this is, at its core, a story about a woman who finds her life as she runs for her life. I found myself cheering on this gutsy and brave lady as she refused to give up in her quest for freedom from her past and for a future she could call her own.

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Final Masquerade
Cindy Davis

[Back to Table of Contents]

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

Final Masquerade


2008 by Cindy Davis

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Contact Information: [email protected]

Cover Art by
Kim Mendoza

The Wild Rose Press

PO Box 708

Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706

Visit us at

Publishing History

First Crimson Rose Edition, 2008

Print ISBN 1-60154-230-5

Published in the United States of America

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My thanks go out in particular to my writers group,
who nixed the original short version of this story. “Bah!” they said, “there's too much here for a short story."
So, to you Tom, Bev, Fran, Jean and Dee
—here's the long story.
Special thanks to Lyn and Patrice
for reading early drafts with as much attention as if they'd been the final product.
Eternal thanks to Bob.
Couldn't have done it without you!

[Back to Table of Contents]

Prelude to a Kill

If Paige Carmichael hadn't been standing in the doorway of Stefano's office, she probably wouldn't have heard the sound of the gunshot in the huge rambling mansion. As it was, the heavy velour drapes, thick oak paneling, and deep pile carpet muffled the sharp crack.

She'd seen the lights in Stefano's office as her limo flew up the drive, returning her from the theater. Luther Vincent's car was parked under the portico. She knew she'd find the two of them in the office, feet propped on the shiny oak desk, tossing back Jack Daniels, and laughing at the success of their most recent numbers-running scam. Luther Vincent, head of LA's crime syndicate, and Stefano Santangelo, his best friend and second in command.

Paige stopped in the hallway, intending to say goodnight before heading upstairs. The door stood open just a couple of inches, but it was far enough for Paige to see Stefano jab the gun in Luther's chest and pull the trigger. Luther's two-sixty plus crumpled in a heap on the maroon carpet, his dark eyes holding equal measures of pain and bewilderment.

Paige watched on legs of jelly as Stefano picked up the phone and pushed a single button. “Vito,” he said, “get upstairs. I got a mess for you to clean up,” as calmly as if he were ordering pizza.

She eased the door shut, steeling herself when Stefano's eyes flicked in her direction. Forcing her feet to move, she ran lightly up the circular staircase, closed, and locked her bedroom door. She leaned against the raised panels, eyes closed, chest heaving, trying to force the image of Stefano's deed from her mind. She'd never seen anyone die before—except on television—and this certainly wasn't the same thing. This was perpetrated by her lover, her friend, the man she planned to marry in just three weeks. How could she now?

They'd met four years ago at a performance of
Les Miserables
. He was the most elegant, passionate, and exciting man she'd met in a long time. Three months later, she'd moved into his fabulous Santa Barbara estate overlooking the bright blue Pacific. Paige knew what he did for a living: laundering money, high interest loans, and numbers-running—not killing, never killing—he'd promised. And now this.

She sat in the dark, staring out at the twinkling stars, wondering how her life could have gone so wrong. Luther was Stefano's best friend. How could anyone kill his best friend? If she hadn't seen it with her own eyes...

It was after two a.m. when Vito's taillights disappeared down the crushed oyster shell drive, and another three quarters of an hour before Stefano's bedroom door clicked shut at the other end of the hall.

Paige waited through sixty changes of the digital clock, wondering when he'd come to her, what he'd say. Would he care that she knew what he'd done? He knew she loved him; he could trust her. Right?

But this was murder.

She nodded, agreeing with herself. Murder was different. When the big guys got wind of this, it would blow like Mount St. Helens. She hadn't made too big a deal when he told her what he did for a living. He'd been so nonchalant about it, she hadn't questioned further. How stupid was she not to realize murder was involved? If someone didn't pay up—poof, they flew over the Santa Barbara cliffs into the pounding blue Pacific.

She had to leave before he got it in his head to take care of her too. They did that to witnesses, right?

But after investing four years of her life, she wasn't leaving empty handed.

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By five a.m. Paige was finished packing. She stashed the suitcase and two things appropriated from Stefano's safe in the recesses of her shoe closet. Stifling the urge to climb into her Mercedes and speed off to Mexico, she lay awake, staring at the ocean's reflection on the ceiling, watching the undulations of the bashing waves, until the first beep of the alarm at 6:30.

She was nursing her second cup of coffee when Stefano sauntered into the dining room, a handsome figure in tan Armani. She was barely able to contain her disgust when he kissed her on the cheek and slid into the padded chair at the opposite end of the long polished table.

Carlotta poured his coffee and filled his plate from the silver dishes on the sideboard, then departed. Between tall silver candlestick stems, Paige watched him open the paper and begin to read, holding it in his right hand while the left occasionally moved a morsel of food to his mouth. Stefano usually ate like a horse in the mornings. Why wasn't he eating today?

"Something wrong?” he asked, not raising his eyes from the headlines.

"Er, no. I, er ... just woman troubles."

He folded the paper, laid it aside, pushed away the half empty plate, and leaned forward on his elbows. “You sure there's nothing wrong? Nothing you want to talk about?"

Paige's insides contracted; the half muffin she'd eaten turned a somersault and sent a current of acid into her throat. Slowly, deliberately, she pretended to think about his question. “No. Nothing I can think of.” Had she put too much intonation in the sentence? Not looked certain enough? If so, he didn't seem to notice.

Stefano rose. Instead of picking up his briefcase and heading out the door, he strode the length of the table, raised her chin roughly in his left hand, and kissed her lips, pressing his mouth hard into hers.

She gazed into his gray eyes. Eyes that, before last night, she hadn't realized held such disregard for others. He finally unclenched his fingertips from her chin. Five tingling sites sent his message to her brain. It was a message she understood well.

"You look exquisite this morning. Why don't we do the town tonight?” He slipped his wallet from the inside pocket of his suit jacket and tossed a wad of bills on her plate. “Get yourself something slinky—um, blue. I want to see you in blue today.” He kissed her again, first on one cheek and then the other. “See you at seven."

She forced her lips into a smile and nodded.

* * * *

By eight a.m., instead of wandering barefoot along miles of silky sand beach, picking up the occasional conch shell, and filling her lungs with salty morning air, Paige was transferring a white number 10 envelope and Gucci overnight bag from her closet to her trunk. She had to make a second trip for the thickly wrapped package, about the size and weight of a cinder block. Its heft made her feel both uneasy and secure as it thumped down into the trunk. She put the envelope on the front seat, then settled herself in the drivers’ seat.

BOOK: Final Masquerade
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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