Betrayal of Trust, page 1
LS Charles Publishing Group
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Betrayal of Trust by London St. Charles Copyright ©2019
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9993288-2-8
E-book ASIN: B07P687SBN
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever or by any means including electronic, mechanical or photocopying, or stored in a retrieval system without written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For permission, contact London St. Charles at www.londonstcharles.com.
Cover Designed by: J.L Woodson: www.woodsoncreativestudio.com
Interior Designed by: Lissa Woodson: www.naleighnakai.com
Editor: Lisa Watson: www.lisawatson.com
Table of Contents
About the Author
Excerpt of Sugarcoated Deception by London St. Charles
Excerpt of Domino Effect by Gisele Marie
Also by London St. Charles
Thank you, Father for giving me the gift to create and the know how to grind and utilize my vivid imagination. Through you all things are possible.
This project is near and dear to my heart. Thanks to all who’ve helped along this journey. Words of encouragement, sounding boards, venting sessions, character discussions, all of it, whether I took your advice or not, know that your input was not in vain and I appreciate your investment in the success of my work.
Tribe, thanks for always supporting your Sister Scribe, sharing my posts, reading excerpts, and sending positive vibes. Naleighna Kai, thanks for cultivating this group of amazingly talented authors. My writing life has been forever changed. To my editor, Lisa Watson, I love what you did with this story (that fairy dust we talked about lol), yeah, all of that! Thank you. To my beta readers who didn’t hesitate to read my story when asked, J.D. Mason, Christine Pauls, MarZé Scott, Debra Mitchell, and Marva Harden, thanks for your critiques and honest feedback #swoon. My graphic designer, J.L. Woodson, this cover is boss.
My family and friends, thanks for always pushing me to tell my stories and supporting my writing career. I know I can get long-winded when I start talking about the story I’m working on. Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm and for giving it to me straight. I love you for life.
To the readers, YOU are who I do this for. Thanks for your continued support!
London St. Charles
To my Bradley-Thomas Crew,
this one’s for you!
Just because someone appears healthy and in control of their emotions on the outside, doesn’t mean they aren’t battling an internal struggle. Sometimes we forget to make sure the “resilient” and the “seems to have it all together person” is okay. Many times, those are the ones who need the most support but are afraid to ask for fear of looking weak or less than to the people who depend on them or by society’s standards. It’s okay NOT to be okay. You are loved. Always remember that.
––London St. Charles
“Who’s there?” Cedrick Dalton whipped around, knocking the whiskey tumbler filled with Bourbon off the bar, along with dozens of receipt tabs.
“It’s me, babe,” said his wife, Sierra, jumping backward as the shards of glass ricocheted off the dark-stained hardwood floors. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“What are you doing–––? How did you get in here?” he asked, sporadically turning while scanning the empty dining area.
“Juan let me in,” she said pointing over her shoulder toward the entrance of The Smokehouse restaurant that Cedrick owned. “He was on his way out. What’s with the third degree? It’s not like I haven’t dropped by after hours before.”
Cedrick opened his mouth to respond just as the restaurant’s phone rang. The galloping beat of his heart lunged into his throat, making it hard for him to speak.
“What’s going on with you?” she asked, stepping over the glass. “I wanted to surprise you for dinner,” she said lifting take-out bags from their favorite Japanese restaurant, placing them on the bar counter and claiming a seat. “Are you gonna get that?”
He hadn’t planned on answering the phone. Who would be calling the restaurant after hours? All the workers were gone, and his wife was sitting in front of him, so it wasn’t her. The best way to reach any staff was on the service line, but again, it was after closing.
Cedrick walked behind the bar, cleared his throat, then answered the phone. “Smokehouse.” After a brief pause, he said, “Hello.” Sighing and crossing his arms, he asked, “Who’s there?”
A hard click, followed by a dial tone, resonated in his ear. That was the fourth phantom call this evening. Add that to the messages the hostess received earlier during the day that someone had been trying to reach him but wouldn’t leave a name or a call back number made Cedrick officially paranoid.
After all, it was Halloween. Strange things had been known to happen on the devil’s holiday as his father referred to it, but it was hard for Cedrick to accept that reasoning alone. It was also the anniversary of a day he’d been trying to forget since the age of fourteen. Guilt and fear haunted his soul every day, but especially on October thirty-first. Is it a coincidence that the random occurrences are happening today? He thought, placing the receiver on the base.
Sierra raised an eyebrow. “Tell that chick your wife’s here and she has to wait her turn.” She winked and giggled, removing the white boxes, packets of soy sauce, and chopsticks from the bag.
“She knows better,” Cedrick teased with a forced smile, wishing it was that simple. He could deal with a secret admirer. At least they meant him no harm. The mystery person on the phone was a different story.
“Hand me a towel,” Sierra said, sliding off the stool. “You don’t want the wood to absorb any more of this liquor. It’ll ruin the finish.”
“Don’t worry about that.” Cedrick dismissed with the wave of a hand, glancing toward the entrance as he reached for the push broom. “I’ll get it.”
“Why do you keep checking the door?”
Cedrick averted his gaze and stroked his goatee. He felt Sierra’s eyes blazing through him as though she could read his mind. She’d surely leave him if she knew what he’d done. Cedrick wouldn’t be able to protect her if she did. It was a dead-end situation with no positive outcome.
“I’m ready to get out of here, that’s all. Do you mind if we eat this at home?” he asked, hoping she’d say yes.
“I do,” Sierra replied with a sassiness in her tone. “I was trying to do something spontaneous. I could’ve ordered take-out, left you a plate in the microwave, and been sleep when you finally made your way home, as usual. But I asked my mom to watch the girls, and I took the time to get cute, which you didn’t even compliment me on,” she chided crossing her legs at the ankles and doing a slow pirouette, showcasing the knee-high leather
“Okay, sweetheart. Just give me a minute,” he begged while cleaning the mess he made. Once Cedrick was done, he eased next to Sierra and stood directly in front of her. Caressing her rosy cheek and then lifting her chin, Cedrick didn’t speak until she returned eye contact. “I appreciate you going out of your way to create a special evening for us, pretty lady. Thank you.”
He walked behind the bar and grabbed two glasses from the overhead wineglass rack and a bottle of Red Moscato. The fruity aromas of wild cherry and peaches danced in the air as he filled their glasses half-way.
Solace crept into his aura while in Sierra’s presence which temporarily took his mind off of his troubles and he was thankful. His beautiful wife was just what he needed.
“These noodles are extra tasty,” Sierra said, grabbing them with her chopsticks and cupping her hand underneath, holding it to Cedrick’s mouth.
“Mmmm,” he moaned licking his lips. “I’d have to agree.”
Twenty minutes into dinner and over three-fourths of the wine consumed, Cedrick asked, “What do you think about relocating?”
“Why do you want to move to Florida?” Sierra asked, frowning. “Too many gators lurking on the lawn. Too many hurricanes and it’s humid all the time. My natural hair would always stay poofy.”
Cedrick let out a hearty laugh, even though he was dead serious. The more distance he put between his hometown of Reno, Nevada and his family, the better. Chicago had been a great city of refuge, but a change would be great.
“Orlando is pretty safe from hurricanes,” he replied. Besides, the girls would love living that close to Disney World.”
“And what about your restaurant? You’re one of the hottest chefs on the Mag Mile,” she countered. “You’d have to start over, and I know you don’t want to do that. You can’t be the head chef here and in Florida.”
“My Sous Chef is more than capable of running the kitchen here,” Cedrick countered, sipping the last of his drink.
“I’m sure Juan could handle it if he had to,” Sierra remarked, gazing at Cedrick. “It sounds like you’ve given this some thought, and here I am thinking this was a hypothetical question.”
Sierra peered at him while biting into a sushi roll. “Maybe we could consider something like that when Carrington goes off to college,” she said, holding her hand in front of her mouth as she munched on the rice, raw fish, and vegetables.
That’s eight years from now. Cedrick thought, doing the math. He prayed his luck lasted that long for his family’s sake.
Cedrick topped off Sierra’s drink, then walked behind the bar to get a new bottle of wine. He wondered what she would think of him if she knew his truth. Would she understand that a moments decision changed the trajectory of his life? He’d give anything to not live in constant fear; to know that his family was protected.
“Did you hear that?” Cedrick asked Sierra, turning toward the swinging door that led to the kitchen. He felt the rapid pounding of his heart in his ears.
“I didn’t hear anything,” she responded, leaning forward.
“Someone’s in there,” he whispered, snatching a baseball bat from underneath the bar. “Stay put,” he ordered, dashing to the side of the door, then peeked through the small window before slowly pushing it open.
“I’m surprised you’re still here,” a deep voice with an accent said from behind Sierra.
She shrieked, sending a chill down Cedrick’s spine as he hopped the bar in one swoop with the bat clutched as if he were about to hit a home run.
“Whoa, boss. It’s me.” Juan jumped back.
“You scared the hell out of me,” Sierra shouted, clenching her chest and sliding off the stool.
“What are you doing here?” Cedrick asked, inhaling a deep breath through his nostrils and exhaling through his mouth.
“I left my phone in my locker,” Juan replied. “I called from my girlfriend’s phone, but for some reason, I could hear you, but you couldn’t hear me.
Cedrick’s grip on the base of the bat eased a little. That explained the last call, but what about the others?
Juan left immediately after retrieving his phone. This time, Cedrick went to the door and locked it himself. He wanted to salvage what remained of the evening with his wife; unfortunately, his state of mind was right back where it was when Sierra arrived.
“Let’s get out of here. I’ve had enough of this place for one evening,” Cedrick said. “I’m off tomorrow morn–––”
“Really? You haven’t taken a Sunday off in ages.”
“I’m only going in for the dinner rush, so I’m all yours until three.” He winked, then tilted his head to the side. “How would you like to have brunch at Chef Brasseur’s French Cuisine?”
“You know I love that place. I haven’t been there since the remodel,” Sierra beamed, and her smile warmed his conflicted interior.
“I have a meeting with Chef Brasseur, but once that’s done, we can have a romantic brunch and spend the day together.”
“I’d like that very much.”
Sierra tossed the leftover food and wiped down the counter while Cedrick did a walk-thru in the kitchen. Juan may not have entered that way, but Cedrick still believed he heard movement in there. He needed to see for himself that everything was the way he left it, and of most importance, that the kitchen exit door was secured.
After a thorough once-over, Cedrick grabbed Sierra’s hand and headed toward the exit. He set the alarm, then shut off the lights. “Thanks for your thoughtfulness tonight,” Cedrick said, lifting her hand to his lips. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, but we better get out of here before that alarm sounds,” she teased. “You can show me how much you appreciate me when we get home.”
“Lead the way.”
Making love to his wife was a great way to take his mind off of things.
Cedrick pushed the door open and stepped to the side to allow Sierra to exit. Just as she crossed the threshold, the restaurant phone rang.
Ten thousand swords stabbed Cedrick’s body all at once. His breath hitched in his throat as he struggled to compose himself. It had been over fifteen years since he’d seen anyone from his hometown of Reno, Nevada. Yet here he was in a Chicago restaurant wondering if the woman sitting at the table across from him and Sierra would recognize him? His jaw clenched with dread.
“Excuse me,” Sierra said, tapping the waiter’s arm as he maneuvered between the tables. “Where’s the ladies’ room?”
The waiter pointed down the hall.
Cedrick pushed the gold-wired framed glasses up with an index finger, then stroked his goatee. A tense look crossed his face.
“Babe, what’s wrong?” Sierra asked, standing and straightening her blouse.
“Nothing,” he responded, continuing to stroke his goatee.
She narrowed her gaze on him. “You always do that when you’re worried about something. Last night, and now today.”
“I’m fine,” he dismissed.
“We’ll talk about it when I get back,” Sierra said, touching Cedrick’s hand, slowly removing it from his face before walking away.
Nothing got past this woman. She’d always been able to read him, especially his discomfort. There’s only one other person who had that gift, and she sat at the next table.
Cedrick unrolled the silverware from the napkin, wiped the moisture from his brow, and opened the menu as he sunk into the seat, attempting to make his six-foot-five frame disappear. While checking emails on his phone, Cedrick peered over the menu to observe the woman he could never forget.
Victoria Weiss was his childhood friend with a unique patch of curly white hair that made her unmistakable. She had a laugh that could fill all the cavernous gaps in the universe, especially those from his tumultuous Muslim childhood.
“Thank you,” he replied, leaning over to pick it up while fumbling to hold the menu in place to hide his face.
“No worries.” The hostess stooped graciously with her knees together, retrieved the phone, and placed it on the table.
He nodded with a fleeting smile, rubbing his thumb and index finger across his goatee for the second time. His wife was right. He needed a different outlet for his anxiousness.
“You still do that when you’re nervous, I see,” the tender voice said with amusement from across the table. Her warm smile showed the beautiful imperfections God had embedded in her cinnamon cheeks. “I almost didn’t recognize you sporting the Mr. Clean bald head and sculpted body. I see the years have been good to you.”
Cedrick’s chest expanded causing his ribs to hurt from the pressure. He was worried.
Victoria was no one’s fool. Cedrick had shaved his locs the moment he and his mom fled Nevada and moved to Illinois. Apparently, maturity and a new appearance didn’t mean anything to someone who knew him better than he knew himself.
Supermodel legs wrapped in plum leggings and high heeled, peep toe, belted ankle boots, strode toward his table. Cedrick had dreamt of seeing his longtime friend again, but he never thought it would actually happen.
“Uwezo Omari, you hear me talking to you,” she said, standing at his table.
The sound of Cedrick’s given name paralyzed him. He broke with the Muslim faith years ago. Now, he studied Christianity, had joined a Catholic Church, drank alcohol socially, had several tattoos, and ate pork. Cedrick even went as far as opening an upscale Smokehouse restaurant where he knew devout Muslims wouldn’t dare enter, especially no one from his past. He thought he was safe.
“Boy, you better get up and give me a hug,” Victoria demanded, placing hands on her hips.