Darksilver Book 1
She’s found the man of her dreams, but he’s obviously not real. Or is he?
When photographer Danielle Reeve is hired to document the restoration of a remote estate, she’s mystified but pleased. Though she’ll need to bring every bit of equipment she owns, it’s a break from the unending family portraits. But the photos of the mansion interiors, particularly the ballroom with its mirrors, reveal the ghostly image of a handsome warrior who seems to be watching her. Though only an illusion of the light, she is mesmerized.
Blade Lord Arne of the House of Eagles is a warrior of two worlds. With enough vassals and duties to keep ten men busy, he has let himself become captivated with Danielle. From the moment she entered his domain he can hardly take his eyes from her. But Arne also senses the hand of an ancient enemy at work, one who plays a very dangerous game.
Only when desire sweeps away all barriers does Arne understand what is truly at stake. He will have to break the most ancient of vows in order to make Danielle his.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
Not Your Average Vampire. I was anxiously awaiting the release of the first book in this series, and I was not disappointed. Funny (Dani’s phrases) and intriguing (Arne’s story), making way for a new type of vampire you will want to get to know.
It's packed full of action and forbidden love that will melt the most hardened of hearts.
A new twist on vampires. I have loved reading Hazel Hunter's books and this one was no exception. Instead of the time-travel books for which she has been famous for, this one dives into a parallel dimension.
Hazel Hunter is back with a unique Mirror Universe to ours storyline that hooks you right from the start full of mystery, intrigue, kidnapping, Vampires, different dimension, you can't put this book down until finished such an addicting read.
It’s a crazy, romantic, amazing world we’ve entered in this book and you just have to read it! It contains many plot twists you won’t see coming in addition to Hazel Hunter’s tried and true creative, romantic writing.
As soon as Danielle Reeve saw her new client waiting in the trendy coffee shop she was glad she’d opted to wear a decent dress. Brad Baxter’s dark silk suit looked like it might cost more than her car; his Rolex definitely did. He’d paid a very good stylist to cut his sandy hair in order to disguise the fact that he was balding. The faint orange tint to his skin suggested he spent more time in a tanning bed than under the sun. When he saw her his grin revealed teeth so white they looked plastic, as though she could wind them up and see them chatter.
As a photographer Danielle’s perspective on everything tended to be comparative. She analyzed everything she saw literally and conceptually. While she tried to be a kind person, her critical eye could be pitiless.
Stop being so tetchy right off the bat, she scolded herself as she walked up to him. “Hello, Mr. Baxter.”
“I appreciate you meeting me on such short notice, Ms. Reeve,” Baxter said as he stood to shake her hand. “Please, sit down. Would you like a coffee, latte, espresso…?”
“I prefer tea, thank you, sir.” She smiled at the server who had come over to take her order. “Black tea, hot, with a spoon of honey if you have it, please.”
Baxter, who owned a luxury realty company north of Nashville, began talking with the ease of a man accustomed to making conversation with complete strangers. He marveled at how the weather in Nashville seemed to change every ten minutes, noted the quaint charm of its honky-tonks, and also the startling amount of traffic, which he claimed he could see from his office north of the city.
Danielle listened politely, but what he said sounded like the warm-up to a pitch, as if he wanted to sell her a property rather than hire her to photograph one. He also looked directly into her eyes as he talked. He wanted to seem sincere, she thought, while gauging her reactions to what he said.
Spending every day photographing faces had taught Danielle how people wanted to appear to the rest of the world, but she’d always had a feel for what was going on behind the masks they wore. Baxter might be the picture of success and self-confidence, but as he spoke he started perspiring. Since there wasn’t much room between them the faint but strong vinegary odor of his sweat became noticeable. She’d known plenty of heavy partiers at college who had smelled the exact same way.
Brad Baxter apparently liked to drink—a lot.
“I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a break from the tourists.” He reached into a briefcase and took out a file, which he placed on the table between them. “This is Four Roses, an estate in the Smoky Mountains that I’ve acquired and plan to completely restore. My renovation team needs high resolution photographs of the interior and exterior of the house to use for research and planning. That’s where you come in.”
Opening the file, she sorted through a stack of snapshots that had probably been taken by Baxter himself. The elegant wood and stone mansion in them rose in majestic splendor beside a beautiful mountain lake hemmed by dense woods, with ombre blue waves of rolling mountains behind it fading out to the horizon.
“It’s a gorgeous place,” she said, intrigued now as she shuffled through the different shots. The one thing she didn’t see was any sign of the residents. “Is anyone living in the house?”
“No, it’s been unoccupied for the last decade. The original owner had it built at the end of the nineteenth century, and spared no expense. After that it changed hands several times and served mostly as a vacation home before the previous owner passed away. He didn’t have any heirs, so I got a very good deal on it from the state.”
He sounded almost smug about that, Danielle thought, but then a realtor would be. “Buy low and sell high” was likely engraved on his money clip—or his flask.
“That’s my favorite.” He tapped a photo of a majestic-looking room with gilded columns carved to resemble feathered chevrons. Mirrored walls and an enormous crystal chandelier over a marble floor inlaid with scrolls of brass scattered light everywhere. “It was used as a ballroom by the original owner. All the moldings were hand-carved from cedar, and the ceiling artwork is completely intact.”
Whoever had painted the mural over the room had depicted a strange battle between a silver-winged, angelic figure with the face of a leering, fanged demon, and grim-looking humans who looked like gladiators. The warriors brandished long swords as they swarmed over the walls of some medieval castle, where the fanged, demonic angel stood surrounded by people chained together like slaves.
Danielle’s gaze was drawn to the largest warrior, who had white-blond hair and the eyes the color of a pale November sky. A gaping knife wound on his neck had been rendered in painful detail. Despite the terrible injury, he looked focused and unstoppable, and that intensity appealed to her even more than his coldly handsome features. Yet what made her heart clench was seeing how young he was. He looked to be maybe twenty years old at the most, although in ancient times that probably qualified as middle age.
“That mural should be in a museum,” she said, because saying anything about the wounded raider would have sounded macabre, even to her own ears.
“The entire house is a work of art,” Baxter assured her. “When I get done with it, Danielle, Four Roses will become the crown jewel of Baxter Luxury Real Estate.”
He spoke like a king, which in his mind he probably was. Why did men choose to believe that wealth and power automatically bestowed nobility? The warrior in the mural, fighting for his life with his throat cut, had all that and then some. All the realtor had was a lot of expensive stuff and probably more money than he could ever spend. Maybe that was why he drank so much, but that was not her business.
“I’m sure it will be.” She re-stacked the photos before handing the file back to him. “It’s very nice of you to offer me this job, sir, but I’m more a family and events photographer.”
“I saw the work you did for the TCPA,” Baxter said, referring to an archaeological site she’d photographed for the state’s national parks division. “You managed to match every screen capture of their remote sensing data with your photos of the dig. You’re wasted taking pictures of new brides and babies, young lady.”
Danielle sometimes picked up freelance work on the side, but the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology job had been four years ago. The realtor either had a love of obscure regional archaeological sites, which she seriously doubted, or he’d had her thoroughly investigated. She also really hated being called young lady in a business situation. Men who did that considered her inexperienced and inferior, but thought they could veil their contempt with old-fashioned courtesy.
Just as she was going to politely refuse his job offer. Baxter reached into his jacket and took out an envelope. “I think you’ll be happy with the fee.” He removed a check from the envelope and placed it on top of the file.
She had to look at it twice before she believed what she was seeing. “Ten thousand dollars?”
“Your web site stated you ask for fifty percent up front,” the realtor said. “Once you’ve delivered the photos, you’ll receive the rest of the payment.”
Twenty thousand dollars. Was he drunk now? That was an insane amount of money to pay anyone to photograph a house. It would cost that much for Danielle to take a year off from studio work and travel around photographing the country. She’d always wanted to do that, and not only for the pleasure of spending quality time away from crowds and traffic jams. Someday she wanted to publish a photography book with her perspectives on the vanishing beauty of rural America.
Only problem: she wasn’t a thief.
“Mr. Baxter, most photographers charge only a few hundred dollars for a real estate shoot,” Danielle told him. “This is too much money.”
“I beg to differ,” he countered. “You’ll have to close your studio while you work out at Four Roses, which will cause you a loss of revenue. I assume you’ll also have to pay your employees for their lost wages. I’m not asking for twenty or thirty pretty shots of the place. Obviously I can do that myself. I want you to photograph every inch of the interior with scale markers, and get detailed shots of the exterior where repairs are needed. It’s what I would expect to make if I were in your shoes.”
He sounded convincing, but there had to be gum under this boot heel, she decided. “What’s the catch?”
“My team needs the photographs as soon as possible,” he admitted. “I’d need you to start tomorrow. Since the estate is so remote you’ll also have to stay on site while you work. Most of the rooms in the house are empty, but there is power, water and central heat and air. We’ve set up a bedroom for your stay, and the kitchen and one of the baths are still usable.”
He was talking a little faster now, as if he thought he might have put her off. Maybe her work had actually impressed him. Or maybe he thought that throwing a lot of money at her would distract her from noticing a big problem with the job, or from asking too many questions. Usable was an odd word for him to use, too. It made her wonder if the place had been infested by rats or bugs.
Vermin would definitely send her packing.
If Danielle accepted the job she’d have to close the studio and leave immediately, which meant cancelling a couple of appointments. She owed her receptionist some vacation time, so she knew Lizzie wouldn’t mind. She’d refer the clients to another portrait photographer she knew in the city who did quality work. It would also give her a much-needed break, not from the tourists, but from spending hours capturing the glowing happiness of newlyweds, parents, kids and older couples for family posterity.
Sometimes knowing she’d never have any of that in her life made her feel like a cardboard box filled with old clothes for a thrift store: cast-off, unwanted, but acceptably discarded.
“Would you excuse me for a moment, please?” She waited for his nod before she rose and went back to the restroom.
Once she washed her already clean hands at the sink Danielle reapplied the matte lip tint that toned down the natural redness of her lips. She didn’t know anything about her ethnic background, but most people assumed with her black hair, olive skin and dramatic features that she was Italian or Greek, at least until they heard her accent or saw her eyes. Her light green irises had an uneven ring of gold around the pupils, and a band of black on the outer edges, a color combination that even her optometrist told her he’d never before seen.
As a foster kid she had peered at every black-haired adult she’d met, hoping to see the same strange eyes in their face. For as long as she could remember she had kept expecting to find someone who looked like her, too. She couldn’t explain why, but she felt haunted by a peculiar emptiness, as if there should have always been someone with her, someone she could call family. Being by herself didn’t just feel lonely, it felt wrong. It was as though she’d been lost or stolen instead of left at a fire station.
Once she’d gotten out of the system, Danielle had obtained all the records about herself from Tennessee’s Division of Foster Care, which released them because she had been abandoned and her biological parents’ identities remained unknown. She’d poured over every report, photograph and statement, looking for any clues that might offer an alternative explanation to what she had been told.
She’d never found anything.
Most kids in the system who had never had any contact with their biological family made up some kind of story about their origins to suit themselves. Danielle had never done the same, but she understood why the other children did. Telling themselves colorful lies kept them from facing the hard reality of the truth: no one had wanted them enough to keep them or bother with them.
“You should do one of those mail-in swab tests,” Liz Gable, her receptionist, had once told her. “I bet you could find your people that way. Maybe they don’t even know you exist.”
Danielle unconsciously rubbed the ink hidden under her sleeve. She might have used one of the DNA-match services to track down her birth parents, but she was fairly sure she never wanted to meet them. Before dumping her as a baby one or both of them had decided to tattoo a black and red scorpion on the underside of her arm. Who did that to a three-month-old? Had they been part of a gang? Or was it just some sort of cruel joke?
The server who had waited on their table hurried inside, and gave her a smile as she used the sink to wash her hands.
“Baby decided my fanger was his binky while I was belting him into the high chair,” she said in a strong back country accent, “but oh, he’s such a precious little thang.”
“I whistle at them when I pick them up,” Danielle told her, grinning. “Usually gets me some sugar, too.”
“That’s the trick.” The younger woman grabbed some paper towels, and then gave her a sideways look. “Word to the wise: if that highfalutin one you’re with asks you out, best say no thank you, sir. He’s plumb ugly.”
In southern speak that meant Baxter was rude, not unattractive. Danielle frowned, but she didn’t correct her as she slipped into her childhood vernacular. “You don’t say. He get uppity with you?”
The server grimaced. “No, ma’am, but I heard him pitching a hissy fit on his phone about some special delivery taking too long. Sounded like he thinks the sun comes up just to hear him crow.”
“I reckon he does.” Danielle sighed. “Thanks, hon.”
On her way back to the table she weighed what she wanted with what she had to do for it. Her instincts told her to trust what the server had said; that had been a genuine one-southern-gal-to-another warning. As a business owner she decided what jobs she’d take, so she didn’t have to put up with anyone who thought hiring her entitled them to treat her like crap. Then again, she didn’t have to take Baxter’s calls while she was on site and working.
“I do have to get to another appointment across town,” the realtor said when she sat down, and made a show of looking at his pricey watch. “What’s the verdict?”
He probably sold a lot of houses to anxious, easily intimidated buyers. Danielle didn’t much like him or trust him, but she usually felt the same way about most salesmen, or anyone who tried to ingratiate themselves with her too quickly. Rarely did she let her personal feelings get in the way of business. She had to photograph a lot of people who gave off the wrong vibe, and plenty of them smelled as bad as Baxter, too.
One luxury of being her own boss was being able to walk away from a job without getting fired. She wasn’t signing a contract; if this turned out to be a bad decision, she’d just refund his money and go back to studio work.
The image of the wounded warrior popped into her head. Danielle liked art as much as anyone, but for some reason she really wanted to see that mural in person. If she took the job she could photograph every inch of it, too.
After taking one more glance at the check, which badly wanted to tip the scales for her, she asked, “Is there phone service at the house?”
He looked startled. “No, I’m sorry, we haven’t had time to put in a land line. I can look into that, of course, but by the time we could schedule the installation you’ll probably be out of there.”
“I was just curious. I’ll have mine with me...and yes, I’ll take the job.” Danielle stood and shook the too-soft hand he offered her. “Thank you for the work, Mr. Baxter.”