Darksilver Book 4
The déjà vu is irresistible but it will change everything.
Although Sophia Page has hopes for a reconciliation with her estranged father, they are dashed when she arrives home only to discover his body. Despite his immense estate, she can find no clue as to why he has summoned her or the suspicious timing of his death. Only the strikingly handsome manager who has just arrived at the stables seems willing to help her investigate. Although he’s a stranger, her uncanny attraction to him is hauntingly familiar.
Blade Lord Baren of the House of Wolves arrives on Terra only to find himself in the middle of a crisis. Although a trail of money leads to a stately upstate New York manor, the dead owner is beyond his reach. His lovely daughter, however, becomes an ally and an obsession. While the mysteries mount, Baren is sure of one thing: Sophia must never learn how he knows her.
Getting out of the clinic on an icy November morning in rural Pennsylvania made Sophia Page feel more like a pro than assisting the doctor she interned for, or studying her textbooks back at college. Nothing could be as professional as making a house call to actually treat a patient. Because most were too big to be comfortably transported to the clinic, her boss went to them. Today he had sent her in his place to take a routine appointment when an emergency call came in that required him to drive forty miles in the opposite direction.
The frost-whitened grass crunched under Sophia’s boots, and her nose and ears went numb in the frigid air. She didn’t mind. Once she had her DVM she’d be tromping across broad pastures and working inside weathered barns regularly. If she never did anything else during her time on the planet, this job would keep her happy.
“Hey, Paris,” a snide voice called as she walked into the stable. “I thought you were on clinical rotation this week.”
“I am, Cleveland.” She held up the portable ultrasound she’d brought before she set it down so she could glove and mask. “Dr. Carter had to run out and deliver breech twins.”
Her chief rival at Penn, Caden Swank, hardly appeared as impressive as he was; his looks were so average that most people barely noticed him. Behind his forgettable face lay a brilliant mind that had propelled him to the top of his class in every school he attended. At least, until Sophia had enrolled in veterinary school and knocked him out of the number one spot. Swank had called her Paris ever since he learned she’d been born there. She returned the favor by nicknaming him after his birthplace.
Since then their rivalry had evolved into an odd friendship.
“I came to do a follow-up on this plow horse,” he said, “but he’s still favoring the leg. The owner wants to know if it’s due to bone or tendon injury.” He patted the muscular rump of the big black gelding beside him in the stall. “Hand the unit to me and I’ll do it.”
“I signed it out, and it’s my call, so I’ll do the screening.” She went to the door of the stall to first greet the injured horse. “Hey, big guy.” The gelding touched his nose to the top of her head before nuzzling her neck. “Aren’t you a sweetheart? What are you doing banging up your leg out in the fields this time of year?”
“Getting them ready for winter,” Swank said drily as he unlatched the stall door to let her in. “I thought you’d be jetting off to Europe to hang with the rest of the rich and famous on your holiday break.”
Sophia hated that he had found out who her father was, but at least he’d kept it to himself. “My dad lives in upstate New York, not France. As for me, I don’t jet anywhere. If I did, it would be in economy class.”
“Poor little rich girl. You’re breaking my heart.” He tethered the gelding, stroking him for reassurance as she unwrapped his injured hind leg. “So, you’re staying over Christmas break and studying for the NAVLE?”
He was referring to the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, the last requirement they both had to pass in order to become vets. Notorious for being the most difficult exam any DVM student had to take, the test covered all animal species commonly seen by entry-level veterinarians. According to internet chatter, forty percent of students who took the NAVLE failed it.
She nodded. “We’ve only got four months left. I need to work on my small-animal diagnostics. You?”
“Same. I’ll pass everything from bovine to equine, but cats? Dogs? Canaries?” He glanced down as she checked the settings on the ultrasound unit. “We should run some practice tests together.”
“Aw, Cleveland.” Surprised, Sophia grinned. “Did you just offer to be my study buddy? How sweet.”
“Don’t get your hopes up, Paris.” He wriggled the ring finger on his left hand. “I’m engaged, remember?”
“To my everlasting relief.” The one thing she did like about Caden Swank was his fiancé. “Is Nathan coming up to spend the holidays with you?”
“I’m heading to his folks’ place in Cincinnati. They want to go over the wedding plans.” He rolled his eyes. “You can think of me looking at invitation samples, trying wedding cake taster bites and listening to DJ websites, all while the extended family hovers and smiles too much.”
She winced. “Are they being hostile?”
“More like fascinated. I think his grandfather is waiting to see if we’ll lose control and fellate each other in public. I just want to get it over with so we can stop being the gay couple on parade.” He sighed. “Oh, and Nathan wants Jay-Z for the reception music, but his mother wants old pop music. That’s a battle I’ll probably have to referee, too.”
She chuckled as she checked the injured area, which had already been shaved of hair during a previous exam. “ABBA is coming back, you know.”
“Shut up.” He crouched down and handed her a squeeze bottle of warm water and a folded rag. “What about you? When are you going to settle down with a well-manicured trust funder?”
“You mean fall for a poorly-endowed dork only interested in sucking up to my dad?” As Swank sputtered a laugh Sophia washed down the shaved patch on the horse. “No, thank you. I’m actually holding out for Nathan. One day he may get straight-curious and dump you for me.”
“Never going to happen, bitch.” As the gelding shuffled his hooves Swank stroked his side. “You don’t even date. Is it that a being loaded thing, or does Daddy have to approve the boys first?”
“I have no time for boys if I want to stomp your GPA. I haven’t seen my father since he sent me to boarding school when I was five.” She applied the conducting gel to the horse’s leg, and then switched on the ultrasound unit. “Okay, bruiser, here we go.”
A half-hour later Swank walked out of the stable with her. “Can you e-mail me a copy of the results so I can talk with Dr. Carter? I’ve worked on this horse a few times, and I think the chronic tendon fiber disruption means it’s time for him to retire.”
“Yeah, no problem.” She put her equipment in the clinic pick-up’s cargo box and checked her watch. “I’ll be at the library tonight if you want to review hamster respiratory ailments. Symptoms of Sendai virus versus pneumonia in domestic rodents are on my agenda. Pretty interesting stuff, and they have such cute little lungs. Like jelly beans on their x-rays.”
“I can hardly wait.” As she turned to go he cleared his throat. “You know, Paris, even with manure on your boots and hay in your hair you still look like a dream.”
“Huh?” She felt mildly startled. “Don’t tell me you’re straight curious.”
“Not even if you drugged me,” Swank assured her, but gestured toward her face. “You got the goods, though. The cute bubbly blonde hair, big brown eyes and bisque-doll skin make you look like you just stepped out of a cameo. Half the guys in our class would probably kill for a chance with you. ”
Sophia sighed. “More like they’d marry and murder me for the trust fund they think I have.”
“The fact that your dad is mega-rich will always factor in,” he said. “So change your name, dye your hair and call yourself Carmen.” As she chuckled he added, “All I’m saying is, don’t waste your best nights studying hamster x-rays. Right now there’s someone out there, someone really good, who’s looking for you. Give the man a chance to find you, huh?”
Swank looked like he instantly regretted his advice, but Sophia still felt touched.
“Nice try, Cleveland.” She patted his shoulder. “You’re still going to eat my GPA dust.”
As she drove back to the clinic Sophia allowed herself to feel a little envious of Caden for a change. Nathan, a bistro chef with dreams of opening a chain of gourmet vegan restaurants, was tall and handsome and as sweet as Swank was prickly. While she’d seen them bickering more than once when Nathan visited his fiancé at school, the love they felt for each other emanated from them like radiant light.
Outside of her dreams she’d never once felt anything like that.
To date she’d had three boyfriends, all of them guys she’d met while at boarding school and college. Two had been brothers of girls she’d known during her high school years; both had deliberately courted her after learning that she was Jerome Page’s daughter. Once they realized she wasn’t going to declare her undying love for them they moved on to other, easier-to-snare heiresses. The third, a complicated intellectual at her first college, had only been interested in sleeping with her while working on his doctoral thesis in philosophy. The sex hadn’t been that great, but it had been nice having a steady boyfriend who didn’t care who she was.
Or so Sophia had assumed.
Right before she graduated that boyfriend had stunned her by proposing, promising to work and support her while she went to vet school…as long as she would do the same for him for the rest of their lives. Although she’d never tell Swank, he was the real reason she hadn’t dated while she’d been in vet school.
That break-up had been the worst.
Think of everything we could do together, the intellectual boyfriend had urged after finally admitting he’d discovered a week ago that she was the daughter of a billionaire. I don’t know why you’re even bothering with vet school. We could travel the globe, meet the most important thinkers of our generation, and make some changes that will really help the people of the world. We’d be like the leaders of the next generation of social influencers. Like the Gates and the Obamas, just younger.
Realizing he only wanted to marry her in order to finance his lofty dreams had broken her heart. You don’t want me.
What do I have to do to prove to you I’m serious about you, Soph? Sign a pre-nup? He’d made a disgusted sound. I guess you don’t want me as much as your dad’s money.
In the end Sophia had walked away from him to hide the tears running down her face as he called her a lousy lay and promised she’d end up with someone as vapid as she was. When she packed up her things to leave for vet school the next day, she found the tires of her car slashed, the gas tank filled with sugar, and the words PATRICIATE WHORE spray-painted in red on the sides and hood. Hell had no fury like a dumped intellectual, it seemed. She’d had to call a wrecker to tow the mess to a junk yard before she’d taken a taxi to a rental car agency in town.
The only time in her life Sophia had ever truly appreciated having a generous allowance from her father had been that day.
Since then she had accepted that people would always regard her like a winning lottery ticket, which hurt more than she cared to admit. Once she’d faced facts, however, that freed her from hoping for the opposite. Swank was right; if she ever wanted to have a genuine relationship, and be valued and loved for who she was, she’d have to change her name and pretend to be someone she wasn’t. Being lonely wasn’t as miserable as putting on an act.
Then there were the nights when she dreamed of the man on the other side of the glass. He might be just a fantasy, but she knew she’d never find a real guy who made her feel the same way.
In the clinic’s parking lot Sophia sat for a minute to reset her mood and kick the ghosts of boyfriends past out of her head. That was when her phone rang, and she frowned as she saw a number she barely remembered appear on the screen.
Swiping the answer button, she held it up to her ear. “Hello?”
“Sophia, it’s Jerome, your father,” Jerome Page said, as if she might not recognize his name or remember their connection. “You’re finished with your classes for the semester now, aren’t you?”
“Yes, sir.” She cringed a little at her automatic response, but she had never once called the man anything else. “I’m on a clinical rotation for the next month.” She realized he wouldn’t know what that meant, and added, “I’m working as a veterinarian’s assistant to gain practical experience.”
“Yes, well, I’m sure that will help you with your career,” her father said, sounding completely uninterested. “I need you to come home right away. I’ve e-mailed you the plane tickets. Your flight leaves first thing in the morning.”
He had never before asked her to return to the estate, not even during her school holidays. He also hadn’t asked her if she’d want to come home. “Is something wrong, sir?”
“No, not at all,” Jerome said, a little too quickly. “It’s been almost twenty years since I’ve seen you, Sophia. I thought since you’re close to graduating that it was time that we met and talked about the future. I’ve had the staff prepare your room at the house for you.”
Meaning he’d had her little girl’s room redecorated, Sophia guessed. “I was planning to stay here over the holidays and study for my final exam. It’s a very difficult test, and–”
“Did I ask what your plans are?” her father demanded. “Get on the plane tomorrow and come home, immediately.”
“Or what?” Sophia countered, losing her own patience. “You’ll cut off my allowance? I really don’t need it anymore. I’ve saved up quite a bit over the years, and it will keep me going until I find a job after graduation. Equine vets make a good living, so you don’t have to worry about supporting me anymore, Jerome.”
Calling him by his first name had been a bit childish, but since she was supposed to be his child maybe it would prod him into behaving more like a parent.
“I didn’t mean to say it like that,” her father said, sounding oddly breathless. He muffled a cough before he added, “I can’t explain why over the phone, but I need you here tomorrow. Please do this for me, and I won’t ask anything else of you.”
Although as a parent Jerome had been as affectionate as a reptile, his wealth had put her through school—and he had never asked her to do anything for him.
“All right,” she said, feeling resigned now. “I’ll come home.” Once she did she would get her father to answer some questions, as they had never really talked.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He hesitated before he added, “I’m sorry, Sophia.”
After hearing him hang up she stared at her phone. “What was that all about?”