Darksilver Book 2
An idyllic retreat becomes a battleground.
Working as the personal assistant for a celebrated actress should be a dream job, but for Rebecca Ward it’s become a nightmare. As the menial jobs and abuse mount, her only escape is the striking and kind steward of the castle that they’ve rented.
But Eryk isn’t what he appears. As a Blade Lord with a stake in two worlds, he has come to his castle with a solemn duty: to discover a rogue who seems bent on war. But instead he finds that the end to centuries of loneliness beckons, as a deep love for Rebecca blossoms.
Unbeknownst to them both, however, his keepe has already been breached.
WHAT READERS ARE SAYING
The way she blends her Fantasy worlds in with our own world is incredible. Her characters love with the same fierceness that they fight with, and that is what gives them their own happily ever after. This was a real page turner and it kept my total attention.
I love this series. Great world-building, great characters, including the villains (in a bad way), great action/adventure, and great romance. What more could one want?
I like the characters, they are well developed and dare I say they don’t do stupid stuff? Story is well plotted and well told. This author never disappoints. Great story!
My only regret is that I ran out of pages to read too soon. I am SO looking forward to the next book in the series. Great read.
This story has a little bit of everything. There's a character who you can hate. There's the character you love. There's a character with a big secret. Of course there is plenty of drama.
A sea-kissed breeze welcomed Rebecca Ward as she stepped out onto the condominium’s balcony and took in the view of the most exclusive slice of Virginia Beach. The copper-streaked red curls that had escaped her French braid overnight danced around her face, making her blink like a sleepy cat. She’d put on her favorite outfit, an oversize tan pullover and black leggings, but from the chilly edge to the air she’d probably need a jacket if she wanted to go for a morning walk.
Waking up early so she could watch the sunrise over the ocean had been so worth it.
It looked as if someone had set the horizon on fire beneath the turquoise sky. Only seagulls and sandpipers dotted the golden sands of the private beach below her; it was the perfect time to go for a stroll. She’d breathe in the salty-sweet fresh air and collect some pretty shells to take to her mother when she visited her tomorrow.
“Becs, where the hell are you?”
Rebecca closed her eyes for a moment before she squared her shoulders and stepped back into the condo. “I’m right here.”
“Phew, shut the door. I can’t stand that seaweed stink.” Courtney Modena dropped onto the sofa, her negligee floating around her like a gauzy pink cloud.
Rebecca’s cousin looked nothing like her; the actress had a bell of smooth ash-blonde hair that framed doe-brown eyes and cupid’s bow lips. That innocent face paired with her hourglass figure stopped most men dead in their tracks. Although she rarely went outdoors, the spray tans she had applied every two weeks kept her smooth skin looking perfectly sun-kissed. Her manicurist painted her long, dagger-shaped fingernails with a double French tip in bright gold over pale pink. She even smelled as if she sweated Chanel.
Every year since she had made her first film Courtney’s name had ranked high on the best-dressed, most beautiful, sexiest, and top trend-setter celebrity lists. The camera loved her, and her talent for fully immersing herself into her trademark ingénue roles enchanted audiences. On social media she had so many devoted followers that whatever product she mentioned or fashion she wore sold out within seconds. Online marketers had labelled the effect Modena Magic.
Only Rebecca knew how her cousin acted when she wasn’t in front of the camera or the public eye.
“Go and get my extra skinny macchiato,” Courtney said, scratching at the side of her neck. “And make sure they add three shots of expresso this time, or you’ll be wearing it.”
Rebecca grabbed her purse before she hurried downstairs and across the empty street to the coffee shop. After she ordered the drink, she wondered what had prompted her cousin to wake up before noon. They had no events planned for the week. Nothing got Courtney out of bed early unless there was money or self-promotion involved.
“Anything else?” the barista asked her.
A splash shield, and a new life, Rebecca thought before she smiled and shook her head. “That will do it, thank you.”
She paid with her cousin’s credit card, but scrounged in the bottom of her purse for some quarters to leave in the gratuities jar. Courtney didn’t believe in leaving tips, and checked every receipt as if she thought Rebecca had cheated her.
“You don’t have to, hon,” the barista said. “I saw you with your boss when she came in yesterday afternoon.” She rolled her eyes.
Rebecca cringed a little. When they’d stopped here before going up to the condo Courtney had made a fuss about the milk tasting sour. The actress had loudly blamed this barista and demanded the manager personally make a free replacement.
“I hope she didn’t cause any problems for you,” Rebecca said.
“Nah, my boss is cool. We get condo divas in here all the time. Here, for you.” The barista pushed a second cup across the counter. “Cafe mocha with a pinch of cinnamon and a tiny kiss of cayenne. It’s like hot chocolate, only sexier.”
That made Rebecca chuckle for the first time in weeks. “Thanks.”
On the way back to the condo she took a sip of the free drink, which tasted exactly as promised. Once she delivered the macchiato to Courtney, whom she found still sitting on the sofa and reading her phone, she waited to be sure it met with her approval.
“Finally.” The actress took a second sip before she noticed the other drink Rebecca held. “What’s that?”
“The barista gave it to me as a courtesy thing, to make up for yesterday.” Her heart sank as Courtney got to her feet. “You won’t like it. It’s spicy.”
“Then why did you take it? She probably spit in it.” Her cousin snatched the cup out of her hand, went into the kitchen, and dumped it down the sink. “Go and start packing up. We’re out of here at noon.”
She’d spent half the night unpacking Courtney’s things, not that she could complain about it. “You said I could have some time to go and visit Mom.”
“Sorry about that, Cuz.” Courtney gave her one of her trademark woebegone pouts. “The date for the party had to be moved up. I’ve leased this fabulous place in the mountains—Low Berg or something like that—but we have to be there by tonight or they’ll cancel the rez.” She thought for a moment. “I’ll wear my mauve track suit and my waist trainer for the drive out there, but no good jewelry. I don’t want to get mugged at a rest stop.”
Although she never challenged her cousin’s decisions, Rebecca hadn’t seen her mother in months. If she chose her words carefully, she still might be able to get her visit.
“It seems a shame to miss seeing Mom when we’re so close. Why don’t I join you in a couple of days?” As her cousin frowned, she quickly added, “Or I could just go for one day.”
“You could do that.” Courtney nodded slowly, as if she’d said something useful. “Only I’d have to rent a separate car for you. Then there would be no one to unpack for me or dress me or help me get ready for the party, which is in four days. I mean, not until you dragged your lazy ass out to the mountains to join me, am I right?”
“You’re not helpless,” Rebecca said without thinking. Taking in a deep breath, she added, “I’m sorry. I just want to see Mom and make sure she’s okay.”
The actress looked at the ceiling and tapped her chin. “Remind me again, Becs, who is paying for Aunt Mary’s nursing home, her cancer treatments, all the doctors, private nurses, therapists, prescriptions… ?”
Rebecca reined in a sigh. “You know how grateful we are.”
“You’re what? Hateful?” Courtney put her hand to her ear as if she were hard of hearing. “I can’t understand you when you mumble like that. Look, you said you’d do whatever it takes to make sure your mother has top-quality care, am I right? Is expecting you to do your job asking so much?”
Her shoulders sagged. “I only wanted to see her for an hour, that’s all.”
“Which would take you like twelve hours of driving to do, and I can’t spare you for that long right now,” her cousin chided. “But, hey, I don’t want you to be unhappy. I can think of a dozen professional stylists who would kill to work for me. So, just say the word, and go. You can start paying Aunt Mary’s bills yourself. As expensive as it’s been, you’d be doing me a big favor.”
In that moment Rebecca wanted more than anything to quit, if for no other reason than to see the look on Courtney’s face. Yet unlike the actress she had no money, no car, no home and no job prospects. She didn’t get paid for working for Courtney; their financial arrangement was for her cousin to cover all of Mary Ward’s expenses while Rebecca got room, board and a few dollars a month for personal expenses. Even if she could find a job and a place to live, without continuing treatment her mother would die within a few weeks.
“You’re right, of course.” She forced her lips into a smile. “I’ll start packing.”
“Wait.” Courtney walked up to her, and pressed a hand against her cleavage, her expression filled with concern. “You think I don’t know how you feel, Becs? My mother died of cancer, remember? Then I found Daddy after he had that heart attack. I didn’t have anyone to look after me, am I right? I had to fend for myself.”
With millions of dollars, the mansion in Beverly Hills, and all the servants to help with the fending, Rebecca thought.
“That’s why I hired you when you told me you were in trouble. I knew I’d have to teach you everything, but I wanted to help. For the last three years I’ve looked after you, and made sure Auntie had the best of care, too.” Her cousin widened her eyes and held out her hands. “I mean, really, how many Oscar-nominated actresses do you think do all that for their poor relatives?”
“No one but you,” she said, feeling exhausted now.
“That’s right, Cuz.” Courtney gave her cheek a pat. “Without me your mother would be dead, and you’d be living under a bridge, am I right?”
Rebecca nodded and retreated into the master bedroom. She opened the closet to take out the suitcases, but her vision blurred, and a sob rose in her throat. She hurried into the adjoining bathroom and closed the door. Turning on the taps, she leaned over the sink and pressed her lips together as her tears fell into the sink.
The worst part about her situation was knowing her cousin was right. Without Courtney’s financial assistance Mary Ward would be dead now.
Life hadn’t been kind to her mother, either. Rebecca’s father had died of a heart attack when she was just a toddler. After that Mary had always struggled to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Just after Rebecca had graduated high school, her mother had developed a strange lump in her neck. That turned out to be the first of many malignant tumors. Surgery and follow-up treatments had soon maxed out their health insurance, and yet the tumors had continued to spread and grow.
Stop crying. You’re not the one who has cancer.
When Rebecca glanced at her pale reflection in the mirror, she felt calmer. She had inherited her father’s curly red hair, but its vivid tangerine-scarlet color made everyone assume she had dyed it. She also had her mother’s blue-gray eyes, so she always thought of her parents when she looked at her own face. She’d never be beautiful like Courtney, of course; her own sharp cheekbones, angular nose, wide lips and strong jawline made her look almost ugly by comparison. If she tried to wear even minimal makeup it exaggerated her flaws and turned her face into a caricature of itself.
“You look like your grandmother,” her mother had told her once, and took out a photo to show her. Other than the dark brown eyes it might have been a picture of Rebecca. “Her family was Danish, and she worked as a dressmaker in Canada. That’s probably where you got your talent for sewing. I wish I knew more about her, but your dad never talked much about his family.”
Her mother’s family lived in the Midwest, and belonged to a very strict religious community. Their inflexible expectations had forced Mary to run off with John Ward at nineteen. Rebecca had pleaded with her to contact them when she’d been diagnosed with cancer, but her mother had refused.
“They disowned me after we eloped,” Mary said sadly. “I called right after you were born, but my mother hung up as soon as she heard my voice. They’ll never forgive me.”
“Then I’ll talk to Courtney,” Rebecca said, referring to the only relative they had contact with in her father’s family. “She did offer me a job when I graduated. If she doesn’t need me, then maybe she can recommend me to a costume maker.”
“Please don’t.” Mary had never liked the actress, whose mother had been John Ward’s older sister. “I just don’t trust that girl. She’s always been so spiteful.”
Rebecca mopped up her tears as she thought of what would be worse than dealing with Courtney. Living on the streets, certainly. Going hungry. Leaving her frail, shy mother at a homeless shelter while she tried to find a job. Who would hire her when the only experience she had was dressing and taking care of her cousin? She’d end up working at a fast-food place while her mother got sicker and sicker. She’d have no way to make her mom feel safe, comfortable, or even buy the drugs to help her with the terrible pain she suffered.
No, seeing to it that Mary got the best of care was the only thing that mattered.
Rebecca went back into the bedroom to get started on the packing. As she carried out the clothes from the closet, she could hear Courtney laughing and talking on her phone. Bullying someone always put the actress in a good mood, so the drive to the mountains would probably be peaceful. If it wasn’t, Rebecca would shut up and take it, just like she’d always done.
One day I’ll be free.
Even with the treatments and round-the-clock care Rebecca knew that Mary would eventually die from her disease. When that happened, she would bury her mother next to her father, and thank her cousin for all she had done. Then she would get as far away from Courtney as she could, even if she had to go on foot and sleep in a ditch.
Packing the actress’s designer wardrobe took another hour, and when Rebecca emerged from the bedroom, she found Courtney asleep on the sofa. She bent to pick up her phone, which had fallen on the floor, and saw the text she had been writing.
We’ll be there by sunset. Tell Rad I can’t wait to see him.
Rad was her cousin’s latest boyfriend, whom Rebecca had yet to meet. He’d been dating Courtney on and off for the last year, but that was all she knew about him. From what the actress hinted Rebecca assumed he was some big-name movie producer who spent most of his time traveling. Whenever he was in town, he would send a private car to collect her. Since Courtney always spent the night with him, and returned in a good mood, Rebecca didn’t mind that at all. She just thought it odd that they were so secretive.
He’s probably married.
Carefully she put Courtney’s phone on the coffee table and then went to her room to use the landline to cancel the meal orders she’d made last night. She hadn’t yet unpacked her own bags, so all she had to do was collect a few things from her bathroom. Finally, she took out her own phone to call the nursing home in Baltimore.
“Mary’s sleeping right now, Ms. Ward. She woke up this morning with a bad headache, so we gave her some meds to make her comfortable,” the charge nurse told her. “Her doctor will be by this afternoon to check on her and order some tests.”
Rebecca felt her throat tighten. The final stage of her mother’s cancer would be when it spread to her brain. “Do you think it’s a new tumor?”
“I really can’t tell you that,” the other woman said. “I’ll ask her doctor to call you.”
After she thanked her and ended the call, Rebecca went over to the window. The ocean sparkled with glints of sunlight beneath a sky streaked by wispy clouds. She wanted to go to her mother right now, and be with her for the tests, and talk to the doctor in person. But if she quit Courtney would make sure that they both suffered for it. She pressed her forehead against the glass, hard enough to hear the frame creak.
Please hold on, Mom, and I will, too.