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A race against time to find a stolen arcane artefact turns out to be far more dangerous than they ever expected.

When an arcane artifact is stolen from the Order of the Midnight Sun, Shadow and Gabe are hired to track it down, pitting them against a new enemy.

The search leads them across the country and tests their resources — and their faith in each other, as fey and Nephilim discover this world is as tricky as the life they left behind.

Harlan, desperate to help, finds himself at war with JD, and suddenly alliances are under pressure. No longer able to trust The Orphic Guild, Harlan is faced with a dilemma that forces him to make choices he never envisaged.

Love magic, mystery, intrigue, and the occult? You’ll love the White Haven Hunters. Buckle up for the ride!

Also available in audiobook for $8.99 TJ’s Store; $12,99 from: Libro.FM; NOOK Audiobooks; Kobo Walmart; Scribd; BingeBooks. And more to come…

 

Chapter One

Shadow studied Caldwell Fleet, the Grand Adept of The Order of the Midnight Sun, and decided he was more pompous than JD, and that was saying something.

She leaned against the wall of the large reception room in the order’s Marylebone headquarters, watching him talk to Gabe and Harlan, and wondered how much power he may have. Probably no natural magic, likely to be more of a ritual magician than anything else.

He looked to be in his early forties, slim and of average height, but fine-featured, with high cheekbones and sharp, appraising eyes. He was currently draped in his ornate ceremonial robes, no doubt to impress them with his position and influence, and his thick curly hair with a widow’s peak was swept back from his face, revealing a tight expression.

“I’m sure you can understand my reticence to share too many details about this object,” he said to Gabe and Harlan. “It’s quite rare, and I would like to get it back as quickly as possible.”

Harlan’s expression was just as tight. “If you’re hiring us to find this stolen object, then we really do need some details, Caldwell.”

“I understand that! But of course, I expect complete confidentiality.”

“And you already know that we provide that,” Harlan said impatiently. “Can we get to the point, please?”

Caldwell stood abruptly and turned his back on them. He walked to the empty fireplace that dominated the room, tapping his fingers on the marble surface, while Harlan and Gabe exchanged annoyed glances.

It was close to nine o’clock on Friday evening a week before the summer solstice, and Shadow, Gabe, Niel, and Nahum had driven to London that afternoon at Harlan’s urgent request, after he’d been contacted by Caldwell. Gabe hadn’t been entirely sure of what they might face, so he’d opted to bring Niel and Nahum just in case. But things were tricky in White Haven right now, and Shadow was worried about her friends. However, she couldn’t pass on the job either, and knew it wasn’t anything that the other Nephilim couldn’t handle. Niel and Nahum were outside, checking for access points and generally surveying the area and the layout, leaving the three of them to attend the meeting conducted on luxurious upholstered chairs that were arranged in a cluster in the centre of the rapidly darkening room. Their only light was from low lamps, adding a suitably gloomy atmosphere to the whole proceeding.

As one, Gabe and Harlan stood too, and Harlan said, “I think we should leave until you’ve had time to think about what you want. But just so you know, you will be billed for this evening, including transport. These guys have travelled a long way to see you.”

Caldwell whirled around. “No, stay! Sorry. This is the first time we have had such a theft, and to be quite honest, it’s a bit of a shock. This place,” his arms encompassed the room and the building, “is alarmed, so I’m still trying to work out how it happened.” He strode back to them, gesturing them to sit again as he also resumed his seat, and then looked up at Shadow uncertainly. “Would you like to join us?”

“No, thank you.” She’d been sitting enough in the car on the way here, and had no wish to sit any more. Besides, being outside of the group allowed her to inspect the room while they talked. Aware she sounded rude, she smiled in her most charming manner and said, “Carry on, please.”

Caldwell’s gaze swept across her coolly and then returned to Harlan and Gabe. “The object in question is an astrolabe that was made in the thirteenth century. It is extremely beautiful, and its design makes it quite expensive, but there is another reason for its importance.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Its design incorporates the latitude and longitude of Europe, and points the way to our place of origin.”

“The origin of your order? Don’t you know that?” Gabe asked, confused. “And why would anyone else be interested?”

Caldwell straightened his shoulders. “We do not know specifics, and therefore it’s very important to us. We had humble beginnings, but we quickly grew in stature.”

“Hold on a minute,” Harlan said, clearly confused. “I thought your order was founded in the sixteenth century?”

“Ah, that.” Caldwell gave a small shrug as if that was of no consequence. “We used another name originally, and it was changed in the 1500s for various reasons. We disassociated ourselves from the original identity as our goals changed.”

Harlan narrowed his eyes at Caldwell, but Gabe pursued the original question. “But that doesn’t explain why someone else would be so interested in your origins…unless it’s a rival organisation seeking to annoy you. Or,” he stared at Caldwell, “there’s something hidden there? Something valuable.”

Shadow had been listening while her gaze idled on the huge oil paintings covering the walls, detailing previous Grand Adepts all wearing ceremonial robes, occult symbols worked into the images. But she now walked around the room’s perimeter to where she could see Caldwell’s face.

His intense eyes stared back at Harlan and Gabe until he finally said, “It is rumoured that a great treasure can be found there.”

Shadow perked up. Now that sounded more interesting.

Harlan leaned forward in his seat. “What do you mean, rumoured? You don’t know?”

Caldwell licked his lips. “No. Books on the origin of our order suggest there may be treasure, but it is veiled in mystery. As is the astrolabe, which was a recent acquisition, and long searched for by us. We found it only months ago, thanks to one of our scholars. The time is approaching when we can use the astrolabe to pinpoint the place. Someone obviously knows that and seeks to get there before us. You must get it back.”

“Is this a solstice thing?” Gabe asked. “Because that’s only a week away.”

“No, it’s not, but it is a planetary thing. Sorry.” He shuffled, his eyes dropping to his hands before quickly looking up again. “It’s called a large planet parade, in fact, and it occurs next week—before the solstice. I realise this is short notice.”

“What the hell is a large planetary parade?” Harlan asked, alarmed.

“It’s when five planets line up in a section of the night sky. The more planets in a line, the rarer it is,” Caldwell explained. “We need to read from this alignment.”

Gabe stifled a curse. “What happens if we miss the deadline?”

“We lose our chance for years—and of course, whoever has it could find the place first.”

“So,” Harlan said, his American drawl becoming more drawn out, “you’re saying this is one of those aligning-of-the-stars moments, hence the timeframe.”

“Exactly.”

Gabe stood and started pacing, his huge build dwarfed by the large reception room. Thick carpet muffled his footfall, and the lamps threw his shadow across the room. “You better be able to tell us something about who stole it, or we’re going to run out of steam on this pretty quickly.”

“I can tell you they are an accomplished thief,” Caldwell said, rising to his feet too and striding across the room to the door. “I take it you’re willing to help?”

Gabe looked over to Shadow, a question in his eyes, and she nodded. “Yes,” he answered, “provided we have something to go on!”

“Follow me.”

Caldwell led them back into the round hall that was at the centre of the eighteenth-century building, through a door at the rear, and into a long, winding passage that eventually led to stairs leading downwards. While they walked, Shadow inspected her surroundings, noting the opulence of the reception was not repeated in these back rooms. Although the mouldings were fine, the decor was far more pedestrian.

At the bottom of the stairs was a sturdy wooden door with a keypad next to it that Caldwell tapped a number on, and the noise of locks clicking preceded the door swinging inwards into a dimly lit room. Thick black carpet was underfoot, the walls were painted a matte black, and on the far side was a large safe door set into the wall.

“This is our securest room, where we keep our most prized treasures.”

Harlan whistled. “Is that a walk-in safe?”

Caldwell nodded. “It is. There’s just one room beyond there, and that’s where the astrolabe was stolen from.”

“You said the building has an alarm?” Shadow asked, already examining the safe door.

“It does. Plus, there’s the keypad to this door, and that state-of-the-art safe door to which only three of us know the code—and I trust them with my life!” Caldwell folded his arms across his chest. “And yet nothing was set off! We’re not even sure of the exact time the theft occurred.”

“When did you last enter the safe?” Harlan asked, watching Shadow and Gabe prowl the room.

“Monday evening when the astrolabe was put back in there after our Senior Adepts meeting, and then this morning when we discovered the theft.”

Shadow extended her fey magic, ignoring their conversation while she tried to detect anything unusual, and felt rather than saw Gabe move next to her.

“Feel anything?”

She ignored him for a moment, passing her hand over the safe door, and then dropped to her hands and knees to examine the carpet. He crouched next to her, and she finally looked at him and said softly, “Wild magic. Shifter magic.”

Shifter?” His eyes widened and he inhaled deeply, as if he would smell it, too. “I don’t sense a thing.”

She closed her eyes, feeling for it again. It was subtle, had almost faded completely, but she just about caught it. “Definitely. It reminds me of Hunter’s magic.” She sprang to her feet and turned to Caldwell. “You need to open the safe.”

He broke off from his conversation with Harlan and turned to her, outraged. “I’ll do no such thing! That is private.”

She shrugged and made as if to walk out. “Then we can’t help you.”

“But you said you would!” He drew himself up to his full height and blocked her exit. “We had an agreement.”

Her knife was in her hand in seconds, her blade at his throat. “Don’t ever block my way.”

He swallowed and moved aside, apologising swiftly. “I’m sorry. We’re desperate.”

Tempting though it was to slap him for his cheek, she put her knife away. “We said if we had something to work on. I need to see inside the safe, to see if what I sense out here will be clearer in there.”

Caldwell looked at Harlan for guidance. He nodded and said, “They’re good. I suggest you trust them.”

Clenching his jaw, Caldwell marched across the floor, and shielding the safe, swiftly entered the code before pulling the enormous door wide. He stood back, silently watching Shadow stride past him, Gabe waiting on the threshold.

The safe itself was a long, narrow room, lined with shelves that were filled with several old books, rolled scrolls, and locked boxes. It was temperature-controlled, and therefore cool and dry. Several silver and gold goblets and candlesticks were also there, as well as some more unusual curios that Shadow barely glanced at. “Where was the astrolabe?”

“Down the far end,” Caldwell instructed.

Shadow prowled deeper inside, cursing the thermostat that dispelled interesting smells and clues, but the scent of shifter was strong in there, especially on the shelf where the astrolabe had been. It was hard to say if it was a wolf-shifter, but she definitely scented the magic that indicated a being that could change form. Unfortunately, there were no other clues at all.

She strode back out again, addressing Caldwell. “Your thief was a shifter. Have you managed to annoy one lately?”

“A what?” he said, alarmed. He turned pale, a bead of sweat appearing on his upper lip.

“A shifter. A being that changes form.” She studied his discomfort. Maybe he’d never heard of one. She spun, inspecting the room again, but only saw a small ventilation grill high in the wall. “I think it came into this antechamber through that and then opened the safe. I presume once it was inside it could leave by an easier route, perhaps, without setting your alarm off.”

All three men were looking at her, surprised.

“What kind of shifter are we talking?” Harlan asked.

She shrugged. “I don’t know, but something that can shift into more than just one form, I think. But there’s nothing else here that I can detect. Gabe?”

He shook his head, too. “No. But that’s something to go on. Are you sure you don’t know any shifters?” he asked Caldwell. “Someone you’ve upset, or may know about your supposed treasure?”

“No. Our members are human. Respectable!”

“Well, that’s not very nice,” Shadow told him. “I know some lovely shifters.” She exuded a flutter of glamour and saw Caldwell blink with confusion. “We accept the job, with a payment upfront for expenses, but we will need photos and details of the astrolabe. I’m sure it will be a pleasure working with you.”