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       Touched by Darkness – An Urban Fantasy Romance (Book 1, The Sentinel Series), p.1

           Catherine Spangler
 
Touched by Darkness – An Urban Fantasy Romance (Book 1, The Sentinel Series)
Praise for Touched by Darkness

  “Dark, edgy, and incredibly sensual, Touched by Darkness is a spellbinding contemporary fantasy thriller that combines romance, suspense, mythology and metaphysics…A unique and enthralling series debut that is not to be missed!”

  —Paranormal Romance Reviews

  “I loved the entire concept of how these people came from the lost land of Atlantis and give this author high marks for originality and creativity. Fans of Spangler’s Sci-Fi Fantasy are going to be mesmerized by this sensual new series!”

  —The Best Reviews

  “The talented [Catherine] Spangler returns in a complex and intriguing new series about the Sentinels… Book one of this tempting series sets up the exciting premise and delivers both suspense and budding romance.”

  —Romantic Times Book Reviews

  Touched by Darkness

  Sentinel Series, Book One

  By

  Catherine Spangler

  Touched by Darkness: Sentinel Series, Book One

  Copyright 2007, 2013 by Catherine Spangler

  Cover art by Kim Killion

  Formatted by IRONHORSE Formatting

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  Dedication

  To Roberta Brown, a wonderful and amazing person. You’ve been there with me since the beginning. I can’t thank you enough for your support and encouragement, and for your friendship, not to mention the Godiva chocolate. Oh—and also, for being a fabulous literary agent. You’re the best!

  Acknowledgments

  This book required an incredible amount of brainstorming and general information. I couldn’t have done it without the assistance of some very special people. My gratitude goes out to the following:

  Angelica Blocker, Robyn Delozier, Beth Gonzales, and Carole Turner, my wonderful co-workers, who were actually co-creators with me on this story. They read pages, brainstormed, read more pages, and offered great ideas and endless support.

  Chief Alexander of the Mustang Ridge Police Department, for information on the operating procedures of small-town police.

  Beth Allen, for her impromptu survey on the most popular pick-up truck in Texas.

  Angelica Blocker (again), for her assistance with the Spanish.

  Edward Heasley, for sharing his expertise on guns (as well as being one of my favorite uncles).

  Police Chief Frank McElligott, for all sorts of information on Texas autopsy and gun laws, NCIC, and numerous other questions I threw at him.

  Stacy Mefford, for sharing her knowledge of the Blanco River and surrounding towns.

  Officials at Blanco State Park, for their geography lesson on the area.

  Janet Underwood, nurse practitioner and lifetime friend, for her medical expertise.

  My husband James for driving me through Texas Hill Country to explore settings for this story (and not stopping at too many antique stores).

  Of course, any errors in the story are their fault—oh wait—those would be my errors. I’m sure the input was flawless.

  More thanks goes to Jennifer and Linda, who’ve been in on this adventure long before the beginning.

  And to Rachel Simone at Zetablue Marketing, for all her help getting this book ready for a second run and working with me on promotion.

  Thank you all!

  Table of Contents

  PRELUDE

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  A Note to Readers

  Connect with Catherine

  Catherine’s Other Books

  Excerpt from Touched by Fire

  About the Author

  Glossary of Terms

  PRELUDE

  For in the life of the entity enters many of those conditions that may be made into miracles or crimes.

  (Edgar Cayce, Reading 2497-3)

  The Beginning — Atlantis

  Thousands of years ago, luminous soul beings arrived on the planet Earth; bright and inquisitive spirits exploring an endless Universe. On Earth, they discovered physical sensations—and oh, what sensations! Only in this physical realm could they experience taste, touch, smell, hearing and feeling.

  So they stayed, creating new material forms to house their beings. Some became mermaids, unicorns, half-beasts. Most materialized into human forms. Thus Atlantis came into existence.

  At first very peaceful and spiritual beings, they followed the Law of One: There is only the One. All come from The One, all must return to The One. The One is the Light. You are the children of Light.

  They lived in great illumination; their technology and accomplishments were legendary. They had physical and mental abilities and powers far beyond those of humans today. What they could conceive, they could create.

  They mastered particle physics, solar power, atomic power, gravity. They constructed spacecraft that moved faster than light through outer space and time. The great crystal, the Tuaoi stone, provided all their energy.

  But then disharmony crept in. An evil faction, led by the cunning Belial, who advocated slavery and excesses of the flesh, began gaining power. His followers were known as the Sons of Belial, or Belians. They worshiped the darkness and renewed their life force through the blood of human sacrifices. They disdained the Light.

  Through treachery and violence, they gained control of the Tuaoi stone and began terrorizing the citizens of Atlantis and surrounding nations. They used the Tuaoi as a death ray, tuning it to such high frequencies that it caused great upheavals of the land—and ultimately, the final destruction of Atlantis.

  Then the Earth knew peace again. The Atlantian souls who had inhabited the planet abandoned it for thousands of years. But the twentieth century saw the rise of amazing scientific and technological advancements. Once again, Atlantians were drawn back to the Earth, to the familiar technologies.

  The Belians first chose to return to a physical existence, where their superior powers would enable them to dominate the weaker humans, where they could thrive on terror and darkness and blood.

  They are now entering the Earth through birth as humans or by possessing bodies. They have renewed their reign of evil, ruthless power brokers that some call dictators, serial killers, mafia, gang leaders, drug lords, and more.

  Other Atlantians have
been called into service to stop them. They are also reincarnating into human bodies to hunt down the Belians and dispense justice.

  They are the Sentinels.

  They answer only to The One and those who serve the Light. They walk among you, unrecognized, except to a few—human conductors who are able to enhance their psychic abilities and help them track the unseen evil that threatens you.

  Your Earth is once again touched by darkness.

  But those who worship Belial will not win.

  There is no escape from destiny.

  The Sentinels will prevail.

  CHAPTER ONE

  For being afraid is the first consciousness of sin's entering in….

  (Edgar Cayce1 Reading 243-10)

  It didn't start out as a day of horrendous memories—or of soul-numbing pain. It started as a beautiful, sunny Saturday, with the air so clear and crisp, one couldn't help but inhale deep breaths of the cleansing freshness, and feel as if a multitude of God's benevolent blessings must be shining down upon the entire world. Terrorism, disease, poverty and hunger, grief and despair were distant threads of reality, too dim to possibly exist.

  Life was good, Kara thought, as she headed to town in her '98 Chevy truck. Like the few daffodils insistently pushing their way through the thick grass and weeds lining the two-lane road—despite the fact it was only early March—the heart could recover from overwhelming anguish, could return from a harsh, debilitating winter. Life could resume, with a reassuring ebb and flow of normalcy.

  She glanced over at Alex, his head bent over his Game Boy Micro as he concentrated on FIFA Soccer. From an early age, he had displayed a superior intelligence, and could play games far above the level of most six-year-olds. Even so, she wouldn't let him play any of the fantasy games that most young boys indulged in. No magic or monsters. Those things too closely alluded to dark, shadowy realms; to otherworld entities, which were very real and far more dangerous than any mythical monsters, more terrifying than the average person could even begin to conceive.

  A chill shuddered down Kara's spine, but she quickly shook it away. She had no more involvement with the supernatural darkness, was determined that their life from this point forward would be normal. Except that Alex … She also shook that thought away before it could fully congeal.

  Our life is normal, she told herself fiercely. He—they—were safe from such a possibility. She had made sure of it, moving halfway across the country to take up residence in Texas. She was fortunate that she could use her medical skills anywhere.

  And she liked the small town of Zorro, liked the close-knit community, and the simple way of life. She turned onto the main street of the town, rumbling past the antique and secondhand shops, home-style restaurants, hardware and feed stores, a dress shop with dowdy, "mature woman" fashions in the dusty display window. Traffic was sparse and leisurely, matching the laid-back pace here.

  Kara pulled into a parallel space in front of Sal's Grocery and cut the engine. She reached over to tousle Alex's thick brown hair. "Hey bud, we're here."

  He didn't look up from his game. "Just a minute, Mom," he wheedled. "I'm about to score."

  "Pause it," she advised. "I want to get our errands done." She pulled the key from the ignition and dropped it into her sweater pocket, then swung open her door. "Come on."

  She felt it the minute she climbed down from the pickup. It assailed her, surrounding her like the treacherous tentacles of a sea monster. Threatening, suffocating.

  The power.

  She grabbed the top of the door, suddenly struggling for breath. No! She was just imagining it, still haunted by the terror of seven years ago. Still raw from Richard, even now. No one in this small west Texas town could wield such power. Alex was too young, and—God willing—would never learn to manifest it. She shouldn't have even let herself think about it on the drive here. That was the only possible reason she could be imagining the sensation.

  But the feeling persisted, furtive, horribly familiar. The sensation of the power. Adrenaline surged, sending an awful tension through her body. She slammed the door shut, leaned against the truck, battling the beginnings of all-out panic. No, no…no!

  Her frantic denial didn't diminish the effect of her pounding heart, or the insistent barrage of an outside force. It was coming from across the street, near Don Mason's feed store. Kara turned that direction, determined to tame her runaway imagination.

  A man stood on the sidewalk in front of Mason's Feed, tall, dark, unmoving. A long black duster flapped around his jean-clad legs. The same breeze blew his midnight hair around a sharp face with chiseled features. His steady gaze fixed on Kara, an all-too-familiar glow flaring into his eyes. No…

  "Mom? What are you doing?"

  She felt sweat trickling down between her breasts, even though the day was chilly enough that she'd worn a sweater over her shirt. The power was like that, like an insidious fever that heated the blood, destroyed balance and rational existence.

  Reminiscent of hell.

  "Mom!"

  Still staring at the stranger, she saw his gaze shift downward and to her left. Oh, God. Alex.

  She looked at her son. He clutched her sweater, concern on his thin face. Dark brown eyes, sandy brown hair, and an expression so much like Richard's, she wanted to cry—something she had refused to do since about two weeks after his death.

  Richard. Her gaze snapped back up. The stranger was striding toward them, staring intently at Alex. The power. Here, in Zorro. Panic coalesced into terror.

  "Get in the truck!" she gasped, pulling Alex away from the vehicle and jerking open the door. She jammed her hand in her pocket, grabbing the keys. "Get in! Now!"

  He stared at her, obviously confused by her irrational behavior. "But Mom—”

  "Now!" she screamed, picking him up and heaving him across the bench seat. She didn't give him time to slide over, before she leaped in behind him. It seemed like an eternity before she could right herself from the sideways angle in which she landed, while Alex wiggled out from beneath her.

  She leaned out to grab the door. The stranger was almost upon them, moving in steady strides. From painful experience, she knew his seemingly moderate speed was deceptive. Her heart battered her rib cage. She fumbled the key into the ignition as she swung the door shut.

  The engine roared to life, the truck lurching forward as she floored the gas before the gears had fully engaged. The jolt snapped her head backward painfully. For one horrible moment, she thought the vehicle would stall. Frantically, she stomped the gas pedal again. Tires shrieking, the truck shot down the road, fishtailing and nearly crashing into the right curb, before Kara spun the wheel and got it under control.

  She sped away, exhaust spewing out behind them. She had to look. Was compelled to look. In her rearview mirror, she saw the stranger, standing in the road, watching them. Watching her. Watching Alex. She began shaking uncontrollably.

  And knew her bid for a normal life had just gone up in smoke.

  The terror pressed down on her, the memories swirling through her frantic mind. Only she feared memories weren't the only monsters she now faced.

  But real flesh and blood demons.

  CHAPTER TWO

  Damien Morgan stared after the speeding truck, noting the license plate, in case he met with any resistance from the locals. Not that he expected to, but he preferred to keep mind probes or subconscious inducement to a minimum.

  The surge of power he'd sensed when the blue pickup had driven past him had taken him totally by surprise. He watched the slender, auburn-haired woman climb from the truck, thinking it came from her. The power hadn't been very strong for a fully evolved Sentinel, nor had it been shielded.

  It took him a moment to realize the energy emanated from the boy, which had been even more of a shock. The woman was obviously not one of them, but the boy was. Yet there were no other known Sentinels remotely close. They rarely overlapped territories. Even so, Damien had sent o
ut a query before he left for Zorro, getting no response. He had believed he was the only Sentinel within miles.

  Strange. A child with the power, left unattended, without guidance. Unheard of. Unless…none of the Sanctioned knew of his existence. And the woman…she wasn't one of them, but she had recognized Damien immediately. Only an initiate or a conductor could have sensed shielded power.

  Turning possibilities over in his mind, Damien started toward Sal's Grocery. Since it was the only grocery store in the vicinity, most of the town's residents would shop there. The employees would surely know the identities of the auburn-haired woman and the boy.

  Glancing around to be certain no one would see him, he turned his palms upward, visualizing what he wanted to manifest. A silk scarf whispered across his skin, in a gold color that he knew would complement the woman's coloring. He went up the cracked cement steps to the store.

  A chime tinkled when he opened the door. Inside it was overly warm, but wonderful aromas permeated the air: coffee, cookies, cinnamon, and other spices. A checkout area with an ancient cash register stood in the right corner. Old-fashioned glass cases lined the first fourth of the store, displaying meat and cheese on one side; baked goods on the other. Farther down was a small produce section, then a dairy case.

  The limited floor space was crammed with shelves piled with all sorts of goods. Toward the rear, tools and work clothing hung on the walls, indicating this was more of a general store than a grocery. Damien walked down the right aisle, his booted feet resounding on the wooden floor.

  Halfway down, a man was stacking burlap bags of flour against the wall. He glanced at Damien then took a closer look, apparently pegging him as an outsider. The man straightened and stepped forward. He was tall and gangly, with a gaunt face weathered by years of hard work, and a shock of white hair. He wore a blue and white plaid flannel shirt, tucked carefully into faded work jeans. Damien picked the man's identity from his mind. He was Sal.

 
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