Sentinel Series, Book One
After seven years on the run, Dr. Kara Cantrell believes she and her son, Alex, are safe.
Kara settles in the sleepy town of Zorro, Texas, convinced that she and her child have escaped the sinister reach of a supernatural underworld. But the appearance of Damien Morgan, a dangerous, alluring man with superhuman abilities, upends her quiet existence. Damien realizes that Alex is a fledgling Sentinel, and Kara is a matched, psychic conductor for him. She wants nothing to do with him, refusing to revisit the hell she experienced seven years ago. But she has no choice, as her son is projecting his abilities, leaving him vulnerable to unseen forces. Not only that, but someone—or something—is murdering people in Zorro. Kara is forced to work with Damien, tapping into a mystical link that triggers desires both of them must ignore. But as they work together to protect her son and to track the killer, evil stalks them—reaching out with the touch . . . of darkness.
Kara had hoped and prayed that her son’s power would become dormant if not acknowledged and encouraged, that it could be repressed with conditioning. Alex was a good child, responsive to her parental requests. Now he never pointed at anything, and his normal placid nature dominated his moods. There had been no further incidents, and she’d begun to believe her prayers had been answered.
Until the past month, when strange things started happening around the house and Alex’s school class. Things that seemingly were not a direct result of anything he did.
The faint ding of a timer broke into Kara’s reverie. She drew a deep breath, trying to still her shaking. She’d almost begun to believe she and Alex were safe, that the past was behind them, had almost convinced herself.
A foolish and fragile hope. But that same knowledge told her it was useless to run again. Until she could find some way to shield Alex, they’d be at risk of discovery wherever they went. For now, she was determined to keep his life as level and normal as possible.
“Alex,” she called out. “I know you heard that timer. Turn off the television.” She stepped closer to the fire, still cold. She limited the time Alex could spend on the computer or watching T.V., determined he not become totally dependent on them for his entertainment. Already, he displayed loner tendencies like his father had, preferring solitude to the company of others.
A moment later, Alex came tromping down the hall, Mac, their mixed-breed dog, trailing behind him. “Ah, Mom,” Alex protested, “There’s a Star Trek marathon today. Ten episodes in a row.”
“Then it will still be on in an hour,” Kara told him. “You need a break and some fresh air. You can work in the garden with me for a while. Get your jacket. And tie your shoes.”
Alex rolled his eyes, but he dutifully knelt down and dealt with the dragging shoe laces, then went to the wall rack by the front door and took his denim jacket off its hook. Reluctantly leaving the fire, Kara decided to get a sweatshirt to garden in, instead of her bulky jacket.
Alex opened the front door as she started to her bedroom. The sound of a vehicle turning onto the graveled drive halted her. Mac’s shrill bark filled the air. Another omen, as Mac rarely barked at anyone, unless he felt threatened.
“Hey Mom! Who do we know who drives a silver car?”
Apprehension sent adrenaline pounding through her body. She didn’t need to see the car, didn’t need to run through a mental inventory, to know who it was. She already knew.
“Alex, get inside,” she said sharply, reaching the door in a few frantic strides.
He stepped further out, his attention on the driveway. “It looks like that man we saw in town this morning.”
“Now!” she ordered, her voice rising. She grabbed her son’s arm and dragged him back. “Get in here!”
“Ow!” He stumbled and almost fell. “Mom!” he stared up at her with startled eyes. The intensity of Mac’s barking increased. The dog sensed the danger.
She struggled to keep her voice calm. “Listen to me. I want you to go to your room. Turn on your television and stay there. Do not come out until I tell you to. Is that clear?”
“Don’t argue with me, son. Do it. Now.”
“Okay.” He shuffled off, throwing her one last look over his shoulder.
Kara turned back to the door. The adrenaline rushing through her had her shaking, made coherent thought difficult. She battled to draw a breath into her constricted chest, to stay clear headed.
Every instinct screamed at her to slam the door shut and throw the bolt, to snatch Alex and run out the back of the house and through the fields, away from the stranger and the terror he represented. But bitter experience reminded her of the futility of such an act. There was no where to run from them.
She felt exposed, vulnerable, with no weapon or no means to defend herself and her son. Because of Alex, she refused to keep a gun in the house. Besides, Zorro was a quiet, safe community. She’d never before felt the need for weapons. She thought of Alex’s baseball bat, stored in the utility room with other athletic equipment, but she knew it would be no protection against a Sentinel.
The slam of a car door, along with Mac’s frenzied barking, told her she’d just run out of time. Sending a prayer to a God whose existence she’d long doubted, she forced herself to step out onto the porch. The driveway was to her right and the stranger was out and strolling around his car.
Still on the porch, Mac snarled and snapped, his hackles raised. The stranger stopped on the near side of his vehicle, raised his palm toward the dog, making a sharp motion. Mac immediately quieted, lowering his tail between his legs with a small whine.
The stranger turned toward Kara. She couldn’t see his eyes through the dark glasses he wore, but the rest of him was intimidating. He was a big man. The black duster emphasized his tall length, made him appear even more ominous. His long midnight hair was sleeked behind his neck and tied, leaving bare the slashing lines of his lower face.
He didn’t move for a moment then slowly, deliberately, he raised his hand and removed the sunglasses. Steel-blue eyes, glowing with a preternatural energy, seared through her. He made no effort to shield his power; rather he seemed to direct it outward, its insidious force penetrating her mental barriers, a psychic barrage.
Kara felt physically broadsided, emotionally violated. Any doubt about her earlier assumptions concerning this man’s identity was evaporated by the blast of pure, unchallenged power.
She grabbed the door jamb, digging in her nails, willing herself to remain upright and steady. Managed to find her voice. “What do you want?”
He slid the glasses in his duster pocket, and then leaned against the car, seemingly relaxed. “To talk about Alex.”
The shock of hearing him say Alex’s name sent her reeling again. He knew her son’s name! Anger followed on the heels of that knowledge. How dare this man pry into their lives; how dare he drag Alex into this?
She forced back the fury, reaching for calm rationality. There was nothing this man could do to Alex and her. True, he was one of them. A Sentinel. He was powerful beyond human imaginings, and very dangerous, but he was also bound by a strict code of ethics. He could never hurt innocent beings. She refused to let him intimidate her.
“I have nothing to say to you. Get off my property.”
He straightened, all indolence gone, replaced by intense purpose. “I think we have plenty to discuss.”
He strode to the steps and mounted them steadily, his gaze never leaving her. Kara stepped back involuntarily, grabbing the edge of the door. It wasn’t far enough. The stranger’s close proximity launched an invasion into her personal space.
She felt the electricity leap between them, a lightning bolt of raw chemistry. She’d only ever experienced such a reaction with Richard, had assumed it was specific to him and her. The horrifying realization that she could encounter the same thing with this man sent her staggering backward into the house. She groped for the door handle, gripped it tightly.
He titled his head, his gaze assessing. “You’re a conductor.”
Oh, God. He felt the shocking chemistry, too. And he was far too close to another area that she had walled off seven years ago. Utter panic surged through her, evaporating all traces of indignation and anger. All thoughts of trying to deal with this man fled. All she could think about was survival. Getting away from him, and the threats he presented.
“Get off my property now, or I’m calling the police.” She slammed the door before he could move, shoving the bolt home.
Shaking violently, she ran to the phone by the couch and snatched it up. She punched 9-1-1, but nothing happened. She disconnected and tried again. It took another fumbling moment before the fact there was no dial tone registered. She heard the bolt on the door jiggle and looked up. Horrified, she watched as first the bolt, then the door handle, turned smoothly.
She threw down the phone and ran to grab her purse off the dining room table. The door swung open, and the stranger loomed in the doorway.
“Go away!” Kara screamed, fear pushing her beyond reason. She dumped her purse on the table, snagged her cell phone.
“It’s no good,” he informed her. “It won’t work.”
“It will, it will,” she chanted like a mantra, trying to activate the phone. Nothing. It was dead, like the other one.
She stared at the phone, a sense of inevitability dulling the mindless panic. Along with it, she felt something else–a soothing swirl of reassurance, almost like a physical, calming touch. It took a moment to realize the source. She dropped the phone onto the table and turned toward the doorway.
“Don’t,” she said sharply, glaring at the stranger. “Don’t use your so-called magic on me.”
**4 Stars** “The talented [Catherine] Spangler returns in a complex and intriguing new series about the Sentinels, a race of beings reincarnated into human bodies as part of their war against the evil Belians, who are trying to take over the human race. Spicing up this scenario with a sexy twist is the fact that human conductors are needed to optimize the powers of the Sentinels. Book one of this tempting series sets up the exciting premise and delivers both suspense and budding romance.” ~ Jill M. Smith, Romantic Times Book Reviews
“Catherine Spangler, award winning author of the popular Shielder futuristic romance series, has demonstrated her versatility with a brand new paranormal series. Atlantis rises again through the reincarnated souls known as Sentinels who have returned to rid the world of the threat of the evil Belians . . . . .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!” ~ Leslie Tramposch for PNR Reviews
“This was an amazing story . . . . Breathing life into the characters with a deft touch [so] the reader will become immersed immediately into the story, feeling the terror, the heartbreak and the joy of the characters as they began to work toward the common good. Personally, 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.” ~ Marilyn Rondeau, The Best Reviews
“TOUCHED BY DARKNESS is a humdinger of a paranormal story that will keep you glued to the pages throughout. . . . This is a fabulous mini series about the Sentinels who are protectors…lovers…and a whole lot more . . . Readers once having read the electrifying story will be on fire for the next book Touched by Fire. Catherine Spangler is an author who knows how to tell an intense spellbinding story that is to die for.” ~Suzanne Coleburn, The Belles & Beaux of Romance/Reader To Reader Reviews
“Touched by Darkness brings Kara and Damien together, both needing the same thing, yet neither willing to admit it to themselves, or anyone else. Their journey toward finding the light and the love they crave is a tender and riveting story, and is told with great intensity and finesse. A gripping take of the dark side of life, the danger present, and the passions aroused between these two is one that cannot be put down easily. . . . Touched by Darkness is truly a book not to be missed. It is heart-wrenchingly and brutally vivid in the telling of the struggles of Kara and Damien to come to terms with what could be between them.…“ ~Rose Brungard, Romance at Heart