Sentinel Series, Book Two
Since a brutal attack on her sister eleven years ago, Marla Reynolds has been emotionally frozen—but one man’s passion could melt her defenses . . .
For the past eleven years, Marla has avoided relationships with men. Then she meets Luke Paxton in a Houston bar and is upended by an intense attraction she doesn’t understand. But Luke does—it is an energy he must harness to achieve his goals. He is a Sentinel, a member of an ancient superhuman race. His purpose on Earth is to track unimaginable evil, and he needs Marla—willing or not—to help him focus his psychic powers.
Kidnapped by Luke, who insists he’s a reincarnated Atlantian and that she’s a matched conductor for him, Marla thinks he’s totally crazy. But his superpowers and the undeniable link between them convince her otherwise. She agrees to work with him to track down a bomber that’s leaving a path of destruction across Texas.
Luke tries to resist his growing feelings for Marla, but as he draws her deeper into a supernatural world, he finds himself torn between protecting humanity—or yielding to the fire of her touch…
Unlocking her door, Marla turned and waved to Scott. He waved back and drove off. She went inside, closing the door and using her key to relock the double sided deadbolt. She put her keys in the top drawer of the small antique chest by the door, and turned, feeling a twinge of dizziness.
Maybe the third glass of wine had been overkill, especially since she’d used one of Ashley’s largest wine goblets. She didn’t drink that much very often. And damn if she still hadn’t been able to focus on the movie, or put Luke Paxton out of her mind. Johnny Depp deserved better than that.
Bryony trotted slowly into the small foyer area, looking listless and tired. “What’s the matter, baby?” Marla cooed, leaning down to pick up the poodle. “Were you asleep?”
Bending over was a mistake. The vertigo rush sent her staggering as she came up, tightly clutching Bryony to keep from dropping her. The dog let out a squeak.
“I’m sorry, baby. Definitely too much wine.”
She started down the hallway to reset the alarm. But her peripheral vision picked up something odd. She turned back, starting violently when she saw the man sitting on her sofa.
She stared as he rose, noticing first how large he was, how threatening. Like that night . . .
“I’ve been waiting for you, Julia.” The man stepped from the kitchen of their home in Kingwood.Both Julia and Marla gasped, startled and shocked to see him there. He moved toward them, an ordinary looking man with a monster’s soul. “You’ve been going out again, Julia,” he said in a soft voice. “Even though I told you not to. I was watching. I saw you flirting with those men. Why did you disobey me, Julia?” . . .
“Why did you stand me up, Marla?”
The deep masculine voice jerked her from the nightmare memory. Marla stared at the man coming toward her. With an adrenaline avalanche and pounding heart obliterating clarity, it took a moment to recognize him.
“You,” she gasped. “What are you doing here?”
“Waiting for you.”
Bryony started growling, and Marla skittered backward toward the front door. Think, think, think!
Luke Paxton stopped, held out his hand in a placating gesture. “I’m just here to talk.”
How had he found her? Gotten into her house? Oh God, oh God, oh God! He was stalking her! Just like—
“I’m can’t have you talking to other men, Julia. I’m going to have to teach you a lesson so it won’t happen again.” The man grabbed Julia. She screamed. Marla rushed forward, but he hit her in the head. She stumbled, fell . . .
The memory sent panic exploding through Marla. She whirled and jerked open the chest drawer, grabbing for the keys.
“Wait! Let me explain.” A strong hand clamped down on her arm, pulled her around. “I just want to—”
She shot her knee up and out. “Whoa!” He sidestepped and swung her against the front door. He pressed against her lower body, pinning her. “No fighting dirty.”
Why hadn’t the alarm gone off? Think! She’d taken defense courses since that night. But the wine made her fuzzy, and the fear sucked the air from her lungs. “Let me go!” she screamed.
“Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
But she was beyond reason. She remembered far too clearly every detail of that other night eleven years ago. She struggled against Luke’s hold, to no avail. Panicked, she leaned forward and bit his upper arm. It was rock solid, but she dug in hard, ripping at his shirt.
“Shit! That hurts!” He wrenched his arm away. “Stop this. Now.”
A sudden, soothing warmth curled through her chest, and she could breathe again. More warmth spiraled to her head. She could actually feel her heart slowing, feel the fear dissipating. She felt surreal, like this was all a dream. She heard Bryony barking frantically, but it seemed far away.
“Shut up, Fifi, or I’ll knock you out again,” Luke said.
Marla shook her head, trying to clear it. This was wrong. She needed to fight, defend herself, to get the hell out of here. She turned back toward the chest, but she was uncoordinated, sluggish. She was never drinking that much wine again.
“Oh, no you don’t.” Luke grabbed her arm, pulled her into the living room and pushed her down on the couch. “Stay there.”
Only until her head cleared and she could figure out what to do. Her alarm system had apparently malfunctioned, so it appeared she was on her own. Luke went into the kitchen, but before she could push herself up, he was back with some paper towels. He sat on the other end of the couch and her heart rate kicked up.
He turned his startlingly blue gaze on her. “Just calm down. I swear I’m not going to hurt you.”
Was the man a mind reader? And did he really expect her to believe him? He’d stalked her and broken into her house, for God’s sake. Yet her fear was dull, distant, and she couldn’t seem to react. Still hazy, she watched him fold the paper towels and press them over his arm. He lifted them a moment later, and she saw red stains. She’d nailed him. Good. She had more defense moves—if she could just think straight, and get close enough.
Luke sat back with a disgusted sound. “This is going really well.” He lifted the towels again, looked at his arm. “What’s with the biting? First the dog, then you.”
“I’ll fight you to my dying breath,” Marla assured him.
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” He sighed, shook his head. “Look, I’m sorry. I handled this all wrong. It’s just that—” He eyed her suspiciously. “What are you doing?”
Marla tightened her hand around the gun in her purse. She’d just realized it was still slung over her shoulder, had subtly slipped her hand inside. “Nothing.”
“Give me the purse.”
“Sure.” She jerked her hand out, aimed the gun at him, and flicked off the safety. “Don’t move.”
He didn’t appear too concerned. “Do you know how to use that thing?”
“Try me.” She attempted to shift toward the opposite end of the couch, but her body wouldn’t move. What the—?
He slid over, grabbed her arm, and pried the gun out of it, and she couldn’t do a damned thing. It was like she was frozen in place. “I’ll take that as well,” he said, leaning across her to slide the strap off her arm and confiscate her purse. For the life of her, she couldn’t move. But she could sure feel the surge of electricity that arced between them.
This couldn’t be real. But as quickly as her body had locked up, it relaxed and she was mobile again. “I’m going crazy,” she muttered. “Oh, wait. Too late.”
“You’re not crazy, Marla.” His face was inches from hers. She stared into his mesmerizing eyes before her gaze shifted helplessly to his sensual lips. He leaned closer and her body tingled in anticipation. He was going to kiss her. And she wanted him to. The man was probably about to dismember her—after raping and torturing her—and she wanted him to kiss her!
Instead, he inhaled a deep breath. “How much have you had to drink?”
“Not much,” she said defensively. Then it occurred to her that maybe he’d let his guard down if he though her faculties were impaired. “Okay, a lot.”
“You don’t appear drunk, but you’re not completely sober, either. Ah, hell!” He sat back, ran his hand through his hair.
She watched the silky blond mane of hair fall back into place. She knew she should be afraid—no, make that terrified, yet a strange lethargy settled over her. If she didn’t know better, she’d think she’d been drugged, but that wasn’t possible.
He turned toward her again, and she tried to decide what defensive move she could use from this position. Assuming she could get her body to cooperate.
“Look,” he said. “I know you don’t understand any of this, and I know you’re frightened. I mishandled this. I planned on explaining it to you, but I want you completely sober when I do. You’re going to have to come with me. I need you at the house as soon as possible. I’ll just have to explain things after we get there.”
She stared at him. Either the alcohol was still kicking her senseless, or he was crazier than she was. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Ignoring her question, he stood and offered his hand. “Come on. I know you’re shaky, but I figured that was the best way to keep you from hurting yourself—and me.”
She refused to give him her hand, so he took it and pulled her up. Her legs tried to buckle, but he steadied her.
“Something’s wrong with me,” she said, concerned by her weakness. “What’s wrong with me?” Her voice rose, as the panic resurged. Immediately, she felt that rush of warmth, felt herself calming.
“Easy now. You’re fine.” Luke turned her toward the hallway. “We’re going to pack a few things for you, and then you’re coming with me. I’ll tell you everything after we get there.”
He was kidnapping her. A new fist of fear punched through the calm. That was the worst possible scenario. In every course she’d taken, the instructors had stressed to never get in a car or go anywhere with an assailant. It was a death sentence.
Oh, God, she was going to die, and she was too weak to fight. She didn’t want to die, or relive what Julia had endured. “No! I’m not going anywhere with you.” She tried to jerk free. When that didn’t work, she kicked his leg as hard as she could.
“Ow!” Luke hopped to one side, gave her a little shake. “Cut it out. Damn! Dealing with you is going to maim me for life.”
“Why?” she gasped, trying to twist free. “Why are you doing this?”
“Oh man,” he muttered. “This is definitely not working. I don’t like doing this, but . . .”
There is was again—that odd warmth flowing through her body, and the ensuing haziness, only far more potent this time. Marla felt as if she were floating, euphoric. Her legs tried to give out, but his grip on her arms kept her upright.
“Look,” he said. “I’m afraid we don’t have any choice here. You have to come with me.” He started her walking—stumbling—toward her bedroom again.
“Fine,” she said, feeling giddy. That was some great wine Ashley and Scott had. She’d definitely be buying some.
“The situation is getting desperate,” he continued, steering her into her bedroom.
“Sorry to hear that.” Thank goodness she’d finally realized she was dreaming.
“Sit here, and I’ll try to round up some stuff for you.” He perched her on the edge of her bed and started away, but had to make a grab for her when she began sliding off. “Oops. Maybe I overdid the relaxing energy a little.”
He lifted her fully onto the bed, propping up the pillows for her back. “Think you can maintain?”
“Sure,” she said with a bright smile. “I’m controlling this—or my subconscious is.”
He gave her a funny look and started opening her dresser drawers. Yep, this was an interesting dream, all right. She must be having it because Luke had made such an impression on her, and because the memories had been resurrected.
Only she refused to think about them for the rest of this dream. Much more interesting to study how well Luke’s leather chaps framed his very fine butt. What was it about men and leather?
“So tell me again, what are you doing?” she asked, although she didn’t really care. For her part, he could come over here and demonstrate how well he could use that sensual mouth.
“I’m packing some of your stuff, and you’re coming with me to my house. Then I’ll explain everything when you’re a little more—” He glanced at her. “Grounded.”
Whatever. She was game; a dream trip to his house sounded like some quality time with this man. She felt her hand nudged, looked down to see Bryony curled on the bed next to her, shivering. “Oh, baby, what’s wrong?” She picked up the poodle, cuddled her close. “You don’t like this dream?”
A thought drifted through her mind, but it took a moment to corral it. “Hey, how long are we going to be gone?”
“There’s no telling.” He stepped into her bathroom, started taking things. “At least several days, maybe more.”
“Then we have to take Bryony with us.”
He leaned out of the bathroom. “Who, or what, is Bryony?”
He butchered the name, like everyone did. “It’s pronounced ‘Brigh-oh-nee’.” She held up the poodle, who growled low in her throat. “Bryony is this precious baby.”
“Oh, no. No way is psycho dog going with us.”
“She can’t stay by herself for more than a day.” Marla dug in, lifted her chin rebelliously. This was her dream, and by God, she would have her way. “She goes with us, or I’m staying here. You’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming if you leave her behind.”
He ran his hand through his hair again, obviously a nervous—but sexy—habit. “Ah, shit,” he muttered.
Marla smiled. This was really a cool dream.
“TOUCHED BY FIRE is a blazing hot romantic fantasy thriller that is impossible to put down. Catherine Spangler puts her readers into the twisted mind of a psychotic killer right along with her heroine. It is an experience that one won’t soon forget . . . . Touched by Fire [is] a read I recommend highly for an edge of the seat adventure and brilliant characterization.” ~ Leslie Tramposch, Paranormal Romance Reviews
“I couldn’t put the book down. I loved it! . . . . Each book is getting better and better. I can’t wait to tell my customers about Touched by Fire.” ~ Ann Lorz, Best Sellers
“This series is totally awesome! I have always been fascinated with Atlantis and Catherine Spangler only feeds my addiction. She can’t write her next Sentinel book fast enough for me!” ~ Kathy Boswell, The Best Reviews
“”Author Catherine Spangler continues her Sentinel series with a super-sexy and exciting paranormal thriller. Spangler’s alpha heroes can be annoying, but they’re so damned sexy the women they deal with are forced to come to terms with it. Fortunately, Spangler’s heroines are strong and capable women in their own right–the only women who could tame such men . . . . Spangler starts off fast and keeps up a hard-charging blend of action and sensuality. Fans of the series will definitely want to grab TOUCHED BY FIRE. If you’re new to the series, don’t worry. Each of these novels can easily stand alone.” ~ Rob Preece, BooksForABuck.com