A Darker Shade of Dead [NOOK Book]


Intrigue, terrifying betrayals, and a dangerously commanding hero make Bianca D'Arc's newest paranormal romance an irresistible temptation. . .

Tapped for a classified military program, Dr. Eileen McCormick has nothing left to lose. Bad enough her genetic experiments were used to turn innocent victims into zombies; worse still, a ruthless ex-colleague is threatening to expose her unless she joins his sinister research project. Now the only way...
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A Darker Shade of Dead

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Intrigue, terrifying betrayals, and a dangerously commanding hero make Bianca D'Arc's newest paranormal romance an irresistible temptation. . .

Tapped for a classified military program, Dr. Eileen McCormick has nothing left to lose. Bad enough her genetic experiments were used to turn innocent victims into zombies; worse still, a ruthless ex-colleague is threatening to expose her unless she joins his sinister research project. Now the only way she can set things right is to develop an antidote under the watchful blue eyes of Commander Matt Sykes. And the last thing Eileen needs is Matt's penetrating gaze, easy understanding, and compelling kiss uncovering all her deepest secrets. . .

Matt has a sixth-sense for lies as well as danger, and Eileen promises plenty of both. She's the only person who can eradicate the zombie virus before it reaches epidemic proportions, but he still can't let her passionate determination affect his steely cool. . .or keep him from discovering where her true loyalties lie. But as the clock ticks down, Matt and Eileen's uneasy trust may be their only way to avert catastrophe--if it doesn't get them killed first. . .

Praise for Bianca D'Arc

"D'Arc delivers a creepy and pulse-pounding story of danger." --Romantic Times on Half Past Dead
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zombie fighters find love in the light, sexy sequel to April 2010's Once Bitten, Twice Dead. Dr. Sandra McCormick has been carrying a heavy load of guilt since she accidentally let loose the zombies created by her co-workers during a military experiment gone wrong. Haunted by the deaths of a platoon of Marines who faced those first zombies, Sandra is determined to make up for her mistakes while dodging her former collaborator, Rodriguez, but she can't reveal her part in the zombies' escape, especially if it would mean losing the respect of sexy military commander Matt Sykes. The story sometimes bogs down in pseudoscience and stilted dialogue ("I could shoot you both now, but that would feel sort of anticlimactic"), but plenty of zombie action and steamy romance keep it moving. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780758261885
  • Publisher: Kensington
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 280,761
  • File size: 577 KB

First Chapter

A Darker Shade of Dead

By Bianca D'Arc


Copyright © 2010 Cristine Martins
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-4731-5

Chapter One

North Carolina-the present


Sandra swore as another driver zoomed up behind her car at what seemed like light speed. It was some kind of off-road vehicle or giant SUV because its headlights were at the perfect blinding height in her rearview mirror. The jerk had his brights on. She felt like she was under an interrogation lamp as he rode her bumper.

"Why don't you just pass me, you moron?" she muttered, annoyed to no end by the inconsiderate driver behind her.

It hadn't been a tough decision to decline the military's offer of transport by air. First, she would've had to leave Long Island days ago, allowing some faceless military personnel to do the job of packing her private things. No, thank you. She didn't like the idea of some stranger going through her personal stuff.

Second, Sandra wasn't good in airplanes. She avoided them, preferring to drive whenever she had to go anywhere, if at all possible. Her father had died in a plane crash. Since then, she had been unable to face the long tin tubes of death.

Third, her beloved car would've been left behind. The old Caddy was the only thing she had left of her father, the late Dr. Henry McCormick. He had loved it almost more than he'd loved her, lavishing attention on it every weekend with long hours spent washing and waxing the thing by hand. She kept up the tradition in his honor, though she probably didn't spend quite as much time as he had on the old car.

This gas guzzler was also her last link to her dad. It was a land yacht, so long road trips really weren't that uncomfortable. She could sleep happily on the sumptuous padded leather of the seats and had room for almost anything she wanted to bring with her. They didn't make cars like this anymore, her father had often said. He'd loved the giant car and she did, too.

But the vehicle behind her could go straight to hell as far as she was concerned. What was the guy thinking? He'd zoomed up out of nowhere on the dark, deserted stretch of highway and instead of passing her, he'd been riding her tail pipe for the past ten minutes.

"Finally." She felt a stab of relief when the car pulled out from behind her to the passing lane. But he didn't pass. He crept up on her side, matching her speed and veering unsteadily into her lane.

"What is your problem?" she shouted even as she took evasive action. The giant SUV was going to hit her!

A panicked look out her window told her the SUV driver knew exactly what he was doing. She'd seen two male faces in the front of the giant vehicle. The driver and another man who was staring at her out the passenger side window. She knew him. She'd worked with him months ago.

Rodriguez. He may have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, but the man had always struck her as a pig. He thought he was some kind of smooth Latin lover. In reality, he was gross. A disgusting specimen of a man who thought he was super macho but was really a fool.

"What the hell is he doing?" she shouted aloud, talking to herself as the SUV came closer.

She chanced another look. It was definitely Rodriguez. He was pointing to the side of the road. He wanted her to pull over, and it looked like if she didn't comply willingly, his driver would be happy to force her off the highway.

It was the middle of the night on a deserted road. No way was she going to pull over like some lamb to the slaughter. She gunned the engine. The Caddy responded like an old tiger being let out of its cage. The big engine roared and she pulled ahead of the SUV.

But not for long. The giant black beast had quite a few horses under its hood as well. It kept pace with her around the next long turn of the highway and began to pull even with her again. She kept a panicked eye on it in her mirrors. She thought she saw the rear passenger window slide downward. A split-second later, she saw what looked like a handgun emerge from the blackened square of the backseat window.

The Caddy shuddered and jumped as the left rear tire blew. Sandra screamed. The steering wheel shook in her hands as she slammed on the brakes and tried to control the car. The bastard had shot her tire!

Her whole body shaking in fear, she moved the Caddy off to the shoulder. But first she hit a little button she'd had installed for just such emergencies. Thankfully, the SUV hung back as her call connected. She spoke aloud, confident the small microphone in the passenger compartment would pick up her words.

"My car has a flat tire. Could you please send help?"

She didn't want anyone to know she'd spoken with Rodriguez if she could help it. Chances are, this little middle-of-the-night meeting had been arranged because she'd ducked every attempt Rodriguez had made to contact her. She knew he was working for the enemy. Dr. Sellars had told her Rodriguez was part of the small group that had restarted their forbidden research. Sellars had tried to recruit her, and she had no doubt that Rodriguez wanted the same thing.

She gave her location to the operator as she rolled to a stop. There was little time. She had to disconnect the call or risk having Rodriguez know she'd already sent out an SOS. She didn't think he wanted her dead. Not yet, at least. She hadn't done anything to him personally. Heck, she hadn't even heard him out.

But he had to know she had been recruited by the military in the past few days. Otherwise, he never would have known to find her on this lonely stretch of highway that led ultimately to Fort Bragg, her new place of employment. She had crossed the border into North Carolina a little while ago. She still had quite a ways to travel, but Rodriguez's presence here confirmed her suspicions. He was most likely the person behind the sporadic zombie infestations at the base.

She rolled down her window but didn't get out of the car as she watched Rodriguez slam the passenger side door of the SUV now parked behind her. Its headlights glared over her car like twin spotlights giving everything a sharp black and white glow.

"You've been avoiding me, Dr. McCormick," Rodriguez accused as he walked up to her window. He gave her an oily smile-an expression she remembered with distaste from their previous time working together.

"I've been a little busy. And I told Sellars I wasn't interested in renewing the research."

"Then why are you here? A little birdy tells me you're working for the military again. I can't imagine what else they would want with you besides your knowledge of our last experiment. Now why would you throw in with the government goons when you could be working with me? I can definitely promise I'd pay better."

"It's not about the money. It never was, for me."

"Then you are a fool." Rodriguez looked away, cursing her under his breath. He seemed really angry and she grew even more afraid. She didn't think he would kill her. At least not yet. He'd try to woo her over to his side, if he possibly could. She expected he would give her a chance to decide in his favor before he took any truly drastic actions. He turned back to her, that oily grin back in full force. This couldn't be good.

"I know you let them out, Sandra." His voice dropped to a low, menacing tone. "You were the only one on duty. You ran away and left the door open. You let them rampage across the base in Virginia. You killed all those Marines. You, Sandra!" He badgered her, shaking his finger in her face, his eyes wild. The guy looked a little crazy, but his words were all too true.

Sandra's guilt was overwhelming. He wasn't saying anything she hadn't thought about over and over since it had happened. If only she'd closed the door behind her, locking the reanimated cadavers in the lab. But she'd been too scared. And because she was a coward, scores of innocent men had died, turned into those ravening creatures, prolonging the cycle of death.

"Stop it," she whispered. Rodriguez smiled evilly.

"I know something else I bet you wouldn't want getting out."

Dear God, what else? Sandra scrambled around in her mind, wondering what in the world this cretin could have on her. She'd never deliberately done anything bad in her life. Of course even the most casual of mistakes could be blown out of proportion and distorted to make her look very bad indeed.

"I know our late, unlamented colleague, Dr. Sellars, asked for your help with a certain formula. I also know that you solved his little scientific dilemma. You gave him the missing link to his equation. What do you think your military friends would think about that?"

She could say nothing to his threat. The commander wouldn't understand. He'd already read her the riot act about having continued her research to work on the serum she'd developed. That could be excused, he'd told her, because it saved lives. But he'd never understand why she'd helped Sellars. He'd never understand how Sellars had played on her vanity and her naïveté, coming to her with compliments and supposedly innocent questions.

She'd helped Sellars complete his chemical equations and solve the little scientific puzzles he'd posed to her. Only later did she piece together the conversations and realize he'd been using her. She had contributed to his new version of the contagion and she hadn't even known it at the time.

No way would Commander Sykes or his military superiors understand how stupid she'd been. They'd lock her up and throw away the key if they knew. And nobody would ever trust her again.

Sandra couldn't afford that. Not when she was finally working on a way to redeem her mistakes. She wanted the chance to solve the zombie problem once and for all. A scientific solution that would render the contagion obsolete. Her after-exposure serum was the first step. She only needed time and funding to perfect it. From there, she'd move on to a preventative that would stop the contagion in its tracks before it had a chance to infect anyone else.

"I can see I've given you something to think about."

"What do you want?" The words were dragged from her in a pained whisper. She could see her plans for the future-her plans for redemption-crumbling before her eyes.

"I want the same thing you gave Sellars. Your help. Your knowledge. Your expertise on the intricacies of our creation. I'm refining it, you know. Making it better. Making the creatures more intelligent. Not by much, I'll grant you, but enough so they're able to follow simple directions." He looked inordinately pleased by the horror he'd created. "They make a much better army when you can keep them under control." His obvious glee made her sick to her stomach. Only a fiend would find glory in the death, torture, and subjugation of others.

"You want me to work with you on the contagion?" Her voice was flat, dull. She felt her own horror growing at what he was trying to force her into. Worse yet, she didn't see that she had any alternative.

"Yes, Sandra. I want you on my team."

She heard a distant flushing sound. The sound of all her hopes and dreams going down the toilet.

"I just joined another team. You're too late." She had to try to salvage this situation.

"It's never too late." Rodriguez looked over his shoulder at something behind him on the road. "You think about what I've said. I'll give you a little time to come to your senses, but I won't wait long." He slammed his hand on the hood of her car, right over her head. It was a frustrated move, and she realized why he was retreating. Flashing lights shone in her rearview mirror, drawing closer.

Saved by the cavalry. At least for now.

Rodriguez flicked a business card at her. She caught it in a reflexive move and glanced at it. It wasn't printed. It was just a blank card with a handwritten number on it.

"Call me."

He climbed into his car and sped away before she could tell him it would be a cold day in hell before she called him. The highway patrol car pulled up behind her, and she was occupied with the concerned young officer for the next fifteen minutes while he verified her identity and waited with her for a tow truck. He either didn't notice or didn't comment on the way her tire had blown. It hadn't died of natural causes. It had been blown off by a bullet. One that was even now lodged in the old rim.

Luckily, car repair places weren't like hospitals. They weren't required by law to report gunshot wounds to their patients. With a well-placed donation, she ought to be able to get her car fixed with no questions asked. Either that or she could invent a sob story of some kind. It would depend on the nature of the mechanic who answered the summons for a tow truck.

As it turned out, Sandra hadn't needed to resort to either method. The guy who sold her a set of rear tires didn't bat an eyelash at the damage. He was more concerned about getting her to buy two tires instead of the one she needed to replace. She let him spin his tale about how the tires needed to be balanced properly and then quietly paid for two overpriced retreads. Anything to get back on the road.

She managed to pull into the base entrance only a couple of hours behind schedule. She stopped at the guard shack to identify herself and show the papers she'd been given, inviting her here. They searched her car and before they were through, Matt Sykes showed up, a concerned wrinkle between his brows.

"I heard you had some trouble on the road," he said as he walked up to her. "Glad to see you made it here all right." He shook her hand, and she could tell he was moderating his strength so he wouldn't crush her fingers.

That was considerate. She'd shared too many handshakes with men who didn't realize they were crunching her bones in their gorilla grips. It was nice to see the commander was thoughtful enough to consider such things.

"How'd you know about the flat tire?" She blurted out the question before she thought better of it.

"You're too important to this team to take chances with, Sandra." He tugged off his sunglasses, pinning her with his compelling, dark blue stare. "The minute that trooper ran your I.D., it sent up an alert that reached my desk a few minutes later. If you'll recall, I was against your driving here all by yourself. It would've made more sense to fly. We could've had you here in an hour."

"Yes, but I would have had to leave my car and all my possessions behind. Or worse, let them be sorted and packed by strangers." She made a face just thinking of such an invasion of her privacy.

"You let us pack up the rest of your stuff to put in storage. I don't see the difference." He truly didn't. She could see it in his expression. Typical of a man. He wouldn't think twice of letting a stranger handle his jockey shorts. She noticed he didn't comment on her car, he merely looked at it quizzically.

"Trust me. There is a huge difference. I brought the things with me that I didn't want to leave in storage. My clothes and other personal stuff."

He looked at the relatively empty backseat with one raised eyebrow. "You travel light."

She had to chuckle at his hopeful tone. "It's all in the trunk."

He wandered the few feet over to the back of the car where an MP was letting his dog sniff the contents of her open trunk. It was filled with boxes and a few garment bags that contained a portion of her wardrobe and personal items. The dog hopped down, having found nothing objectionable, and the MP stepped away. The car had been cleared for entry to the base.

"Interesting choice of vehicle." Finally, Matt commented on the land yacht. It had taken longer than most, which was impressive. But in the end, everyone was curious about the giant old vehicle.

"It was my dad's," she said simply. The short answer seemed to satisfy him. He only nodded briefly and put his sunglasses back on, hiding his gorgeous denim-colored eyes.

"If you'll follow me, I'll lead you to your lab. You'll be quartered in the same building. I'll show you the best place to park and help get your stuff inside."

"That would be great. Thanks." Sandra was impressed at his offer of assistance. He really was making her feel welcome. It was more than she'd expected.

Too bad it was under false pretenses. At least on her part. The scene with Rodriguez had kept replaying in her mind as she'd driven the last miles to base. She didn't know what to do. She certainly didn't want to work for the bad guys. Rodriguez was a worm. No, he was lower than a worm. He was scum. She wouldn't throw her lot in with him no matter what.


Excerpted from A Darker Shade of Dead by Bianca D'Arc Copyright © 2010 by Cristine Martins. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 22, 2010

    amazing read

    Dr. Sandra McCormick is with a classified government program. Her job is to inject dead soldiers with a serum designed to regenerate tissue. What she got was dead military men coming back to life. Scared beyond belief, she runs, but she forgets one thing-to close the door behind her. Now the zombies have contaminated innocent people and a zombie virus is running rampant. Sandra would do anything to undo that night, but the question is, can she forgive herself?

    Commander Matt Sykes has a sixth sense about lies and the people telling them. He knows Sandra is keeping something from him. He just doesn't know what. He is also finding himself falling for the sexy scientist. As they both look for the cure and a way to stop the zombie threat, trust becomes an issue, especially when evil scientists want to create super zombie soldiers. As sinister evil scientists work to perfect the zombies as weapons, Sandra scurries to find the antidote. Can she find the cure before it is too late?

    Bianca D'Arc has a zombie romance thriller with A Darker Shade of Dead. I often found myself comparing this novel to the movie Resident Evil. I can see some real similarities to them, so I think if you loved Alice, wait till you meet Matt and Sandra. Matt is a military man all the way, used to doing his job and not getting emotionally involved; that is, until he meets his match in the elusive and captivating Sandra. She gets under his emotional armor despite all his fighting to keep it in place.

    Sandra feels a lot of guilt over the zombie epidemic. After all, her mistake caused it. Now she is scrambling to undo the damage she has done while keeping the secret that she's the one who started it all. This guilt makes her an easy target for the bad guys as they try to use her guilt to their advantage. The chemistry between Matt and Sandra is amazing to read. I really enjoyed watching Matt lose his famous control to the brainy scientist. Sandra is a strong woman I found myself admiring.

    Over all, A Darker Shade of Dead is a must read for anyone who likes action-adventure and love sprinkled in with rampaging zombies. I know this one will be on my keeper shelf for sure.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 8, 2010

    Romance, and...Zombies?

    Romance, suspense, and...zombies? Yes, this paranormal thrill ride has zombies in it. Who would have imagined that you would see "romance", and 'Zombies" in the same sentence. But fear not. This book is a keeper- filled with plenty of suspense, romance, love scenes, and the occasional encounter with a zombie. Reading Sandra McCormick and Matt Sykes story is a first time read of Bianca D'Arc's work for me, and I highly enjoyed it. The zombies were a part of a scientific experiment gone wrong. Sandra McCormick was a part of that, and now that things have spun out of control, she is working for a new group of people to come up with an antidote. But someone from her past wants her working for their team, or else.

    Fans of the paranormal will enjoy A Darker Shade of Dead. It kept me intrigued, chilled, and satisfied. From the first page to the last, the book is filled with a little something for everyone.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Zombie fever fans will enjoy this entertaining romantic urban fantasy

    Dr. Sandra McCormick knows she will go to her grave seeing the marines brutally murdered eight months ago by the zombies created by her peers led by Dr. Rodriguez who used her genetic experiments on innocent people (see Once Bitten, Twice Dead). She hopes to at least find an antidote, but has little chance of doing so under current conditions as being persona non grata except by Rodriguez, who demands she return to the zombie project or he will expose her to the world as the creator.

    Still she obtains a top secret government assignment to work with the military and civilian agencies on creating the antidote under the direction of Commander Matt Sykes before the virus goes pandemic. He distrusts her as he senses she conceals something critical from him. She fears his reaction if he learns her research led to the zombie plague that killed the marines and others. Then there is Rodriguez threatening to destroy her unless she hands over her research to him.

    Zombie fever fans will enjoy this entertaining romantic urban fantasy in which, as she did in Once Bitten, Twice Dead (whose leads support this tale), Bianca D'Arc refreshingly (and shockingly) has two humans fall in love. The story line is fast-paced for the most part as the stars battle zombies and Rodriquez and their attraction; however it slows down when Sandra turns lecturer explaining the zombie virus and her efforts for an antidote. Readers will want to join the scientist and the soldier at the front trying to prevent a zombie pandemic even as they fall in love.

    Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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