Touch of Darkness

Touch of Darkness

by C. T. Adams, Cathy Clamp

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Overview

KNOW YOUR ENEMIES

It’s good advice—and Kate always thought she did. But everything has changed: there’s a new force at the head of the Thrall collective. A force brilliant enough and ruthless enough to hide its sinister plan behind humanitarian work—building and funding halfway houses to ease the victims of drugs and the Thrall back into society.

And then Kate discovers that another part of the plan is rescinding the rules of fair play by which the Thrall have always dealt with humans. Kate is no longer Not Prey. Now she is just like everyone else: Prey.

Uncovering the plot is a start, but stopping it is another thing entirely. Kate must not only call on all of her own resources, but all of those that belong to her werewolf boyfriend Tom. But the Thrall collective has a brand new way of getting to Kate: a very personal series of attacks designed to tear her from Tom. Kate has to decide: save her relationship with Tom, or save the future from the Thrall?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765359629
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 07/29/2008
Series: Thrall Series
Pages: 432
Product dimensions: 4.24(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.15(d)

About the Author

CATHY CLAMP and C.T. ADAMS are the authors of the Sazi series as well as the USA Today bestselling Thrall series. They live in Texas.

Read an Excerpt

Touch of Darkness


By C. T. Adams, Cathy Clamp

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2008 C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4918-7


CHAPTER 1

Tiny needlepoints of pain dragged me up through layers of sleep. Increasingly insistent, the repeated puncturing resisted my best attempts to drop back into the warm and inviting dreams of my soon-to-occur wedding. I vaguely remembered rolling over beneath the heaps of down comforters. The resulting yowl of a startled and indignant cat pried open my eyes.

The room was pitch black — that enveloping depth of darkness you only get after a power outage. We forget how surrounded by light we are normally, even at night ... from the soft glow of the clock to the little dots and rectangles of hibernating electronics.

But I'd been prepared for this after watching the weather report at bedtime. I reached to the nightstand, nudging aside the soft bulk of my cat, who refused to stop digging claws into my arm. A click later, and the yellowish glow from a battery lantern pushed away the black. As my brain started to function a little better, I heard the wind howling outside. It's not completely unheard of to get early-season blizzards in Colorado, and this one was going to be a doozy. Even in the dim light I could see icy patterns on the window ledges high above the bed, and driving snow that moved sideways across the glass. I groaned in response and curled deeper under the covers.

Again Blank jumped on my chest with a weight that pushed the air from my lungs hard and fast, like airplane turbulence. He was named Blank because of his unfinished appearance. A bare canvas that only required a splash of color to be real. But his whiteness had dulled to a dirty gray in the light, even while his pale, nearly clear eyes reflected it. They became headlights that made me squint. As I lifted his body off me, I thought he was purring, but then I realized it wasn't a purr that rumbled his chest.

It was a growl.

He combined the warning with claws digging deep into my wrists and I was suddenly fully awake. Adrenaline pounded my pulse as I listened for danger. I hadn't had any trouble for awhile now — no women with knives, men with guns, or even Thrall vampires trying to slice open my veins. So it was probably time for them to appear again. Damn it. Just when life was going pretty good.

A little snow wouldn't bother the Thrall. They're not vampires of legend that slow down like reptiles in the cold — making them little threat before they've fed. No, they're ordinary humans, turned superhuman by sentient psychic parasites, but fully capable of shopping for winter clothes at the mall in broad daylight.

Even in flannel pajamas, the chill that hit me when I threw off the covers was enough to make me shiver. Apparently, the power had been out for longer than I'd thought. My feet found the slippers on the wooden floor by touch. Good thing, since I couldn't see that well yet. I picked up the handle of the lantern and walked to the dresser to turn on the second lantern. This one was bigger, an eight D-cell monster that, with a flick of the switch, filled the bedroom with comforting incandescent light.

Sometimes, just having a light turn on is enough to scare away an intruder, but I didn't hear any footsteps or panicked voices downstairs. No scents of unfamiliar cologne or sweat found my nose. A quick glance at the wind-up clock on the bookshelf showed it was 2:00 A.M. That's when I heard the sound ... a rumbling, cracking sort of noise and sensation that I couldn't place. The cat hissed and leapt down from the bed to stand next to me. The guttural thrum reminded me of the approach of a distant trash truck. The sound faded away after a moment, leaving only the wind and snow beating against the windows. There are a lot of windows in my loft, formerly a factory in the lower downtown of Denver, called LoDo by the locals. I renovated the place so that the old, thick industrial glass would rise above the floor on the west side for two full stories. Rain and snow hitting the wall of glass tend to set up a rhythmic vibration that becomes white noise after years of hearing it.

Blank stayed with me, crouched low next to my feet as I descended the staircase to the main level, carrying my little circle of light. He was looking all around, taking in everything, as though he couldn't place the sound either, but didn't like it. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, while I was still surrounded by walls that gave some measure of defense, I opened up my senses. Being psychic has advantages at times, and this was one of them. I can touch minds that are nearby, can communicate telepathically with family and loved ones in danger. But mostly, as much as I hate it, I can sense where the Thrall are. They've tried repeatedly to turn me into one of their own. They've come so damned close to succeeding several times now that if one was in my apartment, I'd know.

But they weren't here, or even there. Though the whole Denver hive should be up and about at this time of night, I was met with a smooth, flat wall of ... nothing. Either my ability to touch the hive was being blocked by the queens, or they were holed up, sleeping out the storm like sane people. Since a lot of the Thrall hosts tend to be abnormally athletic people, hence slightly insane in my opinion, they're probably out in this mess. My fiancé, Tom Bishop, would say I was the pot calling the kettle black, since I'm a former professional athlete. It's part of why the Thrall has been trying to capture or kill me for years. But even I'm not nuts enough to be outside in a Colorado blizzard. I played volleyball ... beach volleyball. Warm sun, soft sand.

So, I was betting it was option number one, which was a bad thing. They only block me when they don't want me to know what they're up to. It's an effort for them, because I'm pretty strong, so they don't do it for long.

But you know what they say — you're only paranoid if you're wrong. If you're right, they call you proactive, and in my many encounters with the Thrall, I've been exceedingly proactive.

The wind stopped for a few moments, the calm before the next blast of snow. In that brief silence, I heard the sound I'd been missing. A steady trickle of water that was like a dripping faucet, but more hollow. It seemed to come from ahead of me, but there was nothing along the wall of windows that had pipes, except the dripper lines in each of my potted plants for when I go on trips. I suppose the sudden cold could have split the plastic hoses. It made me sigh, because it would be a mess to clean up if it was in more than one place. The tension in my muscles was replaced with a weary resignation.

I have a lot of plants.

My brother Joe called me Jungle Kate for the sheer volume of greenery ... well, he did back when he was speaking to me, anyway. The last time he spoke to me was at his wedding months ago. It was just a tense thank-you in response to my congratulations, and only after being prodded in the ribs by his new bride. Then he'd turned his back and walked away. He even returned the gift Tom and I had given them, unopened. That had brought on the first of many tears. But we're both stubborn, and I refuse to apologize for being psychic ... for being a target of the Thrall. I hate that the vampires keep attacking my family because they're trying to kill or capture me. But I don't know what to do except keep trying to destroy them, and keep protecting those I love to the best of my ability.

The power chose that moment to flicker on. Both Joe and the Thrall were instantly purged from my brain by the horror that made me gasp and Blank hiss and dive for cover, almost simultaneously.

CHAPTER 2

My wall of windows was a waterfall — literally. Spiderweb cracks had appeared across the panes in a pattern that reminded me of a baseball line drive to a windshield. The inside was still warmer than outside, so the snow was melting as it hit the glass and was seeping through the cracks to drip on the floor. My gaze was pulled upward because no way should those windows be cracking. I'd been forced to heave a woman who was trying to kill me through the glass a year earlier and her body had only managed to break out a single pane. It had taken months for the glazier to find a sheet of quarter inch, blue-tinted glass big enough to replace it. I'd had him check the integrity of the whole wall when he'd finally returned, and the panes were as solid as the bricks surrounding them.

But not anymore, and I could see why. Apparently, a lot more snow had fallen than they'd forecast, because the ceiling was bowed down nearly a foot where it met the windows. Either several tons of the white stuff, or a military transport plane, had crash-landed on my roof.

A rapidly growing puddle was crossing the hardwood floor and seeping down into the pit area toward my sofa and entertainment center. But they were the least of my worries as the rumbling sounded again, this time accompanied by the very particular sort of squeaking that metal makes when it's being stretched beyond its limits. I instinctively ducked and Blank darted back under the coffee table when sizzling and popping came from above. One of the industrial-sized ceiling fans that keep the loft warm or cool stuttered and began to smoke. The ceiling dipped further. There was no time to do anything but run for my life.

I dove for the floor and grabbed the cat, who responded by clinging to my chest with all four feet, claws extended. The cat carrier was already by the door because he was going to be staying downstairs with my tenant, Connie Duran, while I flew with Tom to Las Vegas for our wedding. My flight was supposed to be later today, and Tom planned to follow tomorrow at the end of his shift at the firehouse.

Those plans might be changing.

Another ominous series of creaks and groans hurried my feet, and I suddenly didn't care that I was wearing pink and yellow pajamas with fuzzy bunny slippers. I did care that it was snowing outside and I might freeze to death, though. Thankfully, Tom had left a pair of boots next to the couch, and my coat was with the jump bag I keep in case of emergencies in the downstairs closet. It has spare clothes, toothbrush, and weapons. I grabbed it quickly, pulling the strap onto my shoulder.

Blank went into the carrier without any fuss for a change and I snapped the metal gate closed just before slinging on my coat and tucking slipper-clad feet into the boots. I'd guessed right that they'd be darned close to a perfect fit that way.

The door to my apartment is one of the old fire doors from the original factory. It takes a pretty tough person to open it under normal circumstances. My shoulders are my strongest feature, so I can open it, as can Tom. Of course, he's a werewolf, so that helps. But I hadn't ever tried to open the door with weight on the door frame. I could already see the heavy steel beginning to flex down, and I wasn't sure what would happen if I yanked it open. Would the whole header collapse down on my head before I could get out? Would it start a chain reaction that would take out the windows and bring down the roof?

The only other option was the old freight elevator that would deliver me right into the basement where there's a small parking garage for the people who live here. Right now, the only car in the place should be Connie's — if she's not out on a call. She's a bail bondsman (or is that bail bondswoman?), so she keeps odd hours.

My own truck was stolen a year ago, and I had to use the replacement money to pay bills instead of getting a new set of wheels, so that spot is vacant. As a werewolf, Tom isn't allowed to have a driver's license, much less own a car. Damned prejudice anyway.

But I had no way of knowing if the elevator frame had been damaged. Would I get inside it just to have it get stuck halfway down, where I wouldn't be able to get out? No, better to take my chances with the door. Tom had used the CAD program at work to make an escape plan for the building so that I could post it on the walls for future tenants ... and it didn't include either elevator.

So, it would be me against my building. Well, I'd forced it to my will once when I renovated it from a mouse-infested dump — and I could do it again. After patting the top of the cat carrier for luck, I steadied my stance and grabbed the knob with both hands. As I'd expected, it didn't give on the first tug. Not only did it not give, but the rumbling increased tenfold and the spider cracks sped up. Well, shit.

The second tug nearly pulled my arms from their sockets but I did get a hint of fresh air from the hallway that encouraged me. Blank mewled piteously from the back corner of the carrier as I bolted away from him to the kitchen, where I keep the crowbar. Normal people don't keep crowbars in their kitchen, but normal people aren't the building manager and maintenance department rolled into one. And, I hate trudging to the basement every time I find some old rusted thing that needs a helping hand. It happens more than I like to think about. It's in the bottom drawer, right next to the WD-40 ... another handy item for the task at hand.

I set the black nylon jump bag onto the kitchen floor. It would only be in the way while I worked.

A fine trembling was beginning in the floor, which was starting to panic me. People make mistakes when they're panicked, so I tried not to listen to the noises of the building that was threatening to collapse onto my head. My mind focused down to, insert crowbar in doorway, throw weight against wall. Ignore big hole in drywall and move crowbar down a notch. Hose down hinges with lubricant. Repeat.

Inch by inch, the steel door fought against the steel frame weighted down with bricks and snow. I was winning but it wasn't fast enough. A crash sounded behind me and I looked back to see that the bedroom where I'd been sleeping was now buried in what was probably a ton of steel supports, asphalt roofing, and sizzling electric wires. A rush of cold wind and snow hit me in the face and the air stank of smoldering wood and hot metal.

Dear God. Is this what Tom feels like every time he goes in a burning building? My heart was pounding a mile a minute and my terrified cat was yowling while clawing and biting at the metal gate to the carrier to escape. The crowbar was down to the floor and the doorway was still only open about three inches — not quite enough to get a good grip with my hands where I could brace myself. Blank got picked up and moved to the left and then I used every bit of my leg strength to kick those steel-toed boots into the crowbar. It hit the baseboard with a thunk and the door popped open so hard and fast that I would have gotten knocked out if I hadn't lost my footing and wound up on my butt. Woo! Here's to clumsiness!

More of the ceiling crashed to the floor, taking out Tom's relatively new flat-screen television and the rocking chair that was one of the few things left from my mother. The kitchen, too, disappeared under a pile of rubble. But the header over the door held. A pile of snow the size of a child's snowman fell through the new opening and hit my back just as drywall dust coated me. I started coughing, both from the sudden blast of cold air and the swirling dust.

Pinging, cracking, and more screeching filled the air and a brick bounced off the wall about head height. I struggled to my feet and grabbed the carrier. The bag was toast, so I left it. I ran down the hallway toward the staircase. It's an old metal tread emergency stair and the fire inspector promised me it would outlast the building. I prayed he was right as I headed down to the second floor. Tom's old apartment is on that floor, but most of his stuff has been in my place since we got engaged. I didn't need to knock on the other tenant's door either. Rob Jameson and Dusty Quinn are members of Tom's pack but they're already in Las Vegas with — saints be praised! — my luggage and wedding gown. Dusty had half-jokingly suggested I allow her to take my luggage since I didn't have a very good track record of making it to the church on time. I originally objected, but something had come up time after time in the past ten months since Tom proposed. So, I dutifully packed my bags and sent them off with her, while Tom shook his head indulgently.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams, Cathy Clamp. Copyright © 2008 C. T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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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Touch of Darkness 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
over+far+to+quickly%21+lol+loved+them
jjmachshev on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if "Touch of Darkness" is the last book in the Adams/Clamp 'Thrall' series or not. The ending could certainly be taken as a finale, but in the paranormal world I just can't take anything at face value. In their series, the Thrall is a different take on vampires. Their vampires have a kind of collective mind which is called the Thrall, and they have been after our heroine for quite some time trying to make her another 'Queen' because of her abilities in ESP. This is an excerpt from their website on the series: "They're a race of sentient parasites with a psychic, hive society that considers everything on earth "Prey." Only a very few humans have achieved the status of "Not Prey"---those who pose a threat to the hive. Kate Reilly is one of those people."Gives ya goosebumps, eh?In this third book of the series, Kate comes up against the worst threat yet, an old flame who's been infected and twisted by the Thrall and now declares war on Kate and her loved ones. If that's not enough, Kate's also being stalked by her werewolf fiance's ex who has apparently gone totally wacko. As Kate's life begins to fall apart, she'll need all her allies and abilities to keep from becoming just 'Prey'.A fine finale (if that's what it really is)! This last book is 418 pages of action and intrigue and most of the cast of secondary characters from the previous books return to help Kate in her fight. A very different and very well written series by the same authors who write the 'Sazi' series. If this is really it for Kate, I'll be a bit sad...but I'll still have the Sazis to keep me warm!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice pace, great heroine and charactures. This book and the whole series really progresses well and keeps your interest. I really like the new take on vampires being parasites thing. Nice new wist to think about that i haven't heard before.
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jjmachshev More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if "Touch of Darkness" is the last book in the Adams/Clamp 'Thrall' series or not. The ending could certainly be taken as a finale, but in the paranormal world I just can't take anything at face value. In their series, the Thrall is a different take on vampires. Their vampires have a kind of collective mind which is called the Thrall, and they have been after our heroine for quite some time trying to make her another 'Queen' because of her abilities in ESP.

This is an excerpt from their website on the series: "They're a race of sentient parasites with a psychic, hive society that considers everything on earth "Prey." Only a very few humans have achieved the status of "Not Prey"---those who pose a threat to the hive. Kate Reilly is one of those people."

Gives ya goosebumps, eh?

In this third book of the series, Kate comes up against the worst threat yet, an old flame who's been infected and twisted by the Thrall and now declares war on Kate and her loved ones. If that's not enough, Kate's also being stalked by her werewolf fiance's ex who has apparently gone totally wacko. As Kate's life begins to fall apart, she'll need all her allies and abilities to keep from becoming just 'Prey'.

A fine finale (if that's what it really is)! This last book is 418 pages of action and intrigue and most of the cast of secondary characters from the previous books return to help Kate in her fight. A very different and very well written series by the same authors who write the 'Sazi' series. If this is really it for Kate, I'll be a bit sad...but I'll still have the Sazis to keep me warm!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In Colorado Kate Reilly feels fortunate to still be alive having survived seemingly endless waves of attacks by the local vampiric Thrall (see TOUCH OF EVIL and TOUCH OF MADNESS). She and beloved werewolf Tom Bishop plan to marry although his pack is not pleased with his choice of a bride from outside the pack. Though he still needs approval especially by his Alpha, Tom assumes no one will prevent his nuptials in a couple of days now that Kate¿s apartment building collapsed due to a blizzard and she needs a home he plans to provide her.------------- Tom failed to consider Janine his former lover, who swears Tom is her soulmate. At the same time the loved birds struggle with getting the blessing of his pack, her brother Brian, a former Eden drug addict, is undercover at New Dawn Thrall halfway house in Texas where he learns more of their conspiracy to take control from the humans. The media fails to see beyond the Thrall manipulation of them in which they are the good guys and Kate is a baby killer.-------------------- The final entry to the delightful Thrall trilogy is a superb urban romantic fantasy as Kate and Tom have extended family/pack issues that make her as the vampire slayer and him as a werewolf seem real. Interestingly, instead of being a hero, the manipulated media paint Kate as a baby killer while the Thrall are described as innocent victims (Karl Rove would be proud of that swiftboating). Fans of the miniseries will appreciate the climax while newcomers will want to ¿touch¿ the previous two books first.-------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
In Colorado Kate Reilly feels fortunate to still be alive having survived seemingly endless waves of attacks by the local vampiric Thrall (see TOUCH OF EVIL and TOUCH OF MADNESS). She and beloved werewolf Tom Bishop plan to marry although his pack is not pleased with his choice of a bride from outside the pack. Though he still needs approval especially by his Alpha, Tom assumes no one will prevent his nuptials in a couple of days now that Kate¿s apartment building collapsed due to a blizzard and she needs a home he plans to provide her.---------------- Tom failed to consider Janine his former lover, who swears Tom is her soulmate. At the same time the loved birds struggle with getting the blessing of his pack, her brother Brian, a former Eden drug addict, is undercover at New Dawn Thrall halfway house in Texas where he learns more of their conspiracy to take control from the humans. The media fails to see beyond the Thrall manipulation of them in which they are the good guys and Kate is a baby killer.--------------- The final entry to the delightful Thrall trilogy is a superb urban romantic fantasy as Kate and Tom have extended family/pack issues that make her as the vampire slayer and him as a werewolf seem real. Interestingly, instead of being a hero, the manipulated media paint Kate as a baby killer while the Thrall are described as innocent victims (Karl Rove would be proud of that swiftboating). Fans of the miniseries will appreciate the climax while newcomers will want to ¿touch¿ the previous two books first.---------- Harriet Klausner