Until he met Dez, Kale's days were filled with violence and death. He was used as a weapon of destruction by the power hungry men of Denazen. He's a Six. A person with an abnormal ability. Some people call them gifts, but not Kale. Kale's touch means instant death to anyone.
But now there's Dez, the girl he can touch, and they're hunting down Sixes and warning them about Denazen. Kale is learning about the world outside captivity and trying to put his dark past behind him. But they underestimated how badly Denazen wanted him back.
When Dez sacrifices herself to save the new Six they rescued from falling into the corp's hands, Kale is lost. Denazen has brought out its best to get the job done. Samsen, a nightmare from Kale's past—the only person he's ever truly feared—has come for them, and it soon becomes obvious he has his own twisted agenda.
Kale will need all his training to get Dez back and ensure they all make it out, free–and alive. But will it be enough?
The Denazen series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1: Touch
Book #1.5: Untouched (novella)
Book #2: Toxic
Book# 2.5: Faceless (novella)
Book #3: Tremble
About the Author
Jus Accardo spent her childhood reading and learning to cook. Determined to follow in her grandfather's footsteps as a chef, she applied and was accepted to the Culinary Institute of America. But at the last minute, she realized her true path lay with fiction, not food. Jus is the bestselling author of the popular Denazen series from Entangled publishing, as well as the Darker Agency series, and the New Adult series, The Eternal Balance. A native New Yorker, she lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband, three dogs, and sometimes guard bear, Oswald.
Read an Excerpt
A Denazen Novella
By Jus Accardo, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Jus Accardo
All rights reserved.
"This is the last one, right?" Reluctantly, I pulled my hand away and wiggled my fingers back into the glove. There. Now it was safe to proceed. The material ensured I didn't accidentally dust someone, as Dez liked to put it.
She smiled and reclaimed my hand, fingers trailing to my wrist, then slipping beneath the cuff of the glove. Skin on skin. There was nothing like it. Dez was the first person — the only person — I'd ever been able to touch.
"Second to last. One more after this. Why? In a rush to go home?" she said, nudging my shoulder playfully. Her grin widened. It was hard resisting the urge to remove the glove and run the tips of my fingers along the edge of her bottom lip when she smiled at me like that.
Like I was the only other person in the world.
We were standing on the sidewalk in front of a small, blue two-level house. To the left was a driveway with a purple SUV sitting at the edge. Beyond the truck was a thick batch of trees trimmed with bushes that were dotted with small pink flowers. It would be easy dragging Dez into the shade. A few kisses. That's all. I could tickle the spot behind her left ear, making her laugh — my favorite sound in the world — and watch her eyes light up as she told me about the things she had planned for us. After we spoke with the girl who lived here — Kiernan McGuire — we were going to an amusement park.
"You promised me my first coaster ride," I said, leaning in to brush a quick kiss across her nose. She rose onto her toes and rubbed her nose against mine. There was a name for it — Dez had told me a few nights ago. Something about Eskimos, but I couldn't remember, and it didn't matter. Nothing mattered when I was with Dez.
"The sooner we get in, the sooner we get out. I'm dying for adrenaline-pumping chaos and some serious Kale time."
I laced my fingers among hers and tugged her toward the house. I loved her idea of Kale time and was eager to get started. "So what do we know about her? About Kiernan McGuire?"
We climbed the steps, and Dez pushed the small golden button next to the doorknob. Musical chimes sounded from the other side of the door.
"Um, pretty much her name."
I frowned. "That's all?" We'd spent the summer tracking down Sixes, kids with special abilities, on the list her cousin gave us. All targets of the Denazen Corporation, the Sixes were getting visits warning them of the danger one by one. Other than the obvious perks of getting to spend time with Dez, it felt good to be doing something helpful. Working to save lives instead of ending them. "That's inconvenient."
Dez laughed and bumped me with her hip, and I in turn bumped her back. I was learning. "You got spoiled with those last few."
She was right. I knew none of these people meant us harm, but I still liked to know what we were walking into. The last few names on the list had been complete with information on the target. Age, ability — one even had a list of blood relatives and what state they resided in. But apparently not this one.
"Yeah?" A girl appeared in the doorway. She was tall and looked a bit older than Dez, with long purple hair that hung wildly in her face. She must be the owner of the truck in the driveway. It matched her hair, so it made sense to me. Dez didn't own a car, but if she did, I was betting it would be white and black. Cars were supposed to match their owners. I was pretty sure that's how it worked. Or maybe it was furniture.
Possibly pets ...
I was still getting a handle on things. Nothing in the outside world was simple.
Dez smiled at the girl. "My name's Dez, and this is Kale. We're looking for Kiernan McGuire?"
"Who are Dez and Kale?" the girl asked, folding her arms.
I pointed to Dez and said, "She just told you. Dez." Pointing to myself, I said, "Kale."
The girl blinked several times, and for a few moments, she said nothing. When she finally did speak, her demeanor changed. "I've already seen the light. Praise the Lord, hallelujah, no meat on Fridays. All that happy horseshit."
I glanced at Dez, confused. "No meat on Fridays? Is there some rule no one's told me about?"
She started to close the door, but Dez was too fast. She rolled her eyes, wedged a shoe in front of the door, and shook her head. "We're not missionaries or whatever — we're here about your ability."
The girl's eyes narrowed. She was instantly suspicious. "Ability? You mean my super-exotic ability to tie a cherry stem into a neat little bow using me tongue?"
"We're Sixes. Like you. We have abilities." Maybe if I were completely honest, she would see she could trust us. "Until recently, I was a prisoner of the Denazen Corporation. Have you heard of them?"
Just saying the name made my muscles twitch. Until a few months ago when I'd met Dez, I'd lived at the Denazen facility. A prisoner. Used and manipulated by power-hungry men for their own personal agenda.
She turned her attention to Dez. "Is it time for his meds?"
Dez folded her arms and stared the girl down. Her resolve face. "You know damn well what we're talking about, so cut the crap. We'll be in and out and make this as painless as possible. I promise."
The girl sighed, lips twisting into an unfriendly smile, but pushed the door open and gestured us forward. As I was about to step inside, a chill ran down my spine and I could have sworn I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. A white and black blur. I turned back to the street, scanning the area to the left and then to the right. There was nothing in sight except several parked cars and a man walking a very small dog — neither of which were black or white. As the door closed behind me, I tried to bury the uneasy feeling.
The feeling that we were being watched.CHAPTER 2
"I don't have anything to offer you, so let's get on with it." The girl settled on the couch, watching us with cautious eyes. She knew what Denazen was. I could tell from the slight twitch in her eyebrow when I'd mentioned it on the steps. Body language could give you more answers than actual conversation if you just knew what to look for.
"We came here to warn you," Dez said, sitting down on the chair across from the girl. I stood to her right. "You are Kiernan, right?"
"Maybe," was her only response.
Careful not to get too close, I pointed to her wrist. A thin silver chain with a shiny plate in the middle had a single word etched into the finish. "Kiernan. Your name is right there."
A grin split her lips as she raised her hand and gave the bracelet a jiggle. "Well, I guess the saying isn't true. Not all the pretty ones are stupid, huh, pal?"
"Kale," I said, annoyed. "My name is Kale." I'd been referred to as a number for most of my life. I had a name. I wanted it used.
"I'll get right to it," Dez said, leaning across to the table between them. She picked up a small tile, then scanned the area looking for something else. A moment later, she was out of the chair and across the room to pick up what looked like a small pad of paper. "We're like you. Different. We can do things."
She'd been practicing. Mimicking at least two items every day. It was getting easier and the pain was laughable now — or so she claimed — but there were always those few seconds of hesitation. I could see it in her eyes. Fear. The memory of years of pain that had come with using her ability. I envied her strength. I'd seen what mimicking had cost her in the beginning, and it took a strong person to push past that. She was determined to condition her body to deal with the effects. It seemed to be working so far. Yesterday she'd mimicked an order of something called jalapeño sticks into cheese sticks. That had been one of her best mimics ever ...
As Kiernan and I watched, the edges of the paper twitched and rolled. A moment later, Dez was holding two identical blue tiles. She held them both out for Kiernan to see.
"Holy shit!" Kiernan exclaimed. She slowly rose from the couch and leaned forward, taking the paper-turned-tile from Dez. "That's some wicked trick."
Dez smiled. "It has its advantages ... So what about you?"
Kiernan's face turned stony. "What about me?"
This was wasting my Kale time. I decided it was best to just be blunt.
"You know what Denazen is," I said. If need be, I could knock her out — without doing any serious damage, of course — and call someone from the hotel to come get her, but Dez might think that a little too extreme. She said I lacked subtlety sometimes. I didn't lack it, though. I just saw no point. "They're coming. Here. You don't want to be around when they arrive. They use people like us."
Her eyes narrowed, but I could see a spark of fear in them. "Use? For what? And what's your bag?"
"My bag?" There was still a lot I didn't know, but men didn't carry bags from what I'd gathered. It seemed to me she should have known that. "I don't have one."
Dez stifled a giggle, and I realized my mistake. It was an expression. "She's asking what your thing is. Your ability."
Why not just say that? Was I the only one who found it disturbing that people rarely said what they meant? There was an expression for going to sleep and one for eating. There were sayings used if you wanted to leave a place or when you arrived.
Kiernan and Dez continued to talk, Dez arguing her case for Kiernan to leave with us and Kiernan denying she had any idea what we were talking about. I listened to them for a few moments but found my attention drawn to the window. That same uneasy feeling was creeping up my spine again. Suddenly I didn't want to be there.
"I understand you probably don't trust us," I said, making my way back into the room. Dez wouldn't be happy with my approach, but I wasn't comfortable here anymore. I wanted to leave. "If anyone understands distrust, it's me. But I know you know who Denazen is. They are not to be taken lightly. Think of the word monster, then multiply it by a thousand. They will take everything until there is nothing but a shell where your soul used to be. It's what they do."
Dez paled. "Kale —"
But I kept going. I wasn't trying to scare the girl — just be honest. She needed to know exactly what she was in for if she stayed here. "They'll starve you, beat you, and use everyone and everything on this earth that you care about to manipulate you into doing things that your imagination can't even comprehend. You're not safe here anymore. You need to get your family and leave this place."
Dez's eyes widened, but Kiernan just stared. For a moment, I was sure I'd simply made things worse. Eyes never leaving mine, Kiernan stepped around the table, took a deep breath — and disappeared.
Dez jumped to her feet. "What the —"
There was a faint outline — you couldn't see it unless you were truly looking for it — and every time she moved, it kind of shimmered. Kiernan laughed. It was a nervous sound, missing all the bravado. "So yeah ... I am like you, I guess."
Dez snorted. "And you thought my trick was cool? This is awesome! OhmyGod. Think of the possibilities ..."
Kiernan reappeared. "It has its moments," she said, repeating Dez's earlier comment.
"Turning invisible is the coolest ability I've seen — and trust me, I've seen a lot."
"She doesn't become invisible," I said, turning to the girl. "It's more of a camouflage effect, right? You weren't completely undetectable. I saw — something."
Kiernan flicked a finger at me, grinning. A flash of purple. Even her nails matched the SUV in the driveway. "Give the boy a cookie!"
Now really wasn't the time to think about food. And where was she keeping them? In her pockets? They'd be all crumbled. "I don't want one. Thank you."
Eyebrows raised, she wrinkled her nose — I must have insulted her by not accepting her offer — and turned back to Dez. "I become kind of transparent. The faster I move, the easier I am to see. When I was a kid, I couldn't do it unless I was standing still. Then, as I got older, I just kind of got more control over it."
Dez nodded. "Mine is like that, too. Until recently, mimicking — that's what I call it — made me wicked sick."
"So ..." Kiernan plunged her hands into her pockets. Her right foot tapped against the ground several times. "You want me to go with you. Where?"
"There's a place in Parkview — about two hours upstate — that's safe. A ... sanctuary for people like us. It's a group of Sixes committed to seeing Denazen fall."
Dez had the girl's attention now. "A group of Sixes? Like, how many are out there?"
"A lot more than you think."
Suspicion crept back into Kiernan's voice. "Well, if these other people — Denazen — want to use me, then what about you? What do you want?"
Dez took a step forward. "We just want to help."
"Why do I find that hard to believe? You want to help? That's it? And you don't want anything in return? Seems unlikely ..."
"Look, no pressure, okay? Come back with us now, and if you don't like it, we can help you find someplace else that's safe. At least let us try and help your family."
The girl hesitated, then sighed. "No fam. My parents died last year in a crash, and I'm an only child." She spread her arms wide. "Everything you see belongs to me."
Dez and I had spoken about this — the proper responses when people talked about their lives. Show interest and compassion, without being creepy. Listen when people spoke about themselves and shy away from asking strangers personal questions. That last bit of advice came after I'd questioned a woman at an eating establishment on the outskirts of Parkview why her voice was so deep. It wasn't until later that Dez informed me the woman was a transvestite — apparently not a woman at all. After finding out what that meant, I decided it was true. Some things were better left to mystery.
"That's unfortunate," I said, proud of myself. According to Dez, I came across as cold and detached sometimes. I was determined to show her I could be something more. Normal. "I'm sorry they're dead."
The girl just stared.
"How about a compromise?" Dez jumped in with a smile. "Kale and I were on our way to an amusement park in town. What if you came with, hung out for a while, and got to know us. We could answer any questions you have, and you could see we're not the big bad."
The girl's face lit up. "Jeeper's Land of Happy?"
"That's the one."
I wanted to protest — she was cutting into Kale time — but I wanted to leave more.
The girl thought about it for a moment. When she didn't respond right away, I was positive the answer would be no.
"No promises, but fine. A few hours won't hurt, I guess."CHAPTER 3
The inside of Kiernan's purple truck matched the outside. She proudly informed us that she'd had it custom-made. I liked purple — of all the colors it was my favorite — but this was proving to be a bit much.
Still, the fact that we were able to go from Kiernan's house to the park in something other than the car we'd borrowed from Ginger — with its strange, foul-smelling seats — gave me multiple reasons to overlook the color.
"My mom worked here when I was a kid," Kiernan proclaimed as we started across the large parking lot. "They used to let the kids mess around on the rides for free after closing most nights. The Tower of Screams was awesome in a cheesy kind of way."
"There are an awful lot of people here," I said, looking around.
Kiernan snorted, pulling a twenty from her back pocket and handing it to the woman inside the booth. "Don't tell me you're an agoraphobic ..."
"A what?" I had no idea what that was — but it didn't sound good.
"It's his ability," Dez said, caution creeping into her voice. She took my hand and squeezed. "His skin is deadly."
Kiernan stopped walking, eyes wide. "What do you mean, deadly?"
"If you were to touch my skin, you would die," I said. There was no reason to sugarcoat it. I was who I was — and it didn't bother me anymore. Not really. I used to sit and dream about what it would be like to touch someone — to feel someone's skin beneath my fingers — but then I found out. I found Dez. The inability to touch others simply didn't faze me anymore. As long as I had her, nothing else mattered.
Kiernan looked uncomfortable. "Um, is it safe for you to be, I dunno, out in public?"
I was about to mirror her statement — Dez hadn't told me the park would be full of so many people — but she interrupted. "It's safe. Kale knows how to avoid contact. He's been doing it his whole life. He's wearing gloves and a long-sleeved shirt. He'll be fine unless someone tries to kiss him." She winked at me. "And if that happens, I'd kill 'em before they ever got the chance."
Excerpted from Untouched by Jus Accardo, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2012 Jus Accardo. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Is this meant to be read after Touch or after Toxic? Sorry, Im just kinda confused
I loved the book Touch, its an AMAZING MUST READ story! However I'm disappointed because it took me all the way to the end of Untouched to realize it was only a novella, sure wish B&N would label things better. Boo, I mean its good but now I have to wait for the actual second installment to come out. I'll be dying of impatience till then!
Loved being inside Kale's mind. Note this is not a full length book but a short novella.
The storyline is great, but barnes and noble failed to mention that untouch is only a sample!
I absolutely loved Untouched!! My only complaint would be that I wanted it longer even though I know it's only meant to be a novella, I want to see through Kale's head more!! Kale has many people trying to break down his door, very few of them nice!! So even though it was a novella it was still packed with action! The Kale and Dez relationship is still going strong which I love and hate at the same time. Love because it's so adorable and they are great for each other, hate because I want Kale. For me. No one else. And yes I do know he is fictional! To make matters even harder for the duo, Denazen has brought on the big gun, Samsen, to get Kale. Poor Kale, all he wants is to be with Dez and have her safe!! We saw great growth in Kale's character as he battled with the demons of his past, which I absolutely loved. Characters need to grow. Jus Accardo has written a brilliant novella that leaves us all wanting Toxic right now!!