Table of Contents
“Karen Chance will enthrall you with her world of vampires, mages, and a fair maiden tough enough to kick their butts.”
bestselling author Rebecca York
Touch the Dark
“A really exciting book with great pacing and a huge cast of
vivid characters. This is one of my favorite reads of the
year.” —Charlaine Harris,
New York Times
bestselling author of
“A grab-you-by-the-throat-and-suck-you-in sort of book, with a tough, smart heroine and sexy-scary vampires. I loved it—and I’m waiting anxiously for a sequel.”
“A wonderfully entertaining romp with an engaging heroine. Here’s hoping there’s a sequel in the works!”
bestselling author of
“Exciting and inventive.” —
“Fast and heavy on the action,
Touch the Dark
packs a huge story. . . . A blend of fantasy and romance, it will satisfy readers of both genres.” —Fresh Fiction
“A very promising start to a new series, and an exceptionally entertaining first novel.” —
Touch the Dark
, Karen Chance takes her place along with Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, and J. D. Robb to give us a strong woman who doesn’t wait to be rescued. . . . The action never stops. . . . Engrossing.” —SFRevu
“[A] plucky heroine with special powers dealing with the supernatural. . . . Exciting and fun.”
The Weekly Press
“A fast-paced, entertaining adventure in the best tradition of contemporary supernatural fiction. . . . I look forward to seeing what Karen Chance does next.” —Emerald City
“A fast-paced action novel that never lets up. . . . Karen Chance is one of the most original voices in paranormal fiction. . . . A ‘do not miss’ novel for fans of vampires or fans of great storytelling . . . compelling, heart-racing, [and] erotic.” —Pink Heart Reviews
"Sexy vampires and interesting magical powers set up a thrilling and suspenseful environment in
Touch the Dark
. . . . Combines humor, action, and the paranormal into a scintillating story that will leave readers begging for more.” —Romance Reviews Today
“An intensely captivating paranormal adventure with a capable heroine who possesses great strength and a wry sense of humor. . . . Karen Chance has created a wildly rich and seductive world sure to keep many readers hungry for more.”
—The Romance Reader’s Connection
“A gifted author who pens a tale of vivid imagery [and] paranormal excellence, and draws her readers in. . . . A unique and awesome paranormal tale that sets itself apart. . . . Ms. Chance makes the genre her own with memorable characters [and] fast-paced action, and brings some of the best vampiric creatures ever created to life. . . . Readers won’t want to miss this one!” —The Road to Romance
“Entertaining [and] action-packed . . . a strong tale that will bring much acclaim to Karen Chance.” —The Best Reviews
"An entertaining romp.” —
"An interesting take on the vampire mythos that includes all kinds of supernatural forces and beings. Cassie is the perfect heroine . . . [and] her story is exciting and will keep you turning pages. . . . I’m looking forward to reading the sequel.”
ROC BOOKS BY KAREN CHANCE
Touch the Dark
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, April 2007
Copyright © Karen Chance, 2007
All rights reserved
REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) , without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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eISBN : 978-1-4406-3059-0
Thanks are due to Marlin and Mary for literally providing shelter from the storm. Katrina was a nightmare, but you helped turn that year into something positive. And special thanks to Anne Sowards, my editor, who saw this book through its many versions with unending patience. You deserve collaborative status for all the great ideas, but since they won’t put your name on the cover, I’ll put it in here.
Any day that starts off in a demon-filled bar in a casino designed to look like Hell isn’t likely to turn out well. But all I thought at the time was that a brothel should be more fun—especially one for ladies only that was staffed by handsome incubi. But the demon lovers slumped miserably at their tables, holding their heads as if in pain, and completely ignoring their companions. Even Casanova, lounging across from me, looked unhappy. His pose was unconsciously seductive—a matter of habit, I guess—but his expression wasn’t so nice.
“All right, Cassie!” he snapped, when one of his boys suddenly began weeping uncontrollably. “Tell me what you want, then get them the hell out of here! I have a business to run!”
He was referring to the three old women who were perched on stools at the bar. They were giving the satyr serving drinks a wilt in a place rarely seen at anything but full attention on one of his kind. That wasn’t surprising: none of them looked under a hundred, and their most obvious attribute was matted, greasy locks—gray since birth— that streamed in a web of tangles to the floor. I’d tried to wash Enyo’s, whose name appropriately means “horror,” last night, but the hotel’s shampoo hadn’t made much of an improvement. I’d given up after finding what looked like half a decayed rat in a snarl under her left ear.
The hair did have the benefit of distracting attention from their faces, though, so you didn’t immediately notice that they had only one eye and one tooth among them. Enyo was currently trying to take back the eye from her sister Deino (“dread”) because she wanted to check out the horrified-looking bartender. Meanwhile, Pemphredo (“alarm”) was using the tooth to rip open a bag of peanuts. She finally gave up and stuffed the whole cellophane-wrapped package in her mouth, gumming it happily.
I had once assumed that the Graeae were merely myths thought up by bored (and fairly peculiar) Greeks a few thousand years before the invention of TV. But apparently not. I’d recently acquired—okay, stolen—a bunch of items from the Vampire Senate, the body that controls the actions of all North American vampires, and had been trying to figure out what they were. The first one I’d examined, a small iridescent sphere in a black wooden case, had started to glow as soon as I picked it up. A brief flash of light later and I had houseguests.
I couldn’t figure out why the trio had been imprisoned, especially in so grand a place as the inner sanctum of a vampire stronghold. They were as annoying as hell but didn’t seem particularly dangerous, other than to my room service bill. I’d brought the gals along because it was either that or leave them unsupervised in my hotel room. They had a lot of energy for old women, and I’d had a hell of a time keeping them amused so far.
I’d sat them in front of three nickel slots while I went on my errand, but of course they hadn’t stayed there. Like three ancient toddlers, they had very short attention spans. They’d wandered into the bar shortly after I did, carrying a load of no-doubt ill-gotten souvenirs. Deino, clutching a little red devil plush under her arm, had dropped a snow globe off with me before heading for the bar. It contained a plastic image of the casino that, instead of being surrounded by fake snow, had tiny flames that danced about whenever you shook it. I thought it would be just my luck to get arrested for shoplifting something that tacky.
Despite the annoyance of babysitting the weird sisters, the expression on Casanova’s face as he regarded them told me it might work to my advantage. I smiled and watched the flames of Hell consume the tiny casino again. “If you don’t help me, I may just leave them here. They could use a makeover.” I didn’t bother to point out how bad that would be for business.
Casanova winced and tossed back the rest of his drink, giving me a glimpse of a strong, tanned throat under the loose collar of his dress shirt. Technically, of course, he wasn’t the historical Casanova. Possession by an incubus demon tends to increase mortal life span, but not that much. The Italian cleric who was remembered for having unmatched success with the ladies died centuries ago, but the reason for his reputation lived on. And there was nothing to complain about in his newest incarnation. I had to regularly remind myself that I was here on business and he wasn’t even trying.