The Hot Zone (Rainshadow)

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9780515154726: The Hot Zone (Rainshadow)

The world of Harmony has its wonders, one of them being Rainshadow Island.
Just beneath its surface, a maze of catacombs hides a dangerous secret...


Halloween—with its tricks and treats—is a dust bunny’s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow’s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it’s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn.

And now, Sedona’s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow...

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About the Author:

Jayne Castle is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz, the author of more than fifty New York Times bestsellers. She writes futuristic romance novels under the Castle name, contemporary romantic suspense novels under the Krentz name, and historical romance novels under the pseudonym Amanda Quick. There are more than 35 million copies of her books in print.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

The dust bunny was back.

Sedona heard the soft, muffled chortle and rushed to the barred door of the small, windowless chamber. The lab was deserted for the night but there was ample illumination. The Aliens had vanished a few thousand years ago but they had built their maze of underworld catacombs to last. And they had left the lights on. The quartz walls of the small cell and the chamber that housed Dr. Blankenship’s research equipment glowed with an acid-green radiance.

Because of the constant light it was impossible to tell whether it was day or night up on the surface, but she was pretty sure it was night because Blankenship’s two seriously bulked-up assistants had left a while ago, talking about dinner. The pair had names but she had privately decided to call the one with the short, razor-cut hair Buzzkill. The other man had completely shaved his head. She had nicknamed him Hulk.

They wore a lot of khaki and leather, but even without the clothing cues she would have known that they were ghost hunters. She had worked with Guild men often enough to recognize them when she saw them. One big clue was that they were obsessive about their amber. They wore amber in every conceivable way—in their belt buckles, in their earring studs, in the hilts of their knives. She knew they probably carried more amber as backup in their boots. No self-respecting Guild man ever went down into the catacombs without plenty of amber, and all of it was tuned. Good amber set to the correct frequencies was the only way to navigate in the heavy currents of senses-distorting psi that flooded the Alien tunnels. Lose your amber and you were lost forever.

She heard another muffled chortle. This time it came from beneath one of the lab workbenches. There was a flash of motion near the floor. The dust bunny scurried out from under the bench and fluttered across the room to the door of the cell. He looked like a large ball of fuzzy dryer lint studded with a pair of baby blue eyes. There were six paws and a couple of ears but they were nearly invisible in the fluff of his fur.

At some point she had decided to call him Lyle. She wasn’t sure why. The name just seemed to fit, and giving the dust bunny a name served to make him seem more real. She needed all the solid, tangible links to reality that she could get. Last night when Lyle had first appeared she had still been fighting her way up through the thick layers of the drugs that Blankenship used to keep her heavily sedated in a waking dreamstate. She had no idea how long she had been held prisoner. Her days and nights were filled with nightmares and disturbing visions.

At first she had assumed that the dust bunny was just one more hallucination, albeit a comforting one. She had wondered if it was a sign that Blankenship’s experiments had finally pushed her over the precarious border between sanity and chaos.

Lyle had appeared thrilled with the energy bar that she had given him from the stash in the cell. He had squeezed easily through the bars in the door and hopped up onto the cot. He had chattered at her with increasing urgency until she finally realized that he was trying to get her to leave.

“I can’t go anywhere,” she had explained. “The door’s locked.”

She had sat beside him for a long time, taking comfort from him. He had departed shortly before Buzzkill and Hulk returned. There had followed another horrible day of Blankenship’s experiments. It had taken every ounce of willpower she had to fake the waking dreamstate. What she really wanted to do was scream her rage and claw Blankenship’s eyes out of his head.

That night she had despaired of ever seeing Lyle again. But he was here. Her spirits soared.

“Hi,” she whispered. She crouched and reached through the bars to pat Lyle. “Good to see you again, buddy.”

Lyle rumbled. He had a small, shiny metallic object about an inch and a half long clutched in one paw. He fluttered through the bars, bounced up onto the cot, and waved the bright thing at her.

“A gift in exchange for the energy bar?” she said. “Thank you.”

When she took the present she saw that it was a small emergency firestarter. They were known as flickers and they were standard-issue emergency equipment for Guild men. Fire was one of the few useful sources of energy that worked in heavy psi environments because it could be made to burn across the spectrum from the normal into the paranormal. Sophisticated, high-tech gear like guns or computers either failed to function at all or else exploded in your hands.

She considered the little flicker. A plan quickly formed in her head. It wasn’t much of a plan but when you were desperate, any sort of plan held a certain appeal. At most the flicker would generate only a spark of a flame. Still, that might be enough for her purposes.

“Hmm.”

Lyle muttered impatiently and bounced some more.

“Yes, I know,” she said. “Time to get out of here. I don’t think I can get through another day pretending to be in a dreamstate.”

When she had finally begun to drag herself out of the oppressive nightmare landscape she had intuitively known that she had to conceal her recovery. If Dr. Blankenship realized that she had awakened, he would very likely double the dose of whatever hallucinogen he was using on her.

She considered her options. She had comprehended two facts yesterday during the course of the experiments. First, for whatever reason, Blankenship and his men were extremely wary around her. They evidently considered her dangerous. That was a good thing, she told herself, probably the only thing that had kept Buzzkill and Hulk from molesting her while she was in the dreamstate. But she dared not give them any reason to use physical restraints as well as medication to keep her under control.

The second discovery she had made was that the experiments Blankenship was conducting had something to do with her talent. She had no idea what had been done to her but she was sure she still had her ability to open and close the paranormal gates of the Underworld. Unfortunately her ability to work the energy gates was of no obvious use when it came to escaping the lab.

Lyle growled, impatient with her failure to get with the program.

“I would like to come with you,” she whispered. “But I can’t fit through the bars of this cell.”

She had been contemplating that problem since she had awakened. The first obstacle was the lock on the cell door. It was an old-fashioned padlock. A key was required to open it.

Buzzkill and Hulk had keys.

Even if she succeeded in escaping the cell and getting past the two bulked-up assistants, she would still face the challenge of getting out of the tunnels. Without tuned amber she would never find her way back to the surface.

There was plenty of amber embedded in the lab apparatus but it was all tuned to operate the simple instruments that were designed to function in the heavy psi atmosphere—not for navigation.

Lyle rumbled softly again. She could feel his small frame vibrating with a sense of urgency.

“We need a distraction,” she said. “I’ve got a sort of plan but it’s one of those ideas that had better work the first time because I’ll only get one shot at it.”

If she failed, Blankenship would overwhelm her with his ghastly dreamstate drugs.

“Here goes nothing, Lyle.”

He blinked and sleeked out, his tatty fur plastering against his little body. He opened his second set of eyes, the ones he used for hunting. They burned molten amber. He vaulted up onto her shoulder.

“Right,” she said. “Let’s do this.”

She took a deep breath, rezzed the little flicker, and touched the small spark to the edge of the pillow.

That was when she found out what Blankenship had done to her para-senses.

With a terrifying whoosh of energy, the tiny flicker spark literally exploded into a firestorm, engulfing the cot in seconds.

“Crap,” she whispered. She stared at the raging fire, too stunned to comprehend for a few seconds.

Smoke was not a problem in the heavy psi environment. It dissipated quickly in the atmosphere, but the fire she had inadvertently started was something else again.

In her panic she intuitively rezzed her senses to the max.

And discovered to her amazement that she could control the flames.

“Impossible,” she gasped.

But she was doing it. Frantically she reached out with her talent, struggling to control the currents of the fire. It took a moment or two but in the end she realized it was not all that different from working gate energy. She beat the wall of flames down until only the bed was burning.

Fascinated, she concentrated harder and generated more energy. The tide of flames surged and ebbed at her command.

Satisfied she had the fire under control, she opened her mouth and screamed.

There was no need to fake genuine fear. She was committed now.

Lyle growled. The claws of his small paws sank through the fabric of her shirt. He could have escaped the cell but he made it clear he wasn’t leaving without her.

Two figures appeared in the doorway of the lab. Sedona screamed louder, flattening herself against one wall of the cell as if trying to avoid the flames.

“Shit,” Hulk said. “The crazy bitch is awake. She set a fire. How in green hell did she do that?”

Buzzkill started forward, dragging a key out of one pocket. “We’ll figure that part out later. Right now we’ve got to get her out of there. Blankenship will be pissed if he loses his precious research subject.”

“Yeah, well, he’s not the only one who will have a reason to be pissed. In case you haven’t been paying attention, we need that little witch.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” Buzzkill said. “I told you the woman was going to be trouble. She gives me the creeps the way she looks at us with those weird eyes.”

“What the hell is that thing on her shoulder?” Hulk said. “Don’t tell me she’s got a rat.”

“I think it’s a dust bunny,” Buzz said.

Sedona screamed again.

“Shut up, already,” Buzzkill growled.

He stabbed the key into the lock and swung the door wide.

“Come on,” he snapped. “Get out of there.” He glanced back at Hulk. “Be ready to grab her. Give her a shot of the sedative to keep her quiet while we put out this fire.”

“It’ll be a pleasure,” Hulk said. He reached into the pocket of his leather vest for a small syringe case.

Lyle growled. Sedona clutched the flicker very tightly in one hand and fled from the cell.

Buzzkill did not try to stop her. He left that job to Hulk, who was already moving to intercept her. One big fist reached out to close around her arm.

The instant he made physical contact with her she rezzed her new talent, clicked the flicker again, and set fire to his shirt.

Hulk yelled. The expression on his face was a mix of astonishment and panic. He released her and staggered back, batting wildly at the flames that were leaping from his shirtsleeve.

“What in green hell?” Buzzkill paused in the act of trying to beat out the flames and turned to stare at Hulk.

“The bitch set my shirt on fire.” Hulk clawed at his vest and T-shirt, ripping the clothes off his massive chest and shoulders. “It’s the heavy doses of the formula that Blankenship has been giving her. If she wasn’t crazy before he started his experiments, she sure is now.”

“Stop her.” Buzzkill charged out of the cell. “Pull a ghost. Hurry, man. She’s getting away.”

Sedona ran for the door. Lyle clung to her shoulder and urged her on with small hissing noises.

She was only a few steps from the arched doorway of the lab when a ball of hot green psi-fire coalesced in front of her, blocking her path. She slammed to a halt, nearly dislodging Lyle. He recovered his balance and snarled at the violent energy ghost that Hulk had generated.

The technical name for the dangerous ball of psi was UDEM—Unstable Dissonance Energy Manifestation. There was nothing of a supernatural nature about ghosts. They were composed of specific frequencies of Alien psi that those with a special talent could work.

Pulling unstable dissonance energy out of the invisible currents of psi that flowed throughout the Underworld was, in Sedona’s opinion, the only thing Guild men were really good at. There was no doubt but that Hulk was a very powerful hunter. The seething ghost in front of her was the largest she had ever seen. The currents pouring off of it lifted her hair and raised goose bumps on her arms. A cold sensation shivered through her. A ghost this large could be deadly.

“Got her,” Hulk said. He started toward Sedona, rage burning in his eyes. “You’re going to pay for that little fire trick.”

“Be careful,” Buzzkill warned. “She already set fire to you once. She’s a gatekeeper. Everyone knows they’re weird to begin with. No telling what she is now that Blankenship’s been using the drugs and radiation on her. Knock her out with the ghost.”

Hulk halted, clearly torn. But in the end self-preservation won out over damaged pride and anger.

“Yeah,” he said. “The ghost will work just fine.”

The ball of green energy started to drift toward Sedona. In another moment it would come close enough to burn her senses. She had some natural immunity because of her gatekeeping talent, but no one could withstand the full onslaught of a powerful ghost. The best she could hope for was that the unstable energy manifestation would merely render her unconscious. The worst-case scenario was that it would kill her.

No, she thought, death wasn’t the worst possibility. She had already sustained one bad psi-burn in the Underworld. Another severe burn might send her into a permanent dreamstate. She would spend the rest of her life here in Blankenship’s lab or some low-rent para-psych ward. No question about it—death would be a better outcome.

“This could go real bad,” Sedona said to Lyle. “Better run while you still can. Go on. Shoo. Get out of here.”

She tried to pluck him off her shoulder and send him toward the door. But Lyle just growled and dug in his claws.

“Okay,” she said. Her pulse pounded in her veins. “Looks like we’re a team. Neither of us leaves the other one behind, right?”

Lyle rumbled.

“Unlike some Guild bosses I could mention,” she added.

The green ghost was drifting closer now, forcing Sedona to edge backward until she came up hard against an unyielding block of green quartz.

Buzzkill and Hulk stood still, breathing hard, and waited for the green ghost to come into contact with Sedona’s aura.

“Better not let it kill her,” Buzzkill said. “Remember, we need her.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Hulk said.

But Sedona could see the feverish excitement in his eyes and hear it in his voice. He was at the edge of his control. That was never a good thing but it was always really bad when it happened with a ghost hunter. A Guild man who couldn’t control his talent was liable to do a lot of damage, especially down in the Underworld where there was so much energy.

She took a deep breath, rezzed the flicker, and simultaneously pulled hard on her senses.

Flames exploded in the atmosphere between her and the ghost. She fought to control the stormy currents of fir...

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Book Description Jove Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The world of Harmony has its wonders, one of them being Rainshadow Island. Just beneath its surface, a maze of catacombs hides a dangerous secret. Halloween--with its tricks and treats--is a dust bunny s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn. And now, Sedona s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780515154726

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Book Description Jove Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. The world of Harmony has its wonders, one of them being Rainshadow Island. Just beneath its surface, a maze of catacombs hides a dangerous secret. Halloween--with its tricks and treats--is a dust bunny s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn. And now, Sedona s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780515154726

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Book Description Jove Books, 2014. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The world of Harmony has its wonders, one of them being Rainshadow Island. Just beneath its surface, a maze of catacombs hides a dangerous secret. Halloween--with its tricks and treats--is a dust bunny s dream come true. Just ask Lyle, Sedona Snow s faithful sidekick. But for Sedona, it s a nightmare. Though her new job managing a small hotel and tavern on Rainshadow is helping her move on from her tragic past, a bizarre disaster down in the catacombs has brought a pack of rowdy ghost hunters to her inn. And now, Sedona s ex has arrived on the island, claiming he wants to get back together, just as a newcomer appears to have a strong interest in her. Cyrus Jones is the new Guild boss in town. He has his own agenda when it comes to Sedona, but even the best-laid plans are no match for the passion that springs up on Rainshadow. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780515154726

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