Shades of Death is a novel many readers find difficult to define. I have to admit, I'm at a loss myself with this one because it encompasses many genres. I wrote it in two distinctive parts, and while it is a short novel, it's one that touches on a number of intriguing themes, Christianity's connection to the vampyre, modern research, paranormal investigations, and a touch of romance, of course. If you haven't already read this one in a previous release, I hope you'll enjoy this newly re-edited version.
Shades of Death returns:
Death has many shades and shapes... Deep within the ageless
Mountains, an ancient evil wakes. Imprisoned many centuries ago,
the creature has waited, patiently, for the one destined to grant her freedom.
Arienne Lereaux has studied the preternatural menace called "vampyre"
for most of her life. She is an expert in the field. Loosely affiliated with a
secretive organization called The Institute of Paranormal Research and
Investigation, she turns to them when she unearths what may be the first
representation of the vampyre ever to exist.
The enigmatic and attractive Head of the Institute, Adam Raven, has spent a lifetime tracking the clues left by his mother's disappearance in the mountains of
twenty years past. When Arienne arrives at the secluded island headquarters of
the Institute, he wonders if she holds the key to finding his lost mother. But
before too many days pass, the city of Romania
is rocked by a series of grisly murders. As it races to find the culprit, the
Institute faces an evil unlike any it has encountered before... Vancouver
In the middle of their hunt, another branch of their network is making a scientific breakthrough in genetically heightened telepathy. The team responsible may soon hold a weapon that will have world powers at their door—until their lead scientist vanishes after leaving
to consult Raven and his people.
Ancient myth is suddenly not myth, and evil may take many guises before the
Institute can restore the delicate balance that was destroyed the night Arienne
stumbled into a remote castle in the mountains half a world away… Toronto
Exclusive excerpt from Chapter One:
The Institute of Paranormal Research and Investigation,
The Nest, Adam Raven’s whimsical moniker for his small island home called Raven’s Eyre, was filled tonight with patrons from many of the charities and educational institutions that regularly received grants from The Institute of Paranormal Research and Investigation. There were also the expected number of curious spectators, casual students of archaeology, and reporters.
Standing slightly apart from the gathering was Arienne Lereaux, casually at ease and smiling, but shrouded in an almost visible, self-imposed distance. She held a glass of sparkling champagne, sipping it occasionally as she watched the other guests, her expression pleasant but aloof. She was not a woman who sought the limelight, but she never failed to attract a certain amount of attention in any room. At five and a half feet tall, Arienne was not imposing; yet she was striking. Her voluptuous curves drew men to her, and her cool, sometimes scathing wit just as quickly drove many away. Her hair was shining coffee brown, falling to the middle of her back; her eyes a matching darkness, that when she chose, could be fathomless.
Her features were a disarming mix of soft feminine gentleness, and unrelenting stubbornness when she was crossed. At thirty-three, she remained detached from people, and oddly untouched by the passions of love. In her innermost heart, where honesty is the only rule, she knew she inflicted that isolation on herself because she’d never met anyone who challenged and cherished her in equal measure. She made it an impossible quest for any man who tried, and, so far, none had proven her wrong.
Her expression warmed marginally when she met Adam Raven’s polite gaze, and she raised her glass in a wordless toast to him. His smile reflected amusement, and enjoyment.
Doctor Adam Raven was a man who made her contemplate things she rarely considered. He was intelligent, and an easy match for her swift mind. He was casually arrogant and composed, naturally in control of the responsibility of The Institute. Her woman’s heart also conceded to his charm and his handsome face. Adam was a man that was impossible not to notice–especially when dressed as he was tonight, in the stunning black and white of a tuxedo. Arienne smiled when he scanned the crowd to locate Lorinna Mallory, the most beautiful woman in the room, as far as Arienne could see. Adam smiled again when his colleague nodded in response to his wordless directive.
The Institute workers discreetly made their way to the far end of the room, and positioned themselves in a loose semi-circle at Adam’s back. The reception room grew hushed, and all attention became focused on the draped pedestal that was so clearly the reason for tonight’s party.
The Institute headquarters on the small island off the
coast was a grand, vaguely mysterious place, rarely made accessible to the
public, except on occasions such as the one that opened the house tonight. The
rich dark shades of gleaming wood dominated the atmosphere; books were a
natural part of the decor; antiques of varying ages and places of origin; and a
staff of demure, well-trained people ran the house with discreet efficiency. British Columbia
Arienne knew that somewhere in its depths, the mansion also housed one of the most advanced laboratories on the planet. That was one of her reasons for coming to the city. A few seconds later, her attention was diverted from the estate and her internal wanderings.
Lori stepped forward and smiled.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if we could please have your attention for a few moments?”
The crowd quieted, and Adam once again glanced at Arienne, who made her way to the front of the assembled group, but had not joined the Institute team. For the first time since they’d met, her smile was radiant, and she nodded.
“You all know Adam Raven...” Lori continued, and took a step back to her position beside Robin George, a psychologist and M.D., and relatively new to the eclectic team.
Adam halted next to the shrouded pedestal and felt the focus of the entire room settle on him with expectant intensity. The unconscious force of psychic energy battered him for a moment before he imposed the control that kept such sensations from overwhelming him. Composed again, he smiled and addressed the people in front of him.
“As you are aware, the
is home to many
valuable and rare artifacts from all over the world.” He waited out the
expected spurt of applause. “Tonight we are honored to add to our collection a
piece many scholars and researchers believed to be pure myth.” Institute Museum
With the theatrical flourish of an accomplished magician, Adam lifted the small sheet that had hidden from view a figure of ancient stone. It was hideous in appearance; fanged, skeletal, winged and Vampire-like. Clutched within its talons was a human skull. There was an odd, eerie luminescence lurking within the dead eyes of the figure.
A quick scan of the room told the Institute members that their guests were wary of looking too closely at the small statue. That unease created its own wash of anxiety among them. Adam once again became the center of attention as he broke the uncomfortable silence.
“This piece has been dated at well over 30,000 years old. It was discovered in,” he smiled, expression faintly ironic, “perhaps appropriately enough, the
Tonight, we have with us the woman who found the piece, Doctor Arienne
He gestured to Arienne, who responded with a tiny bow of acceptance of the polite burst of clapping.
“Doctor Lereaux, would you do us the honor of explaining the significance of this piece?”
Arienne frowned briefly, then her expression smoothed, and she went to stand at Adam’s side. The slinky ripple of her gown as she moved made her overly conscious of herself, and she mentally berated herself for allowing the saleswoman to persuade her to purchase the outrageously priced designer dress–scarlet was not a color that left its wearer unobtrusive, as Arienne generally wished to be.
“Thank you, Doctor Raven.” She turned to the people who awaited her explanation of the find, and its significance. “We’ve all heard the legends of vampires and many of the myths most commonly found in our culture were born from Bram Stoker’s novel, DRACULA. There are vampire legends from virtually all cultures; they vary in types and abilities, but all have two things in common. They are creatures reputed to have died, and they feed off the living. This,” she touched the figure with reverent fingers, “is one of the oldest representations of the mythical being we call vampyre. The people of the
believe to possess this figure is to be enslaved to the vampire spirit entombed
within it.” Arienne shrugged, and her features shifted to an expression of wry
humor. “I guess that makes me Renfield.”
The guests laughed weakly, still unreasonably agitated in the presence of the idol. Adam and the other Institute members were also growing apprehensive along with the mood of the room.
Adam moved to go to Arienne’s side and halted abruptly, his eyes suddenly filled with the flashes of psychic vision plaguing him in recent years. As they often did, the images blurred together, a rapid series of impressions that would not make sense immediately: .....He and Arienne in a passionate embrace... making love... Arienne screaming... blood on Adam’s hands... Then, lastly, Arienne’s eyes... terror-filled... glowing...
The vision ended as precipitously as it began. Adam, inwardly shaken, completed his interrupted step to Arienne’s side. She was gazing at the crowd, seemingly oblivious to his closeness.
“The first record we have of this figure in our culture links it to Christianity, though it’s not clear how or why there is a connection,” she said quietly.
Adam glanced again at the crowd, aware that they were shifting nervously, hardly concerned with what Arienne was saying. He touched her elbow, and when she looked at him, he shook his head.
“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. As always The Institute is grateful for your support and your continued interest.”
Adam glanced back to the other members of the Institute team, his request silent, but understood. They broke up and began to mingle with the guests, carefully leading them into the banquet room.
Discreetly, Adam took Arienne by the arm and led her toward the stairs. They exchanged smiles and comments with various guests as he maneuvered her up the flight, through the library, and into the conference room.
As soon as they were alone, Arienne left his side and wandered to the window, her thoughts alive with chaotic images that were terrifying... and uncomfortably familiar.
“You did not mention a religious connection when you brought the statue to us, Arienne,” Adam said. His voice, softly accented by his years spent in English schools, was cool with annoyance.
She was motionless, and unresponsive. For a moment, Adam wondered if she’d even heard him. When he was about to repeat the question, she turned to meet his angry eyes.
“Why else would I be interested in it? You know my specialty, Adam. I’ve been trying to connect vampire lore to the Christian myth for years.”
Adam crossed the room to stand at her side. “For many of us Christianity is not considered a myth of any kind. It is the basis of our faith and our goals here. The Institute supports your research in terms of knowledge, but not in spirit, Arienne. Not if you consider the core of our strength nothing more than myth,” he admonished with a gentleness that was in direct contrast to the storm that brewed in his deep brown eyes.
“You misunderstand me, Doctor Raven,” she whispered. She faced him squarely, expression composed but equally angry. She indicated an ornate plaque, visible beyond the open door as it reigned over the library, and the inscription etched deep into the rich silver, “All sacrifice is made worthy by Truth,” she read aloud, then smiled. “I am merely seeking that truth, Doctor Raven. Something your parents would understand well.”
Adam remained silent, waiting for her to continue.
“I have reasons as great as your own for believing in God, and all that He represents. The darkest path needs a light, however ephemeral, and I have often found that beacon from within my faith and trust in a God more wise than we will ever be.” As she spoke, she calmed, the anger and argument forgotten. She relaxed with her subject and spoke more freely.
“The primary purpose for my quest, as it were, is to discover why there has always been such a great fear of vampirism and why it’s become so heavily linked to the Christian faith. There’s more to it than the modern fascination with lurid fiction.”
Adam was thoughtful, and leaned on the polished frame of a window, his hands resting on the wide sill.
“How long have you been studying this?”
Arienne perched on the edge of the conference table and shrugged delicately.
“Since before I became associated with The Institute... I ran into one of your people on one of my excursions into the Carpathians, and she persuaded me to take my talents to your Paris Division. I agreed. It’s been very useful,” she added with a laugh.
Adam smiled. “For us as well.”
Lori interrupted whatever reply Arienne was considering. Adam looked toward her, and saw the hesitation on his friend’s exquisitely beautiful features.
“We need you downstairs.”
He paused long enough to cast another look at Arienne, saw her nod and stroll to another of the many windows in the room, then he moved and followed Lori to the main floor.
Alone, Arienne stared blindly out the window. For the flicker of an instant, the mirrored surface of the glass cast her image back at her, but her eyes flared red fire. She was unaware of the disfiguration, and shivered violently as tears blurred her vision. Hugging herself tightly, she closed her eyes and bit back a sob of anguish.
Testimonials for Shades of Death:
Shades of Death was a great read from beginning to end. Just about the time I thought I knew what was happening, a new twist would come into play. I found myself riveted to my seat each night in front of my computer, reading and waiting to see where I would be taken to next. My only complaint is that this should be a movie and there had better be a sequel. ~~ Penny Adams, avid reader
In Shades of Death, the characters and the storyline draw you in so much that you forget time, you have to keep flipping the pages until the end.... ~~ Patsy Marshall, Book Club member and avid reader
Denysé Bridger's hauntingly suspenseful story kept me spell-bound from the first chapter right up to the last. It was hard to put down, and impossible to forget! ~~ Lisa Vance, Author