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Authors: Jayne Castle

Orchid

From
Amaryllis
to
Obsidian Prey
, critics adore the electrifyingly passionate and suspense-charged novels of

Jayne Castle

“With her typical offbeat humor and flair, Castle takes a pair of powerful, unmatchable protagonists, sets them down in her innovative, synergistic world of St. Helen's, and gives them a mystery to solve, villains to outwit, and a passion to explore.”

—Library Journal

“A fun, fast frolic on another metaphysical plane! The characters are fun and sexy.… A romance that will link your senses to the primitive side!”

—The Literary Times

“Classic sharp wit and unrivaled skill for creating captivating characters.”

—Booklist

“A scintillating foray into love in another place and time [with] the heady charm of a great romance.”

—Romantic Times

… and they are equally enamored of her irresistible page-turners written under her real name, the beloved
New York Times
bestselling author

Jayne Ann Krentz

“One of the hottest writers in romance today.”

—USA Today

Turn the page for more rave reviews!

 

Praise for the sparkling contemporary romances of
New York Times
bestselling author

Jayne Ann Krentz
… “nobody does it better!”*

“Krentz at her best… with the snappy dialogue that has become her trademark and a cast of characters you want to know personally.”

—Sandra Brown

“The phenomenal Jayne Ann Krentz once again delivers one of her patented storytelling gems.… Another guaranteed top-notch read.”

—Romantic Times*

“Absolutely sizzles.”

—The State
(Columbia, SC)

“The inimitable Jayne Ann Krentz [is] always a consistent delight.… A winner.”

—Rave Reviews

“Krentz deftly mingles chilling danger and simmering sexual tension.”

—Booklist

“Fast, steamy, and wildly entertaining.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Psychic thrills and sharp wit.”

—Chicago Tribune

“Entertaining and delightful.… This is romantic suspense at its most enjoyable, enhanced by Krentz's trademark humor and quirky characters.”

—Library Journal

“Spicy.… Jayne Ann Krentz is one of the most talented authors writing romance fiction today.”

—The Midwest Book Review

“[Krentz] scores with a sexy thriller.”

—Kirkus Reviews

“A welcome escape into art-world intrigue.… A surprise ending caps this delightful mystery from a seasoned pro.”

—People

“One of the feistiest, most memorable heroines… Jayne Ann Krentz at her very best. Pure entertainment.”

—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

“A suspenseful and satisfying story that strikes a deep, human chord.”

—Patricia Matthews

 

Also by Jayne Ann Krentz

Absolutely, Positively
Deep Waters
Eye of the Beholder
Family Man
Flash
The Golden Chance
Grand Passion
Hidden Talents
Perfect Partners
Sharp Edges
Silver Linings
Sweet Fortune
Trust Me
Wildest Hearts

Written under the name Jayne Castle
Amaryllis
Orchid
Zinnia

The sale of this book without its cover is unauthorized. If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that it was reported to the publisher as “unsold and destroyed.” Neither the author nor the publisher has received payment for the sale of this “stripped book.”

Pocket Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 1998 by Jayne Ann Krentz

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

First Pocket Books paperback edition May 1998

POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at
www.simonspeakers.com
.

Illustration by Craig White.

Manufactured in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6

ISBN 978-0-6715-6902-0
eISBN 978-1-4516-2403-8

Prologue
 

“Time is running out, Mr. Batt.” Rafe Stonebraker rose slowly from the massive, old-fashioned Later Expansion period chair. He was well aware of the effect his deliberate movement had on the man seated across from him.

Batt did not exactly flinch but the dapper little man definitely tensed. “Running out?”

“You've had three weeks to find me a wife. To date you have not produced a single possible match from your files. What seems to be the problem?”

“With all due respect, Mr. Stonebraker, you are not the easiest person to match.” Hobart Batt produced a professional, placating smile but there was a cautious expression in his eyes. “I warned you when you first registered that it might take some time to find a suitable candidate.”

“Synergistic Connections is supposed to be one of the most efficient matchmaking agencies in New Seattle.” Rafe stood looking down into the flames that flared in the cavernous fireplace. “You advertise that you have a
success rate exceeding ninety percent. I expected better service from your firm, Mr. Batt.”

“Mr. Stonebraker, I assure you, we are doing our best. The thing is—”

“Yes?” Rafe turned his head to study Hobart's earnest, anxious features. “Just what
is
the thing?”

Hobart shifted uneasily under the scrutiny. He tweaked his pink bow tie and adjusted the sleeves of his expertly tailored pale gray suit jacket. “To be blunt, Mr. Stonebraker, your, shall we say, rather unique situation is proving to be a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. We face a number of serious challenges.”

“I see. Are you saying that the resources of your matchmaking agency are not up to the task of finding me a wife?”

Hobart's neat brows came together in an offended line above the rims of his round, gold-framed glasses. “I assure you that we are doing everything possible to find a good match. But the combination of your rather unusual psychic talent and your somewhat rigid personal requirements constitutes a considerable stumbling block.”

“When I registered you assured me that Synergistic Connections had established a reputation for its ability to match even unusual and rare high-class talents.” Unusual and rare were among the more polite descriptors for those such as himself whose paranormal abilities did not fit into the normal range, Rafe reflected.
Exotic
was the popular term. His jaw tightened. As if he was some sort of strange, wild beast from one of the still-unexplored continents of St. Helens, he thought.

“Quite true, sir.”

“You saw my para-talent certification papers. I'm only a class six. Mid-range. I fail to see why I should be a problem for your firm.”

The certification papers were frauds, of course. He'd had them prepared by an expert forger several years ago. It had cost him a great deal of money, but money had not been a problem. It was never a problem for him.

Rafe made money the way a baker made cookies—easily, quickly, and efficiently. With his particular type of psychic talent it was no great trick to sit down in front of the computer, analyze the financial markets, and make decisions that produced quite predictable profits.

He had commissioned the false certification papers because he had no intention of allowing himself to be formally tested in a syn-psych lab. Psychic talents were common in the population. Almost everyone had some degree of paranormal ability. But most people fell well within the conventional, measurable spectrum, which ranged from one to ten.

The vast majority went to a lab to obtain an exact rating. Such testing was as routine as getting a driver's license and took place at about the same time in life. The full degree of individual psychic talent did not mature until the late teens.

Paranormal abilities had appeared early on in the small population of colonists stranded on the planet St. Helens two hundred years ago. Psychic powers took two general forms. The majority of the population fell into the category called talents, meaning that they possessed a specific type of paranormal power that could be actively used. There were illusion-talents, hypno-talents, horticultural-talents, diagnostic-talents, tech-talents, etc.

The psychic energy that talents produced endowed them with a sixth sense. But unlike the other five senses, it could not be accessed except in brief, unpredictable, erratic bursts without the aid of a prism.

Prisms comprised the second, smaller category of people with psychic abilities. In them, paranormal energy took a different form. Prisms possessed the ability to focus the powers of a talent for an extended length of time. The economics of the situation being what they were, trained, high-class prisms often made good money selling their focus services to talents who wished to use their paranormal senses in a controlled, predictable manner for a lengthy period.

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