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The Hunt (Devil's Isle #3)(2)
Author: Chloe Neill


   “Yeah,” I said.

   Reveillon had ransacked Devil’s Isle—and every neighborhood the members had blown through along the way. They’d been like a hurricane scouring their way across New Orleans. Not the first storm the Big Easy had faced down. But over time, hell and high water took their toll.

   Reveillon’s members had hurt the city and those who lived here—and some, including Liam Quinn, didn’t live here anymore. The bounty hunter I’d fallen for had been hit by magic, and he’d left New Orleans to fight his resulting demons.

   I hadn’t heard from him since.

   I knew Liam was with his grandmother Eleanor in what Malachi called the “southern reach,” the bayous and marshes of southern Louisiana, where small communities of Paras worked to stay out of Containment’s crosshairs—and out of Devil’s Isle.

   Malachi, another of my Paranormal friends, had told us that much when he’d returned from reuniting Liam and Eleanor.

   But that was all I knew about Liam’s location or the effects of the magical hit he’d taken. It was a point of pride that I hadn’t asked Malachi for any more details, for updates as one week after another passed. I’d tried to force thoughts of Liam to the back of my mind, giving him the time and space he apparently needed. In the meantime, I’d focused on Delta, on our new work for New Orleans, on controlling my magic. Because even though I knew why he’d gone, it still hurt to be left behind.

   I put my hands on my hips and sighed as I looked at our meager harvest. “Oh, well. You add it to the bottled water, the aspirin, the radio. That’s something.”

   “It’s something,” he said. “You know they don’t take things for granted.”

   They hadn’t. If anything, they’d been too grateful, and that didn’t make me feel any better about Containment or our situation.

   “Oh, found one more thing,” Moses said, pulling something from the bib of his denim overalls. He’d found the overalls during a previous scavenger hunt. They were way too big for him—the pants rolled up at the bottom—but he loved that front pocket.

   He moved toward me, offered his hand. In his small, meaty palm sat a silver robot with a square body perched on blocky feet. Probably three inches long, with a canister-shaped head topped by a tiny antenna. A metal windup key emerged from its back.

   “It was wedged behind a drawer,” Moses said.

   “It’s old,” I said, taking it gingerly and looking—as my father had taught me—for a manufacturer’s mark or date, but I didn’t find anything. “Probably from the fifties or sixties.” That was much older than the fancy cabinets and countertops in there. “Must have missed it when they renovated the house. Let’s fire it up.” Carefully, I cranked the key, listened to the gears catch and lock, then set the toy on the countertop.

   The gears buzzed like hornets as it moved forward, its feet rotating in sequence, the little antenna bobbing. We watched silently as it marched to the end of the countertop. Moses caught it before it reached the end, turned it around, and sent it back in my direction.

   “Huh,” he said, monitoring its progress with surprising affection in his eyes. “I like that.”

   “Yeah,” I said, “so do I.”

   We wound it again and let the toy repeat its parade across the granite.

   “Shame they missed it when they left,” he said.

   “What did they miss?”

   We both turned sharply, found a man behind us.

   Malachi was tall, over six feet, with the broad shoulders of a soldier. He looked like an angel: tousled blond curls that reached his shoulders, a square jaw, luminous ivory wings that folded and magically disappeared while we watched, and eyes of shimmering gold. That gold was a signature of some Paranormals—and it was the color I’d seen in Liam’s eyes after he’d been hit and before he’d run.

   Malachi had been a general in the Consularis army—the caste of Paras who’d ruled the Beyond before the war, the same Paras who’d been magically conscripted to fight us by their enemies, the Court of Dawn.

   We hadn’t heard the usual thush of wings that signaled Malachi had alighted—and apparently walked right through the front door. He wore jeans, boots, and a faded Loyola T-shirt.

   Malachi smiled at Moses, then let his gaze linger on me. My heart met that look, delivered by a man beautiful enough to be carved in marble and preserved for eternity, with an answering thump. It was an instinctive response, triggered by the sheer power of his gaze.

   Paras had very different conceptions of romance and attraction. We were just friends—even if we’d become better friends over the last few weeks—but that didn’t make his power any less potent.

   “They missed our new toy,” I said, answering his question. I wound it again and set it to work.

   “Ah,” he said, then picked it up to study it. “An automaton.”

   “Or humans’ sixty-year-old idea of one. How’d you find us?”

   “We followed the sound of mating cats,” Malachi said, sliding a sly smile to Moses.

   Moses lifted his middle finger. “I got your mating cats right here.”

   I guess the gesture translated. Good to know. “We?” I asked.

   “Someone wanted to talk.” He glanced back as footsteps echoed on the hardwood floors at the other end of the shotgun house.

   A man stepped into the doorway, his figure only a shadow in the harsh sunlight behind him.

   For a moment, I was lost in memory, back at Royal Mercantile, my store in the French Quarter. Or it had been, before I’d been forced to abandon it. In my mind, I was in an antique bed on a rough-hewn floor, a slip of a breeze coming through the windows and a man sleeping next to me. Dark hair. Blue eyes. Body lean and honed like a weapon.

   The man I’d fought beside.

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