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


CHAPTER ONE


   Early January

   New Orleans

   It had once been a lovely kitchen, with pale wood and granite, a pretty view of a courtyard garden, and an enormous refrigerator still dotted with photographs of what looked like a big, happy family. Father, mother, daughter, sons, and an enormous black dog, big enough for the kids to ride on.

   But they were long gone now, cleared out like nearly everyone else in New Orleans when Paranormals flooded into our world, leaving most of our city and much of the South in ruins.

   I was searching through what they’d left behind, looking for a diamond in the rough.

   “There is a house in New Orleans . . .”

   I winced at the throaty croak that echoed from the other end of the kitchen. “Like a frog being strangled,” I muttered.

   “They call the Rising Sun!”

   I leaned around the cabinet door. “Moses!”

   Inside the pantry, something thudded, rolled. “What? I’m working here.”

   “The singing.”

   A head, small and pale, with glossy black horns and irritable green eyes, peered around the pantry door. “What about it?”

   “It’s not great.”

   He snorted, doubt written across his face. “Says you.”

   “Yeah, says me.”

   Moses walked out of the pantry, three feet of Paranormal attitude. And, for the five weeks we’d been sneaking around New Orleans, my best friend.

   “Someone might hear you,” I reminded him.

   He grumbled a curse, walked through the shadowed kitchen in my direction. He held up a bloated silver can, its seams bursting from age, heat, and rot. By the size, I guessed it was tuna fish. Very gnarly tuna fish.

   “Jackpot,” Moses said.

   “You aren’t going to eat that,” I said. “It’s spoiled.”

   “Don’t be persnickety.” He sniffed at the metal, closed his eyes in obvious pleasure. “More flavor this way.” He held it out. “You want a sniff?”

   My stomach flipped in revolt. “I do not. It would probably kill me.”

   He waved off the concern. “I’ve done this tons of times. Maybe I just have a stronger constitution than you, Claire.”

   “Hmm,” I said noncommittally. Better to avoid going too far down that rabbit hole.

   Moses was supposed to be locked up in Devil’s Isle, the prison for Paras and anyone else touched by magic. Some Paras had wanted our world for their own; others, like Moses, had been forced to fight via magical conscription. Unfortunately, the Paranormal Combatant Command, the federal agency in charge of Paras, didn’t much care about that detail.

   I was a Sensitive, a human affected by magic that had seeped in from the Beyond. That magic gave me telekinesis, but at a cost: Too much magic would destroy my mind and body. Keeping that balance was a trick I was trying to master.

   I’d kept my power secret until a cult called Reveillon—people who believed magic in any form, including the city’s remaining Paranormals, should be eradicated—had attacked Devil’s Isle. I’d had to use my magic to bring down Reveillon’s founder. The PCC now considered me its enemy—and didn’t get the irony.

   There were signs the PCC might eventually come to its senses, acknowledge that magic wasn’t all bad and not all Paranormals had been our enemies on purpose. It had even authorized temporary leave for a select few Paranormals who’d fought in the Battle of Devil’s Isle.

   Sensitives like me hadn’t gotten the same consideration. We weren’t Paras, and we weren’t humans. We were different. Paras couldn’t become wraiths—the pale, skeletal monsters into which Sensitives transformed if we failed to control our magic, to balance all that heady power. If we weren’t careful, the magic would corrupt us, turn us into twisted creatures obsessed with absorbing more and more power.

   So despite my efforts in the battle, there’d be no pass for me. I was too unpredictable, too dangerous, too untrustworthy.

   Moses, having already snuck out of Devil’s Isle and having skipped out again during the battle, didn’t need a pass. He was already on the lam.

   We’d tried playing the game, helping Containment, the PCC unit in charge of Devil’s Isle, track down Reveillon and fighting on their side. And except for the few token passes, nothing had changed.

   So we’d been sneaking around New Orleans, working to avoid Containment. And since they were treating us like criminals, we figured we’d might as well act like criminals. We’d decided our job was to challenge the PCC and its refusal to acknowledge the truth about magic, about Paranormals, about Sensitives.

   Along with the other members of our crew, which we called Delta, we’d been covering Reveillon’s antimagic billboards with our own messages, using contacts outside the war Zone to rally the rest of the world to our side and gathering supplies for the Devil’s Isle clinic.

   The facility—and the wraiths secured there—weren’t on Containment’s priority list. Reveillon’s attacks had put a big crimp in the PCC’s supply chain, so even if the clinic had been on that list, consumables were getting harder to come by. We were in this house to gather up what we could for delivery to Lizzie, who ran the clinic.

   Moses walked toward the kitchen island with his slightly sideways gait, then slung a mesh bag of equally swollen cans onto the granite countertop and added his newest find to it. “You find anything?”

   It took me a moment to reorient. I closed the cabinet, held up a carton of sea salt and a tin of tea bags. “Salt’s half full, and the tea bags still smell mostly like tea.” No small feat, given they’d been stewing in heat and humidity. “Still,” I said, “you’d think there’d be more here.”

   “It’s a nice house,” he said, glancing around the room. “It would have been one of the first ones sacked after the war—or during the battle.”

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