Jaci Burton’sDemon Hunter Series
THE DARKEST TOUCH
“Strong characters and gripping suspense make The Darkest Touch a book you won’t want to
Romance Reviews Today—
“Gifted Burton adds more dark thrills and sexy danger to her well-paced story.”
SURVIVING DEMON’S ISLAND
“Creative, scary sexy and fast-paced. Jaci Burton delivers.”
—CHERRY ADAIR, New York Times bestselling author
“Burton has an uncanny aptitude for intertwining the human and the paranormal so seamlesslythat sudden demon attacks and labyrinthine underworlds are perfectly believable. Realisticdialogue, spicy bedroom scenes and a spitfire heroine make this one to pick up and savor.”
“Big applause to Burton for successfully setting up a rousing and timely premise that’s areal roller-coaster ride. Not only does this book set the stage for further excitingadventures, it also delivers a great group of characters that have plenty of room for growth.Burton doesn’t skimp on the sizzling sex or romance either. This book has it all!”
“Exciting, intense. A ride you don’t want to miss. Burton has written a reality blast thatwill leave you breathless.”
—LORA LEIGH, USA Today bestselling author
HUNTING THE DEMON
“Burton brings the heat … Hot sex, fierce battles and an impending sequel make this titleworth hunting down.”
“Burton is back with another intensely sexy and action-packed adventure. … Sassy, sexy,supernatural thrills!”
“Aussies, heat waves, sex scenes, and demons galore.”
—The Romance Reader
“[Jaci Burton] spins an intriguingly sexy story with the most incredible characters. … If youhaven’t read anything of hers yet, I strongly suggest doing so now.”
Also by Jaci Burton
THE DARKEST TOUCH
HUNTING THE DEMON
SURVIVING DEMON ISLAND
To the readers who love the Demon Huner series and always await the next book in the series soeagerly—thank you so much for that. I hope this one meets your expectations.
And as always, to Charlie, for his love and patience.
To my agent, Kimberly Whalen, for her patient assistance with this book and my generalhysteria.
To my editor, Shauna Summers, and to Jessica Sebor, for editorial guidance. I appreciate allyou’ve done for this series.
To the Writeminded Readers Group, for my daily dose of fun and where everybody knows my name.Heh. You guys rock.
To all those who put up with me, who’ve shared my love and angst about the demon world and thewriting world in general—Lara Adrian, Steph Tyler, Larissa Ione, Maya Banks, Jackie Kessler,Lauren Dane and, as always, to Angie, Mel, Shan, and Mandy
Hell was chasing them.
Dalton should stay and fight—there was only one mission occupying his world right now—saveIsabelle. The only way he could do that was to get her out of here, away from the demons.
Away from hell.
As he jammed the accelerator and steered the SUV full-speed away from the cemetery he caughtsight of the blue lines of laser fire in his rearview mirror. They wanted to kill her. His ownpeople. He couldn’t let that happen.
His gut clenched. He was part of the Realm of Light, demon hunters sworn to defeat the Sons ofDarkness and their demon minions. He should be back there, fighting. His brothers and sistersof the Realm were right now engaged in battle with demons, and he was deserting them, runningoff with the woman he’d been assigned to terminate.
There was so much fucked-up about this scenario. He’d never walked away from a fight before.
But he had something more important to do. Instinct told him this was the right thing—the onlything he could do, given the circumstances.
He glanced over at Isabelle slumped over in the passenger seat. A woman he barely knew, yet hewas screwing his entire future for her—okay mostly for her. Unconscious, her head restingagainst the window, she looked so innocent, almost angelic. Her hair fell in soft waves overher shoulders; her lips were half open as she breathed rhythmically. Her hands rested in herlap. There was no fight left in her—unlike a short while ago when she’d battled like a demon.
Because she was a demon. Half demon, anyway, and a part of the Sons of Darkness.
Dalton had been ordered to destroy her, and he couldn’t do it. Which was why he was headingaway from the battle instead of standing side by side with the other hunters. He’d been toldto remove Isabelle from the scene because her sister, Angelique, was there, and Lou, theRealm’s leader, didn’t want Angelique to witness Isabelle’s destruction.
Lou had ordered Dalton to take Isabelle away and kill her.
But how could he? He was responsible for much of what had happened to her. He’d started thischain of events that had led to Isabelle’s downfall. He’d handled it all badly, from the timehe stole her diary, to making love to her when he shouldn’t have. It hadn’t been part of hismission, yet he’d found her irresistible.
Hell, he hadn’t wanted to resist. There’d been something about her that called to his darkside. Now he knew why. It still didn’t excuse what he’d done.
When he fucked up, he fucked up big, didn’t he?
So instead of terminating her, he was ignoring Lou’s orders, taking Isabelle away, abandoningthe Realm of Light.
All to save Isabelle.
He could never go back to the Realm now. They’d come looking for him and Isabelle. They’dwant to destroy her, to do the job he couldn’t. She represented a danger to the Realm. Yeah,there were other half demons within the Realm, but they had proven they could control the demonside of themselves. The others had never taken that step into darkness like she had. Isabellehad embraced the demon within her, had tried to kill her sister, Angelique. Isabelle had sided
with the Sons of Darkness. To the Realm of Light, she was nothing more than another demon now.
To Dalton, she was more. He didn’t understand it all himself, but as soon as Lou had given himthe order, he’d known it was wrong. For a second back there when he’d stood in front ofIsabelle, she’d changed. He’d seen the human side of her warring with the demon side. In aninstant, he’d known.
She was just like him. Straddling both light and darkness. He’d seen her look of helplessness,the pleading in her eyes. What he would have given for someone to offer him a second chance allthose years ago. It might have made a difference in the turn of events, the direction of hisdestiny. Now he had the chance to offer Isabelle what he hadn’t been. And at that moment he’dknown he’d do whatever it took to bring the human part of her back.
Now he just had to stay one step ahead of the Realm, had to keep the two of them moving and inhiding long enough to come up with a plan to save her. If he could bring Isabelle’s humanityback before the Realm of Light caught up with them, they’d never hurt her. He’d prove to themthat the demon inside her had been banished.
Isabelle stirred, moaned, reached up to her temple with her fingertips.
He was prepared to pull over, had a weapon at his side. He hoped he wouldn’t have to use it.
Her eyes drifted open. She frowned, angled her face in his direction, then looked at him likeshe had no idea who he was.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She opened her mouth, her bottom lip trembling. Her gaze drifted to the laser lying across hislap. Her eyes widened and he saw recognition in them. She snapped her gaze to his.
Tears filled her eyes. She shook her head, shrank against the window.
“I’m not going to hurt you, Isabelle. I’m taking you away from all of this. From them. Doyou understand?”
She drew her arms across her chest as if to ward off an attack.
Dalton pulled over to the side of the darkened country road. He put the car in park and halfturned in the seat, sliding the laser to his left side, out of her sight but still in reach. Hedidn’t know yet whether he could trust her. Her eyes were clear—human clear—but he knew fromexperience that could change in an instant.
“I needed to get you away from there. Do you remember what happened?”
She studied him for a few seconds, then gave a quick nod.
“We’re going to get out of here. Just you and me. And then we’re going to figure it all out.I’m going to fix this. Understand?”
She looked so petrified he wanted to fold her in his arms and comfort her. That would be such abad move right now. Or ever.
“I’m scared, Dalton.”
Isabelle had always been so strong and confident. Now? Lost. Broken. Confused. Her voice,ragged and soft, cut through him like a blade. “I know. I’ll take care of you. Trust me.”
She shuddered out a sigh. Her lids drifted and her body sagged. She closed her eyes and let herhead fall back against the seat.
In less than a minute, she was out again. Obviously, this had all been too much for her toprocess. But at least she hadn’t gone demon on him again. A good sign.
Now he really had to get moving. He mentally processed the To Do list—fake passports, aprivate flight, access to cash, and making sure their whereabouts weren’t tracked. The Realmhad their fingers in everything, so he’d have to be careful not to leave traces. He was goodat hiding his identity.
He’d already been doing that for a long damn time. He could do it for a few more months.
Two weeks later
Dalton felt more at home in the bayou than anywhere else. Moss providing a drapery of darkness,the dank smell of stagnant water, the humidity and the feeling of being closed in all suitedhis nature. Well-hidden, a place where no one could find him. No one knew about this place, noone would connect him here, so he knew it was safe to bring Isabelle.
The cypress trees bent low in welcome as he paddled the boat through the thick mud of the swampbottom, keeping watch over the woman who sat ramrod straight on the metal seat in front of him.
For the past two weeks Isabelle had said very little. Like a robot, she’d followed orders,eaten, showered, and slept when he’d told her, but stayed mostly silent. No conversation otherthan a few verbal affirmations to his questions regarding her comfort level.
He’d hoped to draw her out, to talk to her, to begin the process of healing her. But he’dgotten nothing. Instead, she’d gone further into her shell.
Shock? Maybe. She was probably confused as hell and completely disoriented. He’d circled themaround Europe before chartering a plane back to the U.S. When they arrived in New York, he’dbought a car and driven to New Orleans, not using the direct route to do that, either. Instead,he’d gone east and then south. Good thing he had a stash of cash he could utilize to doeverything he’d needed to do. No way could he have accessed Realm money to fund this venture.
The only good thing about Isabelle’s silence over the past two weeks was the time it had givenDalton to think, to plan. He’d known then where he was going to take her, what he was going todo. Hopefully, it would work.
Of course there were no guarantees, but at least it would give her a chance, which was morethan the Realm would have given her.
“We’re in the bayou in Louisiana now,” he said, getting used to hearing only the sound ofhis own voice. But he kept talking day after day, hour after hour, hoping it would helpIsabelle, that maybe something he said at some point would trigger a response from her. “A
place I used to call home.”
Isabelle gave a curt nod in reply, remaining, as usual, virtually motionless. Her fingers heldtight to the rim of the metal seat on the boat. She stared straight ahead while he paddled, nottaking in the view of the swamp at all. For all he knew, she was completely catatonic.
As the boat broke through the low-hanging moss, the house loomed into view, a great sprawlinghome well hidden from those who didn’t know about it.
The Labeau family was his family. Not blood relations, but they knew him better than anyone. Hehad no blood family. He’d come from nowhere. He didn’t, in fact, exist. No one knew thatexcept for the Labeaus. And now the only one still living who knew his secret was Georgie, andat—how old was Georgie now, forty-five, fifty or so?—hadn’t even been born when he’d firstmet her family. But when he’d contacted the Labeaus a week ago, Georgie had answered. She’dknown right away who he was, had told Dalton this place would always be his home.
As always, the Labeaus could be counted on. He had to come back here. There was something heneeded from this place and this family beyond the shelter it would provide Isabelle and him.
He drew the boat up to the dock. Several young children rushed to greet them, smiling andwaving, their bare feet slapping hard on the wooden dock as they ran and smiled. They mooredthe boat while he helped Isabelle out.
“Miss Georgie says you should go right to the house.”
Dalton grinned at a young girl of about eight with dark hair and serious chocolate brown eyes.“I’ll do that. Thank you.”
“She sick?” the little girl asked, inclining her head to Isabelle.
He noted the purplish cast under Isabelle’s eyes, the drawn look to her face. She’d lostweight over the past couple weeks because she hadn’t eaten much.
“No, she’s just tired.” Dalton slid his arm around Isabelle’s waist and led her up the pathtoward the house.
He liked the old house. Reminiscent of a plantation home, the house was rectangular, twostories with a wraparound porch. It always looked like it had been freshly painted, white withgreen shutters at each of the windows, cheerful flowers climbing up out of pots sitting on theporch. The house was a sprawling mansion, at least what he would call a mansion, though therewas nothing fancy about the place. But it was huge, it was clean, and to Dalton, it was theonly home he had. More important, as soon as he took the first of the five stairs heading up tothe porch, the tension within him dissolved.
He felt safe here, and Dalton rarely felt safe.
The screen door opened and a woman stepped out, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. Her skinwas flawless, the color of cream-flavored coffee. Her hair was cut short and her full lipslifted in a smile as she waited for them with her hands on her hips, her colorful ankle-lengthskirt swishing around her as she shifted back and forth. She looked a lot like her great-grandmother, that same kind of strange magic radiating in waves off her. It had been yearssince he’d been here, but he knew her. And she knew him.
She held out her arms and he walked into them. She hugged him, and despite how much older hewas than her, he was the one who drew comfort from the embrace. He pulled back and turned.“This is Isabelle.”
“Bienvenue à notre maison, Isabelle. I’m Georgianne. Welcome to the Labeau home. We’re sohappy to have you here.”
“Everyone calls me Georgie, and if you’re a friend of Dalton’s then you’re practicallyfamily.”
“Merci, Georgie,” Isabelle said, dropping her chin to her chest. “Je suis désolée.”
“Now don’t you go apologizin’,” Georgie said. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. We lovehaving visitors here.” Georgie slung her arm around Isabelle. “Come on, let’s go inside forsomething cool to drink. It’s blisterin’ hot out here today.”
Isabelle nodded and went in with Georgie. Dalton noted Isabelle was having trouble making eyecontact, as if she was uncomfortable.
Maybe she was just tired. But on a good note, she’d spoken more words to Georgie in those fewseconds than she had to him in weeks.
The kitchen was exactly as he remembered. Linoleum floors, still scrubbed to a gleaming shineevery day, no doubt. The one thing he remembered most about Celine, Georgie’s great-grandmother, was the woman always scrubbing something. She kept a seriously clean house and Godhelp you if you tracked mud into her kitchen.
Gingham yellow-and-white curtains covered each window, open today to let what little breezethere was blow through the house. Georgie motioned to the old wooden table where Dalton hadeaten many a meal. It could seat twenty, with wide benches on either side and chairs on eachend that reminded him of thrones. It was a lot more scarred now than it had been on his lastvisit, but still sturdy as a hundred-year-old oak.
He climbed over the bench and took a seat next to Isabelle.
“Lemonade,” Georgie said, setting glasses down and filling them with ice before pouringlemonade from the pitcher. “Loaded with sugar, too, because girl, you look like you need some
“I haven’t been very hungry,” Isabelle said, her head bent down and her eyes averted as shegrasped the glass and brought it to her lips. She sipped, then her lips curled in a hint of a
This is very good.”“Bien, merci.smile.
“Drink it all. You look like you’re about to fall down.”
Isabelle exhaled. “I feel that way.”
“Then you should eat. There’s soup on the stove.” Georgie stood.
Isabelle raised her head enough to peer at Georgie through her half-lidded gaze. “Please,don’t trouble yourself.”
, it’s no trouble. What’s trouble is you passing out on my kitchen floor.” She“Chère
scooped seafood stew into two bowls and laid it in front of them.
Dalton inhaled, the memories taking him back. “Your great-grandma used to make this soup.”
“Yeah,” Georgie said with a wide smile. “She and my mama taught me how to cook.”
“I was sorry to hear of your grandmother’s passing,” Dalton said. He’d known Georgie’sgrandmother well. Marie had a twinkle in her eye that had always made him laugh.
Georgie nodded. “Merci. She lived a happy life. We were blessed to have her as long as wedid.”
“I’m sorry, too,” Isabelle said in between spoonfuls of soup.
Isabelle was eating. That was good. He hadn’t been able to coax her into much more than a fewbitefuls at each meal.
“Grand-mère was ready. It was her time and she was in pain. Though we tried, there was nothingwe could do to help her. Even magic can’t fight disease.”
Isabelle paused, looked at Dalton, then at Georgie. “Magic?”
Georgie slanted a look at Dalton, then smiled at Isabelle. “Voodoo.”
Now Isabelle’s head raised fully and her eyes widened. “You practice it? Seriously?”
“Of course. It’s part of our lives, our culture. It’s who we are and as natural asbreathing.”
“Georgie comes from a long line of voodoo priestesses,” Dalton explained.
Isabelle shuddered, laid the spoon in the bowl and placed her hands in her lap. “Sounds likethe dark arts.”
Dalton caught the fear in her eyes. He knew she’d had her fill of darkness. Feared it. Hecouldn’t blame her for that.
Georgie rose, moved around the table, and sat on the bench next to Isabelle. She graspedIsabelle’s hands in hers. “Oh, no. You have it wrong. Voodoo is white magic, chère. What you
see in movies, read about, they have it backward. This is holy magic, as pure as Christianity.Our practice parallels the Christian rites in many ways.”
“I don’t know anything about voodoo. I’ve only heard …”
Georgie frowned. “You heard wrong. There is no evil practiced here. No blackness allowed. Onlywhite light, clean. You have nothing to fear here. You are protected.”
Isabelle turned to Dalton, who nodded but didn’t say anything further.
Georgie rose and went to the sink. “You’ll stay down at one of the cabins while you’re here.It will give you some privacy to do what you need to do.”
“What you need to do?” Isabelle asked. “And what’s that?”
Isabelle’s gaze was focused on Georgie’s back, but Dalton knew she asked the question of him.
Georgie turned to face her.