The Darkest Touch

AUSTRALIA

Like the dark, damp cave Angelique Deveraux stood in, Bart’s hands were cold. Icy cold. And he held on to her with a death grip. Try as she might, she couldn’t pull away. She shivered and tried to jerk her arm free, but he held tight to her, rambling on and on about her being a catalyst to empower the black diamond. That she was the one they’d been searching for. He held her hand on the black diamond, that once lifeless rock that now glowed with an undulating mystical blue.

This was wrong. She’d been hired to unearth the black diamond. She’d unearthed it, all right. And a whole mess of trouble to go with it, including finding out that her boss, Bart, who she’d thought was the owner of Diavolo Diamonds, was in fact a demon. A demon!

Now she was held in this giant cave, surrounded by Bart’s minions—gruesome creatures from the bowels of hell—while Bart conducted a ceremony to bring the black diamond to life using her and Nic, another demon hunter, as catalysts.

Only it wasn’t working. As soon as Bart laid her hand on the diamond, the light within the rock extinguished. Bart frowned, looking at her as if she’d caused the light to die, cursing at her, mumbling that she wasn’t the one he thought she was.

What was he talking about? Who or what was “the one”?

Fear snaked its way through her nerve endings. The look Bart shot at her was lethal. Her legs began to shake as Bart’s grip tightened on her wrist.

“You’re hurting me,” she whimpered, trying again to break free of his superhuman hold.

Suddenly, Ryder was there, next to her, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Ryder and those of his group were demon hunters. Could they defeat Bart and these creatures? She hoped so.

Ryder placed his hand over hers, telling Bart he no longer needed Angelique. Ryder extricated her from Bart’s grasp, moving her from the altar and back with the demon hunters. Bart let her go. He let her go! Maybe he had no more use for her, his attention drawn back to the diamond, and to Nic, who remained on the altar.

Angelique took a moment to catch her breath, assess her surroundings. The cave was filled with demons, no way out. She couldn’t run.

As an archaeologist, she’d faced down ghosts of the past, worked alone in ruins, and uncovered skeletal remains, always feeling as if she were surrounded by the long-ago dead. It had never bothered her.

But witnessing a demon ritual, seeing creatures from hell, knowing they existed, that she’d somehow become a part of all of it, was more than she could handle. Her mind didn’t want to process what Bart had said to her.

“Something big and loud is about to happen,” Ryder whispered to her as Bart droned on, conducting some sort of demonic ceremony. “I want you to head out of here as soon as it does. This is your chance to escape.”

“How?”

Ryder inclined his head to the back of the room. “As soon as it happens, the demons will come after us and the exit will be clear. Head that way.”

She frowned, not liking the idea of leaving him. “What about you and the others?”

Ryder and the rest of his crew of demon hunters, known as the Realm of Light, had amassed in this cave to fight the Sons of Darkness. They were currently surrounded by demons—huge, monstrous creatures that would frighten even the most sturdy adult. The creatures towered over the humans. Some were massive, others fast and deadly with their dripping, toxic claws and