Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter) - Laurell K. Hamilton


To Shawn, who has been a constant in my life, as I have been in his—friendship forged in fire, loss, and laughter. To Jessica, who taught me competency is a superpower! Will, who helps with research, and answers odd questions without thinking them odd. They saw a book from inception to completion for the first time. Welcome to the literary salt mines. Sherry who feels she has allies at last in the battle to organize a house full of artists. Mary, my mother-in-law, whom we love. To the Word Posse—my writer’s groups new venture. I hope it makes all your dreams come true! And last, but not least, to Sasquatch, who sits by my side as I write, and has sat with me through many a long night for fourteen years. To Keiko and Mordor, who have been sitting at my side for only a couple of years, new furry muses to help me write.

Thanks to Peter Orca for the title Dead Ice, and to Isis Maria Hess for naming the jewelry store creating Anita and Jean-Claude’s rings: Étoile du Soir, or “Evening Star.”

And for Susan Allison, my editor for over a decade. She was able to retire early and I’m happy for her, but sad that this is the last book she will be ferrying through for me. Enjoy the horses, dog(s), your husband, and yourself, as you embark on the next great adventure.


“SO, YOU’RE ENGAGED,” Special Agent Brenda Manning said. She wore a black pantsuit with a heavy belt that could wrap around her waist and hold the gun at her side. She was FBI and didn’t have to worry about concealed carry, so the fact that her gun flashed when her suit jacket flared out, which was every time she moved, wasn’t an issue. The gun looked very stark against her white button-down shirt.

“Yep,” I said. My own gun was at the small of my back, underneath a suit jacket made to hide the gun from the clients at my other job. I’d also started getting belt loops added to my skirts so I could wear a belt that could stand up to the weight of a gun and holster. I’d come straight from Animators Inc., where the motto was “Where the Living Raise the Dead for a Killing.” Bert, our business manager, didn’t believe in hiding the fact that raising the dead was a rare talent, and you paid for talent. But lately my job as a U.S. Marshal for the Preternatural Branch had been taking more and more of my time. Like today.

The other very special agent, Mark Brent, tall, thin, and looking barely old enough to be out of college, was bent over the portable computer they’d brought with them, which was sitting on the room’s only desk. He was dressed in a suit almost identical to Manning’s except his was brown to match his holster, but his gun was still a black bump, stark against his white shirt. We were in the office of our head honcho, Lieutenant Rudolph Storr. Dolph was currently somewhere else, which left me alone with the FBI and Sergeant Zerbrowski. I wasn’t sure which was more dangerous to my peace of mind, but I knew Zerbrowski would mouth off more. He was my partner, my friend; he was entitled. I’d just met Special Agent Manning, and I didn’t owe her my life story.

“The article I read made the proposal sound amazing, like something out of a fairy tale,” Manning said. She smoothed her shoulder-length hair back behind one ear and it stayed put, because it was straight as a board. My own curls would never have behaved that well.

I fought the urge to sigh. If you’re a cop and a woman, never date a celebrity; it ruins your reputation for being a hardass. I was a U.S. Marshal, but ever since we’d gone public with our engagement I’d become Jean-Claude’s fiancée, not Marshal Blake, to most of the women I met, and a lot of the men. I’d really had hopes that the FBI would be above such things in the middle of crime-fighting, but apparently not.

The real problem for me was that the story we told publicly was both true and a lie. Jean-Claude had done the big gesture, but only after he’d proposed in the middle of shower sex. It had been spontaneous and wonderful and messy, and very real. I’d said yes, which had surprised him, and me. I’d figured I just wasn’t the marrying kind