by Laurell K. Hamilton


by Laurell K. Hamilton


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Laurell K. Hamilton has captivated readers with her gritty, seductive tales of vampire hunter Anita Blake for thirty bloody fantastic years. Now, in the thirtieth novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, wedding bells are ringing. But before Anita can make it to the altar, she must face an obstacle more daunting than any supernatural threat....

Necromancer Anita Blake is small, dark, and dangerous. Her turf is the city of St. Louis. Her job: U.S. Marshal—Preternatural Branch. She’s faced horrifying monsters and brutal killers and come out the other side still standing.
Considering how things in her life tend to go, Anita never expected her walk down the aisle with Jean-Claude to go smoothly. They’ve already been confronted with naysayers and a power-hungry ancient evil, but now Anita has to do the one thing that actually scares her: introduce her very religious, very human relatives to her fiancé—the newly crowned vampire king of America.
As Anita tries to keep the peace between the family she left behind and the family she’s chosen, dark forces jump at the chance to take advantage of the chaos. With her happy-ever-after at risk and everyone’s immortal souls hanging in the balance, Anita grapples with a hard truth: Blood makes you related, but loyalty makes you family.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593637845
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/07/2023
Series: Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series , #30
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 13,720
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Laurell K. Hamilton is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series and the Merry Gentry series. She has also written A Terrible Fall of Angels, the first book in an exciting new series featuring Detective Zaniel Havelock in a world where angels and demons walk among us.
With more than forty novels published, Laurell continues to create groundbreaking fiction inspired by her lifelong love of monster movies, ghost stories, mythology, folklore, and things that go bump in the night. Her love of the macabre, books in general, animals, and nature led her to degrees in English and biology. She is a nonpracticing biologist but uses her science background to add an extra level of realism to her fiction.
She currently lives in St. Louis with her family, two spoiled Japanese chins, a house panther, and a house lion. In her free time, Laurell trains in Filipino martial arts with a specialization in bladework, and travels to scuba dive and bird-watch as often as she can.


St. Louis, Missouri

Date of Birth:

February 19, 1963

Place of Birth:

Heber Springs, Arkansas


B.A., Marion College

Read an Excerpt


I was standing at the arrival area for the A gates at St. Louis Lambert International Airport trying to see through the continuing crowds of people that kept spilling out past the TSA agent sitting at the little lectern. Arriving passengers had been streaming past the roped-off lines of other passengers waiting to go through security and depart. None of them had been my family, either coming or going. I was nervous, which made me want to touch the nine-millimeter Springfield EMP at my waist, but since I was carrying concealed and people tend to panic if you flash in the airport these days, I resisted the urge. Flashing the gun would have flashed my U.S. Marshal badge, too, but I'd found that people who wanted to freak about the gun never seemed to see the badge clipped next to it. I really didn't want my dad's and stepmom's first glimpse of me in eight years to be kneeling on the floor with my fingers laced behind my head while some newbie from Metro police was yelling at me to comply. I was also really beginning to regret the high, spiked heels I wore. They took me from five-three to five-eight and made my legs look long and shapely, and looked amazing with my short swishy skirt, but the heels weren't made for standing around in the airport on hard tile floors. Walking in them was fine-I'd even been learning to dance in heels this high as we looked at possible footwear for the wedding-but standing was beginning to hurt.

"You're actually scared," Nicky said beside me. He stood like a friendly, blond mountain, so muscled that he'd had to get his leather jacket custom tailored to fit over his upper body. The jeans he had gotten from a bodybuilder site, but he'd wanted a jacket that could cover carrying concealed, and for that he'd had to special-order and even then he'd had to find an in-town tailor to alter it. He wasn't nervous and reaching for his gun like a dangerous comfort object. He was standing cool and calm, keeping an eye on the crowd and the customers who went into the little store against the opposite wall. I caught a glimpse of a slender figure picking up a magazine from the rack near the entrance to the store. They were wearing an oversized hoodie, nondescript jeans, and jogging shoes. They looked like a dozen teens to twenties that had passed by us, so I wondered why they had caught my attention. I tensed, trying to feel if it was a vampire or something else supernatural that wasn't on our side, and then Ru turned around so I could see his face and a bit of his short blond hair. His bored why-did-my-parents-make-me-come-here expression never changed, but his startling dark eyes looked into mine. He was part of my security tonight. He and his sister, Rodina. I hadn't even caught a glimpse of her yet, and then I realized that Ru had done something small on purpose so I'd look at him. He was still undercover, but he wanted me to see him so I'd feel better. It did help me feel better about Deimos, the ancient vampire that had come to town recently and attacked us. We'd almost canceled my family's visit, but Deimos had left us alone after the first attempt. We were hoping he'd found us too powerful and just gone back into hiding. We'd delayed my family's visit for weeks, but when we couldn't find Deimos, and he didn't try to find us again, we finally had to move forward with fitting my dad for his outfit if he was giving me away. Since he was very Catholic and I was marrying a vampire, that was still up for debate. Hell, my family was only now agreeing to meet Jean-Claude. They might not even be coming to our wedding.

Ru turned away, putting the magazine back and sighing so heavily his body language clearly said just how bored he was with the magazine, being in the airport, waiting for some stupid relative, or . . . I had no idea how he and all the Harlequin did it, they were some of the best covert operatives in the world, maybe the best, but I hadn't met enough covert ops people to judge.

I looked at Nicky. "I was going to say I am not scared-scared, maybe nervous enough that it's a type of fear, but if Ru broke cover to try and reassure me, then he's picking up on more than just nerves."

"The three of us can feel it, Anita, it's more than just nerves."

I frowned up at him, and in the four-inch heels I was only a few inches shorter than him, so I didn't have to strain my neck. I almost said, Aren't you scared of your family? Most people say it as an offhand remark, a joke almost, but Nicky looked down at me with his one blue eye, and an eyepatch where the other eye should have been. I wouldn't joke with Nicky about scary families because his mom was still in jail for what she'd done to him and his siblings. My family had its problems, and some of them had screwed me up pretty bad, but compared to Nicky's childhood mine had been a cakewalk on Sesame Street.

"I don't think I'm afraid of my family," I said, shifting my weight again in the heels. Nicky gave me a look that said plainly he didn't believe me, but I believed me, so it was okay.

Was I really afraid of my very Catholic family meeting Jean-Claude for the first time? I ran my fingers down the pleats of my skirt. I was regretting it like the heels. I wasn't usually a pleats kind of girl, but they made the skirt swing as I moved, and it was the nicest skirt I had that wasn't skintight. Somehow skintight and short wasn't a meet-the-family outfit. So, pleats with a royal blue silk shell blouse that matched the blue in the plaid of the skirt. The short bolero jacket was black, which matched the rest of the color in the plaid. The jacket didn't quite hide the badge clipped to my waistband but did hide the gun that was in an inner "pants" holster just behind the badge, and the extra magazine/ammo holders on the other side of the skirt. I had a tailor who reinforced all the waistbands on my girlier clothes, otherwise the skirt would never have held up to this much equipment.

I was even in full makeup, which I almost never wore. I looked like I was ready for a hot date instead of seeing my family for the first time in years. I knew why I had dressed up, and thanks to being metaphysically connected to Nicky and other people in my life, they knew, too. I'd been prepared to see my dad and stepmother, Judith, to discuss if he was walking me down the aisle or if they were even coming to my wedding, but I hadn't expected that my stepsister Andria would be coming with them. She and I were both over thirty-two. She was a lawyer, and I was what I was; she was even engaged to another lawyer. Of course she'd get engaged if I was engaged. I couldn't beat Andria at anything that mattered to my family.

Andria was the girly one. The perfect blond, blue-eyed, straight-A student. She was even tall like her mother. I got good grades, but not as good. People told me I was pretty when I cleaned up or wore makeup or dressed nice. She was always dressed up, always perfect. She had a sense of style and what clothes matched and flattered her that only dating Jean-Claude had taught me. Fashion was neither natural nor a strength for me, and I found the fact that Jean-Claude didn't have any comfy clothes disturbing. What kind of person didn't have any sweats, or lounging jammies? He had pajamas, but they were all silk and he never slept in them. I wasn't complaining about sleeping in the nude, and silk looked great on him and felt even better next to my skin, but I had old jeans and sweatshirts I'd had since college. I had clothes to do yard work in, or paint something. He didn't. Centuries of being judged constantly by the other vampires so that any sign of weakness was used against him and using his beauty to survive had made him always be on, always aware like some wandering photographer would come by at any second. To me it would have been a terrible pressure; to Jean-Claude it was normal. Dressing up made him feel better. It had taken me a long time to realize that. I knew that now and accepted it, but it would never be my version of comfy. I wanted my clothes to cover me and to serve a purpose. Today's purpose was to be the beautiful swan instead of the ugly duckling. Sad but true that my family's opinion of me still mattered that much. I'd really hoped I'd grown past the need for their approval since I was almost certainly not going to get it. I was marrying a vampire, so to them I might as well be marrying a demon straight out of hell. If they'd ever met a real demon they'd understand the difference, but they hadn't seen real evil with a capital E. They lived in ignorant bliss while people like me risked everything to fight against the forces of evil, so they could come here and be self-righteous and tell me I was corrupt and going to hell.

I caught a glimpse through the crowd of people coming our way. Did I recognize that blond head? Was that them? My stomach clenched tight, my pulse racing into my throat so it was hard to breathe. Was Nicky right, was I actually afraid of my family? That was ridiculous; they'd never laid a hand on me in violence, well, no one who was coming on this visit. It wasn't like Nicky's past, or Nathaniel's. Nothing that violent or monstrous. The relief when I realized the people were strangers was huge. Damn it, my dad wasn't that bad.

There was a lull in the passengers going past us; I guess they were between planes or something. Only a handful of people were in line to go through security. Ru had vanished again, though I don't know how. I didn't look around for him because, like concealed carry, if you mess with undercover people you draw attention to them. The long hallway that my family would be coming down sometime soon stretched empty until you got to the bored TSA security person at the small podium. They were the one who would tell people they'd crossed the line and couldn't go back.

Nicky leaned over me and spoke low for just me as people rushed past to make their planes. "It's not a game of who had the suckiest childhood, Anita. It's okay to be afraid and to feel fucking traumatized if that's how you feel."

I stared up at him, his face so close to mine. "But I wasn't traumatized," I said.

"Your lips say that, but your pulse rate and the sweat on your palms and down your spine say different."

"Can't hide anything from a shapeshifter," I whispered.

He grinned and said, "Therianthrope, or didn't you get the new vocabulary memo about using a more inclusive term for lycanthropes and other shapeshifters?"

It made me smile like he knew it would. "You don't give a damn about politically correct vocabulary."

He smiled down at me, his face so close it filled my vision. "Not a damn bit."

"You're always telling me you can't bodyguard and kiss in public," I said.

"I think we're safe unless someone runs into us with a roller bag," he said, and moved in for a kiss and I helped him lay his lips against mine. I was wearing bright red lipstick and full-on base makeup, so we had to behave ourselves, because if we smeared it I didn't have the makeup with me to fix it. Usually I don't do base, so I just clean off the lipstick and then reapply, no muss, no fuss. But I didn't have the products or the skill to fix clown-makeup lipstick if we got carried away today. It was one of the most careful kisses Nicky and I had ever shared. He pulled back with a line of red down the middle of his lips. Some of the men in my life had coined the phrase the go-faster stripe. Couldn't really argue so I hadn't.

Nicky smiled and whispered, "Zoom, zoom."

I giggled, which I almost never did. "You read my thoughts."

"Part of my job," he said. He wasn't wrong. He whispered, "I'm your Bride, you're supposed to fuck us, throw us at your enemies so we delay them and allow you to escape. You're not supposed to keep us around this long, and you're definitely not supposed to fall in love with us."

"I guess if I'd been a vampire I'd have known the rules," I said.

"Necromancers, all the vampire powers, none of the downsides," he said, smiling.

"Not all the powers," I said, smiling up at him, and somehow we were holding hands while I gazed up at him far too romantically for public when my face had been plastered all over the place in connection to Jean-Claude. Not long ago the internet rumors had me dumping Jean-Claude and running away with Nicky. It had gotten so bad he'd had to stop being my main bodyguard, but then Deimos attacked and I'd wished for Nicky that night, so screw it, safety first. The public and the press knew we were all polyamorous and in a larger-than-normal poly group, but knowing Jean-Claude and I both had other lovers, some shared, some not, didn't stop outsiders from defaulting to monogamy rules and trying to apply them to us. One gossip site had posted pictures of Jean-Claude with Angel, one of our shared girlfriends, on his arm for a public event (I'd been serving a warrant of execution in a different state), and the rumor mill said he'd dumped me for her.

We broke the kiss and turned to see a group of younger women, either high school or early college age, texting busily on their phones. Shit. They'd post it to social media before I could collect my family from the plane and flee. It wasn't Deimos I was afraid of finding us but various hate groups, or media. The first vampire king of America was getting married to one of the U.S. Marshals with the Preternatural Branch, which meant he was marrying someone who hunted down and executed rogue vampires and shapeshifters, or any other supernatural citizen that started piling up a body count. That was news. And I wasn't any preternatural marshal, I was the Executioner, I was War. The first was a nickname the vampires had given me back when I still believed sincerely that I would never, ever date a vampire, but the second nickname the other marshals had given me. It was a play on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse; I was War because I had the highest legal kill count of any marshal. Well, my best man, Marshal Ted Forrester, aka Death, had a much higher count if all his kills were counted, but Edward wouldn't tell and neither would I. Marshals Bernardo Spotted-Horse and Otto Jeffries were Famine and Plague, respectively. They knew Edward's background, too, but since they had secrets of their own they weren't talking either.

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