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Also by Laurell K. Hamilton
Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Novels
THE LAUGHING CORPSE
CIRCUS OF THE DAMNED
THE LUNATIC CAFE
THE KILLING DANCE
NARCISSUS IN CHAINS
KISS THE DEAD
Merry Gentry Novels
A KISS OF SHADOWS
A CARESS OF TWILIGHT
SEDUCED BY MOONLIGHT
A STROKE OF MIDNIGHT
A LICK OF FROST
A SHIVER OF LIGHT
(short story collection)
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
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Copyright (c) 2018 by Laurell K. Hamilton
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BERKLEY is a registered trademark and the B colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Hamilton, Laurell K., author.
Title: Serpentine / Laurell K. Hamilton.
Description: First edition.
| New York: Berkley, 2018. | Series: Anita Blake, vampire hunter; 26
Identifiers: LCCN 2018012385 | ISBN 9780425255681 (hardcover) | ISBN 9780698146655 (ebook) Subjects: | BISAC: FICTION/Fantasy/Paranormal. | FICTION/Fantasy/Urban Life. | FICTION/Horror. | GSAFD: Occult fiction. | Adventure fiction.
Classification: LCC PS3558.A443357 S47 2018 | DDC 813/.54--dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018012385
First Edition: August 2018
Jacket art: woman's face (c) Elisabeth Ansley/Trevillion Images; horseshoe snake by Jesus David Carballo Prieto/Alamy Stock Photo; snakeskin background (c) Svetlanais/iStock by Getty Images Jacket design by Judith Lagerman
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Jonathon, my husband, who let me take time out of our romantic getaway to finish this book and stayed at my side while I did it. Real love is about consistency over time, battles won, battles lost, the pain, the pleasure, the sharing.
To Genevieve, my first girlfriend and the only woman in my life. Yes, dear.
To Spike, poly partner, helpmate, romantic battle buddy. Strength shared is strength multiplied.
Shawn, what a long, strange journey it has been, my friend--here's to happiness and new adventures. Will, who made me feel safe and reminded me that I am my own surety. Jess, who has performed miracles of organization in helping Sherry and Theresa battle on against the tide of artistic clutter.
To all my fans and readers, who have fallen in love with my world and characters. To Zannah, Keiko, and Mordor, the office pack. To Eomer and Grizzy, office cats, at last.
Also by Laurell K. Hamilton
About the Author
I WAS STANDING in the air-conditioned hush of Forever Bridal in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but since all I could see was a rack of plastic-wrapped wedding dresses taller than my head, I could have been in any bridal shop in any part of the country.
The dresses were ones that had needed tailoring to fit their brides. I stared at the different shades of white, from dazzling white like fresh snow in sunlight to a cream so dark it was almost a pale brown, or maybe taupe. I was always confused by taupe. Who wouldn't be confused by a color that couldn't decide if it was gray or tan? The dress they'd finally let me try on was black, because the pale teal that matched the maid of honor's dress had looked so bad on me that even Donna Parnell, the bride-to-be, had conceded that we could try the dress in black for me. Since I was the best man, or best person, on the groom's side of the aisle and the men were in black tuxes with teal ties and cummerbunds, putting me in black would make the wedding party look more balanced, or that's what the store manager had finally said.
I stood clutching the overly long black skirt in one hand, so I didn't trip, as I talked to Micah Callahan on my new smartphone, which was actually so smart I felt uncomfortable using it, as if the technology were silently judging my lack of tech savvy.
"So, your clients have finally given you permission to share more info with your police girlfriend?" I said.
I could feel/hear the smile in his voice as he said, "They're not clients, Anita. I don't take money for helping people who are desperate." Micah was the head of the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Human and Lycanthrope Communities, colloquially known as the Furry Coalition. They traveled the country, some internationally, to help keep the lycanthropes and the humans safe from each other. Sometimes it was just to give lectures to the local police to help them deal better with this v