I’m excited to share an exclusive excerpt of Alexis Hall’s Iron & Velvet today! This is the newly refreshed first book in the Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series!
I like my women like I like my whiskey: more than is good for me.
Name’s Kane, Kate Kane. I’m a paranormal private investigator, which is like a normal private investigator except—and stop me if you’re having trouble following this—more paranormal. This business comes with a few basic rules: don’t start drinking before noon, don’t get your partner killed, don’t sleep with the woman who killed him.
Last year I broke all of them.
The only rule I didn’t break was the one that said don’t work for vampires. But then a dead werewolf showed up outside the Soho shag palace of Julian Saint-Germain—a bloodsucking flibbertigibbet who’s spent the last eight centuries presiding over an ever-growing empire of booze, sex and hemoglobin.
I shouldn’t have taken the job. The last thing I needed was to get caught in a supernatural smackdown between a werewolf pack and a vampire prince. Even if the vampire prince was dangerously my type. But what can I say? I was broke, I’m a sucker for a pretty face and I gave up on making good decisions a long time ago.
Previously published; newly refreshed by the author
I woke to the taste of stale whiskey and the smell of stale cigarettes. Rolling over, I found a picture on the pillow—Patrick had been drawing me again. I stared into the face of the girl I used to be: someone young enough, pretty enough, and stupid enough to find that shit romantic. I’d dated a vampire when I was seventeen. It was a mistake I was still paying for.
The portrait wasn’t quite up to his usual standard. Normally he shaded every eyelash. I’d given up hoping he’d get bored, so he must have been interrupted.
I tried to go back to sleep, but knowing somebody had been watching took all the fun out of being unconscious. Giving up, I crawled out of the covers and went to close the window. It wouldn’t do any good, of course. I’d have to talk to Nimue about fixing the wards. But the last time I’d seen her, I’d been rebounding hard from Eve, so we’d been a bit busy for rituals.
I couldn’t be arsed to shower, so I threw on what had been yesterday’s clothes yesterday, and made myself a breakfast of reheated coffee and ibuprofen. The post was mainly bills. All right, entirely bills. And I hadn’t paid my TV licence, which meant no more late night Diagnosis Murder marathons.
The truth was, since Archer’d died—since I’d let Archer die—work had been slow. Well, slower.
There was a voicemail from Dad on my laptop. I hadn’t sent anything back for a while, but the messages still came in every month or so. And my mum, or rather my stepmum—as I’d discovered around the time I went through my dating vampires phase—had emailed a photograph of their new garden. They were standing in front of a shed, smiling and waving, Dad with that slightly off-kilter look that came from not being able to see the camera. It’s weird to think of your parents having a life, but my dad was once the mortal consort of the Queen of the Wild Hunt. And by consort, I mean…yeah. Jenny—my stepmum—eventually got him out, but the queen kept his eyes. They found me on the doorstep a few months later, wrapped in a wolf skin, in a basket made of briars. An honest-to-God faery princess. But since my mother’s the immortal embodiment of an abstract concept, it’s not like I’m going to inherit a magical kingdom anytime soon. And she’d never shown up at parent-teacher night.
My headache had eased just enough that I thought I could probably face daylight. It was Sunday, but I was supposed to be in the office working on the bottle of Famous Grouse in my bottom drawer. I was getting on with that, juggling my caseload of zero and reminding myself to take Archer’s name off the door, when the incubus came in.
“Kate Kane?” His voice was sex and honey.
“The Prince of Cups commands your attendance.”
I hadn’t had much contact with the four princes who ruled the vampires of England. I knew they went by Cups, Swords, Coins, and Wands, and near as I could tell, Cups got people laid, Swords killed people, Coins bought people, and Wands kept the whole thing quiet.
“I don’t work for vampires.” I finished my drink and poured myself another.
His whiskey-gold eyes scanned my office. “It doesn’t look like you work at all.”
There weren’t many reformed sex demons working for vampire princes in this town. In fact, there was exactly one reformed sex demon working for a vampire prince. So, this had to be Ashriel, right-hand man to Julian Saint-Germain, Prince of Cups. The word on the street was that he’d gone celibate, which made him about half as dangerous as most other demons but still twice as dangerous as, say, me. And, as luck would have it, he and his boss were two of the city’s supernatural power players I’d managed not to piss off. Probably because I hadn’t met either of them.
I leaned back in my chair and gave him the once-over, which even I could admit was no chore. The promise of sex rolled off him like too much cologne. He was beautiful, and deadly, and thankfully not my type. “Sit down, then. Tell me what this is about.”
He poured himself into a chair like bourbon over ice, hands folding primly in his lap. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to disclose any details. I’m simply here to escort you to the prince.”
That could’ve meant anything from a polite drive to a bag over my head. I leaned forwards to pour myself a top-up, reaching with the other hand for the blade duct-taped to the bottom of my desk. I had a whole row of them: gold for vampires, silver for werewolves, iron for faeries, sanctified steel for demons. I hadn’t worked out how to kill an angel yet, but I’d only had to try once.
“Escort,” he repeated.
It wasn’t a bag-over-the-head tone, so I left the knife. Kept the drink.
“I’ll need more than that before I agree to anything.”
“You don’t have to agree to anything. You only have to come with me. And you will be compensated for your time.”
“Eight hundred a day.” I chinked my glass against the empty bottle. “Plus expenses.”
“That’s outrageous.” He sounded almost amused.
“It’s my ‘I don’t work for vampires’ rate. Take it or leave it.”
He stood, apparently taking it. “Shall we go?”
Not even an attempt to haggle. That meant one of two things. Either this was a “money is no object” kinda deal, or they were planning to kill me before payday. I went to one of my cupboards and slid back the false panel. The incubus drew in a soft breath. I had a lot of knives. Really, a lot of knives. And I liked people to know it.
Ashriel flicked up a brow. “There’s caution, and then there’s paranoia.”
“I’m a big fan of alive.” I took gold and sanctified steel. And a hip flask. “Where exactly will we be going?”
Alexis Hall is a pile of threadbare hats and used teacups given a semblance of life by forbidden sorcery. He sometimes writes books.