I’m excited to share an exclusive excerpt of Alexis Hall’s Shadows & Dreams today! This is the newly refreshed second book in the Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series!
I like my women like I like my whiskey: liable to kill me.
The two parts of being a paranormal private investigator I could really do without are being forced to eat bananas by an animated statue with a potassium fixation, and being put on trial for murder by a self-appointed council of vampire oligarchs.
To be fair, I did kind of do it (the murder, not the bananas). But I was kind of saving my girlfriend, who is kind of one of them.
On top of this, I’ve also wound up with a primordial queen of the damned trying to strangle me in my dreams. And the conspiracy of undead wizards who tried to sacrifice me fifteen years ago has decided that now is the best possible time to give it another go.
Throw in the woman who left me for a tech start-up, the old girlfriend who I might sort of owe eternal mystical fealty to and a werewolf “it girl” who can’t decide if she wants to eat me in the good way or the bad way, and I’m beginning to think life would be easier if I made better choices. Then again, it’d be a whole lot less fun.
Wrapping up the [Fletcher case] left me officially between cases, and frankly, there wasn’t much chance of anything major coming up until after Christmas.
Elise would probably want to use the time productively to get on top of the bookkeeping. But I was looking forward to taking a break, spending some quality time with my vampire girlfriend, and heading back up north to visit the folks. I hadn’t seen much of Julian since I’d rescued her from the King of the Court of Love, because there’d been some major political fallout since I’d taken the Prince of Swords down a sewer, and he hadn’t come out again. The advantage of not seeing someone as much as you’d like is that when you do, the sex is fucking amazing. On the other hand, since Julian is the vampire prince of pleasure that kind of comes as standard. So you’re mostly left with the disadvantage, which is, well, that you don’t see them as much as you’d like.
I’d known what I was getting into from pretty much the moment I walked into her office, and I’m well past my spend-every-moment-together-I-am-nothing-without-you phase, but I don’t like keeping to someone else’s schedule. Maybe I’m messed up, but missing her makes me feel needy, and that makes me feel annoyed, and that makes me drink too much, and that makes Elise sad, and that makes me feel guilty, and that makes me more annoyed.
And then I see Julian and it’s all wonderful.
I stared moodily out of the window and thought about going outside for a fag break. Since Elise started working for me, I’m legally obliged to provide a smoke-free environment so I don’t give her lung cancer, despite the fact that, as far as I know, she doesn’t have lungs.
That was when Tash walked into my office.
I’d pulled her at the Candy Bar about three months ago but entirely failed to follow through. She’d given me her number and I’d given her my card, but I’d never called her and, honestly, never expected to see her again. It was pretty obvious this wasn’t a social visit. She still had that quirky pixie look, but it was like someone had stolen all her magic dust.
“Uh, hi,” she said. “I know this is weird, but I need your help.”
Truth be told, it was a little bit awkward, but my social weirdness threshold has gone way up since my girlfriend tried to murder my ex-girlfriend because her ex-girlfriend tried to murder her.
“Take a seat.” I waved across my desk. “Can I get you anything?”
“Perhaps a cup of tea would be appropriate?” offered Elise.
Tash huddled into a chair. “Yes, thank you.” She had surprisingly good manners for a girl who’d been up for shagging in the doorway of Pizza Express. Elise disappeared into our tiny kitchenette, and Tash seemed to relax a bit.
I shunted my midmorning whiskey behind a stack of old case notes and tried to look professional. “What’s the problem?”
“It’s Hugh.” The words came out in a rush. “My brother, Hugh, he’s disappeared. But he broke his leg. We called the police, and it’s been more than two days, and I’m worried. He isn’t answering his phone, and nobody’s seen him. There’s this leaflet, and it says ninety-nine percent of people come back within forty-eight hours, but it’s been forty-eight hours and he hasn’t come back. And I don’t know what to do.”
I should probably have said something comforting but I couldn’t think of anything. “Who saw him last?”
“I don’t know.” She picked up one of the Kane and Archer pens Elise had recently ordered for publicity which were now scattered all over the office. “Probably somebody at the hospital.”
“The Whittington. He broke his leg changing a lightbulb. Because he was standing on a swivel chair because he’s an idiot.”
“Any history of depression?”
She shook her head.
“Any personal problems?”
“No, he was doing really well. He was doing this MA at Brunel, and he’d just got this major internship or something.”
“If he was at Brunel,” I asked, “why did they take him to the Whittington?”
“He did it at his girlfriend’s house in Highgate. He was only supposed to be in overnight but there were complications.”
“And he had no enemies or anything like that?”
“You’d be surprised.” I shrugged. “I know he’s your brother, but it would be really helpful if you could find out if he gambled, drank, or took drugs or if he had any debts or dangerous friends.”
She thought about it for a moment. “He played D&D.”
Eve had tried to get me into that. I played a gnome paladin and got killed by a big cube of jelly when I was level 3. After that, I just hung out on the edges of the group and stole their pizza.
At that moment, Elise came in with tea for Tash and a coffee for me. “Would you like me to take notes, Miss Kane?”
Tash shook her head.
“Okay. Miss…” I suddenly remembered that Tash’s surname was not the Teetotal Lesbian.
“Okay, Miss Shawcross is looking for her brother, Hugh, who disappeared from the Whittington Hospital in Highgate, between two and three days ago. He was being treated for a broken leg. The police are looking into it, but the family hasn’t heard anything yet. The police will probably see him as low risk given his age and circumstances. He was studying for his master’s at Brunel, and he’d recently started an internship. The accident happened at his girlfriend’s house, which is in Highgate. As far as Miss Shawcross knows, he had no enemies, no mental health issues, and no personal problems.”
“Just the broken leg,” added Tash. “That’s strange isn’t it? Disappearing when you can’t walk?”
It could have meant he’d been abducted, but the police take things like that very seriously. Since he was still floating around the MPB and hadn’t been kicked up to Serious Crimes, it meant it probably wasn’t a kidnapping. Or at least didn’t look like one to the police. So that left either the plot of an episode of Miss Marple, in which a man with a broken leg discharged himself from hospital for no clear reason, or there was something supernatural going on. Right now, the supernatural explanation looked more likely. But, then again, when all you’ve got is an enchanted hammer, every problem starts to look like a possessed nail.
“It’s a little unusual,” I said, impressed with my own tact. “I’ll need his contact information, current address, a photograph, as recent as you can get, digital is fine. I’ll also need details of the internship, his friends, and the name and address of his girlfriend.”
Tash pulled out her phone. “I’ll email you some photos. It’s Kane@kaneandarcher.com, right?”
I nodded. I remember when you had to wander around with a single copy of a crappy Polaroid. It’s way easier now everybody puts a tonne of shit online, but you still have to remember that, whatever people say about our media-obsessed age, people don’t put their whole lives on Facebook—just the bits of their lives they want their friends to know about. It’s not like you ever see so-and-so has updated their status: Borrowed 20 grand from Jimmy “Machete” Carter to fund my secret crack habit.
Tash glanced up again. “Done. I’ve also sent you all his contact details and his girlfriend’s address. Her name’s Sarah. They met at York when he was in his first year. They’ve been going out forever, like three years or something.”
“And the internship?”
“It was with Locke Enterprises. Hugh wouldn’t stop talking about it.”
Well, fuck. I was about to be hired by a woman I’d very nearly slept with to find her missing brother who was working for the woman who’d left me for a tech start-up at the tech start-up she left me for.
AND COMING SOON!
FIRE & WATER by Alexis Hall, the brand-new third novel in the Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series, will be available February 24, 2020 from Carina Press! For more information, visit https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488057014_fire-water.html.
Alexis Hall is a pile of threadbare hats and used teacups given a semblance of life by forbidden sorcery. He sometimes writes books.
Genre: Romance Genre: Urban Fantasy Orientation: Lesbian Pairing: F/F Publisher: Carina Press Tag: Guest Post Tag: Part of a series Alexis Hall Kate Kane Paranormal Investigator series Shadows & Dreams