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Edward was a hit man. He specialized in monsters. Vampires, shape-shifters, anything and everything. There were people like me who did it legal, but Edward didn't sweat the legalities or, hell, the ethics. He was an equal opportunity killer. I may be one of the few friends that Edward has, but it's like being friends with a tame leopard. It may curl on the foot of your bed and let you pet its head, but it can still eat your throat out...

....Whenever the phone rings before dawn, something big is probably up, and the fact that Anita Blake has been up all night dealing with zombies doesn't make this call an exception. "Ted Forrester needs backup from Anita Blake, vampire executioner," Edward tells her, using the pseudonym he keeps for those rare times when he needs a legal identity. And she owes him a favor.

So by noon she's on a plane to Santa Fe, sun-drenched town of wealthy retirees, where in the last two weeks twelve people have been murdered. The dead ones had it easy; other victims have been completely flayed, but kept horribly alive by magic. Seeing them in the hospital, Anita feels uncharacteristically shaken.

Edward's "Ted Forrester" identity has her nearly as spooked as the crimes: He's working with the local police, courting a likable widow with two kids, and generally making like a good ol' boy. Anita knows the real nature he's hiding beneath his mask of normality —and she finds "Ted" perhaps more frightening than Edward.

But she must put aside her fear to help Edward hunt down the greatest evil she has ever encountered. It's ancient and devious — and, in the end, she will have to face it alone.

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