Authors: Vivi Andrews
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520
Macon GA 31201
The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo, & the Poltergeist Accountant
Copyright © 2009 by Vivi Andrews
Edited by Laurie Rauch
Cover by Natalie Winters
All Rights Are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
electronic publication: February 2009
The Ghost Shrink, the Accidental Gigolo & the Poltergeist Accountant
For my family, the most supportive collection of individuals on the planet. I am lucky to have you.
Chapter One: The Larrinator
“Oh, please. Kill me now.”
The half-naked figure jiggling in front of her seemed to take this as a compliment. “Yeah, baby, you know you want it.”
Lucy Cartwright closed her eyes and wondered—not for the first time—what she had ever done in her life to deserve this punishment. Karma was a vindictive bitch, but this was taking things too far.
The pudgy, middle-aged stockbroker performing a striptease in her bedroom finished whipping his shirt around his head and flung it across the room. Keeping time to the booty music in his head, he bumped and ground his way in a little circle until his pasty back was right in front of her. The flabby ass that had spent more time in an ergonomic chair than hitting it in nightclubs bounced back toward her in nauseating invitation.
If he had been more substantial, he might have knocked her back a few steps in his enthusiasm, but tonight’s visitor wasn’t what you could call corporeal.
Lucy was a medium, which—no offense to Patricia Arquette and Jennifer Love Hewitt—did
involve helping the ghosts of murdered people find justice. Thank God. Lucy couldn’t stand blood. Or death. Or anything involving blood or death.
Except, you know, the ghosts. That part was okay. Usually.
Helping loved ones contact the dearly departed was also not in her job description. There were people who did that, but she was in a slightly different line.
Lucy helped the deceased work through their issues and move on to the next plane. The white light. Whatever.
She wasn’t really big on the whole theology of the thing. She’d met ghosts who practiced just about every major religion and hadn’t really noticed any huge differences in their immediate afterlife. What came after the white light was none of her business. Lucy pretty much avoided the whole Heaven thing, which was easier than one might expect, considering she worked with the dead. She was not a priest. Or a minister.
Nope, Lucy was more of a post-life therapist. Helping people release the issues that were keeping them from moving on.
It was only recently that all of her clients had started wanting a release of a different kind.
“Larry,” Lucy said in her calmest, most reasonable tone. “As, uh,
as you are, I can’t, uh, get with you tonight, buddy.”
Larry shook it one hundred and eighty degrees and then performed a deep knee bend that was truly impressive for a man his size, his knees popping out to either side as his crotch slid down her leg.
Oh great, he’s the stripper and now I get to be the pole.
Lucy couldn’t feel a thing—Larry wasn’t that with it—but it was still a disconcerting experience.
“Come on, baby,” Larry cooed in what he clearly thought was a sexy voice, but sounded disturbingly like the voice adults use when talking to infants. “Show the Larrinator how bad you want it.”
“Badly,” Lucy corrected automatically. “Larry. No matter how much I might want
, it isn’t going to happen tonight. I hate to be the one to tell you this, buddy, but you don’t have a body.”
Larry laughed—it was actually a very pleasant laugh and Lucy felt a brief stab of pity.
. Then he popped up out of his knee bend and began running his large, soft hands all over his vast expanses of jiggling flesh, making exaggerated sexy-faces as he petted himself. Pity took a backseat.
“No body? What do you call this, baby? I got a body for you right here, baby.”
Larry’s hands went to the fly on his trousers. Instinct made Lucy reach out to grab his wrist to stop him from dropping trou, but her hand passed right through his arm without even the usual sensation of cold tingling. Larry just wasn’t there.
“Larry, man, I’m sorry, but you’re dead, buddy.”
Larry laughed again and the trousers dropped to the floor.
“Does this look dead to you, baby?”
Why did they always call her baby? And why could she never get through to them before they were standing—as much as ghosts could stand, anyway—in the middle of her bedroom, stark naked?
The Larrinator was standing at attention. Larry stood with his hands planted on his hips, all swagger and confidence where she was sure there hadn’t been any in life.
Lucy sighed. “How about a hand job, Larry?” She thrust her hand out and it passed smoothly through the Larrinator.
Larry’s image wavered, becoming a little more transparent. “Whoa. Heavy.”
“Yeah, Larry, death is pretty intense. Would you like to sit down and talk about it?”
Larry shoved his lower lip out as he thought that one over, looking more like a lost little boy than a middle-aged stockbroker who had just died of a heart attack. “Do I have to put my pants back on?”
Lucy sighed, resigned. “No. Not if you don’t want to.”
Larry smiled cheerily and plopped down naked at the foot of her bed. Lucy straightened the comforter that she had thrown aside when Larry appeared in her bedroom in full stripper mode, waking her out of a sound sleep. She settled herself on top of the covers, leaning back against the headboard and smiling gently at Larry.
“So, let me guess, you don’t want to be dead because you always thought you would have more time to live the life you really wanted. Are you disappointed that you didn’t have a more adventurous sex life when you had the chance, Larry?”
“Exactly! I can’t be dead,” he whined. “I haven’t ever been the sex machine I was born to be.”
Lucy smiled supportively and settled in for a very familiar conversation.
“If I have to have one more conversation about repressed sexuality with a naked ghost, I’m going to turn in my resignation and you can find someone else to torture.”
Karma—Lucy’s vindictive bitch of a boss—gave a husky little laugh that rippled through the phone lines and down Lucy’s spine. Karma was pure sex. Walking, talking sensuality. Lucy was the girl next door who just happened to talk to the dead. And yet Lucy was the one getting nightly visits from horny businessmen. It just didn’t make sense. Something was definitely whacked out in the cosmic flow of things.
“I can’t control who goes to you, Lucy. I just open the door. If you’re seeing an abundance of naked ghosts with sexuality issues, you must be calling them to you.”
“I’m not calling them!” Lucy protested. “When Larry the stripper-stockbroker showed up, I was asleep, for cripe’s sake.”
“Oh? And what were you dreaming about?”
Okay, so it had been a pretty steamy dream. And yes, Lucy had been enjoying it a little more than strictly necessary. Her love life hadn’t exactly been burning up the sheets lately, but to suggest that she
a bunch of dead guys coming on to her every night?
“My dreams are not the problem, Karma. Stockbrokers and accountants singing ‘It’s Getting Hot in Here’ and pole dancing in my bedroom are the problem.”
“Are you sexually frustrated, Lucy?”
“Oh. My. God. I am not having this conversation with you. Can you say sexual harassment lawsuit?”
“I’m only trying to explain why your clients appear to have developed a pattern of behavior,” Karma said unflappably. “New ghosts are drawn to the medium who is most likely to understand their personal issues with death. If you are projecting sexual dissatisfaction into the universe, horny businessmen who want time to live out their sexual fantasies are going to respond.”
“So you’re saying this is my fault.”
“There is no blame in this situation, Lucy. There is nothing wrong with these men going to you with their troubles. You have done your job admirably and helped each of them move on. You’re one of the best we have. We don’t want to lose you over something like this.”
“I want them to stop.” Lucy hated the whining edge in her voice, but it seemed to creep out whenever she felt helpless. Right now, she felt downright pathetic.
“Then you need to send a different energy into the universe.”
“You’re telling me to get laid.”
“As your boss, I don’t think I’m technically allowed to tell you to get laid…”
“But if you want to see fewer horny businessmen suffering from repressed sexuality issues, then yes, you need to get laid.”
Lucy banged her head against the wall a few times. “Sometimes I hate my job.”
“No, you don’t,” Karma countered. “And even if you did, the money’s great. Stop bitching.”
Karma was right on all accounts. Lucy loved her job—as weird as it got, there was something inexplicably rewarding about that moment when the ghosts let go of their worldly troubles and ascended to the next plane of existence. And the money was fantastic.
Which was weird, frankly. After all, where did the money come from? It wasn’t like they could bill the deceased. Lucy had been preoccupied with the money angle for a while now. Admittedly, keeping the sex-crazed ghost population down was a valuable service, but who was paying for it? The company she worked for, Karmic Consultants, performed a variety of other tasks, many of which she knew little to nothing about. Was there a high market demand for exorcisms? Did they support the entire business with aura readings and I Ching consultations?
Lucy snapped out of her musings. “I’m here.”
“Look, I can shut you off for a few days. You can take a vacation, work on redirecting your energy.”
Lucy cringed. Her boss was sending her on shore leave to get laid. “No. Thanks. I’ll just, you know, keep on as I am. I’m sure things will change soon.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to do anything? I could—”
“No. It’s okay,” Lucy said quickly, before her boss started pimping her out. “I’m fine. I’m great. No worries.”
“Right. Well, if you change your mind…”
“Yeah. Later, Karma.”
Lucy hung up the phone before her mortification reached critical levels.
Chapter Two: Cox Gigolo Services
The incessant banging on the front door woke her.
Judging by her exhaustion, it was ungodly early. Judging by the clock on her nightstand, it was one-oh-two in the afternoon. Since her ghosts mostly visited her in the middle of the night and Larry the Stripper hadn’t left her until after five in the morning, one-oh-two counted as ungodly early.
Lucy was largely nocturnal. She would occasionally go to bed at a normal hour like a normal person, but as evidenced by Larry’s timely arrival the night before, her attempts at normalcy never lasted long.
Lucy tumbled out of bed and padded blindly toward the front door to stop the drumming, keeping her eyes closed as long as possible to maintain the illusion of continued sleep. The front door vibrated under the rain of blows coming at it from the other side. She yanked it open and squinted blearily up at the raised fist that nearly landed on her face.
“If you’re an evangelist, I feel I should warn you that I already know about death, and you’re going straight to hell for banging down my frickin’ door.”
Her eyes were still mostly closed or she never would have made that statement. The man who brushed past her into her apartment and slammed the door behind him did not look in any way related to God.
“Karma sent me.” His voice was direct—a take-no-prisoners kind of voice. Very macho. “Did I wake you?” Very annoyed.
Lucy forced her eyes open all the way. Her first, most general impression was of immense size. He was well over six feet and, although he was bulky, it was the bulk of solid muscle rather than stockbroker flab—the worn blue jeans that fit him to perfection left no question there. This guy did not spend all day in an ergonomic chair.
Lucy took a step back to get a better view and try to get her breath back. He seemed to take up too much of the room, her cozy, uncluttered entry suddenly claustrophobia-inducing. He had black hair, cut shaggily, framing features that weren’t smooth enough to be classically handsome, but were all the more striking for their rough edges. The rich caramel tan and up-tilted black eyes gave evidence of some liberal mixing in his family tree, but it was the attitude that really made him stand out. He exuded a sense of purpose and intensity that easily qualified him as the single most masculine person Lucy had seen in a month.
Although, admittedly, sexually frustrated ghosts didn’t set the bar very high.
Lucy blinked slowly as what he’d said registered. “Karma?”
Something clicked into place in her brain and Lucy was suddenly very awake.
Oh God. Oh God oh God, oh God.
Karma had sent her a gigolo. She was a female John.
Lucy felt her face heating up and knew she must be turning seven shades of red, even as a sly little voice in her head cheered the fact that Karma had such excellent taste in gigolos.
“Karma sent you?” she choked out. She sounded like she was gargling frogs. Oh yeah, he wasn’t going to be able to keep his hands off her now.
“Are you Lucy Cartwright?” he snapped again, his eyes raking down her body. He was very abrupt, for a gigolo.
“Um…” Should she admit it? Was he going to throw her to the ground—or the sofa—and have his way with her until all of her sexual frustration disappeared into a pool of liquid satisfaction the second he had confirmed her identity? He didn’t want to have his way with the wrong woman, after all. Should she lie? Prostitution was wrong. Of course it was wrong. But he was so damn hot. Was it really so bad to do it just once? For the sake of her sanity? She
to get away from the strip-teasing stockbroker set. “Yes?”
“Is that a question? Do you not know who you are?” He sounded more annoyed by the second. He definitely needed to go to charm school for gigolos.
Luckily, her hormones didn’t seem to care. They were already heating up and charging south.
“I’m Lucy,” she said, nodding decisively—then ruined her newly confident image by taking a step backward and tripping over her own pajamas. His hands shot out, closing firmly on her upper arms and setting her back on her feet. The imprint of his hands burned through the silk of her pajama top. He was suddenly so close, his heat burning away all the oxygen in the room. Lucy found herself seriously reconsidering her moral stance on prostitution as her insteps melted away.
Then he released her and stepped back. When she swayed toward him unconsciously, he frowned and put out a hand to steady her. “You okay?”
“Fine,” Lucy squeaked. How did one talk to a gigolo? “Um, what’s your name?” she asked breathlessly, channeling her inner slut.
. Of course. Lucy felt her face turning purple. She could
call her gigolo Cox. She’d never been able to talk dirty without giggling like crazy, and if she tried to say his name, she was going to sound like she was snorting nitrous oxide.
“Cox, like Madonna? Or do you have a first name? Or a last name?”
His eyes narrowed and a little frown formed between his eyebrows. What if he was having second thoughts? What if all he needed to derail a long and prosperous career as a deeply hot gigolo was one encounter with her? Karma would never forgive her if Lucy broke her gigolo.
A lock of hair had fallen over her eye. His frown deepened as he reached out to tuck it back behind her ear, and Lucy had a jolt as she realized what she must look like. She’d just rolled out of bed. Her hair must be sticking out at all angles and the men’s silk pjs that she slept in were far from sex kitten material—anything sexier was
too encouraging for her sex-starved ghosts.
Staring up at her gigolo—she could
call him Cox—Lucy wished she’d taken the time for a brush…and a curling iron…and makeup… before answering the door.
Thank God. He had a first name. Jake was a nice, normal name. She could moan, “Oh, Jake, yes, Jake, more, Jake,” in bed for hours without any inappropriate giggling.
Lucy smiled cheerfully. “Jake. Hi.” His eyes narrowed menacingly. “Ooo-kay. Cox it is. So, Mr. Cox…” Lucy snorted back a giggle, “…uh, what can I, uh, do for you?”
Or to you. Or have you do to me.
“You’re the medium.” There was just enough disbelief in his tone to be insulting, but Lucy had long since learned to let skepticism about her profession roll off her back. He didn’t have to believe in ghosts to make her eyes roll back in her head from sheer pleasure.
“Yep. And you’re…” What was the right term? Did she call him a gigolo? Was that PC?
Mr. Cox thought she was pausing to let him fill in the blank. He jumped right in. “I’m a PI. I sometimes consult with Karmic.”
Lucy frowned, trying to figure out what PI stood for. Pleasure Issuer? It didn’t really matter. He could call himself Mr. Happy Pants if he wanted, as long as the sweaty, naked part of the afternoon started soon.
Mr. Cox kept talking, evidently expecting no response. “I’m investigating a series of murders, and Karma seems to think that the latest victim will be visiting you. Tonight.”
Lucy froze. Okay,
It was a sign of how far into the gutter her thoughts had sunk that it took her a solid minute to realize that Jake Cox was not a gigolo, or a pleasure issuer, or any such thing. He was a private investigator. He consulted with Karmic Consultants and he was investigating a
Lucy’s face flamed with mortification as she ran through everything she had said to him in the last five minutes, trying to remember if she had made a complete idiot of herself, or just a partial one. As her brain scrambled in one direction, her mouth went another.
“I don’t do murders.”
Cox snorted. “I’m not accusing you, Ms. Cartwright. I’m here because you talk to dead people, not make more of them.”
“No.” Lucy shook her head, still playing mental catch-up as her hormones stubbornly refused to acknowledge that Mr. Cox was not there for their personal enjoyment. “What I mean is I don’t talk to murdered ghosts. They go to someone else. Someone who knows how to deal with vengeance issues and wrongful death. I get, uh, different cases.”
don’t let him ask what kind
“Whatever you deal with, Karma seemed pretty sure he was coming to you.”
Lucy could only think of one possible reason why a murder victim would be knocking on her door—or rather, appearing in her bedroom. She hoped she was wrong, but she wasn’t about to ask. There was no good way of asking a ridiculously hot man—who already thought you were a few bricks short of a load—whether the murder victim he was looking for was a repressed nymphomaniac. At least not without sounding like a repressed nympho herself.
Lucy tried to remember how to do her job. It had something to do with ghosts, didn’t it? “So he, uh, he died three days ago?”
Mr. Cox nodded sharply. “Eleven p.m. So anytime after that, right? If he’s going to show as a ghost, that’ll be when he does it?”
Lucy studied him. She was used to people thinking she was loopy for talking to dead people, but Cox seemed pretty pragmatic about it. He just wanted to get the rules down. Cox looked like the kind of guy who would be big into rules. As long as he got to make them. She was quite willing to let him make the rules. Especially if his rules involved whipped cream and fuzzy handcuffs…
“It’s not a strict seventy-two hour thing,” she blurted. “I tend to get mine at night, so he probably won’t show before sundown, but you never know. Some people are more punctual than others. Some ghosts, I mean.”
Mr. Cox nodded again—he had pretty violent nods. Emphatic. Sure. Sexy. “I’ll stay here then. In case he shows early.”
It was not, strictly speaking, a brilliant response, but brilliance could not be expected of a woman woken out of a deep sleep to find a gigolo who was not, in fact, a gigolo pounding on her front door. At least, not if that woman was Lucy. She never woke up well and, at the moment, she was still preoccupied with the depressing realization that she wasn’t going to get to cure her sexual frustration with the hunk of manliness standing in her living room.
And it didn’t help that he was looking at her as if he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to give her a straitjacket or an orgasm.
She was saved from further conversation when his cell rang. He glanced down at the caller ID and barked, “Karma,” before turning away to answer it.
While he was distracted, Lucy escaped back to the bedroom to pull herself together.