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Authors: Laura Levine

The PMS Murder

BOOK: The PMS Murder
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Outstanding praise for Laura Levine and
her Jaine Austen mysteries!

SHOES TO DIE FOR

“Laura Levine’s acerbic comedy-writing skills give a cutting edge to her series.”—
The New York Times Book Review

“You will love it . . . Levine is a funny lady.”


The Kingston Observer

“A lively sense of humor and an ear for the absurd help Jaine overcome any number of setbacks and a host of fashion no-nos.”—
Kirkus Reviews

“The ideal beach read.”—
Publishers Weekly
KILLER BLONDE

“An entertaining read that will leave series followers wanting more.”—
Mystery News

“Levine’s writing is so engaging . . . her heroine so witty . . .

what also works and works best is Levine’s humor.”


The Alameda Times-Star
(Alameda, California)
LAST WRITES

“Last Writes
is spritely and entertaining. I commend it to the attention of anyone wishing to be entertained.”

—Robert B. Parker,
New York Times
bestselling author

“The wisecracks and puns again fly fast and thick.”


Publishers Weekly

THIS PEN FOR HIRE

“Jaine has a sassy attitude and I look forward to her new adventures.”—
Deadly Pleasures

“This Pen for Hire
is as much about Jaine herself as about the mystery. Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will want to check her out.”—
The Mystery Reader

“A fluffy, fun, and fast read.”—
Library Journal

“Here’s the book you should have to slip into the beach tote and peruse while prone beneath a striped umbrella.”

—Mystery Review

Books by Laura Levine

THIS PEN FOR HIRE

LAST WRITES

KILLER BLONDE

SHOES TO DIE FOR

THE PMS MURDER

DEATH BY PANTYHOSE

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation THE

PMS

MURDER

LAURA LEVINE

KENSINGTON BOOKS

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com

For Michael, Barbara, Josh, and Ben
Acknowledgments

Many thanks, as always, to my editor John Scog-namiglio and my agent Evan Marshall for their in-valuable guidance and support. Thanks also to Joanne Fluke for her many acts of kindness and generosity, and to my friends and family for putting up with me while I’m writing. Thanks to Hiro Kimura for his snazzy cover, and to my feline technical advisor, my cat, Mr. Guy. (If I don’t mention him somewhere in the acknowledgments, he’s impossible to live with.) A special thanks to the read-ers who have taken the time to write me and visit me at my book signings. And finally—for loyalty and devotion above and beyond the call of duty—thanks to my number one fan and best friend, my husband, Mark.

Chapter 1

What’s more painful than a mammogram? More excruciating than a bikini wax? More humiliating than spinach stuck to your front tooth?

Shopping for a bathing suit, of course.

There’s nothing worse. Not even a root canal.

(Unless it’s a root canal in a bathing suit with spinach stuck to your front tooth.) That’s what I was doing the day I first became involved in what eventually became known as the PMS Murder: trying on a bathing suit. For some ridiculous reason I’d decided to take up water aerobics. Actually, for two ridiculous reasons: my thighs.

Before my horrified eyes, they were rapidly turning into Ramada Inns for cellulite.

So I figured I’d join a gym, and after a few weeks of sloshing around in the pool, I’d have the toned and silky thighs of my dreams. But before I could get toned and silky, there was just one tiny obstacle in my way: I needed to buy the aforementioned bathing suit.

I knew it would be bad. The last time I’d gone bathing suit shopping, I came home and spent the night crying on the shoulders of my good buddy 8

Laura Levine

Jose Cuervo. But I never dreamed it would be this bad.

For starters, I made the mistake of going to a discount clothing store called the Bargain Barn.

My checkbook was going through a particularly anemic phase at the time, and I’d heard about what great prices this place had.

What I hadn’t heard, however, was that there were no private dressing rooms at the Bargain Barn.

That’s right. Everyone, I saw to my dismay, had to change in one ghastly mirror-lined communal dressing room, under the pitiless glare of fluores-cent lights, where every cellulite bump looked like a crater in the Grand Canyon.

It’s bad enough having to look at your body flaws in a private dressing room, but to have them exposed in a roomful of other women—I still shudder at the memory.

Making matters worse was the fact that I was surrounded by skinny young things easing their wash-board tummies into size twos and fours. I once read that sixty percent of American women are a size twelve or larger. Those sixty percent obviously didn’t shop at the Bargain Barn. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this was L.A., the liposuction capital of the world, where it’s practically against the law to wear a size twelve or larger.

I grabbed a handful of bathing suits, ignoring the bikinis and mini-thongs in favor of the more matron-ly models with built-in bras and enough industrial-strength spandex to rein in a herd of cattle.

I jammed my body into one hideous swimsuit after another, wondering what had ever possessed me to come up with this insane water aerobics idea. I tried on striped suits and florals; tankinis and skirtinis; blousons and sarongs. No matter THE PMS MURDERS

9

what the style, the end result was always the same: I looked like crap.

One suit promised it would take inches of ugly flab from my waist. And indeed it did. Trouble was, it shoved that ugly flab right down to my hips, which had all the flab they needed, thank you very much.

I’d just tried on the last of the bathing suits, a striped tankini that made me look like a pregnant convict, when suddenly I heard someone moaning in dismay.

I looked over and saw a plump thirtysomething woman struggling into a pair of spandex bike shorts and matching halter top. At last. Someone with actual hips and thighs and tummy. One of the sixty percenters!

She surveyed herself in the mirror and sighed, her cheeks flushed from the exertion of tugging on all that spandex.

“My God,” she sighed. “I look like the Pillsbury Doughboy with cleavage.”

“Tell me about it,” I said. “I look like the doughboy with cleavage, retaining water.”

“Oh, yeah?” she countered. “I look like the doughboy with cleavage, retaining water on a bad hair day.”

She ran her fingers through her blunt-cut hair and grimaced.

“Would you believe this is a size large?” she said, tugging at the shorts. “Who is this large on? Bar-bie?”

“Well, I’ve had it.” I wriggled out of the tankini and started to get dressed. “I’m outta here.” I’d long since given up my insane water aerobics idea. No. I’d take up something far less humiliating. Like walking. And the first place I intended to 10

Laura Levine

walk to was Ben & Jerry’s for a restorative dose of Chunky Monkey.

“I’m going to drown my sorrows in ice cream.”

“Great idea,” said my fellow sufferer. “Mind if I join you?”

“Be my guest.”

And so, ten minutes later, we were sitting across from each other at Ben & Jerry’s slurping Chunky Monkey ice cream cones.

“I’m Pam, by the way,” my companion said, licking some ice cream from where it had dribbled onto her wrist. “Pam Kenton.”

It was nice being with someone who ate with gusto. My best friend Kandi has the appetite of a gnat and usually shoots me disapproving looks when I order anything more fattening than a celery stick. I know it’s only because she cares about me and wants me to be one of the skinny forty percenters, but still, it can get pretty annoying.

“Actually,” Pam said, “my last name isn’t really Kenton. It’s Koskovolis. Kenton is my stage name.

I’m an actress. Of course, you know what that means in this town.”

“Waitress?”

“You got it,” she nodded. “And you?”

“I’m a writer.”

“Really?” Her eyes widened, impressed. People are always impressed when I tell them I’m a writer.

“What do you write?”

“Oh, industrial brochures. Resumes. Stuff like that.”

Here’s where they usually stop being impressed.

Most folks find resumes and industrial brochures a bit of a yawn.

But Pam sat up, interested.

“You write resumes? I sure could use some help THE PMS MURDERS

11

with mine. I’m getting tired of waitressing. I want a job where I get to sit down for a while.”

“I’d be happy to help you with your resume,” I offered.

A worry line marred her brow. “I couldn’t afford to pay you much.”

“Oh, don’t worry about the money. I won’t charge you.”

Inwardly, I kicked myself. What was wrong with me? Why was I always giving away my services? If I started charging people, maybe I wouldn’t have to shop at joints like the Bargain Barn. Oh, well. Pam seemed awfully nice, and it wasn’t as if I had a lot of assignments that she’d be interfering with. In fact, my work schedule was scarily light.

“That’s so sweet of you,” Pam said. “How about I fix you dinner as payment?”

“Sounds great. When do you want to get together?”

“As soon as you can.”

“How about tomorrow night?”

“Oh, I can’t tomorrow,” she said. “That’s PMS

night.”

“PMS night?”

“A group of friends get together once a week to bitch and moan over guacamole and margaritas.

We call ourselves the PMS Club.”

“Sounds like fun.”

“Hey, wait. I’ve got a great idea. Why don’t you come with me? We’re short on members right now and I think you’d be a great addition to the club.

We could have dinner first at my place while we work on my resume and then head over to the club afterward. What do you say?”

“Are you sure the others won’t mind?”

“No. They’re going to love you; I’m sure of it.

12

Laura Levine

And it’s really worthwhile. You get to share your in-nermost thoughts with like-minded women in a warm, supportive environment.

“Plus,” she added, with a grin, “you get great guacamole and free margaritas.”

“Sure,” I said, never one to pass up a free margarita. “Why not?”

I was soon to find out exactly why not, but that’s a whole other story. Stick around, and I’ll tell it to you.

Chapter 2

Iguess you could say the whole PMS mess was Kandi’s fault. If she hadn’t gone and gotten herself engaged, I never would’ve joined the PMS

Club in the first place.

Yes, after years of dating some of the wartiest frogs on the planet, my best friend and constant dinner companion, Kandi Tobolowski, had done the unthinkable and finally met a prince. Of all places, in traffic school. They locked eyeballs over a lecture on Illegal U-turns and by the time they got to Lane Changing, Kandi knew she’d found the man of her dreams.

In the past, Kandi’s dream men have invariably turned out to be nightmares. Last year, for example, she was madly in love with a performance artist, a guy whose act consisted of lying on stage in a vat of hot fudge sauce and spraying himself with Reddi-Wip. Everything was rosy until she showed up at his loft one night and caught him in bed with another woman, a vibrator, and a jar of maraschino cherries.

But this time, it looked like she’d landed herself a winner. Her fiancé, Steve, was a true sweetheart, 14

Laura Levine

an attorney who worked pro bono for poor people. As far as attorneys went, he was a pussycat among piranhas.

I should have been happy for Kandi. And I was.

Really. It’s just that I couldn’t help feeling a tad abandoned. I hardly ever saw her for dinner any more, and when I did Steve usually came with us.

By the end of the evening I could practically feel them fondling each other’s thighs under the table, putting me very much in the Fifth Wheel category.

Which is why I was pleased and happily surprised earlier that day when Kandi called and asked me to have dinner, just the two of us. It would be nice, I thought, to have her all to myself for a change.

BOOK: The PMS Murder
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