Read an Excerpt
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 himstand 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. A Jane? 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 had 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.
Cox. Of course. Lucy felt her face turning purple. She could not 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 much too encouraging for her sex-starved ghosts.
Staring up at her gigolo--she could not 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, what?
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 murder.
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."