QUICK FIXthe second installment of the original urban fantasy series by LINDA GRIMES.
Ciel Halligan, an aura adaptor with a chameleon-like ability to step into the lives of her clients and fix their problems for themas themis working a job at the National Zoo with her boyfriend, Billy, and his ten-year-old sister, Molly. It's supposed to be a quick fix, giving her time to decide if it's wise to pursue the romantic relationship her charming scoundrel of a best friend wants, or if she should give Mark, the CIA spook she's crushed on since hormones first rattled her pubescent brain, a chance to step up to the plate.
Molly has already begun to show signs of being an adaptor herself. She's young for it, but she's always been precocious, so it's not impossible. What is impossible is her taking on the form of the baby orangutan she touchesadaptors can only project human auras. Until now, apparently. Worse, Molly is stuck in ape form. She can't change herself back.
Escaping from the zoo with their new baby orang, Ciel and Billy head for New York City and the only person they know can help: Ciel's brother James, a non-adaptor scientist who's determined to crack the aura adaptor genetic code. But when Billy winds up in jail, accused of attempted murder, Ciel begins to suspect Molly's unusual adapting ability is more than just a fluke. Who's been experimenting on Molly, and what do they hope to gain? And will Ciel survive to find out?
About the Author
LINDA GRIMES is the author of In a Fix and its sequel Quick Fix. A former English teacher and ex-actress now channeling her love of words and drama into writing. She grew up in Texas and currently resides in northern Virginia with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
Decapitation, I thought the second time the hand landed on my butt. Perhaps evisceration. Or I could just stick with a classic — dip him in honey and stake him out over a giant fire-ant pile.
I gritted my teeth and smiled at the man beside me, all the while glaring my murderous intent over his shoulder at Billy Doyle, who was supposed to be recording the incident, not passing the time of day with every female from eight to eighty who stopped to flirt with him. (Granted, that part wasn't entirely his fault. His field of charm worked like gravity — once it caught you, it was hard to escape.)
Damn it. I knew I should have pushed him into the tiger habitat when I had the chance.
Billy, several yards away, widened his gorgeous eyes at me in the picture-of-innocence look he'd probably mastered in utero, and cocked his head toward his little sister, Molly. She was a miniature female version of Billy with dark, wavy hair (in her case contained by a thick braid that hung halfway down her back), inky blue eyes, and eyelashes lush enough that she'd never need mascara. She even had the Doyle dimples.
Molly had just pointed her brother's high-end cell phone my way and, judging by her gleeful expression, was capturing my posterior for posterity. Trust Billy to foist his one chore off on the nearest willing relative. Why do something yourself when you had an adoring sibling within reach?
But I couldn't stake this entire job on a ten-year-old's aim with a phone.
The hand squeezed. I jumped.
"Sorry, Thelma. Did I startle you?" the owner of the offending appendage said, the ogle in his voice matching the one in his eyes.
Biting back the retort that came naturally to my tongue, I said instead, "Oh, not at all, Mr. Brown —"
"Leo," he interrupted.
"Yes, um, Leo ... I must have backed into you by mistake."
I even managed not to choke on the last part. I was getting better at staying in character.
The real Thelma Parker was a mousy thing whose overwhelming desire in life was to get herself appointed to the Friends of the National Zoo — aka FONZ — board of directors without having to form a love connection with Mr. Grabby here. I'd developed a certain reputation for dealing ... efficiently, shall we say? ... with matters of l'amour, so here I was, dealing. Granted, I had more experience making than breaking said connections, but still. How tough could turning off a guy be?
Mr. Brown patted my sixtyish (but apparently still alluring) derriere, breathing like it was his first time in a Zumba class, making me glad I'd worn one of Thelma's industrial-strength body shapers. At least there was that extra layer between me and Sir Pantsalot. Geez, the things I do for my clients.
Sometimes I question the wisdom of my career choice. Just because I can slip into somebody else's life, does that mean I should?
Philosophy aside, at least I get to help people. Not everyone is adept at getting around life's roadblocks. Take Thelma, for instance. She'd be traumatized by this jerk. If I could spare her that by the simple act of assuming her appearance, and arm her delicate sensibilities against further assault, didn't I have a moral obligation to do it?
Especially when it paid so well. (Hey, a girl has to eat.)
Besides, I — Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire — happen to be pretty good at maneuvering past roadblocks. Well, as long as they aren't my personal roadblocks. Those I tend to suck at.
My job is made possible by a tiny genetic quirk. It's all about altering energy on a biomolecular level, and if you happen to be born with the trait for it ... well, let's just say interesting career opportunities abound for enterprising adaptors.
I glanced back at Billy, who'd moved on to making a big show of pointing at some sort of marmoset (a golden lion tamarin, according to a nearby sign) and saying to Molly loudly enough for me to hear plainly, "That one reminds me of Ciel — tiny and fierce, and likely to fling poo if provoked."
I managed to keep from rolling my eyes. Barely. Billy, my best friend and honorary cousin (my mother and Billy's stepmother were sorority sisters — cute, huh?), had a habit of showing up at my job sites and lingering in the background to annoy me. Why had I thought it would be different just because this time he was supposedly assisting me?
I refocused on Mr. Brown. Beads of sweat glistened beneath the few strands of gray hair stretched across his pink head. Normally D.C. was cooler in September, but summer apparently hadn't gotten the memo that it was time to leave. He dabbed his forehead with a handkerchief, giving my rear end a temporary reprieve.
"Why don't we get out of this sauna?" he said. (Huffpuff-wheeze.) "My office is air-conditioned, and I keep it cold enough to make you shiver." He winked, reaching out again.
I sidestepped him nimbly, pretending to sneeze. (I perfected fake sneezing at an early age. It beat the heck out of fake stomachaches for playing hooky because you could eat ice cream without making your mom suspicious.) Undeterred by the possibility of germs, Mr. Brown readjusted his aim, following through to his target.
Gawd. If anyone ever tells you a job is easy money, run the other way.
Thelma was a referral from a nonadaptor buddy of mine. Actually, Monica was more Billy's friend than mine — he's the one who'd had a gargantuan crush on her back in high school. But I'd had a soft spot in my heart for her ever since she'd failed to get sucked into his gravitational field, so I'd agreed to take the job on short notice. Quick fix, collect my not unsubstantial fee, sayonara.
It went against my grain to take a job without a thorough investigation of the client. I pride myself on being completely familiar with all aspects of a client's life before going in to fix whatever the problem happens to be, but since this job didn't entail dealing with anyone who knew Thelma well, I figured it would be okay.
I removed Mr. Brown's hand from my backside and wagged a finger at him. Not the finger I wanted to wag, but since Thelma wasn't the type to flip off any man, much less the one who was dangling the FONZ board membership over her head, I held back. Restraint is an essential part of the job.
"Ah-ah-ah, you naughty boy," I said. Which he somehow mistook for encouragement and came at me again, this time with both hands.
I blocked him with my own, giggling nervously, just as Thelma would have — the paycheck, Ciel, think of the paycheck! — engaging in what amounted to an absurd game of patty-cake. Geez. Bashful clients were the worst. If I could get through this interview without whacking Romeo upside the head, I would have earned every freaking penny Thelma was paying me.
Feeling the impulse for violence grow, I threw a panicked look at Billy and Molly, who were apparently so entranced with the diminutive golden-red primates hopping freely through the trees that they didn't notice me. They wore radio collars so the zookeepers could keep track of them. (The marmosets, I mean, not Billy and Molly. Though, honestly, that might be something to consider in the future.) I leveled the glare at them (Billy and Molly, not the marmosets) that I wished I could direct toward the dipwad I was doing the deranged keep-your-hands-off-my-ass dance with. Molly caught on to my dilemma and tugged on her brother's sleeve.
Billy finally focused the telephoto lens of his outrageously expensive camera on me and Mr. Brown, grinning in a way that suggested he was enjoying my situation a little too much.
The ants, I decided. The honey and the fire ants.
But not until after he gave me the evidence I was going to need to convince Mr. Brown to recommend Thelma for her board position sans any hanky-panky. (No, blackmail isn't, strictly speaking, an attractive behavior — or, you know, legal — but where the welfare of my clients is concerned, I am not above it. Besides, think of the favor I was doing poor Mrs. Brown.)
"Come on, Thelma. Just one little kiss. Stop being coy." The hands were getting busier.
At last Billy gave me a thumbs-up, indicating his photographic efforts had been fruitful, and sent Molly scampering my way. She shoved herself between me and the human octopus, hugging me around my waist.
"Aunt Thelma, it's so great to see you," she said.
Billy joined us at a more leisurely pace. "Yes, Aunt Thelma. Thanks for inviting us."
I smoothed my short, faded-brown hair and, once Molly had unlatched herself from me, tucked my tailored shirt more tightly into my sensible, knee-length skirt.
"It's great to see you, too, sweetie," I said. "Both of you. Mr. Brown, may I introduce my niece Molly and my nephew Billy? They're visiting from out of town and thought it would be fun to see the zoo together after my meeting with you." The last part was true, anyway.
Molly sneezed into her hand (not fake — she was getting over a mild cold), wiped it on the seat of her shorts, and extended it toward Mr. Brown enthusiastically. Polite, if not precisely hygienic.
"Pleased to meet you," Mr. Brown said, not sounding — or looking — pleased in the slightest. He ignored Molly's hand.
"Nice to meet you, too," Billy said. "I see you've been sizing up Aunt Thelma."
Mr. Brown's left eye twitched.
"For the board position?" Billy added disingenuously. "I got some great shots of the interview. You know, for Aunt Thelma's scrapbook. I'm sure she'll want a reminder of the day she got fondled — I mean, FONZed."
More twitching. "Yes, uh, well, I'll do whatever I can to convince the other board members, of course."
Did he look paler? Yeah, definitely chalkier than he was before. Sweatier, too, but that could have just been the heat.
Billy clapped his shoulder heartily. "I have the utmost confidence in your powers of persuasion. Maybe you could even get your wife to help. Rumor has it she's a real pit bull when she sets her mind to something."
Mr. Brown's huffing and puffing amped up to an alarming extent. Boy, his wife must be something else if the mere mention of her elicited this kind of reaction.
"Mr. Brown? Are you all right?" I asked, not having to pretend to be flustered this time. If this guy croaked how was I going to explain it to Thelma?
He looked at me, his mouth opening and closing like a beached bass. The hand that had recently groped my ass now clutched at my shoulder.
"Tiiim-berr," Billy said under his breath.
Sure enough, Leo came crashing down — onto me, his face landing square in the middle of Thelma's matronly bosom.
"Damn it, Billy," I said, reeling under the weight, "how in the hell am I supposed to finish the job now?"
I watched out of the corner of my eye as Billy's mouth sculpted a large mound of raspberry sherbet into a smaller mound, his tongue flicking over the frozen pink confection, lapping at drips along the side of the cone as necessary.
Damn. I swallowed hard.
"Ciel?" I felt a yank on my sleeve. "Hey, are you listening?"
Looking to my other side, I was pulled back to reality by Molly's eager face.
I was myself again, all external traces of my client safely stowed in the large handbag beside me on the bench. Lascivious Leo had been dispatched by ambulance to the nearest hospital after the EMTs assured us it was likely only heat exhaustion and not a heart attack. I'd call later to make sure he was okay — and that he followed through with the board offer for Thelma. I was pretty sure he'd expedite the matter.
"Um, sure thing, Moll. Only I didn't quite get that last part." I glanced back at Billy, who was plowing a groove through the center of what was left of his scoop, transforming it into something that looked disturbingly like a —
Molly tugged my sleeve again. "Ciel!" she said, and sneezed. Her cold hadn't affected her energy at all.
I ripped my eyes away from Billy's lips, back to safer ground, to find Molly staring at me as if I were a somewhat slow two-year-old. "Isaid your ice cream is melting all over your hand."
Crap. It was. I dug a wad of napkins out of my pocket. Before I could wipe off the sticky mess, Billy grabbed my cone-holding hand and licked the chocolate runnels from my fingers, the innocent shine back in his eyes. A shiver ran up my spine and down my ... never mind. He knew, damn him.
"Shame to let it go to waste," he said, and something told me he wasn't talking about the ice cream. "What's the matter? Aren't you hungry? Maybe you should've tried the raspberry. It's my new favorite." Bingo.
My nipples contracted and I hunched my shoulders to hide the obvious. I knew exactly which raspberries he was referring to and the allusion was ... unsettling. Yanking my hand away, I stumbled through the first excuse I could think of. "Uh, no, it's not that. Brain freeze, that's all. I'm better now." I jammed the cone into my mouth and took a huge bite, wincing as I turned my little lie into a big truth. Ouch.
Billy laughed, but Molly dropped her adult demeanor in a flash of sympathy. "I hate it when that happens. How can something so good blast you with that kind of pain? It's not fair, is it? It's downright treacherous is what I think!"
"It's treacherous, all right," I said, giving her brother a dirty look.
Billy had brought his baby sister down from New York ostensibly to visit me but really to get her out of our mothers' collective hair. Auntie Mo and my mother (aka Auntie Ro to Billy and his sisters, short for Aurora) were BFFs as well as sorority sisters — Tri Delts — and considered themselves honorary aunts to each other's offspring. They were deep into preparations for this year's annual Come As You Aren't masquerade party, and believe me, no one wanted to be anywhere near ground zero right now. When they were in full-on party mode for the adaptor event of the season — one of the few big social gatherings each year where adaptors could relax and let it all hang out — they steamrolled over anything and anybody in their way. Smart relations learned early on it was get lost or get squashed.
Molly was always a bubbly little thing, but her joy at escaping the forced labor of party prep had her even more effervescent than usual. You could practically see the energy fizzing out of her ears. Granted, the cotton candy, popcorn, chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream I'd seen Billy feeding her with abandon all morning while they were following me around probably hadn't helped.
"Did Billy tell you what I can do yet?" she whispered, barely containing herself, like a bubble on the edge of bursting.
Billy shot her a warning look. "Sis, maybe this should wait until we're back at Ciel's."
My antennae sprang to life. Wait? Ha. That would entail patience, not exactly my strong suit.
"Noooo, Moll — what can you do?" I said, ignoring her brother's threatening brow. "Hey, he's not teaching you to drive his car, is he?" I added, just to watch him blanch. Billy's cherry red '57 Chevy Bel Air was the love of his life, and the thought of anybody else behind the wheel usually gave him the heebie-jeebies.
"Let's not give the munchkin any ideas, Ciel," he said, glancing warily at his sibling.
Molly laughed out loud at her brother's discomfort. "No way. He won't even let me ride in it without plastic bags and paper towels." She was long since resigned to her tendency to get motion sick and determined to make the best of it. "But, anyway, watch —"
She grabbed my hand (the one not holding the increasingly sticky ice-cream cone) and looked intently into my eyes.
"Molly — no," Billy said. Too late. Her eyes shifted from their deep blue into a light spring green — the same color as mine. Exactly the same.
My jaw dropped, which I realized only after Billy reached over and shut it for me. I batted his hand away. "Molly! This is so great. When did you start? Aren't you a little young?"
She hopped up and down and giggled, a sound so infectious I couldn't help adding my own to it. (Okay, I might have hopped a little, too. But at least I didn't squeal. I draw the line at squealing.)
"Yeah. I'm precocious! Isn't it cool?"
Billy stood and blocked her from the view of a group of passing tourists. "That's enough, Moll. Change them back — and no more showing off in public places. Remember our talk?"
Excerpted from "Quick Fix"
Copyright © 2013 Linda Grimes.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love this series! Awesome characters and plenty of smiles.
Characters are engaging. Very fun fast read.
*Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publicist in exchange for a honest review. Quick Fix was another fun and whacky installment in the In A Fix series featuring Ciel Halligan, an aura adapter. Ciel is able to adapt to any person she comes into contact with down to a point in appearance and voice. At the start of Quick Fix, readers find Ciel, Billy and Billy’s 10-year old sister Molly at the zoo. Ciel is on assignment hoping that that it’d be a ‘quick fix’ unlike her previous cases, getting her client a position on the board of directors. Unfortunately the situation gets more complicated when Molly, who is just barely coming into her adapter abilities, turns into a baby orangutan. Ciel’s only hope in figuring out how to turn Molly back into a little girl is her brother James, a non-adapter. Juggling a baby orangutan, finding the assailant who tried to shoot Laura and mistaken identities and figuring out her relationship s with mark and Billy are all part of the to-do list in Ciel Halligan’s oh-so-Not-normal life. This time around readers get to see more of Ciel’s wonderful and quirky family members. They are quite a bunch. We learn more about Thomas and his connection to Mark’s partner Laura, James the non-adapter and we meet the not-often-talked about youngest brother of Ciel, Brian. For most of the story, James is trying to figure out a cure to turn Molly back to normal, and this is where we learn more about the aura adapter abilities. Well, the scientific aspect of it…how one becomes an adapter versus a non-adapter. I thought Molly’s situation was really interesting and how she came to adapt an animal’s aura. The entire time Molly was a baby orangutan, she was still herself. Imagine a baby orangutan binging on ice cream and playing Wii vigorously nonstop! Or the time when everyone had to ‘adapt’ Molly so that Auntie Ro didn’t find out, it was hilarious to see all the different-crazy situations Ciel and the gang found themselves in. In the previous book, In A Fix, Ciel was fighting her attraction between two long time friends Mark and Billy. In the sequel, Ciel made the final decision on who she wants to be with and I’m so glad it was Billy. In this book we see them both navigate their new relationship from being best friends to a romantic relationship. Their intense chemistry continues to grow from the first book, and I love seeing their interaction together…it’s just so darn sweet and cute! Mark made an appearance here and there throughout the book and passively let Ciel know he was/or is interested in her but it is nothing compared to when Billy is actively pursuing Ciel. I like Mark but Billy is definitely the guy for her. Quick Fix was an excellent sequel to last year’s In a Fix, there is never a dull moment when Ciel and the gang are involved. The world-building is unique and easy-to-understand, something you won’t find in other urban fantasies. Add in likeable characters and a charming romance and you got yourself a winner! I highly recommend this series to all UF,PNR, and fantasy fans looking for a light-fun read…you won’t regret it!