Linda Grimes's sexy and hilarious urban fantasy series that began with In a Fix and Quick Fix continues in The Big Fix.
Aura adaptor extraordinaire Ciel Halligan, who uses her chameleon-like abilities to fix her clients' problemsas themis filling in on set for action superstar Jackson Gunn, whose snake phobia is standing in the way of his completing his latest mega-millions Hollywood blockbuster. There's only one thing Jack fears more than snakes, and that's the possibility of his fans finding out he screams at the sight of one. Going from hero to laughing stock isn't part of his career plan.
Seems like a simple enough job to Ciel, who doesn't particularly like snakes, but figures she can tolerate an afternoon with them, for the right pricewhich Jack is offering, and then some. What she doesn't count on is finding out that while she was busy wrangling snakes for him, his wife was busy getting killed. When Ciel goes to break the sad news to the star, she finds out Jack was AWOL from her client hideaway at the time of the murder.
Ciel begins to suspect Jack's phobia was phony, and that he only hired her to provide him with an alibibut if she goes to the police, she'll have to explain how she knows he wasn't really on set. Up against a wall, Ciel calls on her best-friend-turned-love-interest Billy, and her not-so-ex-crush Mark, to help her set up the sting of a lifetime.
About the Author
LINDA GRIMES is 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. Grimes is the author of In a Fix, Quick Fix, and The Big Fix.
Read an Excerpt
The Big Fix
By Linda Grimes
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2015 Linda Grimes
All rights reserved.
It's not that I'm averse to holding on to something long and cylindrical, even if it does wiggle a bit. But when it hisses at me, I get nervous.
Relax, I told myself. That snake is probably more afraid of you than you are of it.
Yeah, right, myself answered, noting the distinctly un-afraid reptilian glint in its eyes. You wish. (Myself can be an unsympathetic bitch sometimes.)
I inhaled—slowly—fighting the impulse to gulp in air until I hyperventilated and passed out. As much as losing consciousness was starting to seem like an attractive option, it wouldn't put a paycheck in my wallet.
You need that money, you need that money, you need that money, I chanted. Mentally, of course. Saying it out loud wouldn't do a thing to enhance the image I was being paid to project. And paid extremely well, I reminded myself. Better than ever before.
The snake hissed again, its head dancing dangerously close to my own, forked tongue flicking in and out between curved fangs. Gaaah. You need that money ...
(Myself took the opportunity to point out that some things are not worth the payoff. Like I said. Cold. Also, not helpful.)
Maybe I could get away with lengthening my arm. Just an inch or two ... The snake stretched.
... or three or four. A foot, tops. Surely no one would notice. At least, not until my sleeve suddenly appeared shorter. Rats.
"Don't hold it so close, Jack!" The woman glued to my side whisper-screamed at me through unmoving lips, calling my attention back to her existence. As if her chest pressed hard against my rib cage wasn't enough of a grabber. If those sweater puppies were real, I'd eat the stupid Indiana Jones knockoff hat I was wearing.
"I'm try-ing," I ventriloquized right back at her, barely audible.
Holding my current self erect (all ruggedly handsome six-foot-three of me, complete with requisite three-day scruff), I tossed the snake into the murky subterranean pit situated within easy falling distance ... only to have another one drop immediately onto my shoulder from the ledge above. Crap. I squeezed what's-her-boobs convulsively, but managed not to scream like a girl. Score one for self-control. Maybe I wouldn't ruin this guy's reputation after all.
At least the new snake wasn't as big. That had to be good, right?
The rattle started in the vicinity of my left ear. Or possibly not ...
The new snake's head swayed in front of us, ominously close to the woman now scrambling to disentangle herself from me. I took a deep breath, grabbed the wiggly bastard by the tail (wondering fleetingly—and perhaps irrelevantly—how one was supposed to tell where a snake's body leaves off and its tail begins), twirled it twice above our heads, and sent it into the pit to join its buddy, maintaining my cool it's-all-in-a-day's-work attitude by the skin of my teeth.
Boobs Galore stopped her escape effort and wilted against me in an orchestrated flood of relieved tears. I'd worry about lipstick stains on my shirt, but I was pretty sure that stuff wouldn't come off her mouth without an industrial-strength solvent.
"Oooh, Dirk ..." she breathed through sexy sobs.
Yeah, Dirk. Why was that even a name anymore?
"... Dirk, darling, I would have been dead a hundred times over if it weren't for you! How can I ever repay you?"
I swallowed, hoping I'd get the next words right. This was the part I'd been dreading even more than the snakes. I'd never forgive myself if I screwed up the one scene I was being paid—and paid well—to pull off for my all-time favorite movie star. My hero, for Pete's sake.
Just say it already.
Gritting my teeth, I forced it out, making sure my gravelly voice oozed the right amount of masculinity. "Don't you worry your pretty little head about that, pussycat. I'll have you out of this hole in two shakes of that rattler's tail."
There. That hadn't sounded too cheesy, had it? Sure, I might not have elevated the schlocky dialogue to the heights Jackson Gunn was capable of, but on the upside, I delivered it without passing out. Which was more than he could have done, given the slithering circumstances. Snake phobias are no joke when you're billed as the World's Manliest Man.
"Thanks a lot, Jack." The actress (whose name, I now remembered, was Sparky West-Haven—no wonder I'd temporarily blocked it) ducked out from under my arm with a shove to my kidney, and flounced off, puppies bouncing. Huh. Either she wasn't happy with my performance, or else she wanted to get as far away from any residual snakes as possible.
I was approached—with happy purpose—by the man who'd just yelled, an energetic sixty-something whose Just-For-Men black hair clashed with the Spanish moss he seemed to be growing on his face in lieu of a beard. The director.
"Perfect, Jack! I swear, when that camera is rolling you are Dirk fucking Dagger!"
Whew. Chalk one up to panic acting. Also, I know. Dirk Dagger. How could Jackson Gunn put up with a character name like that? The man was obviously a saint. (Sure, there are those who think "Jackson Gunn" is almost as bad, but it beat the heck out of his real name. I mean, if my name were Gunther Jackson, I'd transpose and truncate it, too.)
"Thanks," I said, squaring my perfect replica of Gunn's chiseled jaw.
My own chin is much more feminine, not to mention typically at least a foot lower, being as I'm usually short, blond, freckled, and female, as opposed to tall, dark, handsome, and male. Sounds strange, I know, but it's all part of my job as a facilitator.
Ciel Halligan: places to go, people to be. That's the real me.
See, I fix people's problems for a living. Not only that, but I do it as them, so they get all the credit. I can do that because of a special ability I share with others of my kind—i.e., aura adaptors. A quirky mutation in our genetic makeup allows us to alter our auras to look exactly like someone else. Basically, if I can touch you, I can become you, at least physically. It's a simple matter of absorbing some of your energy and redirecting it out from me.
Even if I don't touch you, I can, with enough concentration, manage a remarkably close rendition. But it's harder, and uses more of my own energy reserves, so I'm not crazy about doing it.
So what do I get out of the arrangement? Well, besides giving me the satisfaction of helping others (hey, I'm as altruistic as the next person), it's also a highly entertaining way to make a living. My job is a lot of things, but boring isn't one of them.
"Just a few more takes to iron some stuff out," my gushing director said. "Not you, Jack. Of course. It's Sparky who needs to tone it down. This isn't a cartoon, am I right? Anyway, another hour, two tops. Thanks for being such a champ."
Feeling pretty good about how this job was going, I smiled at his retreating back and pretended I didn't see the dirty look directed my way by the burly snake handler, who had retrieved his babies and had been crooning to them throughout my kiss-the-star's-ass convo with the big boss. He came over anyway.
"You didn't even try to aim for the mattress," he said, accusation squeezing his voice to a higher pitch than usual.
True enough. I'd been more concerned with getting the writhing, scaly tubes of poison—with fangs—the hell away from my face than with their soft landing at the bottom of the fake pit. I mean, sure, they were supposedly milked of their venom before the take, but they could still bite, couldn't they? I happen to have a strong aversion to having my skin pierced.
"You're such a dick," he said when I didn't deny it, and stalked off, obviously disgusted with me. I wanted to apologize—the guy obviously loved his squirmy pets—but it wouldn't have been in character. Work rule number one: never break character.
I plopped down on the canvas folding chair emblazoned with "J Gunn," spelled out in the shape of a pistol. Gotta love those graphic designers. A steaming mug of real coffee appeared in my hand (none of that froufrou foamy crap for my hero), courtesy of some wannabe starlet who probably only took the gopher job to get into the building. I avoided meeting her eyes. My job was snakes, not small talk with girls I had nothing to offer.
I scanned the area while the makeup artist powdered my brow and the stylist artfully re-mussed the parts of my hair visible beneath my hat. My best-frenemy-turned-boyfriend, Billy Doyle, had to be here somewhere, laughing his ass off at me. I scrutinized a boisterous group of rigging technicians. There was plenty of snickering going on, but none I could swear wasn't typical of the regulars on the set, so I had to let it go. For now.
Billy had gotten me this gig because I needed the money. I had already turned down his offer of a financial bailout, primarily out of sheer stubbornness. The whole point of me having my own business was to be independent. Sure, I wasn't above getting a hefty family discount on rent, for both my D.C. condo and office, from my big brother the lawyer (trust me, he can afford it), but taking cash from the guy I was sleeping with? To me that smacked of ... um, yeah.
Since I didn't have another job on the horizon, and some big bills were about to come due, I'd pounced on it when Billy told me about a way I could earn beaucoup bucks and get a trip to Hollywood. Stubborn I might be, but I do have a pragmatic side, especially where my business is concerned.
And, you know, Hollywood. The opportunity to meet Jackson Gunn—and walk a mile in his legendary shoes—was not to be missed.
Billy sometimes did stunt work for film actors who liked to pretend publicly they were as athletic as the characters they portrayed. Why take the bumps and bruises yourself if somebody else can do it for you? Bonus for me: threatening to tell his mom about it was part of the backup blackmail plan I hold in reserve. Auntie Mo would kill him if she knew what kind of risks he took. Of course, I'd probably never be able to use it, because he knew stuff that would make my mom kill me.
Mutually assured destruction: the glue of any good relationship.
Jackson Gunn had heard about Billy through the golden grapevine—people with money who knew how and where to buy anything they wanted—and approached him with a "little problem." Seriously, what kind of action hero wanted to admit he couldn't be around a snake without peeing his pants? He'd be a laughingstock.
A throat cleared beside me. Jackson's assistant, Frannie. Cute, curvy, and in a rush. This was the first time I'd encountered her in person, but I recognized her easily from her picture in the extensive dossier I had compiled before the job. (I do that with all my clients. No room for screwups in my line of work.)
"Shouldn't you be gone?" I said, making sure I sounded concerned, not rude. According to a last-minute update from Jackson, Frannie had been called away on a family emergency.
"Come on, Ja—I mean, Mr. Gunn. You don't think I'd leave without making sure you're taken care of, do you? I got you a temp." She glanced with distaste at the starstruck girl with the black-and-white ponytail and double-hooped nose piercings. "What's your name again?"
The goth girl mumbled something I didn't bother to commit to memory (totally in character for Gunn) and took my empty cup, holding it with such reverence I was afraid she might be planning to make a shrine to it. Or possibly just sell it on eBay.
Frannie glared at her, obviously annoyed at the hero worship. "Mr. Gunn takes his coffee black, and only when he asks for it. Make sure you don't bother him in his trailer. He'll need to rest—undisturbed—between takes."
Goth Girl nodded, looking contrite. I split a megawatt smile between the two of them, lingering a little longer on Frannie, so she wouldn't get bent out of shape.
"I'm sure you'll do fine, sweetie," I said to the girl. I knew from his file that Gunn tended to call all women "sweetie." I supposed that spared him from having to remember names. Whatever the reason, I was glad. It made my job easier.
Frannie looked torn—she was obviously a devoted assistant—but eventually left. On her way out, she lobbed one last warning look at little Miss Black-and-White, who faded obligingly into the background, still clutching her prize coffee cup.
"Jack!" The director again. What now? Had the snakes gone on strike?
"Look, Jack ... I don't know how to say this ... I ... We just heard ... I mean ... we have some bad news."
I quirked my mouth, shrugging it off the way I figured a superstar would. "What? Are we losing investors? Hell, let me talk to them. I'll—"
"No, that's not it, the movie is fine, though if you want ... I mean, if you need to take some time ..."
"Spit it out, Wally." That was his name, right? Walter Gentzner. Wally to his cast and crew, I was sure of it. So why was he looking so sick?
"It's your wife." He swallowed, his face looking as gray as his beard. "She's dead."
Well, shit. Part of my satisfaction guarantee was to never return a client's life in worse condition than it was when I got it. I could fix a lot of things, but you can't fix dead.CHAPTER 2
"Tell me again, cuz ... how is this my fault?" Billy said, pouring a hefty amount of Tanqueray Ten into a shaker full of ice. He added a much smaller portion of dry vermouth, not bothering to measure.
"You're the one who got me the job. And don't call me that," I said, not caring how unreasonable I sounded. I'd spent the last hour dodging microphones and morbidly curious sympathizers. I was grumpy.
Billy has a habit of showing up during my jobs, just to annoy me. Our moms were sorority sisters once upon a time, so they claim honorary aunt status to each other's offspring. Not only that, but Billy is Auntie Mo's stepson, so technically we wouldn't be related even if our moms were real sisters. I point this out only because a few months earlier our hormones (Billy's and mine, that is; I don't even want to think about our mothers') had taken it upon themselves to explore certain uncousinly possibilities. Now I occasionally like to reassure myself we aren't perverts.
Which is a good thing, because I have to admit the fruits of those hormonal explorations have been pretty darned impressive so far. But that doesn't mean we've given up on teasing and tormenting each other (I suspect that's hardwired into our personalities), only that we've added a new dimension to it.
We were holed up in Jack's luxury Fifth Wheel trailer, and Billy wasn't about to let the well-appointed bar go to waste. He filled two sturdy martini glasses. Three olives each, speared by sterling silver picks topped by tiny pistols.
"All right, then—Cielie-poo," Billy said, accommodating me with a shrug and a teasing curve of lips as he handed me one of the glasses.
I crossed my eyes and stuck out my tongue at him, as much because his glass was twice as full as mine as for the gag-inducing endearment. Normally I'd complain aloud about the lack of cocktail parity, but since I was trying to keep a clear head I let it slide.
"I only passed the job on to you because you refused to let me pay off your creditors. I don't know why you have such a big chip on your shoulder about earning your own money, anyway. Lord knows I'm happy to take it from anyone willing to give it to me."
His dark blue eyes twinkled beneath the heavy black eye shadow he still wore. The contrast was stunning, but then Billy's eyes were always gorgeous. His lashes were a source of perpetual envy on my part. Of course, now that he was officially my significant other, I didn't mind them quite as much.
He'd been the ponytailed assistant—the temp filling in for Frannie. (Three guesses who had engineered the family emergency.) Billy's two-toned goth girl was ostensibly running interference with the outside world so "poor Mr. Gunn" could rest in the aftermath of the shocking news.
Excerpted from The Big Fix by Linda Grimes. Copyright © 2015 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
I love ALL of Linda Grime's Ciel Halligan books, but THE BIG FIX made me go..."WHAT? I can't believe she did THAT!!!!" And I mean that in the most flattering way. I'm still shaking my head LOL! Grimes' writing is creative, smart, intriguing, sexy and funny all rolled up. I haven't enjoyed an adult series this much since I fell in love with the Outlander books. Grimes had better be writing fast and furious because I NEED my next FIX!
I swear I love each new book more than the last in this delightfully fun and unique series. Ciel and the boys are at it again on the set of a Hollywood action flick. The story has oodles of twists and turns and tons of great humor. The love triangle between Ciel and Billy and Mark keeps me turning pages to see what's going to happen next. Even if you haven't read the first books in the series, you can jump right in with this one and follow along (though you'd be smart to read the others, because they're fab!)