THE EXORCIST WHO LOVED ME, the prequel to Must Love Ghosts series. Available now.
Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Savalli
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
He set up an audio recorder on the coffee table between them. “What’s been happening to you, Holly?”
She gazed at him, wishing they could skip this part. The humiliating part where she admitted to a stranger she hadn’t known exactly how bad her marriage was until after her husband was dead.
Lawe held her gaze, the green flecks in his eyes seeming to deepen. She couldn’t look away. Hypnotized. The word flitted across her mind, making her wonder.
“I think I’m being p—possessed by my late husband.” She paused, waiting for Lawe’s reaction.
He didn’t have much of one. He nodded, not looking surprised. But why would he? He was an exorcist. He heard crazy stuff like this all the time.
“Admitting the problem is half the battle,” he said.
“No, but it makes people feel better when I say that.” He shrugged, and she blinked at him, not sure how to interpret that. “Sorry, bad joke,” he said. “Keep going.”
“My husband, Paul, died six months ago.” She spoke fast, willing herself to get it all out before she lost courage. “Car accident.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he murmured.
“We have two children. Three-year-old twins. It’s been hard. Luckily, I have family around and they’ve been a huge help.” She shook her head, trying to clear it. This wasn’t the point. “Anyway, about a month ago, I started having these…episodes.”
Lawe leaned forward, elbows resting on his legs, hands loosely clasped between his knees. He looked relaxed, except for the intensity in his eyes.
“I would suddenly find myself in the bedroom when my last memory was sweeping the kitchen. I’d find myself wearing clothes I hadn’t put on that morning. I know that sounds weird, but believe me, I don’t dress in a camisole and black leather mini to chase after toddlers all day. Once, I glanced in the mirror and saw myself totally made up, like I was headed out clubbing instead of to story time at the library.”
“Did you ever feel you were in danger? Have thoughts that weren’t your own?”
She drew strength from the calm acceptance in his voice. “No, those times are a complete blank. My therapist said sleep deprivation and grief could be to blame. But then one day, I came to and found myself outside Paul’s old real estate office. Things got worse after that. One night, my mother showed up at the door ready to babysit the kids. She said I’d told her I had a date. And then some guy I recognized as one of Paul’s clients showed up saying I’d invited him to dinner. I never talked to either one of them. I swear. Somebody—or something—is hijacking my body.”
“I believe you,” he said simply. And tears of relief pricked her eyes. “What you’re describing is typical in possession cases. What makes you think it’s your late husband possessing you?”
She fisted her hands in her lap. “Paul was always trying to get me to dress up more. Wear more makeup.” Look prettier, sexier, skinnier. “Plus he was obsessed with work, so it makes sense he’d want to return to his office after death.” Not his home.
“You said your husband died in a car accident?”
“Yes.” She knew he wanted her to elaborate, but a jagged chunk of anger and resentment lodged in her throat. Lawe waited, silent, patient. She forced out a breath and met his kind eyes. “When my husband died, I found out he’d been having an affair with his administrative assistant.”
“Got it. Your husband was an idiot.”
The laugh stuttered out of her, as though her throat muscles had forgotten how to make sounds of amusement. “Thank you.”
He winked, and warmth blossomed through her body.
“I’ve never understood the living,” he said, and she wondered what kind of life an exorcist lived. “It’s possible your husband’s spirit has returned to make amends in his own strange way. Maybe pushing you to get on with your life?”
“Doubtful. Is it common for someone to die a selfish bastard and come back a misguided Good Samaritan?”
“Dying definitely changes some people’s outlook on life.”
Was that a joke? The expression on his handsome face didn’t change, but she suspected his sense of humor was offbeat. So far off the beat she’d bet most people didn’t recognize the tune.
“If your husband is trying to make amends, the easiest way to get him to leave is to summon him and offer forgiveness.”
“Forgiveness.” She rolled the word around her tongue as if she were tasting a new dessert. This one was way too bitter. “The accident happened when my husband lost control of the car because his mistress was giving him a blow job.”
“Right then.” Lawe nodded. “I can always just banish him.”
“Great. Let’s do that.”
Her nightmare was finally going to end.
MUST LOVE GHOSTS, first in a new novella series of hauntings, hijinks, and happily ever after. Available now.
Copyright © 2015 Jennifer Savalli
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
The first ghost Tia McGarry confronted that day was the kind she knew how to deal with—a man from her past.
She stood on her ex-boyfriend’s front porch and jabbed the doorbell for the second time. The shabby Victorian where Declan lived was near the center of town, an area popular with local college students. Paint flaked and peeled from the wood siding. The windows—original by the look of the weathered wood frames—were shielded by vinyl blinds so she couldn’t see in.
A small white sign hung next to the door. Black lettering announced, “Declan Mancini, Paranormal Investigator.”
More like con man.
She jabbed the doorbell again, nerves swimming in her stomach like a cloud of tadpoles on speed. She’d snuck over here on her lunch hour and had exactly forty-five minutes to tell Dec she wasn’t amused by his stupid pranks, get him to stop, and race back to campus to teach her one o’clock psychology class. What if he wasn’t here?
What if he was here and had a woman with him? Another gullible idiot warming his bed.
Tia pounded her fist on the door.
“Dammit, Ryan,” came a shout from inside. “I told you I’m not working today!”
Tia stumbled back a step, the low heel of one black pump catching in a crack between the wood planks. She yanked her foot up, managing not to lose her heel, and hurriedly smoothed her black blazer, her black pants, and what she was sure was her black expression.
The cheap pine door swung open and Declan Mancini stood there, six feet of bleary-eyed, bare-chested, surprised man. The wet dream of every woman with a pulse.
Blessed by superior genes, he never worked to attract women. Tousled dark hair fell over his eyes and curled under his ears because he was too lazy to get a haircut. She didn’t like facial hair on men, and his face hadn’t been near a razor in some time. But when she looked at him, she remembered the gentle abrasion of that dark scruff against her neck and…and everywhere else.
His favorite silver chain nestled in a dusting of chest hair. His faded jeans must be ten years old at least but were still tight in all the right places.
All of it added up to one walking dopamine bomb for the female sex.
She knew this for a fact because she’d once slipped his photo in during a study of how women choose mates. They’d measured the brain wave reaction as coeds stared at photos of different men. Declan Mancini sent women’s brains into overdrive.
Predictably, Tia’s system responded to the chemical rush. Despite years of research and her understanding of the biochemical nature of lust, she wasn’t immune.
“Tia. You’re a much more welcome sight in the morning than Ryan.” His lips quirked up, dark eyes crinkling at the corners, and something twisted inside her. If she believed in love, she’d say his familiar smile lashed the bruise on her heart.
Good thing she knew better.
She rose to her toes, trying to peer around him to see if anyone else was in his apartment, but his big body blocked her view. “It’s not morning. It’s after twelve.” She cringed at the waspish note in her voice, but there was no stopping her inner spinster. “Did I wake you?”
The warmth in his eyes chilled. “I had a late night busting ghosts. Swindling the innocent. You remember how it is.”
“There’s no need to take that passive-aggressive tone.”
“You don’t like my tone, get off my porch.”
“I need to talk to you.”
He propped a shoulder against the doorjamb, folded his arms and waited.
She looked away from the coldness in his eyes, her gaze landing on the peeling siding. One particularly long, rubbery strip dangled near the doorbell. The color might once have been blue or green, but now was a muddy gray. She reached out and ripped it from the wood.
Time to be the calm, rational, professional she was. “Could we talk inside? I’m sure you don’t realize it, but you’re a rather large male and the way you’re standing is a cue for threat. You’re triggering my flight-or-fight instincts and that’s not helpful to this conversation.”
He yawned. “Will this be a long lecture? Or is this the short version where you call me a con artist, threaten to sue, and leave?”
She would not be drawn into that old argument. Gritting her teeth, she pulled his business card from her blazer pocket and held it out to him. She didn’t want to have this conversation where his neighbors and anyone out for a springtime walk could hear, but he gave her no choice. “I came because of this.”
He plucked the card from her fingers, examined it. “You don’t like my new business card?”
“Very funny. I found your card on my dining room table last night. After I called the police to report an intruder. Did you stick around to watch? Laugh while they implied I was hallucinating from stress?”
Dec straightened from his slouch against the door frame, his eyes intent on hers. “Someone broke into your house?”
The fake concern on his face was more than she could stand. She swiped the card from his hand and crumpled it in her fist. “Stop it! I know what you’re doing. My grandmother died, and all of a sudden I’m hearing Big Band music late at night but can’t find the source. Green lights glowing under closed doors in my house. Then a man sitting in my armchair, who disappears when I call the police. God, Dec, I figured out your con months ago. Why pull this?”
He studied her face long enough for a kernel of doubt to blossom in her brain. She squashed it. She should have talked to him on the phone. Declan Mancini in the flesh was dangerous.
“Guess one of us is a slow learner.” Before she could figure out what he meant by that, he leaned back and pushed the door farther open with his arm. “Come on in, Tia.”