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       A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder, p.1

           Victoria Laurie
 
A Ghoul's Guide to Love and Murder


  “VICTORIA LAURIE IS THE QUEEN OF PARANORMAL MYSTERIES.”

  —BookReview.com

  Praise for the New York Times Bestselling Ghost Hunter Mysteries

  “A quickly paced and cleverly constructed mystery. . . . Laurie’s character work is, as always, first-rate. M.J.’s one of my very favorite cozy heroines; endearingly goofy, insanely brave, and loyal to a fault, she injects both humor and heart into a story.”

  —Smitten by Books

  “A fearsome, thrilling tale . . . this terrific read hits on all cylinders.”

  —Suspense Magazine

  “Delightful. . . . Laurie nicely balances goofiness and terror.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Induces chills while never losing its sense of humor or fun.”

  —Kings River Life Magazine

  “Anybody who likes a paranormal mystery will have a spook-tacular time.”

  —Open Book Society

  “Fabulously entertaining. . . . [Laurie] has a genuine talent for creating unique spirits with compelling origin stories and then using those creations to scare . . . her characters and her readers alike.”

  —The Maine Suspect

  “Filled with laugh-out-loud moments and nail-biting, hair-raising tension, this fast-paced, action-packed story will keep readers hooked from beginning to end.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  “Without question, this is one of the most bewitching and flat-out-fun series available today!”

  —RT Book Reviews

  The Ghost Hunter Mystery Series

  What’s a Ghoul to Do?

  Demons Are a Ghoul’s Best Friend

  Ghouls Just Haunt to Have Fun

  Ghouls Gone Wild

  Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls

  Ghoul Interrupted

  What a Ghoul Wants

  The Ghoul Next Door

  No Ghouls Allowed

  The Psychic Eye Mystery Series

  Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

  Better Read Than Dead

  A Vision of Murder

  Killer Insight

  Crime Seen

  Death Perception

  Doom with a View

  A Glimpse of Evil

  Vision Impossible

  Lethal Outlook

  Deadly Forecast

  Fatal Fortune

  Sense of Deception

  OBSIDIAN

  Published by New American Library,

  an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  This book is an original publication of New American Library.

  Copyright © Victoria Laurie, 2016

  Excerpt from Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye copyright © Victoria Laurie, 2004

  Penguin Random House supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin Random House to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Obsidian and the Obsidian colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  For more information about Penguin Random House, visit penguin.com.

  eBook ISBN 978-0-698-15796-5

  PUBLISHER’S NOTE

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Version_1

  Contents

  Praise

  Books by Victoria Laurie

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Excerpt from Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye

  About the Author

  To all you glorious Ghost Hunter Mysteries fans.

  M.J., Heath, Gilley, and I thank you for ten amazing years.

  Acknowledgments

  I’ve been sitting here for the past hour trying to find the right words to let all of you who read the Ghost Hunter Mysteries know how very much I have appreciated the gift of your support for these past ten years, and I’m not thinking that this will be the most eloquent of speeches, but I hope the sentiment of that gratitude at least comes through. I started M.J. on a whim way back in 2004—maybe ’05. I had lunch in Manhattan with my amazing agent, Jim McCarthy, and my pitch went as follows: “So, there’s this character that I’ve introduced in A Vision of Murder and her name is M. J. Holliday. She’s a descendant of Doc Holliday, her BFF is a flamboyantly fun boy named Gilley, and she has a parrot named Doc. M.J. is a ghostbuster, and she’s a badass, and I kiiiiiiinda want to do a spinoff series featuring her.”

  His response? “How fast can you write it?”

  I never expected M.J.’s story to turn into the successful series it has. I figured she’d last about four, maybe five books, and I’d move on to something else. But she remained strong and consistent, and that is due mostly to you, my wonderful fans. And I know that some of you reading this will be surprised that this is the last installment in the series, and I also know that it might make you a little sad. . . . I’m sad too. I’ve loved working on her stories. I’ve loved watching her grow and evolve and fall in love—twice—and mature into something less badass and something more . . . nurturing. I think I knew about three years ago that her story arc was coming to an end. It just felt right to end the series at number ten. But it’s also heartbreaking in a way, because I love these characters and I’ve loved hearing about how you’ve loved them too. So, thank you for that. Sincerely. It’s meant the world to me to have so many devoted fans, and I promise you that while this may be the end of hearing about M.J. and Heath, it’s not the end of my storytelling. There will be more from me. Much more. (Hinty, hinty . . . ) And I pinkie swear you’ll like it.

  And now, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who’s supported me and encouraged me professionally these past ten years with the series. In particular I’d like to begin by thanking Jim McCarthy, my agent and one of the very best people I’ve ever had the sincere pleasure to call a friend. Early in the crafting of the very first book, I knew that I wanted to have a character inspired by Jim, and he has so generously allowed me that license. Gilley never would’ve been the truly fabulous, flamboyant, witty, fun, and hilarious character that he is without Jim’s influence. In fact, I doubt Gil ever would’ve existed without Jim. I owe him for that, and maybe also for being the very best agent on the planet. Thank you, honey. You and Gilley will hold a very special place in my heart for the rest of my life, and there aren’t words to express how truly grateful I am for that.

  I’d also like to take a moment to thank Sandra Harding-Hull, my editor for more than seven years, who was so in
tegral to the longevity of the series. If not for Sandy, I’m quite convinced I would’ve ended the series much sooner, but I loved working with her, so I kept going. She’s moved on from being my editor, and it still makes me cry to think she won’t be lending her sage advice to my books, but her legacy is deeply entrenched in both M.J. and Abby, and I’ll always remember the lessons she taught me. Thank you, Sandy. I miss you, I adore you, and hope you’re still reading my stuff and that you know how very much you have contributed to my success.

  Thanks also go to Jessica Wade, who jumped in and assisted with the edits on this book, and who is now taking over for Sandy. I liked you immensely in the first ten seconds we spoke, Jessica, and I knew that I’d be in the very best of hands at second eleven.

  Also, thank you to my amazing publicist, Danielle Dill, who’s just, like, awesome! It’s been so much fun sharing puppy pics with you, Danielle. Thanks for being so fantastic and so personable. You rock!

  Finally, I’d like to thank the people in my personal life who constantly support me even when I’m running myself ragged trying to make that deadline. Brian Gorzynski (I love you, honey. I’m the luckiest woman in the world with you at my side), my amazing sister, Sandy Upham, Steve McGrory, Matt and Mike Morrill, Katie Coppedge, Leanne Tierney, Karen Ditmars, Nicole Gray, Jennifer Melkonian, Terry Gilman, Catherine Ong Kane, Drue Rowean, Sally Woods, John Kwaitkowski, Matt McDougal, Dean James, Anne Kimbol, McKenna Jordan, Hilary Laurie, Shannon Anderson, Thomas Robinson, Juliet Blackwell, Gigi Pandian, Martha Bushko and Suzanne Parsons.

  Chapter 1

  It was a drizzly spring late afternoon in Boston when Heath and I walked into my office off Mass Ave, holding hands and smiling wickedly. Who’s Heath, you ask? Well . . . that’s where things get a little complicated.

  In order to tell you who Heath is, I need to swear you to secrecy. Not the “Oh, I will only tell my eleventy million friends on Facebook—pinkie swear” kind of secret.

  An. Actual. Secret.

  See, the last time I checked in with you all, Heath was simply my boyfriend. My love. My partner in both the business and domestic sense, and yes, sometimes our domestic stuff is all about the “bidness,” but I digress. Or first, perhaps I must explain.

  About eight months ago “the call” came in . . . and by that I mean that myself, Heath, Gilley, and respective members of our Ghoul Getters cast were made rich, I tell you . . . rich!

  The call was from a major motion picture studio, which had agreed to distribute a movie we’d made a few years back while on location for our TV ghostbusting show, Ghoul Getters. The individual episode and all of the extra footage from one particular ghostbust we’d done in Scotland had been purchased by a production company—Prescott Productions—but the production company had needed the backing of a major motion picture studio to green-light the distribution before the movie actually got funded and any of us got paid. For several years all that extra footage just sat on the shelf, but just when we’d all given up the dream, the call had come in that the movie was a go.

  In fact, The Haunting of the Grim Widow was set to release in theaters everywhere a week after Heath and I got back from our trip. I hadn’t actually seen the completed film yet, mostly because I’d barely lived through my encounter with the Widow and had no urge to relive it.

  Still, we had captured some stuff on film that would make your hair curl, and luckily for us, some studio execs finally took notice. They were now all over the idea of promoting a “real” horror flick that was as creepy as The Conjuring, without all the special effects.

  What that had meant for us, specifically, was a considerable signing bonus, with an additional amount due later in the form of a portion of the box office in royalties. In other words, the second we stopped taping our last Ghoul Getters episode, none of us—the talent and our small crew—ever really had to work again if we were careful and invested wisely, of course.

  Anyway, it’d taken about seven months to finish that last location shoot for GG, but at the end of the week, we each received our first big check.

  Now, money will motivate you in a way that you might not think. It makes you do things impulsively, the way finding out you have only a short time to live does. Most of us did things that we might not otherwise have done if not afforded the freedom that a big pile of moolah gave us.

  Gilley (my BFF and our tech expert on the shoots) proposed to Michel, our cameraman and Gilley’s boyfriend, on the same day that Michel proposed to him. It was insanely cute to see the recap of the two flash mobs brought together at the same restaurant, not having any knowledge of each other, and have it dissolve into something resembling the Sharks and the Jets. In the end there were a lot of tired dancers and nearly a million hits on YouTube, and Gil and Michel were engaged, so it worked out okay.

  Our director, Peter Gopher, funded a documentary he’d been trying to get off the ground and set off to Nepal to begin filming.

  John and Kim, our sound guy and production assistant, booked a trip to Asia and were slowly making their way across the region, keeping us updated through Facebook posts and the like.

  Meg, our adorable hair and makeup assistant, had promptly gone back to college up in Montreal, and she’d also paid off her parents’ mortgage.

  And Heath and I got married. (You read that right. We got hitched.) By the way, that’s the part y’all need to keep on the down low, because if Gilley finds out that I got married before him, well, I’m likely never to hear the end of it.

  Our wedding was truly impulsive. Heath surprised me at the end of March with a three-week trip to St. Thomas. Have you ever been to St. Thomas? It’s gorgeous. Gorgeous! Think aqua blue water, white sandy beaches, drinks in coconuts, genuinely lovely people, and romantic ambiance out the yin-yang.

  On our second day there he left me a note asking me to be his for the day and to meet him for a romantic walk along the beach. From our cabana I traveled down a bamboo walkway and around a little bend to find my beautiful man, standing there with a rose in his hand. As I approached he got down on bended knee and said, “Em, will you be mine, not just for today, but forever?”

  He then presented me with the most beautiful ring you’ve ever seen. But I’d have said yes if it was carved from a puka shell. They don’t make men like Heath in abundance. I’m lucky.

  So, we spent the first week of our engagement talking about our future, and by the end of that beautiful week, we both knew we didn’t feel like waiting to call each other husband and wife.

  We were married by a local justice of the peace in the waning light of the setting sun, with purple, pink, and peach streaks coating the tropical sky and the sound of the rolling surf the only music to be had. I wore a soft peach sundress I found at a shop in town, and Heath wore a light blue shirt, white shorts, and a smile as wide as Texas. It was perfect.

  The next week we had ourselves a proper honeymoon, and now we were back in Boston, wading through a steady drizzle and miserably cold temps, but our spirits were in no way diminished. “What time are we meeting Gil?” my husband asked as we came through the door shaking our umbrellas.

  I nearly tripped over the small pile of mail that’d been shoved through the mail slot.

  “Seven,” I told him, flipping on the light before stooping to gather some of the mail and glancing at my watch. It was ten to five. Traffic had been horrible—given both the weather and the onset of rush hour, it’d taken more than an hour to get from the airport to my office, a commute that normally takes only about twenty minutes. “We’re meeting for dinner before he heads to the opening of the exhibit.” The studio was sponsoring an exhibit of items from the movie and our TV show to create some buzz for the actual premiere of the movie, which would be released the following week. The Boston premiere of the movie was going to be shown at the IMAX theater that was housed in a building adjacent to the Museum of Modern Science—and that was also the location for the Gho
ul Getters exhibit.

  Paranormal investigations weren’t exactly considered “modern science” by the museum’s standards, but the studio had thrown a lot of money at them, and they’d come around. (Surprise, surprise.)

  “You still don’t want to go?” Heath asked.

  “Gilley will be there to represent us,” I said to Heath. “And I’m way too tired to go to that thing. I’d much prefer a relaxing, low-key evening and a good meal.”

  “It’s probably not gonna be very relaxing if we meet Gil for dinner,” Heath muttered, but I’d heard him. And I could sympathize.

  Gil had talked of little else but his wedding for months, and we were all well and truly sick of it. He was going big—as he had a nice big pile of money to play with—and no one could seem to rein him in. I’d decided early on to withhold any and all opinions, sage advice, judgmental looks, or mutterings on the matter. If my BFF wanted to be a diva, and a ginormous wedding would make him happy, then so be it.

  “What’s our plan?” Heath said, plopping into a chair in front of my desk.

  “Well,” I said, extending my left hand to smile again at the wedding and engagement rings. “I have to hide the evidence for a little while. Just until I’m sure he’s not going to be upset by the news that we got married first.”

  “So, until after he gets married?” Heath asked.

  I ducked my chin. “Maybe,” I said, swiveling in the chair to move aside a cabinet door that hid a small safe.

  “Em,” Heath said, “he’s not getting married until September.”

  My shoulders sagged. This coming back to reality was a real bummer. “I know, honey, I know. But you’ve seen how he can be. He’ll perceive it as our upstaging him, and he’s in such an emotional state as it is—”

  “Only because he’s turned into a groomzilla,” Heath interrupted.

  I sighed, swiveling back to my husband with hands up in surrender. “Okay. How about we wait just a little while. Until we find a good moment to tell him.”

 
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