Yes, it’s slowly creeping up on that time of year when the spooks come out and the dead rise from the grave to walk the earth. I don’t suppose it’s an accident that Pleasure Palace, my latest Quickie® from Ellora’s Cave was released this month of freaks and frights. Pleasure Palace is more likely to spike your internal temperature than raise goosebumps. I hope readers will quiver rather than shiver.
Are you more likely to dress as a decomposing zombie or a sexy kitten for Halloween?
I will be off in the wilds of Sequim, Washington this weekend, probably without internet access. But I will check in when and if I can.
Audrey is desperate for a job—any job—after the breakup of her marriage. The unemployment office refers her to the historic Palace Theatre, affectionately called The Pussy Palace because of its X-rated offerings. She checks her pride at the door, if not her disdain for the raunchy establishment, but despite her contempt for the movie house, she’s compelled to stay when a couple of naughty spirits beckon her to play with them…and the hot guy who runs the projector.
The Palace Theatre has been in Mike’s family for generations, and he dreams of restoring the cinema to its former glory and showing epic old movies on the big screen. Tough to concentrate on goals, however, when his new concession girl has him distracted and a ghost has taken over his body and stolen his free will. At least Mike and the horny spirit have something in common—a desire to claim Audrey.
“I’m looking for,” Audrey glanced at the card in her hand, “Mr. Dick Handler.”
He snickered. “Sounds like a dirty joke, right?”
She tilted her head. “I beg your pardon.”
“Dick. Handler. Get it?” He waited a beat for her to get it. “No? Not funny? Maybe I’ve worked here too long.” The man shook his head and dinged a bell on the counter. “Dick! Guest waiting.”
“No refunds after the first fifteen minutes,” Mr. Dick Handler called from behind a red velvet curtain with gold fringe.
A refund must be a frequent request, she guessed.
Deep-blue-eyes waggled his brows at her playfully and tapped the bell again. Then he stood back, leaning against the concession counter with a crooked smile that screamed of mischief. He crossed one ankle over the other, as if settling in comfortably for a show. The way his jeans hugged his hips and waist was distracting. Not tightly—perfectly, for lack of a better word. Don’t get me started on the T-shirt stretched across his chest.
A man emerged from behind the curtain. He looked to be in his sixties and reminded her of a young Hugh Hefner, minus the signature smoking jacket and matching bikini-clad blonde bookends that accompanied Hef. His skin was tanned to a leathery grain, his hair sprinkled with gray and white, but he seemed physically fit for his estimated age.
“May I help you?” he asked. “Lost? Need directions?”
Audrey shook her head.
“Restrooms are for paying customers only,” he said apologetically.
She passed him the index-sized card. “The unemployment office sent me.” Probably because everyone else had refused the job reference. She should have too, but desperation and zero marketable skills made her entertain all opportunities.
“Don’t you have work to do, Mike?” Mr. Handler snapped.
“Nope,” he replied.
“I’m afraid you’re not what we had in mind.” Dick Handler returned the card to her without so much as looking at it. “But thank you for stopping by.” He vanished before she could open her mouth to object.
Audrey glanced down to her A-cup chest, and then leaned to her left to catch a glimpse of her likeness in a garish gold-framed mirror. The buxom bimbos on the adjacent movie poster appeared to be laughing at her and her boyish reflection. Her husband had suggested a boob job—the nail in the coffin of their marriage.
Deep-blue-eyes, also known as Mike, bobbed his head in the direction of the bell, encouraging her to tap it. There was no doubt in her mind that he was an instigator of trouble. He might look like an adult but his maturity was in question. She squared her shoulders and dinged the bell.
Mr. Handler returned immediately. “Yes?” he said pleasantly. “Need me to sign something verifying you applied?”
“I didn’t apply,” she protested, her temperature rising from anger and the scrutiny of Mike with his laughing eyes. “You wouldn’t let me apply. I’d like to speak to the owner, please.”
“I am the owner.” Mr. Handler glanced at Mike before returning his attention to her. “For the time being anyhow.” He shook his head and muttered, “I’m getting too old for clogged toilets, a leaky roof and specter sightings.”
Mike scoffed and Audrey said, “What?”
He waved her off. “You’re not what we’re looking for.”
Her eyes dropped to her chest again, daring him to comment on her averageness of figure. No one at the unemployment office mentioned any specialized assets besides the ability to handle food and money. It had been a while since she’d been on the hunt for a job. Her experience was limited and work was scarce.
“Is there something wrong with me?” she asked.
He waved his hands again. “No. Nothing.”
“So offer me the job,” she said, although the last thing she wanted was to be hired. She wouldn’t want to be caught dead in the place by anyone she knew. And they wouldn’t want to be caught at a smut theater by her, although her circle of acquaintances almost certainly got their pornography anonymously and discretely, the way porn was meant to be attained.
In spite of her contempt for the establishment, something—a wicked voice in her head—compelled her to stay and be a part of this debauchery.
“Yeah, Dick, offer her the job,” Mike echoed, earning himself nasty glares from Audrey and his boss. She didn’t need his brand of help. He clearly viewed the exchange as a joke that she was the butt of.
An older gentleman wearing a leisure suit emerged from the viewing area, mopping his red face with a hankie but looking relaxed and satisfied. He eyed Audrey suspiciously as he crossed the lobby. He wouldn’t look out of place at the supermarket or gas station. Her skin crawled a bit due to her inside knowledge that he’d been watching a dirty movie.
Mike waved and said, “Thanks for coming, sir.”
“Come again soon,” Audrey added, showing Mr. Handler a sample of her excellent customer service skills. Plus, under the circumstances, it was just fun to say.