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Mr. Professor

Mr. Professor

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I plan to prove Rachel’s ghost doesn't exist. And yet... After one look into those innocent, beautiful blue eyes and a single kiss, all I want to do is protect her from the truth.

Main Tropes

  • Contemporary Paranormal Romance
  • Laugh-Out-Loud Funny
  • Steamy
  • Ghost Romance
  • Enemies to Lovers


Zach Kingston, physics professor and famous ghost debunker, despises con-artists who profit from ghostly scams. And he isn’t about to change his mind just because this scammer’s drop-dead gorgeous and offers the most seductive kisses. Ever.

Rachel Avery is just trying to save her family home. And no nasty, rotten — surprisingly handsome — cynic can change that. If only he weren’t so damn sexy. And if only he didn’t offer the most seductive kisses. Ever.

But they have a deal, witnessed by the media: If Zach can’t scientifically disprove her ghost by Halloween, Rachel wins.

Then Zach meets Rachel’s grandmother and discovers the real reason the Averys are so desperate to sell their story.

Too bad his reputation is on the line . . .

Intro to Prologue

With an exclamation of fury, Zach Kingston threw the magazine across the room. It glanced off a stack of moving
boxes (half-packed), slammed into the wall (knocking off a chip of spanking new paint), hit the floor (with a magnificent backward bounce), and landed (open) inches from his big toe. To his intense annoyance, her face smiled guilelessly up at him from the glossy pages.

“Go ahead. Laugh while you have the chance, sweetheart,” he growled. “Because I’m taking you down. Hard.”

He picked up the magazine and carried it over to a table. It was one of the few pieces of furniture remaining in his Manhattan apartment. Smoothing the crumpled edges, he braced his hands on either side of the offending article and studied his newfound opponent.

The lead read, California Beauty Hits Pay Dirt With Family Spook. Well, she did live in California, he conceded with ill grace. That much was true. She also epitomized the type of empty-headed, peroxide-dipped, sun-bronzed piece of fluff every New York adolescent prayed lined the beaches of the West Coast. He frowned, peering closer, assessing her assets.

Streaked blond hair framed a classically heart-shaped face and fell in an artless tumble to her shoulders. “Try a brush,” he

Strike one.

Huge blue eyes peered from beneath a wispy fringe of bangs. “Nobody’s eyes are that blue. Nearsighted with tinted contacts.”

Strike two.

Full, pouty lips quivered on the verge of a smile. “Cosmetically done.” It had to be. “Strike three. You’re — ” His gaze drifted lower and he froze.

If they’d found a way to cosmetically manufacture legs like those, women around the world would be lining up. “Okay. I’ll give you the legs, sweetheart. But you’ve struck out on the rest. Especially the part about the family spook.”

Which, if he were honest, angered him the most. He despised a cheat more than anyone else. And this lady, attempting to cash in on
the gullibility of the American public, personified the word.

“I made a promise to you, Marie,” he said beneath his breath. “And I intend to keep it. Don’t think I’ll change my mind, just because this latest shyster’s drop-dead gorgeous.”

His cellphone rang and after several moments of diligent searching he unearthed it behind a stack of empty book boxes. “Yes, what?”

“Professor Kingston?”


“Kurt Morris, here. Hey, Prof, you seen the latest issue of Spook and Spectre?”

“It’s in my hand.” He glared at the magazine in question.

“What do you think? We goin’ for it?”

Hearing the enthusiasm in the younger man’s piping tenor, Zach smiled reluctantly. “Maybe.” Definitely.

“What do you mean, maybe? She’s scamming the American public!” Kurt insisted. “The article says she could make major bucks off the book she’s written about her family ghost. You always chase down the commercial buncos.”

Zach’s smile grew. “There are ten ghosts featured in that magazine. Aside from this Rachel Avery, two others could be described as ‘commercial buncos.’ I have to consider all my options.”

“Let me guess.” Sarcasm laced Kurt’s voice. “You’re goin’ after the granny who runs the bed-and-breakfast, complete with walking, talking spirit.”

“She does make money off her ghost,” Zach pointed out. “And that is the main criteria.”

A disgusted snort crackled across the line. “Yeah, right.”

Zach looked around for a chair. The two remaining ones were buried beneath piles of clothing. He hunkered down on the floor instead and rested an elbow on his bent knee. “What’s wrong? Don’t you like putting little old ladies out of business? How about the man in North Dakota?”

“It’s a possibility,” Kurt conceded. “His ghost does give advice to the lovelorn at five bucks a crack. But there’s one small problem.”


“North Dakota only has a population of twenty . . . including the wildlife. The guy can’t be making more than a hundred bucks a year.”

A laugh broke from Zach. “Fine. I’ll cross him off the list, too.” Which left them with one choice, and only one choice. He stared at Rachel Avery’s glorious sunny face and bright, innocent smile, a smile that unquestionably hid a cold, greedy manipulator.

“So, you’re going after her right? You have to,” Kurt wheedled. “It’s in San Diego. I’ve always wanted to visit San Diego.”

Zach traced the word “fraud” in the plush gray carpet, and wondered why he didn’t leap at the chance. He’d already made up his mind to take her down, hadn’t he? “I’m not sure, Kurt. I haven’t done the research. I also have to finish packing. I move in two days.”

“Don’t you see? That’s what makes it so perfect. That physics appointment at the University of California means you’ll be on her home turf. Your classes don’t start until mid-November. Maybe later, if that pregnant professor is late delivering. It’s like it was meant to be or something.”

“Or something. I’ll let you know. I may skip our debunking session this fall.” For the first time in fifteen years? He glanced at the magazine again and his hand clenched, crumpling the page. Suuuuure, he’d skip it. Like hell. He wanted to bust this lady’s scam so bad he could taste it.

Clearly, Kurt thought the same. “Pull the other one, Prof. Halloween’s fast approaching. We always announce our results on Halloween. I even have my equipment and cameras packed and ready to go. You give the word and your ghost debunking system can swing into action. So what’s the word?”

This time he didn’t hesitate. Why resist the inevitable? He wanted her. He intended to have her. Her and that nonexistent ghost. “Do it. Rachel Avery’s getting buried and I’m the one who’ll dig her grave.”

* * *

A cloudless sky spread above Rachel Avery, the color bleached a shade lighter than cerulean by a hot, golden sun. Even in the middle of downtown San Diego, the air blew bone dry off the desert, teasing her with the suggestion of exotic blooms and ripe pollens. A stronger, heartier scent of salt water came from the nearby bay. The combination intrigued her. It was a unique, one-of-a-kind scent.

She walked down a narrow side alley and pushed open a recessed door, marked “Shoppe Thru the Ages — Rare and Special Antiquities.” Instantly she left behind the bright, noisy bustle of the city street and entered a strange and wondrous world. Silence reigned.

She removed her sunglasses, absorbing the cool, dim interior. If she’d labeled the perfumed air outside, “San Diego at its Best,” this place, with its musky, jasmine-filled atmosphere, she privately called “Distant Memories.” For every article in the store spoke to her of a separate lifetime of memories.

A rolltop desk stood against one wall, its surface littered with shiny mementos of days gone by. She crossed to it and picked up a plain silver bell, ringing it on impulse. The pure, liquid tone impressed her.
Who had owned it? A bedridden grandmother? A sophisticated matron awaiting service at her equally sophisticated dining table?

“It belonged to a sea captain,” a quiet voice spoke from behind.

Rachel turned and grinned. “Mr. Santos. You always take me by surprise.” She glanced down at the bell in her hand. “And you always seem to know what I’m thinking.”

“Honest faces are easy for me to read.” He took the bell from her and placed it out of reach. “You wouldn’t like this, my dear. It’s an unlucky piece.”

Her brows drew together. “Really? How sad. Did the owner die?”

“Not the captain. He bought the bell as a gift for his wife. She died before he could give it to her.” He smiled indulgently. “Look at you. Practically in tears over a lady long gone, whom you never knew.”

“Silly, isn’t it?”

“Sentimental,” he corrected. “Why don’t you come into the back room. We’ll have a cup of tea and you can show me what you brought.”

Rachel glanced toward the front door. “But, who’s going to cover for you out here?”

“No one will come in for a while yet,” he said with absolute certainty. “Let’s see,” he said, peering at her from over wire-rimmed spectacles. “How about a drop of chamomile tea? It’s perfect for soothing restless children.”

“I’m not restless or a child. Not at twenty-four.”

He inclined his white head in perfect understanding. “But you do need soothing. Sit down and tell me how your grandmother’s feeling. Better?”

She sat automatically. She always found herself obeying his directions. Perhaps it was the gentle, persuasive way he spoke. She never thought to question his authority any more than she thought to question the detailed history he had on each and every artifact in the store.

“She’s much better, thanks. Out of the hospital permanently and adjusting as well as can be expected to the wheelchair.”

“Such a shame.” He stroked his snowy beard. “Drunken drivers, hit-and-run accidents, innocent victims.” He poured her tea into a delicate Belleek cup and passed it to her.

“They never did find the man who hit her,” Rachel added with a fierce frown.

He studied her with shrewd blue eyes and folded his hands across his stomach. “It’s fortunate she has you to care for her.”

“There’s nothing fortunate about it,” Rachel instantly denied. “I adore Nana. I’d do anything for her.”

“Of course you would, my dear. Of course you would.” Mr. Santos smiled, a warm, benevolent smile that brightened his eyes and
filled his plump cheeks with color. Then he stood, crossed to a narrow maple cupboard, and removed a red velvet square and a jeweler’s loupe. He spread the square in the center of the table. “Now. Why don’t you show me your treasure.”

Rachel fumbled with the gold locket fastened around her neck and placed it on the table between them. He nodded silently.

It was an awe-inspiring creation, suspended from a heavy gold chain and about the size of a half-dollar. It had been crafted from solid gold, both faces of the locket encrusted with a circle of rubies and diamonds. On one side, in flowing script, appeared the words Fidelidad para Siempre, forever faithful.

“You took quite a chance wearing this,” Mr. Santos murmured.

Rachel chuckled. “Not really. It’s magical. Nothing can harm it.”

“Yes. Quite right. I should have remembered.” He indicated the locket. “May I?”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

He picked it up carefully, studying the miniature portraits inside. “The lady was your aunt?”

“With a seven-generation spread, yes. Francisca Arista.”

“Francisca . . . Francisca . . . Of course. Born 1821, died 1843.”

“How did — ”

“And the man?”

“Her lover. But — ”

He fingered the locket slowly. “Ah yes, Juan Ortega.”

She stared at him in total bewilderment. “How could you possibly know that?”

“It’s my job to know. You have a documented history on the piece?”

It was his job to know? Well, yes, she supposed it was, but still . . . He cleared his throat, looking expectant and she hastened to answer his question. “Yes, I do have a documented history. There’s Francisca’s personal diary and a dated shipping receipt that
describes the locket in detail. You understand I don’t plan to sell. It’s just an appraisal I need.”

“I understand.” He returned the jeweled necklace to her keeping.

“But the appraisal?”

Heavy white brows met across the bridge of his nose and his spectacles slid down a fraction. “You’d like to hear that it’s worth a lot of money? Melt down the gold, sell off the rubies and diamonds, and it’s
worth a lot of money.”

“No! That’s not what I — ”

“Or you can sell it intact along with the diary and shipping receipt and you’ll never have to worry about money again.” His kind blue eyes watched her intently. “That is what you wanted to know, isn’t it?”

Rachel sighed. Yes, she conceded, it was what she wanted to know. Not that she’d ever dream of parting with the locket. Nana had been quite adamant about that. “I have to check out all my options,” she explained in a low voice. “Money has been . . . is tight right now and if my book deal on Great Aunt Francisca falls through . . .” She trailed off miserably.

He patted her hand. “I quite understand. But what about the magic and miracles? When we spoke the other day, you seemed so certain the locket would provide these things.”

“Oh, I am.” She tried to inject a note of confidence in the words. “I’m the seventh descendant to possess Francisca’s locket. Each of the women it’s passed to has had her fondest wish granted, my mother and grandmother included. I know it’ll happen to me.”

“And how does it work?”

To gain the magic of the locket,” she quoted, “the wearer must have faith and wish for what’s dearest to her heart.”

“So where is the problem?”

A tiny crease appeared between her brows. “The problem is that I’ve been wishing for money. It’s a bit crass, I admit. But I have obligations to meet. Nana will end up in some awful nursing home if I can’t pay off all our bills.” She gazed at him anxiously. “What do you think? Am I being too greedy?”

“Is money the wish dearest to your heart?”

“Oh, yes,” she whispered fervently.

He smiled in approval. “Then, it seems you only need a little faith to make the magic work.”

Rachel grinned. “A little faith? Really? No problem. That’s the one thing I have lots of.”

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