Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Cynthia St. Aubin’s Matilda Schmidt from Unexpecting.
When who’s your daddy is a multiple choice question…
Paranormal Psychologist Matilda Schmidt is one client away from fa-la-la-la-losing it. Holiday cheer is in the air, gun-toting fruitcakes are in her office, and she’s spinning through mood swings fast enough to make her toss her cookies–even without the morning sickness.
When Ol’ Kris Kringle goes AWOL after a nervous breakdown, his disgruntled elf is convinced that only Matilda can get him back on his sleigh in time to keep humans from tearing each other apart quicker than couponeers at a Black Friday sale.
But their efforts hit the skids when the men in Matilda’s life show up and demand to know which of them is responsible for the bun in her oven: the hot hit man who’s likely to stuff her stocking with ammunition, or the delicious demigod who’s made Santa’s naughty list a couple centuries running.
Make sure you stick around to the end and earn another entry into the Black Friday $50 Amazon giftcard giveaway.
This was going to be one of those days.
When my cell phone rang in the middle of my midmorning snack—triple cream brie cheese and high-fiber organic flax seed crackers—I knew I was in trouble. Another One Bites the Dust, the ringtone I had assigned to Liam Whatshisface, my would-be boyfriend and occasional naked gymnastics partner, jangled through the office. My heart kicked into a buzz that would shame a hummingbird.
What life had cheated him in the way of names, Liam made up for in the way of weapons—a Smith & Wesson 1911 being the standard gear he strapped on for a day at work. But then, life as a Las Vegas hit man requires some specialty equipment.
Liam never called just to chat.
I let it ring three times before answering.
“Dr. Matilda Schmidt.” I tried for breezy and professional but landed somewhere closer to horny and repressed.
“What are you wearing?” His voice never failed to produce a ripple of pleasure from my scalp to my shoes. Dark, smooth, and smoky as thirty year-old scotch, it sounded as dangerous as the man it belonged to. Which is to say very.
“A frown, at the moment.” I glanced at the clock, confirming that I was short on time and long on dread.
“Is that all?”
“Of course that’s not all. I’m working. I just finished an hour-long session with a sasquatch who has social anxiety disorder and I have a kleptomaniac zombie coming in fifteen minutes.”
“Sasquatch? Sasquatch is real?”
I understood the familiar pique of disbelief.
Like Liam, I had only recently come to understand that humans share the planet with a surprising number of non-human critters, most of whom are just as tweaked out and insecure as we are. Often more so, owing to a longer lifespan and unlimited power.
And just like humans, sometimes they need a dispassionate party to sort them out.
That’s where I come in.
“As real as the odor he left in my office.” I picked up the can of air freshener on the corner of my desk and gave the room another spritz. At least now it smelled like tranquil forests with only a hint of dead skunk.
“Tell me you got a picture.”
“That would be a breech of patient-therapist trust.” And surprisingly un-lucrative. Tabloids weren’t buying sasquatch right now. Not since a rogue chupacabra sighting in upstate New York a week prior had everyone locking up their livestock. “What can I do for you with the ten minutes I have left before my next client?”
“Plenty of things.”
Heat bloomed in my cheeks. With his skilled fingers and silver tongue, Liam could pack a lot into ten minutes.
“What I meant was, is there a specific reason you called?”
Quiet over the line. Liam could pack a lot into a silence, too.
“Have you heard from Crickets lately?” he asked.
“His name is Crixus,” I corrected, referring to the hot-bodied, bounty-hunting demigod who had first introduced me to my growing supernatural clientele. “And no, I haven’t heard from him. Why?”
“You might want to check the news.”
I flipped open the laptop on my desk and stifled a squeak at the top hit in my feed.
Talking Goat Terrorizes Champlain Valley Physician’s Hospital. Subtitle: Black Friday Freak Standoff Rams Into Third Hour.
“Champlain Valley. But that’s—”
“Half a mile from your office. Which is how far away you’re going to stay.” He was using his this is not a suggestion voice. It worked well on those unfortunate enough to encounter him in a professional capacity or fortunate enough to encounter him in the bedroom.
I didn’t occupy either space at present.
“I have to go home sometime,” I said, thinking of my cozy one-bedroom apartment in Plattsburgh, New York’s historic district.
“In which case, you’ll be three-quarters of a mile away, which is also acceptable. Whatever is going on over there, I don’t want you anywhere near it.”
I weighed the value of arguing the point, but I wouldn’t put it past Liam to hop aboard the next plane from Vegas if I refused.
“I promise.” I held up my crossed fingers and pressed them against my lips, whispering a wordless “shhh” to the only other life form here to witness my blatant deception—Sigmund Freud, my goldfish.
He had proven himself to be pretty tight-lipped as far as secrets were concerned.
“Good. I’ll call you later. If you happened to be naked and in your bed, I wouldn’t be overly disappointed.”
“I don’t sleep in the nude.” Of course he knew this already, having occupied the opposite side of my bed during many a sleepover.
“Who said anything about sleeping?”
I fanned my face with the manila case file filled with notes on Lester Holt, my sticky-fingered zombie client. If anyone could make phone sex sound like a winning proposition, it was Liam Whatshisface.
“Talk to you later,” I said, and disconnected.
And I would talk to him later. Liam was a man who kept his promises.
Unlike Crixus, whose ringtone—I’m Too Sexy—had yet to actually ever grace my phone’s speakers. Primarily because Crixus never called. When the demigod wanted something, he just arrived. Usually unannounced and with no more warning than an eardrum-slamming—
“Speak of the devil.” I adjusted the frames of my black cat-eye glasses on the bridge of my nose. To better read the case file still clutched in my hand, or so I told myself.
“Doctor.” This one word shivered on the air between us. Air now charged with his presence and my awareness of it.
Crixus was the day to Liam’s night. The unyielding brightness of the sun at midday shone in his golden hair, eyes the unnatural blue of an endless summer sky. His body, a study in brute strength in contrast to Liam’s lean, predatory frame. Crixus was a man who wore the word Titan as comfortably as the faded jeans and bicep-hugging black T-shirt that comprised his standard uniform.
“Is this about the goat?” I asked, pretending to be absorbed in the paperwork on my desk.
The demigod crossed his arms over the expanse of his chest. A phantom sensation of how his heart felt beating beneath it haunted my cheek.
“How did you know?” he asked.
“It’s all over the news.”
He crossed the space between us in a few long-legged strides. “So you know why we need to get there. And fast.”
“We?” I glanced at him above the frames of my glasses.
“Yes, we. This isn’t just any goat. This is the Yule Goat. I need your help talking him down.”
“Crixus,” I sighed. “I’m a therapist. Not a veterinarian.”
“Then do it as a favor.” He took my hand in his, my fingers dwarfed by his rough palm. “Please.”
“As I remember, last time you did me a favor, you required compensation.” Like the bastard he routinely admitted to being, Crixus had once bargained for a night in my bed as recompense for his assistance in a matter that could have ended with my being cut into bite-sized portions and fed to the fish in Cumberland Bay.
A mischievous smile tugged at one corner of his generous mouth. “Compensation I would be delighted to provide. With interest.”
“What if it’s something else I want?” I asked.
He looked down the roughly six and a half feet of his muscled body and smiled. “I can hear your thoughts, remember?”
I failed to suppress an eye-roll. “Does the term narcissistic personality disorder mean anything to you?”
“If you were naked when you said it, it might.”
“I’ll get my coat.”
The goat’s name was Gregor, and he was pissed.
For centuries, he had been living as the emotional support animal to a reclusive yeti somewhere in Canada, under the impression that the whole Santa Claus thing never caught on. At least, this is what was told to him when he was dismissed from his position as official transportation to jolly ol’ Saint Nick after two seasons.
When the yeti croaked, Gregor headed south, and ran smack dab into a mall where he encountered, to his horror, depictions of his former employer having his sizable red behind hauled around by eight bell-bedazzled interlopers.
“Reindeer.” Gregor half-choked, half-brayed. His difficulty in communicating was understandable, as Crixus had him in a headlock.
The demigod had taken the unsuspecting goat down in the middle of the emergency room hallway and dragged him into an examination room. Holding on through a hail of death rolls and flailing hooves had left Crixus with a crescent-shaped welt in the center of his forehead and several horn-sized tears in his jeans.
“They give me the shaft and hired a bunch of brainless overgrown moss-eaters,” Gregor continued. “It was all a lie!”
“So it would be fair to say you felt…betrayed?” I sat in a chair at the side of the bed with my pad perched on my lap and pen in hand, working at the tangled knots in his psyche and huffing the nearby hand sanitizer.
The earthy aroma coming off Crixus’s captive could peel the paint from a sleigh.
“Betrayed and insulted.” Gregor looked at me through his alien eye with its sideways-slanted pupil. “They could have given it to me straight.”
“Perhaps they were afraid of how you might react. Say, head-butting people and demanding presents?”
We watched as a stretcher wheeled by the open door, the Christmas-sweatered occupant holding an ice pack to the ankle where she’d sustained a serious goat bite.
“Okay,” Gregor said. “Being around people is hard for me after all this time, and I might have lost it a little.”
“A little?” Crixus grunted.
“Maybe a lot.” The goat’s head sagged to one side, perhaps a sign that the tranquilizer an orderly had stabbed into his flank was beginning to take effect.
“I have to say, Gregor, I think they did you a favor.” I put my pen down and polished a thumbprint from my glasses with the edge of my skirt. I’d incurred it pushing my way through a mob of Black Friday brawlers in the ER waiting for attention to their various wounds.
“All this chaos, everything that happened at the mall, and now here. It seems to me your temperament is better suited to the kind of quiet life you had before. With the yeti.”
“Was better-suited.” His velvet muzzle came to rest on the floor, and he no longer strained within Crixus’s grasp.
The body language of grief transcends species, I jotted on my pad.
“As it happens, I know someone who might be in need of the kind of valuable service you’re capable of providing. Someone who can better appreciate your talents.”
The goat’s ears perked up. “You do?”
Crixus grinned at me over Gregor’s plump back, already knowing where I was going with this as he sifted through the thoughts in my head.
“Come on.” I rose from my chair and tucked my notes into my purse, where they would remain until I could slide them into a brand new case file. “Let’s go see a man about a sasquatch.”
Meet Cynthia St. Aubin!
Cynthia St. Aubin wrote her first play at age eight and made her brothers perform it for the admission price of gum wrappers. A steal, considering she provided the wrappers in advance. Though her early work debuted to mixed reviews, she never quite gave up on the writing thing, even while earning a mostly useless master’s degree in art history and taking her turn as a cube monkey in the corporate warren.
Because the voices in her head kept talking to her, and they discourage drinking at work, she started writing instead. When she’s not standing in front of the fridge eating cheese, she’s hard at work figuring out which mythological, art historical, or paranormal friends to play with next. She lives in Colorado with the love of her life and three surly cats.
Want to purchase Cynthia’s novels?
The Case Files of Dr. Matilda Schmidt
Dysfunctional: The 1st Trilogy of Matilda Schmidt, Paranormal Psychologist
Which Witch is Which? (The Witches of Port Townsend #1)
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Thank you Cynthia for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Here is your daily question: What other career might Gregor be well suited for if it doesn’t work out with the Sasquatch? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered in all LE contests.
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