"I'm Jo Banks. Karmic Consultants."
Jo watched, perversely fascinated, as Haines flinched and his perma-frown deepened. He was frowning in the general direction of her cleavage, but since The Girls had always gotten more attention than she did, she didn't take it personally.
"I was expecting a man," he blurted out, sweat breaking out across his brow.
"Joe. That's short for something?"
A real rocket scientist, this one. "Yep."
He waited for a beat, then seemed to realize that she wasn't going to supply a nice girly name for him to use instead and cleared his throat. He tore his eyes off The Girls and raked her with the single most disapproving glance she had received from a man since puberty. Landing at her feet, his eyes locked on her goodie bag where she'd dropped it. He cleared his throat again, his lip curling as if he expected spray paint and toilet paper to leap out of the bag and begin trashing his perfect little Victorian mansion.
Not that it was perfect. That house had some serious issues.
Jo levered herself off the fencepost and bent to grab her goodie bag. Straightening, she flipped the bag onto her shoulder, ignoring the way Haines's mouth fell open and his eyes glazed at the glimpse down the front of her shirt. She took a step up the gravel walk and Haines suddenly snapped out of his cleavage-induced haze. He planted himself between her and the house.
He frowned and cleared his throat.
That stick shoved up his ass must be tickling his tonsils. Poor baby.
"This'll go a lot faster if I have access to the house," Jo said dryly, hoping Haines would take the hint and get out of her way.
He didn't. She couldn't say she was surprised.
Wyatt Haines, with his Armani everything, three-hundred dollar haircut, and designer disdain, continued to stand in the middle of the path, every muscle in his (admittedly gorgeous) body clenched in defense of his financial assets. Jo was tempted--just for a moment--to football tackle him and see which one of them came out on top. She might even let him be on top. A delicious little shiver wriggled down her spine. Down, girl.
He may be a stuck-up prick and a soulless businessman, but Jo was woman enough to admit that he was a seriously dishy stuck-up prick. Objectively speaking. Every black hair neatly in place. No trace of a shadow on his face, even though it was well past five-o-clock. And eyes that were so freaking blue, she could see their color in just the light of the one streetlamp that shone over her shoulder. He practically radiated anal-asshole vibes, but he was also putting off some serious pheromones. Luckily, Jo was immune to studly businessman pheromones. Well, mostly immune.
She reined in her libido and arched one brow at him, going for aloof and supercilious. Haines didn't appear to notice her impressive superciliousness. He was too busy frowning.
"I was under the impression Karmic Consultants was a reputable firm," he said, clipping off the words, abrupt and precise.
Jo ignored the insult and gave him a nice lazy smile with lots of teeth. "Depends what you mean by reputable, I guess."
Haines's frown went up a notch or two on the Richter scale. "I require a certain level of professionalism."
It was all Jo could do not to roll her eyes. He'd probably expected her to show up in a powder blue suit and heels, looking like a realtor and genuflecting at his feet. Even if she had been the powder blue suit type--not in this lifetime--she still wouldn't have been stupid enough to crawl around a hundred-plus-year-old house in the middle of the night in heels.
Jo upped the wattage on her smile. "What? Don't I look professional to you?"
Haines's eyes dropped to her boots, surveying the landscape along the way. He winced.
Prompted by some devilish impulse, Jo slapped on her most innocent expression and offered, "I know some of the consultants work in the nude. If you'd be more comfortable..."
Jo smothered her grin at his obvious discomfort and focused on looking harmless. It wasn't something she'd had a lot of practice with, and judging by Haines's expression, her skill had suffered through lack of practice.
He was frowning again. But only about a 2.2 on the Pissed-Off-CEO Richter scale. Certainly not enough to make her quake.
He waved a hand toward her goodie bag. "What are you going to do with that?"
Jo patted her pack and smiled reassuringly. "I'm going to make all of your troubles go away, buddy."
The frown went up to a 3.4. "You don't have explosives in there, do you?"
Jo snorted out a laugh. It was even funnier because he was serious. "That's not how this works, pal."
"How exactly does this work?"
At last, a question she was used to. "You wait out here. I go in there. I do my mojo. Your house is all better." Jo made a dusting off gesture with her hands. "Poof."
Haines shook his head, looking impressively grim. "I can't let you go in there alone."
Jo sighed. She'd heard that before--though usually it was from big, strong men who wanted to protect her from the Big Bad rather than some stuck-up businessman who thought she was going to vandalize his property if left unsupervised. "Don't worry, buddy. I'm a pro."
He snuck a glance over his shoulder at the house. "That house is possessed."
Jo peered past him and let her eyes fall on the big Victorian mansion. Even before she drew on her second sight, she could see there was some serious shit going down in that old house. It gave off a dim greenish glow and seemed to be slowly expanding and contracting. Breathing. It definitely appeared to be breathing. Well, that's new.
She unfocused her eyes, looking without looking, and was nearly blinded by the luminescent energy pouring off the house. Damn, girl. She blinked away the vision, still seeing stars, and focused on the frowning businessman.
"Nope," she said cheerfully. "Not possessed. Just really, really haunted."