Installment two of Meet the Characters from Love & Ghosts introduces us to Emily, the heroine of our story!
Emily Rollins is a nurse practitioner who moves to New Orleans for a fresh start. She's smart and witty, and she's ready to add some excitement back into her life. Sean seems like the perfect kind of excitement, except for the fact that he can talk to ghosts. Emily wants nothing to do with the supernatural...
Here's Emily's introductory scene. Enjoy!
“What about a one-night stand? Or a series of them?” Trish asked.
Emily Rollins cast a sideways glance at her friend. “I think I need to swear off men altogether.” She gathered her billowing crimson skirt in her hands and climbed the stairs toward the hotel entrance, placing each step with precision. Practicality wasn’t on the list of requirements when she selected her costume for the Masked Movie Character Ball, and the last thing she needed was to trip on a layer of satin and tulle and tumble down before she even got inside.
Trish adjusted her mask. “You can’t punish yourself forever, Em. You promised you’d try to have fun tonight.”
She sighed and peered out over Canal Street, the dividing line separating the French Quarter from the rest of New Orleans. An October breeze raised goose bumps on her arms, and she shivered as she turned and drifted up the stairs.
“I’m not punishing myself. I’m just…” She swallowed the sour taste in her mouth. “It doesn’t feel right to have fun so soon.”
As they stepped inside the Maison Des Fleurs, soft classical music replaced the roar of outside traffic, and green carpet squished beneath her stilettos.
Trish touched her elbow. “It’s been more than a year. It’s time to move on.”
“I know.” She drew her shoulders toward her ears and wrapped her arms around her middle. “But after Jessica died…”
“Well, tonight you’re the Queen of Hearts, darling, and you’re smoldering. Every hot-blooded man who’s passed through this lobby has checked you out.”
Emily rolled her eyes, but her friend’s abrupt change in subject did help loosen the vise-grip squeezing her chest. Now the damn corset was the only thing keeping her from breathing properly. “Trish…”
“Seriously. At least ten different men have given you a once-over in the five minutes we’ve been standing here.”
She laughed. No one was checking her out, and she’d prove it. She whirled around to face the room, daring someone to look at her. A Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike wearing a simple black eye mask bowed formally, wiping the smug smile right off her face.
Trish nodded. “Look, babe. All I’m saying is you’re new in town. It’s a masquerade, so the whole point is mystery. You can be anybody you want to be tonight, and no one will know the difference. Let me teach you how to have fun for a change.”
She crossed her arms. “I know how to have fun.”
“Sure, if you like wet blankets and cold showers. Come on.” Trish linked arms with Emily and dragged her toward the ballroom.
Emily stopped outside the door and yanked her arm free. Her friend’s teasing words stung. She’d come to New Orleans for a fresh start—to get away from the guilt that had been chewing her to bits and spitting out the pieces—and she had moved on, hadn’t she? She’d done plenty of new things.
An indoor skydiving place opened near her apartment a month ago, but she hadn’t worked up the nerve to check their prices. Iconic street cars chugged along the tracks every ten minutes in front of the urgent care clinic where she worked, but she’d never hopped on one. Hell, the only reason she’d been to Bourbon Street was because Trish dragged her there. Aside from her occasional walks through Jackson Square, she hadn’t explored the city she now called home. Her throat tightened. Maybe she hadn’t moved on at all.
“All right. If I’m a wet blanket, what do you suggest? Should I make out with the first guy I see? Dance on the tables?”
“Just let loose. Relax. Maybe hook up with a bad boy for once in your life. That’s what you need. A sexy New Orleans man to show you the city, get your mind off things.”
“I’ve dated bad boys before.”
Trish laughed and pulled her away from the door as a couple dressed as Princess Leia and Han Solo stepped past them. “Who? Phillip?”
“He rode a motorcycle once.”
“He’s an actuary, Em. You can’t get any more boring than that.”
She chewed the inside of her cheek. “He cheated on me. That makes him bad.”
Her friend wrapped her arm around her shoulders. “That’s the wrong kind of bad, babe. And anyway, that jackass cheating on you turned out to be for the best. If he can’t stick by you through the tough times, good riddance.”
“It was quite a wakeup call, wasn’t it?”
“And now you’re here with me, learning to live the life Jessica would have wanted for you.”
She chuckled. “From the authority on having fun.”
“You got that right.” She led her through the double doors into the ballroom.
Emily gasped. Thirty-foot ceilings soared above with two massive chandeliers dripping with crystals, hanging side by side in the center of the room. A polished wood dance floor took up most of the space, and a band on a raised platform belted out a smooth rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.” A generous buffet complete with shrimp cocktail, boudin, and oysters on the half shell sat against the wall, and an open bar stood catty-corner to the food. Hundreds of masked people in elaborate costumes representing characters from all genres of movies milled about the ballroom, mingling, dancing, laughing…having fun.
“Drinks first.” Trish led the way to the bar.
Maybe her friend was right. Maybe she did need to let loose tonight. It had been a year since her sister’s death. That fresh start needed to begin sometime; she’d been stagnant long enough.
If a masquerade ball wasn’t the perfect opportunity to elicit change, what was?
Trish handed her a gin and tonic. “So, what’s the plan?”
Emily grinned. “Dare me.”
“Like when we were kids. Dare me to do something outrageous, and I’ll do it.”
Trish sipped her gin fizz. “Seriously? I know you can’t see my eyebrows through this mask, but I am arching one in disbelief.”
Her pulse quickened, and she swallowed before the lump could form in her throat. “Yes. I mean it. I promised I’d have fun, and you’re going to teach me how.”
Her friend slammed her hand on the bar. “Two shots of tequila, please.” The bartender poured the drinks, and Trish handed Emily the tiny glass. “All right. I dare you to kiss a stranger.”
“That’s it? Just kiss someone?”
“Not just kiss. One: it has to be on a man’s mouth. And two: there has to be tongue.”
She chewed her bottom lip and stared at the liquid courage in the glass. A kiss. She could do that, couldn’t she? Taking a deep breath, she tossed back the shot and set the glass on the bar. The tequila burned as it made its way down her throat and into her stomach. “Kiss a man, with tongue. Done.”
Trish downed her shot and grinned. “And you are not, under any circumstances, to give him your number.”
“I don’t want you getting all goo-goo-eyed over the first guy you meet. This city is a living, breathing entity, and it has to be experienced fully before you settle down. Get your fill of fun before you do anything else.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Emily gave her a mock salute and ordered another gin and tonic. She was going to need it.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Emily. If you missed Sean's introduction, you can read it here.
Love & Ghosts releases April 24th. PREORDER NOW!
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