Steven Gallagher of Gallagher Investigative Services fondled a pair of female attributes, the jutting proportions of which just about blew his mind. Not for the life of him could he recall the last time he’d had the pleasure of a bare nekkid lady’s company, much less had his hands on her…

“Teetzees,” supplied Maurice Pentegrine, of the Raleigh, North Carolina Fortune 500 Pentegrines.

Well, hell, yeah. Exactly. But how come a straight-up guy like Maury had zeroed in on Steve’s fantasizing?

“Yes, indeed,” his client droned on. “Teetzees is worth a small fortune.”

“You don’t say,” Steve replied, juggling the diminutive jade figurine in his palm to the slow beat of his client’s snooze-producing monotone.

For the past thirty minutes, Maury had been relating the history behind each and every invaluable object d’art in his library, all one hundred forty-five pieces, and Steve was zoning out from sheer boredom. If not for the distraction of Teetzees’ amazing green chest, he would’ve fallen asleep half an hour ago. And what was up with a conservative guy like Maury collecting the smutty stuff, anyway?

You just never know in this business, Steve mused, blocking a yawn with the back of one hand, bouncing Teetzees in the other.

“Uh—uh—careful there,” Maury said, looking a little worried. “That statuette is the centerpiece of my fifteenth-century erotica collection. Rub her…uh…bosom and your love life is certain to improve.”

Steve rubbed away. But casually. So Maury wouldn’t guess the direness of the situation. “No kidding?”

“Oh, my. I would never joke about a fertility goddess. The Mesopotamians believed he who rubbed Teetzees…er…breasts would produce progeny within the next year.”

Who was Steve to argue with the Mesopotamians?

He lifted his thumb from Teetzees’ fine rack. And then, before he did something seriously dumb, like accidentally dropping the voluptuous little beauty on her well-worn hooters—Maury wouldn’t like that—Steve placed the three-inch statuette back where she belonged.

Beauty was all in the eye of the beholder. One man’s idea of invaluable art was another man’s idea of hard-core porn, the kind of dirty stuff he’d never want his mama to discover during a surprise visit. But hey, to each his own kink. And what did Steve know, anyway? He’d married his childhood sweetheart at the tender age of nineteen. Without the aid of any naughty knickknacks, his bride had cranked his engine, morning, noon, and night.

For one idyllic year.

Twelve fantasy months—the length of their honeymoon marriage. Widowed at twenty, he’d been in a sad mood ever since.

“Time heals all wounds,” the well meaning told him.

Nice sentiment. No dice. Almost two decades later, his wife’s death still ached like a raw wound. He didn’t like to think about that ache, much less talk about it. After Jen’s death, he’d gone a little crazy.

A little crazy?

Understatement. He’d gone berserk. Almost torn himself apart. Booze. Babes. Bad habits. If not for his family’s quiet support, for always being there for him, he would’ve ripped out what remained of his heart.

Right there and then, as Maury continued his never-ending monologue, Steve decided not to return to his New York City office. What was the point of keeping a vacation house on Cape Cod if he never took a vacation? He’d fly into Logan instead and snag some R&R in his Falmouth retreat. Spend some quality time with his family who lived on the beach dunes. He missed them.

Maury’s soliloquy cut into Steve’s plan making. “Now, over here, we have some fine, albeit eclectic, examples of pre-Columbian phalluses. Notice the intricate leather tooling.”

Aw, man! Now his client expected Steve to admire a bunch of ancient dildos?

No way. In his line of work, he came face-to-face with enough phony old pricks as it was.

* * * * * *