Search through today's Most Popular authors, titles and publishers.
Add as many books as you'd like to your sample shelf.
Each day, you'll receive the next sample on your shelf by email.
Publisher Red Willow Publishing
eBook Kindle Edition
After his wife leaves and moves to Philadelphia with their teenage daughter, LA psychiatrist Jake Robb is heartbroken. To cheer him up, his brother drags him off to Skin Dance, a strip bar... The evening turns out to be more than either brother expected.
From the posh Palos Verdes Peninsula, to Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore, and the Central California Coast, Jake must use all his psychiatric skills to understand and thwart an unknown killer.
This is Arthur Smukler's third novel.
Oblivious to the cold mist drifting in from the Pacific Ocean, Jake Robb stood on his office balcony watching the sun sink beneath the Los Angeles horizon. He was a good-looking man, six feet, two inches tall, rugged and athletic in spite of the excess forty pounds he had packed on in the last year.
If one had to guess what Jake did for a living one might guess poet or a professor of English, or maybe an artist. Jake would have agreed with all those things, because as a psychiatrist his job included it all. Most days Jake loved what he did, loved helping a patient decipher the intricacy of what lay beneath the surface of his conscious mind, teasing away the tenuous defenses, making the unconscious conscious. Today just wasn’t one of those days.
Jake stared hard at the darkening ocean, and his face took on a determined expression, much younger than his forty-one years. It was the same expression he’d have on the football field as an all-state wide receiver in high school. With a sigh, he turned and walked back into the office. The small orange light located next to the door was on. It was Loretta Constantino, his last patient of the day. Jake straightened his worn, woolen sports jacket and opened the waiting room door.
Loretta was a thirty-five-year-old court reporter suffering from depression and panic attacks. After three months of weekly psychotherapy focusing on her anger towards her estranged husband and daily doses of the antidepressant, Lexapro, she was doing better. The scent of her perfume, some combination of vanilla and maybe rose, filled the room.
Loretta smiled and stood. It looked like she had her dark hair done up differently, a stylish cut with little spikes. Her short T-shirt exposed her midriff and in spite of his lethargy Jake couldn’t help focusing for an extra few seconds on her navel. Round hoop-earrings dangled as she ass-swished her way into the consulting room. Jesus, Jake thought. There was no underwear under the silk pants. She was a marathon runner and took pride in how firm her muscles were, all her muscles.
Loretta sat down on the sofa, brushed a wisp of hair off her forehead, and focused her blue eyes on Jake’s face. Touching her upper lip with the tip of her tongue she smiled.
“How are things going?” Jake asked.
“Very well. I’m sleeping through the night and there’s no sign of depression or anxiety. It’s wonderful.”
Jake smiled. Having a patient do well always brought him joy. “To what do you attribute this good feeling, Mrs. Constantino?”
"Call me Lori.” Loretta’s voice was throaty, very intense. “My friend Julie’s psychiatrist always calls her by her first name."
"What are you feeling right now?” Jake asked.
She rolled her eyes. "Doctor Robb...Jake, think about it. Isn’t it obvious?”
“This therapy charade. I admit it’s been my responsibility as well as yours, but it really is time we brought it to a close.”
What the hell is she talking about? Jake thought, sitting forward in his chair.
"You need an office manager. Being a court reporter makes me eminently qualified, actually over-qualified. The young woman you have working for you isn’t doing the job." Loretta pointed to the stacks of patient folders piled on the edge of his desk and on the file cabinets in the corner of the room. "Then, of course after an appropriate interval of time, we'll move in together. I know that you and your wife are separated and have been for quite a while. I also know that she took your daughter with her back to Philadelphia and this all happened before you ever met me. I’m not the kind of person who would prey on a happily married man and break up a family.”
"What?” Jake managed to croak out. How did she know about Jennifer? About Tricia? Jesus!
She smiled. "Naturally you can't be involved with a patient, but you can with your office manager."
"Lori, my name is Lori-- "
"Your name’s Lori, but I’m your doctor. You’re my patient. How did you find--”
"I'm not your patient. I haven't been for at least two months."
A long sigh. "I went along with this silliness because I realized what a stickler for protocol you are. Now it's time to be authentic." She accented the word authentic, mimicking Jake’s intonation.
With a smile she stood up and walked towards Jake.
"Mrs. Constantino, please sit down." Jake’s voice was firm, his eyes narrowing.
She continued, stopping only when her bare stomach was just inches from his face. "Let's go to the beach,” she said with fervor. “We can spend the evening together. Walk on the strand, listen to the waves, make love…"
She’s out of her damn mind, Jake thought. In over ten years of private practice no one had ever crossed the doctor-patient boundary this blatantly. He stood up, towering a foot above her, pointing to the sofa. "Sit down, Mrs. Constantino."
She stood firmly, her eyes focused on his.
“Either sit down; or the session’s over!"
“You don’t have to raise your voice, Jake,” she said, not moving an inch.
“Sit down! I mean it!”
Nonchalantly Loretta walked back across the room, and with a sigh settled into the sofa.
“Where did you get this information about me?” Jake asked, his anger barely under control.
“That’s not important.”
“It’s very important.” Jake took a deep breath and sat down. Carefully choosing his words he said, "Can’t you see you're acting out feelings of hurt and abandonment here in therapy? After your husband left, you distorted--"
"Jake, we both know Sam was impotent." She crossed her legs, slowly moving her hand down her thigh. "We'll be good together, more than good. I've thought a lot about you. I think you’ve been thinking a lot about me."
"I’m your doctor. Try and understand--"
"You're not my doctor. I've already fired you. Actually not fired, but accepted the new rules. The way things really are. Didn’t someone write a song about the new order of the universe?"
"There’s another kind of medication--"
"Please, I don't need medication. Besides, the truth is that I never took the Lexa-whatever you prescribed. Well, I did take one pill and that was enough. More than enough. It took days for me to stop feeling jittery. Pills aren’t the answer; they never were. I need you, and I know you need me."
“Why didn’t you discuss the medication with me?”
Loretta just rolled her eyes and sighed.
"Mrs. Constantino, the tender, loving feelings you’ve experienced coming from me are really coming from the past, the need you have for your father to love you. This is the time when self-understanding is essential and--"
"Jake, I'm not interested in therapy or medication. That's over. You did a brilliant job and cured me. You’re a wonderful psychiatrist, a very caring doctor. That’s so unusual in this medical climate. Now, the next part--"
"There is no next part. You need treatment.” Jake sat forward in his chair, his eyes locked on Loretta’s casual expression, trying to fathom what had gone wrong, and what he had to do to fix it.
"Jake, stop being such a fool." Loretta pulled her T-shirt over her head, her breasts exposed.
Jake’s mouth dropped open and his eyes widened.
Gently, her eyes never leaving Jake’s she caressed each breast.
Jake stood up. "Stop it!”
Loretta pulled her pants down, exposing her clean-shaven vagina.
Jake bellowed, “Get dressed, now!”
Loretta sighed, then slowly pulled up her pants, and even slower put her T-shirt back on. Then she smoothed her hands over her hips. "Why are you being so difficult?"
"This is the first time you’ve behaved this way, been so out of control. Something must have happened,” Jake said, struggling to keep the shock he was feeling under control. He lowered himself back in his chair. “Last week you were talking about how hurt you were when your father left. You were just six. Are you afraid that therapy will end and you’ll lose me like you lost your father?”
"Stop the psycho-babble," Loretta interrupted, her voice harsh.
"There's a reason for your behavior," Jake said quietly.
Loretta took a deep breath, calmness coming back to her features. "Honey, this game is no longer necessary. Didn't you understand? You're not my doctor, you’re my friend and…will be my lover."
“I am your doctor.” Jake’s words were clipped, his frustration beginning to show.
Loretta smiled and sighed.
Jake leaned forward in his chair. "You need treatment. If not me, then I’ll refer you to another psychiatrist."
Loretta stood, walked towards the door and opened it. "Jake, soon you'll stop playing this childish game. You cured me. Enjoy your success." A confident smile formed on her lips. "See you tomorrow."
"We have no appointment tomor--" Abruptly Loretta turned and left the office. Moments later the door to the suite clicked shut.
Thanks for reading! Join BookDaily now and receive featured titles to sample for free by email.
Reading a book excerpt is the best way to evaluate it before you spend your time or money.
Just enter your email address and password below to get started:
Instant Bonus: Get immediate access to a daily updated listing of free ebooks from Amazon when you confirm your account!
Art Smukler MD, is a psychiatrist in private practice and on the teaching faculty at UCLA. He has won the coveted Golden Ear Award for teaching senior psychiatric residents and the Award For Distinguished Writing at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Skin Dance, a mystery, is his third novel.