Cover cover Triple Booked
 
a novel by Mardi Ballou from Ellora’s Cave

Also available in print:

Here’s an excerpt. Enjoy!

After an unusual show of restraint, Jade Flint grabbed Gabe Corelli’s penis. She bit it hard -- and moaned as the dark chocolate shell gave way, allowing thick vanilla custard filling to spurt into her mouth. Then she slowly licked the last drop off her full red lips.

“That’s it,” Gabe rasped, “we are getting out of here now.” Watching her scarf down the candy -- from his goodie bag, for cryin’ out loud -- was the last straw. If he didn’t get down and dirty with her soon, his throbbing erection -- the one that had been trapped in his pants all night -- might blast them both out of the room.

Jade, who’d been eyeing his crotch since before she ate the treat, raised a perfectly arched brow. As soon as he got her where he wanted her, he’d fuck her ‘til she howled at the nearly full moon and every planet and star in the universe.

“I promised Maura we’d hang around ‘til after the party and help her clean up.” She winked at him. “Looking at this crowd, I’d say it’ll be a late night.”

He cupped her chin in his hand and tilted her face so they were eye–to-eye. Her green eyes brimmed with laughter and lust, turning him on still more. Even after they’d been together more than three years, the sight of her beautiful face, the long black curls cascading down her perfect back, her rounded curves just made for love derailed his thought processes. “Make her another promise,” he growled.

“But there’s also someone she wants us to meet. About our writing.”

“She can give him our business card.” Gabe couldn’t wait much longer, and he knew Jade couldn’t either. That was one of the infinite number of things he liked -- loved -- about her.

“There you are.” Maura Fox, their hostess, came over and took them each by the hand. “I’ve been hunting for you two for ages. Jade, that guy I told you about is here, and you’ve gotta meet him.”

Gabe groaned inwardly. When Maura got people into her clutches, a speedy exit became next to impossible. Usually, he enjoyed challenges, but a man with a serious hard-on had limits. “We’d love to, Maura, but we just got a call. Upstairs neighbor’s tub overflowed. Now there’s a flood in our apartment. If we don’t rescue our computer pronto, we can say ‘arrivederci’ to six months’ writing.”

Jade looked at him as if he’d just sprouted a second head, and Maura let loose with a string of loud guffaws. “Oh, Gabe. No wonder you’re such a great writer -- the way you can make up stories on the spot. Now you two come along with me. I want to introduce you to Alex.” She stopped. “I did read your Tarot cards already, right?”

Gabe rolled his eyes. Maura always had a theme for her parties, and tonight’s was Let Me Read Your Card. Every goodie bag contained one Tarot card, which Maura would interpret for the recipient. Whatever. Gabe had no idea where his bag went after Jade appropriated all the chocolate. Frankly, he didn’t give a damn.

“You haven’t read mine.” Jade produced her bag and handed the other woman an oversized card.

“But this is great,” Maura gushed.

Since she got excited about everything from the patterns on tissue boxes to finding a new man, Gabe didn’t take her enthusiasm too seriously.

“Really? What is the card? What does it mean?”

 Gabe knew Jade didn’t buy into the Tarot bullshit, so he figured she was just humoring their friend.

“This,” Maura bubbled, “is the Three of Pentacles. You see the three people in the picture? They’re involved in a project together, a work project.”

Jade squinted at the picture while Gabe, practically gritting his teeth, prayed for  them to finish yakking so he and Jade could get the hell out of. . . He grinned as inspiration struck. “Did you say Three of Testicles?”

Maura rolled her eyes. “Pentacles, Gabe. Pentacles. As in, get your mind out of your pants.”

“Man’s other head. . .” he started. He wished Jade would chime in, make some comment to show she was paying attention to him. But she was staring at the card.

“It looks like they’re building something, consulting plans,” she observed in her exploring-the-museum voice.

Maura nodded energetically. “The first meaning of the card is great skill in work or trade. This tells me you’re very good at what you do -- not that I need a card to tell me you’re a great writer. You and your partner.”

Jade was now fully focused on Maura. Though Gabe always paid attention when anyone talked about their work, his hard-on screamed for priority. Immediately. “Sounds wonderful, Maura. Thanks for the brilliant interpretation. We really have to go.”

“No, I want to hear more.” Jade just wasn’t getting it.

Maura’s grin grew even wider. “This card is perfect because it also means artistic ability -- which you two have in spades. And there’s mastery and perfection. This is an amazing card for you to get.”

“Yeah, we’re great. You know it, I know it. So how come we’re not rich and famous?” Jade’s brow furrowed.

Gabe winced. He hated that he and Jade still lived in a crummy little apartment furnished in poverty-stricken grad school style, eating store-brand pasta several nights a week. Talk about a mood-breaker. His erection deflated back to neutral.

“It’s coming.”

I’m sure not, Gabe thought.

Maura droned on. “Renown and Rank -- those mean fame. Power and Dignity -- heck, that means you’re going to be rich. Oh Jade, Gabe, I’m so happy for you!” She congratulated them as if it were a done deal. A realist, Gabe knew how much separated them from achieving their dreams.

For once, Jade was speechless, her face aglow with hope.

Just then a tall, swarthy guy who needed a shave and haircut broke into their little circle and put his hands on Maura’s plump shoulders.

She practically purred as she took him by the hand. “Oh, Alex, here you are. Now I can introduce you to Jade and Gabe. Alex is also a writer, and he’s really interested in talking to you about your work.”

“Alex Rapsos.” The shaggy-haired guy looked like he’d just stepped off the plane from some Greek isle. He was staring hard at Jade, as if they were the only two people at the party. Gabe stepped between them.

“Gabe Corelli.” Rapsos gripped his extended hand with I want to break your bones and send you to the emergency room intensity. Gabe gripped back even harder. The handshake ended in a draw.

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