Click on image to enlarge.
by Tara Nichols
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance
Description: [Menage Amour 22: Contemporary Erotic Romance with elements of Menage a Trois, M/F/M, and Menage a Quatre, M/F/M/F] A notorious player, Desiree Jones resists all attempts to trap her in a relationship. According to her, it's what made her parents miserable, and therefore, it is what would make her miserable. Once a lover of Desiree's, Andrew Gamble doesn't agree and it is his hope to be the one who makes her see reason. Smitten from the first kiss, Gamble has not touched another woman since, so a bet to go without sounds more like an opportunity to seduce her to him. Desiree's other competition is Joshua Tully, perpetually single and harmless, until the temptation of two week's wages are up for grabs. After that, it is open season, and the three of them do what ever it takes to push their pals over the sexual finish line. A parade of firemen visit Desiree's cash counter, a pretendsbian tryst is performed for Gamble, and a date is arranged for Tully. [Erotic Menage Romance: Contains graphic sexual content and adult language.]
eBook Publisher: Siren-BookStrand, Inc./Menage Amour, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: September 2009
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [157 KB]
Reading time: 98-138 min.
"4.5 CHERRIES: Ms. Nichols takes what could've been a mundane plot and turns it into a great read with engaging characters the reader can identify with. By the end of the novella, I felt like they were all my friends and I hated to finish. If you want a novella with sharp wit, steamy passion, and indelible characters, then Gamble's Game is for you."--Tiger Lily, Whipped Cream Reviews
"4 STARS: Tara S. Nichols is a very talented author. I have read several of her stories. Gamble's Game is written with a lot of humor. The characters play well together. Fans of romantica will enjoy Gamble's Game."--Anne Boling, ReviewYourBook
Throwing herself down in to the chair across from her two friends, Gamble and Tully, she scowled to tell them she was in no mood for surprises. They looked at her as if she had sprouted antennae. She may as well have. After Tina, her supervisor, had finished scolding her, she could have used a new set of ears. As it was, her current set might never stop ringing. She felt as though she had been put through a meat grinder, one of those old-fashioned ones that chewed a body up slowly. That was Tina though. She wasn't known for her delicate touch. Tina didn't like it when people tested the boundaries as she claimed Desiree had been doing.
Late shmate, she thought. If she had told Tina why she had been late for every shift this past week, well, it'd curl the old girl's toes. She just couldn't do that to a fellow cashier, even if she was her cantankerous boss.
Terguson's Foods wasn't the worst job she'd ever had, but if ambience is everything, then the raw stench of the staffroom, with the sour tang of long-forgotten lunches, the nasty odour from a collection of footwear piled in a heap in the corner, and the harsh sting of cleaning chemicals mingling spoke volumes about the way Desiree Jones felt about the small grocery store. This morning, in particular, she was not in the mood to breathe the foul air of a workplace that thought it could dictate how she lived her life.
Gamble looked at his watch, grossly over exaggerating the action. According to Desiree, whoever invented the alarm clock sucked. That annoying little ticking time bomb was nothing but a cruel joke foisted upon society that should have been nipped in the bud a long time ago.
"You're later than usual." He arched his eyebrows with a superior air, "You know, later than your usual lateness. Did your playboy put up a fight and not want to call it quits by two?"
She had expected this. The boys liked to rib her every chance they got. She had braced herself for their verbal torment, ready to rebut every little point they tried to make, but then Tina had taken her by surprise, and that crispy little conversation had taken all her reserve nerve. Perhaps it had been a mistake letting the likes of those two into her private life. She knew the rule. Never kiss and tell, but when the telling was so juicy, well, she just had to dish it out. Leaving her closest friends in the dark about her love-'em-and-leave-'em lifestyle was next to impossible. Besides, that would leave them with nothing to talk about. Gamble's frequent escapades rivalled her own, and Tully simply couldn't stop thinking about it. No, the floodgates were wide open, and her business was their business.
Tully continued their merciless pursuit. "By the looks of it, it must have been something extraordinary. I hope you are planning to spill on all the gory details." He leaned forward hungry for gossip. "My VCR broke in the middle of Pent UP Playmates last night, and I'm hungry for a fireworks finale." Unfortunately, Joshua Tully didn't get many dates, hence the dependency on sex films. He was the Jughead of modern-day men, a harmless, sex-starved puppy. Women, including herself, flirted shamelessly with him, but all parties involved knew it wasn't going to go anywhere, well, at least she didn't think it was. Who knew what she was capable of after too many Mojitos. Other than the dorky fraying straw cowboy hat he was always sporting, he was pretty easy on the eyes. Tully's problem was that he was awkward. Deep down, she harboured the urge to make him a man, to open his eyes and show him what it really meant to want it. He was so fresh that the urge to spoil him for all others was always prevalent on her mind. Yeah, she liked power that much.
Fighting back the urge to gag, she levelled Tully with a 'don't test me' stare. Straightening, he heeded the warning of impending violence with admirable clarity and speed. He was harmless though, a nice guy with a bottomless appetite, no verbal social filter, and the most beautiful set of baby blue eyes she had ever seen. They were perfectly round, endless, and eerily soothing. It was unfortunate that he couldn't stop shovelling junk food into his gullet so someone could actually have a look at them. Had he actually given it any thought, sponging off someone else's sexual escapades was rather parasitic behaviour, and she was not an enabler.
"Get your own fantasies, Tully." Dismayed at her choice of companions, she groaned and rubbed her temples.
That settled, she resumed her morose attitude and slumped back in her chair. She hated to scold Tully. It felt equivalent to kicking a puppy, but it seemed that was all she ever did these days. He had that apple-cheeked boy next door quality to him, average features, casual haircut, light brown hair, and enough fashion sense to get through life unscathed, or unnoticed. Which was worse, she didn't know.
Then there was Gamble, aka Andrew Gamble. He, on the other hand, was a sex god. He had chiselled features; dark, neatly trimmed hair; a regal nose; and a pair of slate-coloured eyes perfectly framed with the longest lashes she'd ever seen. She couldn't decide if his irises were dark grey, dark green, or a mixture of both. Whatever they were, they were fine. Gamble was fine. Unfortunately, his fineness came across in everything he did, in the way he dressed, pressed black slacks, crisp white shirt, and perfectly fastened tie. It was in the way he spoke, a smooth baritone that melted your knee caps off. One exception to the rule was the way he dated, like an upper-class caveman out to populate the southern basin. He serviced more women than a revolving door, herself included. Why couldn't he be a celibate monk instead of the hottest thing to walk the grocery aisles? He was just like her, and it was the one thing she hated about him. After their one night of debauchery and bliss, he had somehow made a lasting impression on her, and no matter what she did, she couldn't seem to shake it. She craved him, and that just couldn't happen. It was dangerous and ridiculous and just not going to happen. She liked her life the way it was. She had her faults, and she embraced them. No man was going to mess up a good thing. Her parents had made that mistake, and they were still suffering for it.
She wasn't being fair of course. When Gamble had suggested they give it another go, she had promptly declined. It had been a gut reaction, instinctual after so many years of protecting her individuality. She hadn't allowed herself time to really consider the ramifications of such a refusal, and she knew Gamble had been hurt by her rejection. No doubt she had surprised him, which possibly increased his attraction to her. After that, he'd thrown his wooing into high gear, bringing her flowers, chocolates, cards, and even a few toys from one of the kinky shops on Fourth Street. The clutter eventually became too much and she'd been forced to explain her actions. Going into detail about how she had grown up with two parents who acted like they couldn't stand each other, she had given him more information on herself than she'd ever given any person before, exposing her underbelly to him in hopes that he would see reason and back off. Unfortunately, it failed. When he couldn't respect her reasons, she had resorted to threatening to upload the video they made on You Tube, and he had retreated. They never spoke of it again.
Thankfully, their friendship had survived, more than survived really. Despite the fact that they mutually vowed to never sleep with one another again, they flirted openly. She just couldn't seem to keep her hands off him, and since he never complained, she didn't see why she should have to. Besides, it was reciprocal. Eventually, they even managed to draw Tully into their raunchy little world of bum pinching, dirty talk, and a little thing Tully invented called the Nark Frisk. Nark Frisking was when an unsuspecting victim would be pressed against the lockers and physically interrogated then left gasping for breath, not unlike to a beached fish. It was all in good fun though and none of them took it seriously, or so she hoped. It had its side effects of course. Each one of them went home rangier than a rabbit, and anyone that had to endure their playful banter was misled into believing them to be a very strange trio. Some of the gossip floating around made for some very interesting conversations between the three of them usually ending up with one of them confessing to having started it themselves.
The feelings she had developed for Gamble never really left her, and all of their flirting, on top of the dates he went out on, was starting to take its toll. She cared about him, and it was starting to cramp her style. An uneasy feeling settled into the pit of her stomach whenever she was with other men, which made her feel guilty and more lonely than when she was actually physically alone. Gamble didn't seem to be having any issues though. Word in the lunchroom was that he was still the best lay around. So she kept up a brave face and pushed all of those nagging feelings down to where they couldn't interfere with her getting some too.
They were not a good match, and perhaps Gamble had come to the same conclusion. She was a bit of a slob after all. Who had the time to pick up their soiled undies after a wild night's romp through the sheets? Who cared if the toothpaste sat all night without the cap on? Seriously, she never understood the urge to carry a little sticky roll of tape in her pocket to remove all the dander, cat hair, and man stubble from her clothes the minute she left her apartment? Gamble did.
She studied his well-groomed exterior, noting his stubble-free jaw and mousse-styled hair. Working with him was a daily reminder of their many differences, but damn polished had never looked so good.
"So?" Gamble prompted her, while his eyes narrowed on her as though he expected her of some great mischief.
"What?" she snapped, seeing their smug smiles.
"Oh, I think you know what." Tully scratched his neck and tried his best to look indifferent, but deep down, she knew he was itching for details.
"Tina," she finally admitted. "Tina is the reason I am late."
Her curveball had worked. They were both surprised, thrown completely off guard because they expected her to say she had been late, again, because she had been Adam and Eve-ing it under the apple tree. Well, truth be told, she had been, but Tina had been waiting for her by the staff entrance at eight twenty and had nabbed her before she could make it to the staff room this time. According to Tina, she had been on to her for some time now.
"Tina?" Tully gasped and glanced around as though speaking her name might invoke her. "Is this it for you then?" Tully blurted before she could answer.
Gamble was more casual, simply frowning with concern. "What did she say?"
She laughed to lighten the mood. "No. I'm not fired, if that is what you are asking, at least not yet." She shrugged as though it had been nothing when she was actually quaking in her boots. "I got a warning."
The guys let out a sigh of relief and leaned back into their chairs.
The distress in their eyes was touching, and she felt herself softening toward them. "You were really worried there for a sec, weren't you?" she teased them, unable to resist.
Immediately, Gamble's cockiness returned. She could hear his lecture before he opened his mouth. "So are you going to heed that warning or go on boffing everything that moves?"
"Boffing?" She scoffed. "Yes, I'll continue boffing everything that moves, as long as it suits me, but I don't need the attitude, Gamble. I already got the verbal spanking from Tina, thank you very much."
"She spanked you!" Tully leaned forward again, his eyes huge and round.
Desiree slapped her forehead. "Good grief, man, no. I'm not that easy and I said verbal spanking--oh never mind."
Gamble arched his eyebrows.
"What?" She targeted him. "You better not be insinuating what I think you are insinuating."
"Oh, I think we all know just how easy you really are." Before she could protest, he held up a fine, slender finger and silenced her. He took a deep breath and said with an air of authority, "If Tina Goodman offered you advancement out of cashier hell, you'd bend over her knee and take what she offered, with a smile."
Desiree's mouth dropped open. She didn't know whether she was shocked or impressed such a vulgar sentiment had been uttered by Gamble.
"I never knew you thought so low of me," she retaliated after recovering from her shock.
He shrugged for effect. "After some of the stuff you've told us..." He fanned himself to indicate just how steamy it had been.
She gave an indignant little huff and crossed her arms over her chest. "Remind me not to share anymore," she added dryly.
"But you so like to share," Gamble teased her. "At least, you like to share your bed." He winked at Tully. He was goading her, she knew it, yet she took the bait anyway.
"Yes, I do like to share my bed, and you're sure one to talk. You're no better than me."
"Well, we haven't really fairly compared that now, have we?" He gave her a wicked little wink as though that was supposed to mean something to her.
Gamble was sharp today. She wasn't rested enough to take him on. "You have a problem with the way I live my life, Mr. Tantric?" They'd been over this many times before. At least ever since Gamble had found that tantric sex book in the library.
"Don't knock the tantric." He dropped his chin and wagged a finger at her looking very much like an elderly great aunt of hers, only male and much sexier. "You could do wonders with a little discipline."
"Oh believe me I get my discipline whenever I'm in the mood for it." She leered at him defiantly.
His eyes crinkled at the corners, the only visible sign that he had very much enjoyed the image she had conjured up. Otherwise, he kept his tone dour and disapproving.
It was all an act, one that she enjoyed as much as he. She longed to bring Gamble to the breaking point, where he got so worked up he lost his polished exterior. She'd had numerous fantasies where he was the stern disciplinarian setting her tender buttocks afire from repetitive strikes of his hand, and she was the unruly, naughty girl who wouldn't listen to reason. Just thinking about it had already distracted her to the point where she had tuned out everything he had been saying.
"Desiree, it's not the same thing and you know it. What I'm talking about is denying the gratification for a bit to give it more meaning, more substance." He finished with a pink tint coloring each cheek. She loved it when he got worked up. It reminded her of the sex god she had once shared a bed with.
She snorted and jerked her thumb at Gamble's noble expression. "Will you listen to him?" She spoke solely to Tully now. "He thinks denying myself pleasure will give me greater pleasure. How half cocked is that?"
"She's got a point, Gamble." Tully addressed the other man.
"No she doesn't," Gamble insisted. "I'm not saying go without. I certainly don't and heaven knows she couldn't actually do that."
Her eyes widened. "Oh no? You don't think so?"
His mouth curved into a crooked smile, and she realized she'd been baited. "No, I really don't think you could completely abstain." He shook his head. "Impossible, you'd explode."
"Are you calling me a nympho then?"
He looked warily to Tully, but Tully shrugged.
"We don't know why you do it, Dezzie," Tully said kindly, "or what makes you tick. We just know you do it, a lot." He smiled sheepishly, and then ducked to avoid the small plastic shaker of pepper she had picked off the table and lobbed at him.
She re-crossed her arms over her chest and pouted. "I'm offended."
"Well, if the shoe fits." Gamble tugged at the tie constricting his neck. He had gotten so worked up that he was slightly dishevelled. It was distracting in a way that made her wary. When they were through tossing each other around on her bed that night they spent together, he had looked so rakishly handsome, so lecherous and wild that she'd pushed him down for one more round. Now that look was back, and there wasn't anything she'd rather do than have another go at him. Thankfully, she restrained herself, gripping the chair tightly as though at any moment she might fly off her seat and ravage him.
"Wanna make a bet?" he said in challenge.
Desiree and Tully looked nervously at one another. He was calling her bluff, she figured. He was always doing that. Until now, she'd always backed down. Before she could think it through, she pierced him with one scrupulous eye. "What are you suggesting?"
Narrowing his focus on her, Gamble matched her gaze. "Abstinence."
"Abstinence." She assumed an air of nonchalance, as though abstaining from sex were as easy as pie and she did it every second weekend. In fact, the very idea of going without scared the living day lights out of her. "Why not," she finished after a dramatic pause.
He laughed heartily. "Seriously? You? That'll be the day."
"How about today?" She leaned across the table, acting bolder than she felt, in hope of calling his bluff.
He studied her for a moment before answering, "All right, but I feel confident you won't make it past tonight. This should be some of the easiest money I've ever made." He laughed surprising her.
"Oh, I'm not in on this alone." She realised their mistake. "No way, if I have to abstain then so do the both of you. I'm betting I can go longer than you can."
"What?" Tully sat up straight in his chair, suddenly very alert. "Why me? I haven't done anything to deserve this."
Gamble speared him with an impatient glare. "What difference is it going to make to you? It's not like they are lining up out there."
"Ouch." Desiree lowered her face so Tully couldn't see her struggling not to laugh.
Tully pouted at Gamble but won no sympathy from his friend.
"Look at it this way," Gamble reasoned. "You will stand the best chance of winning."
Immediately, Tully brightened. "Hey, yeah." He chuckled. "Finally my dating record is going to go in my favour." Much like an impressionable child, Tully made a remarkable recovery. His mood was now strangely bright and competitive.
Gamble leaned in so he was were mere inches from Desiree's face. "So, what's on the table?"
Desiree shrugged. "One week's wages."
"One week?" Tully sputtered.
They ignored Tully's outburst and continued to stare each other down.
Gamble chewed his lip a moment and focused his eyes on her, the challenge he issued. "Make it two."
She swallowed hard. Two weeks, good grief. That would really set her back if she lost. So she had better do everything in her power to not lose, she told herself firmly. How long would it take for either one of them to buckle anyway? Gamble was as much of a horn dog as she was. A day, maybe two tops?
She glanced over at Tully, who was struggling to open a bag of chips, and rolled her eyes. It never failed. Every time she looked at him he was chewing an oversized, unidentified substance. Despite the fact, he was as skinny as a rail. It wasn't fair. His metabolism must have been through the roof. She wondered if that was also an indicator of a high sex drive as well? Perhaps she could use her knowledge to her advantage. He was the weak link truth be told. One night without a VCR and he would be climbing the walls. He might even resort to spending some money on a new machine. Hell, it'd be cheaper.
Gamble was the real challenge. What with his competitive nature and his self-discipline through his tantric exercises, he was the one to beat. She returned her gaze to Gamble and took a moment to admire his handsome profile. He was resolute, stubborn, dapper, and ravishing. Not a hair was out of place. She longed to unravel that polished exterior and make him beat his chest like Tarzan. She knew he had it in him. She'd seen it, up close and personal. A fiery passion lurked just below the surface, a passion he couldn't contain forever. Tantric or no tantric exercises, everyone had their breaking point. Perhaps, if he wasn't getting any he might try to seduce her again, and this time, she smiled slyly, she might bend the rules and rock his world.
"So it's a bet then?" She held out her hand to make it official.
Gamble reached out and shook it confidently. The feel of his firm grip wrapped around her hand was comforting, and she discovered she was in no hurry to let go. His eyes held a hint of merriment, and it seemed, since he lingered as well, that he echoed her sentiments.
They looked expectantly at Tully. He stopped chewing, his eyes widening at their sudden change of course, and swallowed the wad with some difficulty.
"Well?" she prompted when he delayed.
He rolled his eyes in disgust. "I'm an idiot for doing this, but, all right, I'm in."
She nodded and let go of Gamble before it got too awkward.
Gamble reserved a wink for her before he brought his fingertips together in front of his face. He tried on his best greedy bureaucrat impression, and flashed each of them with a menacing smile. Then, putting on his best serious face, he addressed his opponents as though speaking from a podium. After clearing his throat, he said, "Rules are, no masturbation and the first one to succumb to temptation loses. The other two split the pot."
Desiree shrugged casually. "Sounds good. I sure will enjoy spending your money." She lifted her chin, confident again.
"Don't look so smug. I'm a very determined man."
"We'll see, won't we?" She gave her hair a flirtatious toss and flattened down the front of her blouse. The guys followed her every move.
Gamble stood to go, but before he left them, he bent down and whispered in her ear, "It's open season on you, baby, and I'm determined it will be me who makes you lose."
His words sent a jolt through her that left certain parts of her anatomy humming. Did he mean he intended to be the one whom she slept with or simply the one who won?
There was a glint in his eye that he meant to be writhing between her legs, and strangely enough, she hoped it were true.
When he pulled away, she instantly longed to reach out for him and hold him back. Instead, she watched his departing back with longing. One consolation resulting from this bet was that she didn't have to wonder if he was sleeping with another woman that night. That in itself was worth at least one week's wages. * * * *