Ben Jarvis is living a fantasy. He's tall, tanned, strong and popular. He's every man's best buddy, a lady's man and manager of one of the Caribbean's most luxurious resorts. This tropical paradise filled with carefree couples and willing women has been effective at driving memories of his ex-wife's betrayal from his mind. Ben is content.
But when Tanner and Celeste arrive in response to his special "Anniversary Package" deal, everything changes.
They're smart and funny and one of the sexiest couples Ben has ever met. The three begin to explore each other and Ben experiences some of the best sex of his life. He starts to fall in love, but the fact that these feelings are not only for a woman but for another man, tips his world on its end. Threatened and uncertain, he begins to question the very thing that defines him as a man -- his sexuality.
Tanner and Celeste fall for Ben too, but they're conflicted. Fresh from a very personal loss, they had no intention of opening themselves to that kind of love again. All three are torn, caught at a crossroads that could change their lives -- and their hearts--forever.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Package Deal by Nikki Soarde
Celeste lay back on her lounge chair and soaked in the sun. Her brain was just mildly fuzzy from the champagne cocktails and her tongue was still reminiscing over the succulent strawberries, creamy brie and fresh croissants Ben had provided.
The boat rocked gently on the waves and the breeze caressed her skin.
"Mmm," she said softly. "How do you stand it?"
"Stand what?" asked Ben.
She opened her eyes to watch him top off her glass. He wore nothing but navy blue swim trunks, and his bronzed skin, lightly coated with sweat, glittered in the mid-morning sun. "This is beautiful," she said on a sigh, then turned her attention back to the sparkling water. "How do you manage to stay on land when you have this waiting for you?"
He filled Tanner's glass with orange juice, but Tanner shook his head at the offer of more champagne. Champagne and sunshine tended to do nasty things to his equilibrium.
She enjoyed watching the way Tanner's eyes followed Ben as he made his way back to his own lounger.
Ben added more orange juice to his own glass and sat down, straddling the chair, allowing the glass to dangle from his fingers. His eyes sparkled with laughter. "It's a little thing called making a living. Somebody has to actually pay for all this."
She allowed her head to loll back on the pillow and waved her hand vaguely in the air. "Details, details. Don't bother me with details."
Tanner laughed. "Somebody's feeling her liquor."
She grinned. "Well, since I'm the only one drinking, I figure I have a responsibility to do it well."
Tanner arched an eyebrow. "Well, that's a new take on 'responsible drinking'."
"Gotta love a creative mind," said Ben. "Not to mention a beautiful one."
She tossed him a sidelong look. "Are you saying my mind is beautiful? Or my body?"
He shook his head, held up his hand. "I plead the fifth."
Tanner leaned forward. "Oh come on. Don't forget who you're talking to here."
Ben shook his head. "You're right. I'm sorry. Sometimes I forget myself and think I'm back in the thick of corporate conservatism." His eyes on Celeste, he spoke to Tanner. "Your wife is one of the hottest women I've ever seen."
"Would you say she's fuckable?"
"Oh yes. Definitely fuckable."
"Good." Tanner nodded approval. "Glad we got that straightened out. I was almost offended there for a second."
The three of them exchanged a glance and then burst out laughing.
"You gotta love the Lifestyle," said Ben with a sigh. "Where else would a man get offended if another man didn't want his wife?"
"Well, it's not quite that bad." Tanner shrugged, still grinning. "But it's definitely...freeing." He gazed at Celeste. "To have the freedom to play with others, to share ourselves, and to still have the love and trust, and to know that at the end of the day we'll always go home together."
Celeste smiled, enjoying the way Tanner was looking at her. "People don't understand how we can't feel jealousy. But it's all about seeing our partner happy and enjoying life."
"Fascinating," said Ben.
Ben nodded. "Anyone who gets married and manages to stay that way is impressive enough. But people who can do that, and still have the kind of trust to explore relationships with other people, are a truly rare breed."
Celeste studied him over the rim of her flute as she sipped. "You've been hurt," she said simply. "You were married and she hurt you."
He studied her, frowned and then turned to Tanner. "She's spooky."
"You have no idea."
"So I'm right?" she asked.
The fact that Ben hadn't smiled and now dropped his gaze to study his glass confirmed it.
"You don't have to tell us," she said softly. "It's none of--"
"No, no. I don't mind." He shrugged. "It's just an old boring story. She married me too young, got restless and found someone else. Simple. Clich?."
"There's nothing clich? about a broken heart," Tanner said. "And nothing simple about mending it."
At that Ben lifted his gaze to Tanner's and held it, and in the moment of soft silence that followed Celeste could sense something pass between them. The hairs on the backs of her arms stood at alert, and her tummy did a little nosedive. The air crackled with an energy she was hard-pressed to define but was eager to feel again.
The loud buzz of an alarm cut through the moment and made Celeste start with surprise.
"What the hell?" Tanner's head jerked back. "Are we under attack?"
"No, no." Ben was already out of his chair and heading for the stairs. "It's nothing. You two relax. I'll be back in a minute." And then he disappeared below deck.
Tanner and Celeste shared a look.
"Did you feel it?" she asked.
He blew out a slow breath and raked his fingers through his hair. "Jesus."
"Go after him."
"Go see if he needs help or something. Don't let that feeling slip away."
He stared at her, eyes wide. "Right." He nodded, blinking as if awakening from a dream. "Of course."
She smiled as she watched him drag himself off the chair and head toward the cabin door. But then abruptly he stopped, came back to her chair, bent down and cupped her cheeks in his hands. He bent low and crushed her lips beneath his, the kiss hard, fast and deep. "I love you," he said. And then he was gone.
"Wow." She took a long swallow from her cocktail and laid her head back on the pillow. If the energy she'd felt just a moment before was any indication of what was possible between those two...
She took another long slip, closed her eyes and smiled. "Wow."