Monday, January 02, 2006

Excerpt: All In

Mariah Hughes stared at the young woman who had just entered the shop and wondered if it was bad manners to ask if she was off her medication.

Knowing it was definitely bad customer service to do so, she asked instead, “Who are you again?”

Wearing a sleek sandstone business suit and a pair of pointed-toe pumps, the woman had her short black hair in a slicked back style, chic and professional. After removing her sunglasses, she flipped open a snakeskin wallet to display a shiny badge made of what looked like mother of pearl. The writing on it seemed to be part of the natural iridescent pattern.

“My name is Davina Traherne, UWF.”

“UWF?”

“Universal Wish Federation. License number 14-007,” Davina said with a wink. “Great number, huh?”

“Yeah, sure. Fantastic.”

Sighing, Mariah decided there should be a law that all the kooks—even the well-dressed ones—should be restricted to a one-mile radius of the Strip where they would blend in with the Vegas tourists. But even one mile might still be too close to her specialty chocolate shop.

Davina cleared her throat. “Now I’m afraid I’m running late today, so let’s get down to business. According to my records, you made a wish on May 25th of last year, contingent upon a woven bracelet. Said bracelet detached from your wrist at 0930 today, which means your wish is now scheduled for completion.”

Davina pulled out a slick-looking electronic device and dialed up a video. Dumbfounded, Mariah watched a muted clip of herself and her friends, Paige and Livvy, goofing off on that weekend cruise they’d taken together last year. During an excursion onshore, the three had bought woven bracelets from a street vendor in Cabo. Legend had it that if you made a wish on the bracelet when you tied it on, the wish would come true when the bracelet eventually fell off. On the make for some man meat, the three had made some outrageous wishes, but they’d been so drunk on margaritas that Mariah couldn’t quite remember what she had wished for. All she could recall was that their wishes had pushed them into gales of tipsy laughter.

“You guys were pretty snockered,” Davina said with a snort.

“This is some kind of joke,” Mariah said, glancing around suspiciously. “I’m being filmed right now for some reality show, aren’t I?”

Tucking the mini video player into her satchel, Davina shook her head. “No. I’m completely serious. To prove it, I’m authorized to grant a good faith wish. Nothing big like a million dollars or the cure for cancer. Something trivial, but make it quick.”

Mariah shrugged. What the hell. Maybe if she humored the woman she’d go back quietly to her room at the asylum. “Okay, I…ah…wish the order I got this morning for that bachelorette party was finished.”

Davina smiled. “Done.”

An instant later, two boxes of life-sized chocolate penises appeared out of nowhere, each wrapped in cellophane and a red ribbon that read, “Julie’s Last Hurrah”. In the air around the boxes a faint glitter hovered and faded away, like the aftermath from fireworks.

Mariah gasped.

Davina smirked. “Told ya.”

Reeling from the impossible feat, Mariah gingerly picked up one of the chocolate penises and examined it. It felt solid. In fact, it looked exactly like the prototype she’d shown the client the previous week, down to the last detail.

Davina leaned an elbow on the counter. “Now, you didn’t specify a time limit for your wish, and we usually fall back on a default twenty-four hour period, but maybe you and I can make a little deal.”

She glanced around Mariah’s high-end chocolate boutique, her eyes glittering. “I could extend your playtime a few extra hours if you could see your way clear to giving me that chocolate purse over there. The one with the pink sugar flowers.”

Mariah frowned. “If you want chocolate, can’t you just snap your fingers for it?”

“I wish,” Davina answered, chortling. “Get it? ‘I wish’?” She shook her head. “No, my magic is only operational when I’m on the clock, and then only for wishers.”

Ever the wheeler-dealer, Mariah crossed her arms. “Well then, you should know that inside the purse are a comb, lipstick, a coin purse and a cell phone, all made of chocolate, but,” she said with a dramatic pause, “wait here. I have something you should definitely see.”

Hurrying to the back, she grabbed the mold she’d purchased for a man’s fiftieth birthday six months ago. When Davina saw the outline of a gun with the numbers 007 on it, her eyes went huge. “I want it.”

“I can even make it say 14-007.”

Incredibly, tiny lavender fireworks began going off around Davina’s head. “I really want it.”

“Make my wish last for three days, then, and I’ll throw this in with the purse.”

“Two days and we have a deal.”

“Done.”

Cackling with glee, Davina thrust a hand into her pocket, pulled out a small gray pamphlet and slapped it on the counter. “Here are all the stipulations of the grant. It’s not like you can sue us, but humans these days like to be informed. Your forty-eight hours begin at the moment you and the subject touch, rounded up to the nearest hour. I’ll be back on Tuesday for the chocolate. Have a good time.”

Then, in a kaleidoscope of colors and a few bars of the Bond theme song, Davina winked out of sight.

Mariah blinked hard, still skeptical even though she’d seen everything with her own eyes. A moment ago, Davina had been standing there and now she wasn’t. This was way beyond Siegfried and Roy. Those types of tricks had to be set up in advance, and Mariah knew no one had arranged anything strange in her store.

She rounded the counter and stared at the spot on the floor where Davina had been, then slid her eyes reluctantly toward the box of candy cocks. They were still there. She couldn’t deny what had happened. The proof was in the pricks.

Mariah went to the phone near the cash register and dialed her friend Livvy.

“Liv, it’s me. Remember on the cruise when we got drunk and made wishes on those bracelets?”

“Sure. I’m still wearing mine.”

Mariah paced behind the counter. “What did I wish for?”

“World peace.”

“Livvy, be serious! It’s important.”

“Jeez. Jump down my throat for making a joke.”

“Sorry. Just answer the question. Please.”

“Well, my memory of that night is kinda vague, but I think it had something to do with that Tucker guy…”

Oh my God. It all came rushing back.

Mariah stammered a hurried goodbye and hung up. She now remembered her wish with mortifying clarity. I.C. Tucker. A guy she’d spent one night with six years ago but remembered like it was yesterday. The man she fantasized about regularly in the privacy of her room, lights out, battery operated boyfriend in hand…

Usually he was silhouetted in the doorway of her bedroom wearing a Stanford t-shirt and jeans. With that lazy, rolling gait of his, he sidled up to her bed and looked down at her, his face still in shadow. Then he knelt and caressed her cheek before lowering his head and giving her a kiss that spread pleasure throughout her body in a slow, warm wave. His mouth was gentle at first, but grew more and more demanding until they were both breathing hard and ready for skin against skin.

In the way of fantasies, Tucker was then suddenly naked and in bed with her, his long, lean body stretched out against hers, his cock hard against her thigh. She imagined his lips dragging along her sensitized skin until he captured a nipple in his mouth, making her moan. The slick suction drove her wild, and down below she was so wet that when he moved between her legs to finally enter her, he slid in like he belonged there. His hard length stroked in and out, filling her over and over again, faster and faster until his hips were slamming against hers and both their bodies were slick with sweat. His eyes locked onto hers and they came together. Mariah arched upward and shuddered with ecstasy just as he exploded inside her, gasping her name like she’d saved his life.

Of course, that was fantasy.

That one night with him six years ago had definitely been the best sex of her life, and she didn’t think she’d embellished it too much (except for the gasping of her name). So this wish deal was either going to be a complete dream, as in my-world-is-about-to-be-rocked-forever, or a total disaster, as in why-couldn’t-I-have-just-wished-for-a-winning-lottery-ticket?

Brrring.

Startled, she glanced at the phone. God, was it Tucker? Could Davina have worked that quickly?

With a suddenly sweaty palm, she picked up the receiver and looked at the caller ID. It wasn’t a number she recognized.

“Thank you for calling Chocolate Fantasies. This is Mariah. Can I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Rhonda Jones and I’d like to order a wedding cake. It’s a bit of a rush job. I need it on Monday.”

“A rush wedding job? Hey, this is Vegas,” Mariah said with a laugh. “How many guests are we feeding?”

“Twenty or so.”

“No problem, then.”

As she took down the customer’s information and made an appointment to meet that evening, Mariah relaxed. Her heart had gone into overdrive at the notion of talking to Tucker on the phone. With all this UWF craziness going on, she had imagined him calling her up and saying, “Hey, baby, what are you wearing? I hope it’s nothing, because for the past six years, I haven’t been able to get you out of my mind.”

But it wasn’t him. It was just another order.

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