Operation Burlesque BBW Romance

Operation: Burlesque

BBW Romance

Michelle Fox

Copyright 2013. All Rights Reserved.

 

Aspiring costume designer Ruby Palmer prefers to hide her curves behind-the-scenes, keeping life at a distance. But when she signs on to work as a seamstress for the steamy Cirque D’Amour, the spotlight won’t take no for an answer, and neither will the circus’ handsome, enigmatic magician, Blake Cannon.

She’s watched him from afar for months, dreaming, but never daring to hope he would look her way. When he finally does notice her, they share one unforgettable night, but, the next morning, Ruby finds her hopes of a new romance cruelly dashed. There’s trouble at her door and she learns Blake is tangled up in dangerous lies.

Before Ruby knows it, she’s sucked into an underworld she never asked to join, one filled with sleight of hand, intrigue and exotic destinations. It is a world that will kill her if it can…all in the name of love.

Full length BBW romance. NO cliffhanger!

 

Disclaimer

This is a work of fiction intended for adults age 18 and over. Minors should stop here and close the book.

All events depicted are fictional. Characters are consenting adults. Any resemblance to places and persons, living or dead, is unintentional coincidence.

Every effort has been made to provide a quality reading experience, but editors and technology are fallible. Please report typos or formatting issues to [email protected]

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Chapter One

I guess you could say sequins sealed my fate. The bedazzling kit probably didn’t help either. They were birthday gifts that became obsessions when I was ten. The urge to cover my clothing with bling consumed me, and wayward sequins soon littered the house like fairy dust.

 Afraid she was raising a female reincarnation of Liberace, my mom enrolled me in sewing classes to try and contain me. I think she thought they would teach me the limits of good taste, but instead I gained the skills to sew anything I wanted. To her dismay, in addition to tricking out my clothes like disco balls, I made elaborate costumes with a heavy Las Vegas showgirl influence. Mom had unwittingly become my sequin enabler.

Eventually I could sew well enough to work with a local seamstress. The work was dull and plodding, but it supported my costume habit. I spent all my earnings on more materials. Namely Swarovski crystals and buckets of sequins. I literally dreamed of fabric; its sheen, patterns and textures. Meanwhile, my mother bought an expensive hand vacuum to better suck up the stray bling, like the grinch trying to kill a rainbow. After winning a few costume contests, I made my way to New York dreaming of Broadway, but the city promptly broke my heart.

I was hired as assistant to the assistant of the assistant of the head costumer for a new Broadway show. This meant I primarily fetched coffee or alcohol as required and organized all the sewing supplies. Even though no one would let me sew, I was thrilled, but the production folded with the economy before we ever had a dress rehearsal. This led to uninspired work as a waitress (yes, I totally added sequins to my white shirt and black pants). Then, walking home one night after a brutal ten hour shift, I spotted the poster.

Come run away with the circus...

Do you have a touch of unrequited wanderlust?

Then come see what the Cirque D’Amour has to offer!

We’re looking for crew members with back stage experience.

Travel, accommodations and meals provided in addition to a competitive salary.

I signed up without hesitation, a 1950’s pastiche of vintage circus life playing in my head the whole time. My imagination always defaulted to that era because I had a thing for the fifties and the closet full of homemade A-line dresses, pencil skirts and tight sweaters to prove it. Vintage didn’t come in my size so I’d learned to maximize my curves by making my own patterns.

It would be grand, I decided. A chance for some action-adventure with a side of glamour. There would be popcorn, showgirls, animal trainers and handsome men. It was either that or go home to mom and her little hand vac of disapproval. The circus won, hands down.

The reality of circus life hit like a cold shower in an igloo. If I’d thought New York was tough, the circus was the Sing-Sing of tough. The big top was where tough went to get its ass kicked.

This explained why I was up at six a.m. after staying up until two to ensure the costumes were properly put away. The dire need for sequins (seriously, a defcon five bling emergency) had forced me from my bed and on a spelunking expedition in the storage trailer.

It had taken me an hour to find everything, and now I was making my way through the back lot the Cirque D’Amour currently called home, angling for my tiny seamstress spot in the manager’s trailer. As I stepped over thick power cables and water hoses feeding a dozen or so luxury RVs housing the star acts, the tall stack of boxes in my hands swayed, threatening to spill. I had new respect for the juggler’s act. Balancing shit was hard.

Normally I would have slept until noon--circus time they called it-- but my deadlines were so tight, I didn’t want to waste a minute. After six months on the road, the costumes of the risqué Cirque D’Amour needed some serious TLC if they were going to pass the stage manager’s pre-show inspection. As the only seamstress on the lot, it fell to me to be sure everything was up to snuff. I would spend the day speed sewing until my hands were numb.

“Heya, Ruby. Let us help,” came a voice to my left.

Before I could respond, insistent hands were relieving me of packages. I peered around the boxes to find the road crew surrounding me. Clark, their burly ring leader, reached for the last box. Instinctively I resisted, but he just shook his head and ripped it from my grasp.

“Don’t want you to hurt yourself carrying these here boxes, now do we?”  He smirked at me and my stomach sank. Very early on I’d realized staying off Clark’s radar was important. Tall with bulging muscles and a beer belly, he was full of bad ideas. Unfortunately, they always sounded good to the rest of the guys and he never had trouble rounding up willing participants for whatever scheme he’d concocted.

The road crew was full of rough, dangerous edges and Clark was their knife sharpener. The few girls who worked with them often had to fight off unwanted advances. When they weren’t harassing the opposite sex, the crew hauled the props from city to city and assembled the circus from the ground up. It was like having a street gang build your house. They would do it and rob you blind in the process, all while sucking down a pack of smokes.

So the ‘help’ I was now being offered was really a nicotine fueled shakedown.

“Where’s Cal?” I asked hoping the road crew captain was nearby. Nobody crossed Cal and he normally kept the guys in line.

“He off in a meetin’,” said Tomas. He’d joined us half way through our tour and had wasted no time in becoming one of the boys.

Well, that explained why they were bothering me. While the boss is away, the crew will play. “I’ll be sure to tell him of all your
help
, “ I said sourly. I stated each of their names in turn so they knew I meant business.

Clark ignored my threat and stuck with his game. “Our help comes at a price, Miss Ruby.”

I crossed my arms and glared at him. “Oh?”

“A kiss for every box.” He flashed a wide grin at me, eyes roaming my body like a peeping Tom.

I shuddered. There’d been cat calls here and there and a little bit of ogling, but, as a big girl, I wasn’t the main target of the road crew’s affections. That honor had fallen to Krista the head cook who had a natural, sultry beauty. She’d endured all sorts of lewd comments and unwanted attention right up until she began burning the food in retaliation.

A circus ran on its belly, so the crew grudgingly backed off when the pizza crusts started coming out black and charred. Because we lived in sectioned off semi-trailers, we didn’t have kitchens. The performers cooked their own food in their fancy RV homes, but the crew relied on Krista and her cooking trailer. With the hours we worked, hot filling food was often the highlight of our day and the only thing keeping us going. She’d cut the crew off at the knees and they couldn’t start minding their p’s and q’s fast enough.

So what had suddenly pushed me to the top of the harassment list? Unlike Krista, I didn’t have a direct line of defense. What was I going to do? Sew their pant legs together while they slept? No, I needed Cal to intercede on my behalf and enforce boundaries these guys would respect.

I turned a slow circle hoping to spot someone who could help, but the lot was quiet. The performers were still sleeping off last night’s show and the road crew was at loose ends until tear-down later that night. They probably hadn’t even been to bed yet.

Off in the distance I spotted a tall, dark figure making his way toward us. Hope leaped into my heart and then fled a moment later as I recognized Blake Cannon the show’s magician. He kept to himself, and woe to anyone who tried to change that habit.

When he’d needed a seam in his tuxedo jacket stitched up, he’d just thrown it at me. Not a glance. Not a word, just tossed it into my lap like I was a dirty laundry basket. I’d wanted to hate him for it, but the man had the physique of a super hero, the smoldering dark looks of an Italian lover and a brooding air of mystery that fired up my imagination.

Not that I’d really noticed.

Okay, the truth was, I watched his act every night from the wings. He was magnetic, and what I wouldn’t give for his hypnotic gaze to settle on me for once, but he never looked at me. Not one time, not even when I returned his jacket to him, the stitches in perfect little rows.

Since he probably didn’t know I existed, I doubted he would deign to help save me from having to lock lips with the entire road crew. I was on my own.

I took a deep breath and tried to reason with them. “Guys, I have a serious deadline today. Give me the boxes and I won’t say anything to Cal.”

My attempt at diplomacy earned me a low whistle. Clark just shrugged at me. “What you gonna do? Get us fired? This the last show, sweetheart. We done.”

I batted my lashes, falling back on feminine wiles. “I could put in a good word with Cal for your rehire.” The circus would go dormant for the next six months, and most of these guys had work lined up with other productions. That’s how they survived in this business, by always having the next job lined up. If I could help them square away employment down the road maybe that would get them off my back.

“Why Cal gonna listen to you? Nah, we’ll help you with the boxes and you pay us with a kiss for each one.”  Clark licked his lips, his smile predatory.

The sound of lips smacking filled the air.

“I bet she tastes like cinnamon,” said Johnny with a suggestive leer. His pants sagged below his hips revealing navy boxer shorts and there were dark blue tears tattooed under his eye.

I rolled my eyes. “My lips are going to taste like teeth punching through your bottom lip if you keep this up, boys.” I tried to reach for a box, but they danced away laughing.

“Ooo. She bites. I like it rough,” said Marcus and he flicked his tongue at me showing off a large piercing.

“Give her the boxes,” came a low, quiet voice. It brimmed with authority in the cool morning air and carried a note of menace.

The road crew paused and looked behind me. I turned as well and saw Blake Cannon, the one man I would’ve expected to keep walking.

Well, well, well. Will wonders never cease? The mysterious magician was going to help the damsel in distress. Of course, the odds were six to one, and, while he could do some impressive magic, I doubted he could pull off a miracle.

“This is crew business, magic man,” said Clark, his voice deepening in warning. His posture stiffened and he leveled a hard gaze at Blake. There was an unspoken hierarchy in the cirque: Crew stuck with crew. Performers stayed with their own kind and never the twain shall meet. I’d been an exception to the rule, making friends with one of the star acts. Mostly because I hadn’t known I wasn’t supposed to.

I held my breath, gaze darting from Blake to Clark. Blake wore his stage costume of a black tux complete with tails. He reached inside his jacket--the one I’d stitched up--and pulled out a wand.

“Last chance to do the right thing.” Blake brandished the wand and waited.

There was silence for a moment and then howls of laughter.

“What you gonna do? Magic tricks? No, we’ll help the lady here with her boxes.” Clark shook his head and reached for my elbow, wanting to push me along.

I resisted Clark’s manhandling despite sharing his skepticism. I’d seen Blake do amazing tricks and illusions, but a shower of rose petals wasn’t exactly useful for self-defense. Did he seriously think magic was going to convince these thugs to leave me alone?

Unconcerned by the disbelief, Blake made a ‘tsk-tsk’ sound as the wand magically grew into a long staff. He brandished it with a flourish. “Give Ruby her boxes.”

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