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Authors: Stephanie Weiford

Runaway (3 page)

BOOK: Runaway
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Crash! They fall in a heap to the ground; she is straddling on top of him, hands firmly dug into his neck as he covers her hands with his own. His eyes are flashing madly. She rises up, just a few inches from him, and hammers herself to him as if the momentum of her hips will lend power to her strangling hands.

Again, she hammers into him. Again, and he struggles less. Again, more life seems to leave him. A finial time and he is completely still beneath her. She removes her hands from his neck, they shake as she covers her face as if weeping for her actions. She hunches, still atop him and lays her head on his chest, covering them both with her arms.

 

Chapter Four

I stood outside in the cold, my skin was clammy and I shook slightly as I tried to light the cigarette Carolyn had given me. I wasn’t a smoker but it seemed appropriate.

The show was still going on inside with a more comic act that featured twin sisters, but I needed some fresh air. This was not what I had expected. I had no idea
what
I had expected, but this wasn’t it. The only thing that kept the performers from full on intercourse was a scrap of cloth. But that ballerina had been wearing a tutu; it was only his tights that had kept him from impaling her.

I dropped the lighter I was fumbling with and bent down to get it. I felt something move beside me and stood up, face to face with a muscular chest, exposed between the open folds of a white shirt. I could smell him, that unique scent that men have after physical labor, and oh man had he been laboring up on that stage…

“Let me,” he said taking the lighter and flaring it to life. His voice wasn’t as husky as I had expected, he sounded… normal. I dared a look into his face and saw the dark rucked up hair from moments ago, and with brilliant green eyes I hadn’t seen from the audience.

“Thank you,” I replied quietly. He smiled and returned the lighter to me.

“Enjoying the show?” he asked politely.

“Oh! Um, yes very much,” I squeaked. He gave me a sort of one eyed skeptical look.

“Pretty risqué huh?” he smiled. I was surprised to see he had a nice, sweet smile, nothing like the predator pirate I had watched stalking down a damsel on stage.

“Yes, but your very talented,” I kept my eyes on the red tip of my cigarette trying to will it to burn faster.

“Talented! I don’t think I’ve heard my sex fiend act called that before,” he laughed heartily and I ventured another look at him. He caught my eye and winked.
Damn!
I could feel the color rise in my cheeks betraying me. “Normally beautiful woman ask me if I do private shows.”

Did he just call me beautiful?
I thought. Oh, right, I’m decked out in Carolyn’s magic wardrobe, I probably just look easy. I had come here tonight with the intentions of acting like a confident, sexy woman now it was time to see if I had what it took, but then again I hadn’t planned on trying out my seduction skills on a professional.

“Well, if you’re offering one…” I let the sentence trial off, with a slow beat of my mascara enhanced eye lashes. He quirked up the side of his mouth to reply but the ruby ballerina appeared from behind a tent flap cutting him off.

“Fools,” she cursed and helped herself to the lighter in his hand. Seeing her up close broke the illusion of innocent beauty she had portrayed on stage. Her face was fixed in an ugly scowl, her roots were showing a muddy brown color, and she had lipstick on her teeth.

“What are you going on about now, Priscilla?” he gave me a
sorry, ignore her
look and I returned a small smile.

“Those two idiots are actually on now doing that stupid water gun act. I mean how old are they? I thought this was supposed to be a class act,” she puffed angrily away on her own smoke.

“Everyone likes wet, hot chicks in white,” he shrugged. She gave him a scratching look, which quickly turned to contempt when she noticed me trying to fade away into the shadows beside him.

“Who this then Luke?” she brandished the tip of her cigarette at me like a hot iron. He turned to me and gave me that boy-next-door smile again.

“I’m sorry, I haven’t asked for your name, I’m Luke Harrison and this Priscilla Conley,” he gave me a deep, formal bow. She just arched an eyebrow at me.

“I’m Daphne... Tyler” any hopes of being scandalous had evaporated now. I was ready to make my escape.

“We should go Luke, you have another act soon.” She flipped her half-finished smoke onto the ground in front of me and spun away back into the tent folds she had appeared from.

“She’s right. I do have to go, but stick around after the show Daphne… I’d like to hear what you think of my next performance.” I nodded slightly and with a wink he disappeared back inside just as Priscilla had.

I let out a deep breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I may be rusty, but I very much doubted Luke wanted to hear me critique his act. Could I really meet up with him? A one night stand with a circus guy sounds hot in that wrong kind of was. I just don’t think I have it in me to go through with it.

I stomped on my own cigarette and made my way back inside, a growing ball of thrill and hesitation wrestled inside me.

Back inside the
next act was going strong. I found my seat next to Carolyn who barely gave me a misty eyed glance as I sat down. On stage a couple had a bondage routine in full strength going on. There was a woman with a single long braid that started high on her head and swung down her back.

She wore the expected dominatrix ensemble, complete with black leather corset, fishnets, and knee-high boots. Her companion was another woman instead of a man. The second woman wore a mirror of the first outfit, only all pink instead of black. A heavy rock anthem was playing, a bed had been setup stage center and the woman in black was standing on it at the head board while the one in pink was on the floor at the end.

They were obviously jugglers; they had an assortment of questionable objects being tossed between them. The woman in pink reached down into a trunk and added another without breaking their stride.

It was an amazing feat of juggling skill but it wasn’t as hot and heavy as Luke’s act had been. The woman in black started to discard an item one at a time as the other passed them to her. After a few moments only one item remind, a rather
large
item at that. The woman in black held it up teasingly to the other who joined her on the bed.

The bed they were on turned so that both woman could be viewed by the audience. They slowly lowered to the bed, the pink one trapped beneath the woman in black.

My mind drifted, girl on girl wasn’t my thing. I closed my eyes and there was Luke. I felt myself smile as his brilliant green eyes came closer; I let myself fill with the recalled scent of him. I could almost feel how hard and tone his body would be underneath that pirate smock. Maybe I could do it. I wanted to do it, the ache I felt was exciting.

I was so wrapped up in my imagination of what could come after the show, I had missed several acts. Carolyn probed me hard in my ribs forcing me to back to the show. She rolled her eyes and all I could do was sheepishly smile, she would forgive me when I told her about Luke. 

The ringmaster appeared again on stage, this time lowered by a hoop wrapped in ribbons. Instead of giving a husky introduction, he simply took hold of the brim of his top hat and flung it off stage, to the delight of a cute girl in the first row.

He was still bare chested, nipple rings gleamed from the lights, and the mask was still fitted across his eyes. The sound coming from the speakers this time was like a heartbeat, it reverberated everywhere and I could feel it travel up from the floor through my feet. I crossed my legs tighter, it was silly, but I felt like it was somehow invading me. I glanced over at Carolyn; the beat was having the opposite effect on her. She was enthralled.

The beat was starting to sound more like a melody, a rough, heavy one, but still, it seemed to have a purpose now. I looked back at the stage, just as more ribbons cascaded down. The ringmaster had climbed to the top of the hoop and swung out. He deftly managed to catch another ribbon which wrapped around his forearm, the hoop was carried back up and he swung between the ribbons, deftly catching one before falling from high overhead.

There were no nets here, if he fell, it would be the end of his career, if not his life. The thought of being so daring welled up inside me.

The music clashed and another man tumbled from the dark ceiling, he wore white instead of the ringmaster’s dark, no pricings, but he wore a white metal mask of his own. The two men began to fly from ribbon to ribbon, arms and legs outstretched.

A twinkling sound chimed as a new arrival was lowered on the same hoop the ringmaster had appeared on. She wore the same red corset as before but had dropped the tutu; Priscilla had joined in the act. I felt disappointed; her presence was a distraction from the men. After meeting the snide woman outside her charm had evaporated for me.

The men circled her now, the music built up and crashed as they both reached out for her, but the man in white was quicker and had snatched her to his side, they tumbled together down the ribbon, which stretched wider and enveloped the two. The ringmaster was left alone atop the hoop; he peered down towards the cocoon the others had made.

The music was changing; it was a sort of a magical chiming sound. The cocoon began to move, a pink ballerina toe peeked out from inside. The music soared louder and the ribbon burst open, the man in white tumbled down to the stage floor, while Priscilla bounded upwards. Her outfit had changed from red to pink and she had also added a small set of butterfly wings which seemed to help carry her around the ribbon tops.

The ringmaster was following her progress up high, but my attention was glued to the man in white who laid on stage before me.

He was just few feet from where I sat, but this close I could still tell it was him. Luke was the man in white. My heart, and other parts, fluttered to life. As he stood slowly I could see the cut of the muscles in his arm. Without the billowing pirate shirt I could see how lean and graceful he was, there was a lot of power hidden in those coiled muscles.

It seemed he was going unnoticed by the audience who were all enthralled with what was going on overhead. He took hold of one of the ribbons, wrapping it around his arm. He looked up and smiled, and it felt like it was meant for me.

He rose back into the air to join in the others, more of the circus performers from the show had joined in.
So this must be the finale then,
I thought
.
Which meant, that in a few moments the show would be over, the reality made a stone drop inside of me, would I stick around to meet him?

 

Chapter Five

Outside the air was frosty, making goosebumps rise all over my arms. Carolyn looked completely comfortable, so the frigid feeling probably had more to do with me then the weather. Only about half the audience had departed, the rest were milling around aside like us. A few vendors had opened and were selling food and things. We had stopped at one such booth when Carolyn had spotted a stuffed lion with a ruby lipstick kiss on its cheek.

I was still beside myself about meeting Luke or not. A one night fling sounded like a really good way to break my recent dry spell, but on the other hand, I was really more of a relationship type of girl.

“Earth to Daphne you in there?” Carolyn waived her new stuffed lion in my face.

“Er, yeah. Cute lion.” I mumbled causing me to receive a quizzical one eyebrow response.

“That’s the only thing you’ve said since the show ended. What’s going on with you?” she asked. If I told her, she would do everything in her power to talk me into doing it, but if I tried to lie she would probably pick up on that too and annoy me to death until I eventually told her the truth anyway. Having a best friend could really be a pain in the ass sometimes.

“Remember when I went out to smoke?” I started, she nodded. “Well I ran into one of the performers…” did I really want to go down this rabbit hole…

“Ohhh! Tell me it was that hot ringmaster guy!” she squealed. Too late, might as well call me Alice.

“No. It was the, um, the guy who was the pirate in the first performance, and then he was the aerialist in all white at the finale.” I blushed and she squealed again. “I think he hit on me,” I added. Carolyn looked as proud as a mama bird whose chick had flown for the first time.

“Of course he did! You look hot!” The crowd burst into cheers and applause. The tent opened and the performers came out, walking on stilts and twirling fire. Carolyn took my arm and led me behind the booth she had just purchased her lion from.

Once out of sight she started demanding the details. So I told her as simply as I could, including the quip he had made about beautiful woman normally asking for a private show and my attempt at a suggestive response.

“… and then he asked me to stick around after to find out what I thought of his next act, which was that aerial performance at the end.” Carolyn was visibly shaking with excitement.

“Do it,” she whispered.

“Yeah, right,” I huffed and rolled my eyes. “I just look easy Care Bear, or he was just being nice.”

“Do
it
,” she repeated, not even flinching when I used her hated nick name. Man, she was taking this seriously!

“Really Carolyn, let’s just go,” I started to turn away, but she was quicker and whipped around in front of me.

“DO IT!” she demanded, eyes sparkling with mischievousness. Why had I even told her? I groaned inwardly.
Because you wanted to be talked into it,
said a treacherous voice inside my head.

“I don’t even know WHERE he is!” I yelled back. Wrong move. That snapped her into action. She had ahold of my arm again and before I knew what was happening we were in the thick of the crowd.

“Damn it Carolyn,” I muttered to her, but she only winked and kept us moving. The performers from the stage, and a few others, where making rounds through the remaining audience. There was a woman dressed in leather draped with a live albino snake, a man on stilts that dropped bead necklaces on unexpecting people, and there was even a fire breathing couple wearing, well, not much.

Carolyn came to a halt not far from the tent the show had been performed in. Outside its entrance stood the ringmaster and Priscilla with a small group of people, which looked like audience members. They were taking photos and laughing at something the ringmaster said. I could practically see his nipple rings glinting in her eyes from staring so hard at him.

“Looks like I’m not the only one with eyes out for a little carnie hook up,” I laughed. She turned; mouth opened in reply, but quickly snapped it shut. “What’s got into you, just messing with ya Care Bear,” I joked.

“These days we prefer to be called traveling thespians, instead of carnie, much more professional sounding, don’t you think?” said a very male and recently familiar voice behind me. My face must really be something because Carolyn burst into laughter.

“Er, sorry.” I turned, he was standing much too close to think clearly, I backed into Carolyn but she wasn’t giving me any runaway room.

“No worries,” he winked. “Who’s your friend?” he asked politely.

“Who?” I asked, getting me elbowed in the ribs. “Oh,
this
is Carolyn Jones,” I offered.

“Hello, I’m Luke,” they exchanged courteous smiles. He was still wearing his finale outfit but had opted to mostly cover his bare chest with an unzipped black hoodie. “And this is my brother, Noah.”

Carolyn and I both turned as the ringmaster came to a stop just behind her. Her eyes went round as they swept over him, he had not opted for any additional clothing.

“Who’s your friends Luke?” he asked. His voice was all smoke. I watched as Carolyn melted and couldn’t help the victory giggle that escaped me. Luke introduced us, and with the pleasantries all made, there seemed nothing else to say.

“I hope you enjoyed our little show,” Luke finally broke the silence.

“Oh yes! It was really wonderful,” I sounded like a nervous school girl, earning another of Luke’s easy smiles. Noah had apparently caught on to Carolyn’s interest, he winked and I watched as she blushed. My fashion forward, confidant best friend was actually
blushing.

“Did you know we actually have a lion as part of our day act?” he asked her.

“No! That sounds… exciting,” it took her a moment but she had found her composure at last. They were eyeing each other in way that left no room for question as to what was on the others mind. I suddenly felt like a third wheel.

“Our Lionel is a tame beast; to be sure…” he smiled and then ducked his head in closer to her, “
I
however, am not.” Carolyn was gravitating towards him like a magnet. “Would you like to see?” and he left no room for question as to whether he meant the lion, or himself.

Just like that they were off; I made a nervous movement to stop her. But she turned back and gave me reassuring smile, then pulled her cell from her pocket and gave a little wave with it.

I relaxed a bit, she was telling me not to worry and reminding me we had cracker jacked our phones. She had
somehow
gotten her hands on this new app that wasn’t market wide yet called cracker jack. It was a stupid name but a brilliant program, it linked our phones together, I could track her with GPS or turn her phone on and listen to what was happening wherever she was. I could even turn it on if it was off, unless the battery was dead, and she could do the same for me.

“Well I think your friend and my brother have hit it off,” Luke dropped a warm hand on my shoulder, which sent a sort of electric charge across my skin, and he jerked his hand away.
Oh dear lord I’m alone with him
, my panicked mind raced.

“She has a thing for pricings,” well that was a lame reply, I mentally kicked myself.

“And you?” he asked. His lips were in a sort of screwed up smile, it was cute, like he was bubbling with happy nerves.

“I suppose I don’t care one way or the other, but I don’t have any if that’s what you were asking.” Around us the crowd was thinning out, people had gathered their souvenirs and were heading home, it was late. Even the performers were starting to let the façade fall away. Masks were being removed and concessions packed away.

“Would you like to find a quieter place to talk?” the screwed up smile turned into him chewing on his bottom lip. I nodded and he stopped. He offered me his hand and I took it.

I was starting
to think you could learn a lot about a person from their hands. Luke had large hands that fully enveloped my own. They were warm and hard, but he had a gentle touch. I could feel his calluses from the hard work he put into performing. His nails were trimmed and clean the signs of a dedicated, talented man.

He had led me a fair distance from the circus area. We just seemed to be wondering around until I spotted a picnic table under a large tree. I hadn’t noticed we had climbed a small hill, but I could see the layout of the tents and campers from here, they weren’t really small, we hadn’t gone that high up, just more visible.

“It’s lovely up here,” I offered. Our silence had been a comfortable one, but I was growing curious about him.

“Yeah, it’s quite, which is nice,” he turned to me as he spoke and I could see the tired strain around his eyes, but his smile didn’t falter. He leaned back and his jacket opened wider, reminding me this wasn’t the boy-next-door, but in actuality a man that radiated sex, and he was still holding my hand…

“So what do you do for a living Daphne?” he asked.

“Well…” that was a perfectly normal question, but I still wished I had something better to say, “Honestly, my job is to sell rich old ladies designer cat products,” I shrugged lamely.

“Oh, well… that’s something,” he tried to be a gentleman and not laugh, but I could see it wanting to burst free.

“It pays the bills,” I said and he gave my hand a little squeeze. “What about you? How did you get into being a
traveling thespian
?” He stretched and took his hand away from mine, to rumple up his hair.

“Well…” he started in mimic to my own, “I guess you could say in runs in the family. It’s really a romantically tragic story,” he chuckled softly. I could be imagining it but there seemed to be a misty, faraway look in his eyes.

“Tell me, I love tragic romances,” I offered. He looked me over a moment and then took his jacket off. He opened one arm towards me to scoot closer making me pause. I was still a little chilly, and snuggling up to him was just too tempting. I moved in and felt the heat instantly rush to my face.

He didn’t seem to notice, he was using the unzipped hoodie like a blanket, tucking us both softly inside. I was enveloped in the scent of him, it smelled like buttered popcorn and wood smoke. It was a strange mix, but suited Luke perfectly.

“Better?” he asked as he maneuvered one arm around my shoulders. I could only nod, not trusting my voice. “Ok so my mom was a rich girl, and I do mean
rich
. She went to all the best schools, had all the nicest things, and dated the perfect jocks. As she use to say, those ‘perfect’ guys were anything but, and she got in deep with one of them who had a taste for expensive whiskey that made him violent. They went to a carnival one night with some friends, he got drunk and tried to get her to
go behind the tent
with him, she’d had enough and they fought. My dad was working for the carnival. He had been in the system as a kid and joined up when he turned 18. He heard them fighting and knocked the jock out cold, according to his telling of it, and it was love at first sight for them from there.”

I felt his hand on my arm as he started to caress my skin; his fingers were rough but it felt wonderful. I looked up into his face, his eyes were closed and there was a smile to his lips. His hair was lazily raked up all over his head, making my fingers twitch in a way that made me was to run them through the mess and bring those smirked lips down to mine.

Instead of doing either of those things, I said “So your mom ran away with the carnival to be with your dad, just like that?”

“Yup, her family was up in arms over it for a long time. I’m not sure what kind of arrangements were finally made between my parents and her family, but they are the finical backers of this show, albeit silent ones.” He yawned and slouched down farther into our little bundle, his arm now reached farther around me and he slipped his hand into mine. I didn’t even hesitate to take it this time.

“Wow, so you and your brother grew up in the show?” I couldn’t imagine what that must be like, but the idea of traveling so much was fascinating.

“For the most part, we both went to college for a few years, although Noah dropped out when dad died. Moms in charge of the business now, but I’d like to see her retire soon, not that she will listen.” He chuckled and it was a deep sound from inside his chest, I felt it reverberate against me.

“Would you ever consider leaving the show?” I’m not sure why I asked that. I had to remind myself he was a stranger, and this conversation was already rather personal. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I asked that,” I offered quietly.

“Don’t be, and yes, I would consider leaving the show if I ever have a kid. This isn’t a glamourous life, kids deserve better,” his eyes were open and looking down into mine, and the way he was looking at me made my chest feel tight.

“That’s a good reason,” I said, my voice was small and husky, he inched closer. My brain went numb.

“Daphne, I would really like to kiss you,” his voice was low and so close I felt the breath of his words across my cheek. His eyes were half closed in a dreamy sort of way, but I felt mine were wide open and stiff with shock. It took a long moment for me to force my face to relax and I saw him hesitate at the silence.

“Ok, then kiss me,” I didn’t sound seductive, I sounded scared. I sure as hell didn’t feel attractive either, I felt tense, like someone who has seen a gun and knew they were about to get shot… and then his lips touched mine.

BOOK: Runaway
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