Published by Bleeding Ink Publishing on July 7, 2020
Series: Circus of the Stolen #1
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Romance, New Adult
Caitlyn always thought she was just your average small-town waitress, but she’s anything but average. Suffering from frequent headaches and vivid daydreams, her oddities mask a secret hidden deep within her mind—one that could defeat even the cleverest of psychics.
When a mysterious circus arrives in town, Caitlyn is immediately drawn to it. While visiting the hypnotic show, she meets a seer who warns her of a gruesome future and urges her to stay away. But soon, Caitlyn finds herself ensnared in the show and the Ringmaster himself.
Recognizing Caitlyn’s powers for what they are, and believing they are the ones he has been searching for, the Ringmaster is determined to claim them as his own. Trapped within the circus and the Ringmaster’s devious grip, Caitlyn realizes that to escape the seer’s foretold fate, her only choice is to fight. Banding together with Bevier, an imprisoned psychic, Meg, an eccentric seamstress, and Daniel, a handsome magician, Caitlyn falls into the Psychic Realm to thwart the Ringmaster and stop the show before they succumb to his control and are trapped forever in his spectacle of souls.
The boy handed them each a glass from his tray. “Here you go.”
“Thank you,” Caitlyn said, taking hers and handing one to Vanessa.
“I’ll be back shortly if you need anything else,” he said, giving Vanessa a wink.
“And so it begins!” Vanessa held her glass to cheers with Caitlyn.
Tapping her glass to Vanessa’s, Caitlyn laughed, drinking her shot. The deep crimson liquid tasted like ripe cherries—not tart like the ones used in pies, but the juicy and deep ones that leave behind stains on your fingers.
All the lights flashed twice, the music rose in volume, and the Ringmaster, dressed in a blood red suit, walked onto the stage. Cheers rang from the audience as he bowed multiple times, his arms outstretched toward the crowd.
“Welcome, welcome,” he began. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming back tonight for our show. We hope you brought your appetite, for tonight we have a thrilling routine that will surely delight, and leave you feeling anything but uptight.” He paused as the audience tittered. Caitlyn smiled at the continuous bad rhymes.
“So, relax. Enjoy! And drink up!” The Ringmaster shouted.
The baby-faced boy, Ian, returned, his hand outstretched with two larger glasses filled with amber liquid. One by one, the audience raised their glasses to the stage. Caitlyn and Vanessa mimicked their spirit.
“Tonight, we fill our night with fire and magic!” The Ringmaster clapped and immediately every light snapped off leaving them in utter darkness. Caitlyn felt her body tense as a sudden fear tickled the back of her skull. She had never been afraid of the dark before but her hand shook, and she found herself searching for a ping of light—anything to give her a sense of grounding as she felt herself drowning in blackness. An image began to form within her vision but a gong rang out pulling her back to the show. With a whispering whoosh, all their raised glasses caught fire creating small torches that lit the arena like fireflies.
Caitlyn let out her breath and blinked away the hazy image. She gasped as the stage began to burn in thick flames; yet, no heat cast itself into the audience.
A wave of awe rushed through the arena and out of the dancing flames came two figures, both slender and tall, moving with the blaze. Drifting back toward their escape, the flames rolled flat, lashing out at the dancers who now stood center.
Wearing nothing but tight leather bikini bottoms that glistened in the firelight, a female figure stood. Glitter dotted her body, covering her nipples enough to be censored, and her long obsidian hair pulled tight against her angelic face. As she moved, the braid twisted around her body like a snake. Her arms, laced with gold bracelets, moved gracefully with the flames while her bare feet padded against the flame ridden stage. She flipped, tumbled, and spun around, while fire danced up and down her body, licking at any exposed skin.
In perfect unison, her male partner—lathered in oil and wearing shorts that left nothing to the imagination—cartwheeled and carried her from one end of the stage to the next. As he lifted her into the air—throwing her high above the stage—his slick skin tightened and contracted, allowing the audience to swoon at his perfectly toned body that even Hercules would be envious of. Flames danced up and down his body, wrapping themselves around his bald head, and obeyed his every command.
Still holding their smoldering drinks, Caitlyn felt that the glass itself was not actually getting warmer. She slid her finger through the flame, feeling it’s cool burn.
“Whoa!” She smiled at Vanessa who attempted the same feat.
“Raise your glasses,” the flaming woman yelled in a heavy Italian accent, “and toast to the fire god.”
“Saluti,” the man shouted as a gong bellowed.
“Saluti!” The audience answered, drinking their fire.
Caitlyn burst with energy as the chilled liquid coated her throat like a menthol cough drop. Her entire body shivered and without thinking, she shouted “another” as Ian passed. Handing her two more shots, she toasted Vanessa and downed another liquid cold fire that left a numbness in her mouth, but a fire in her belly.
The dancers entertained them with flaming swords and blazing hula hoops. They manipulated fire, transforming it into snake-like creatures that struck out at the audience making them gasp for more. They danced together, as if competing for their lives among the flames and grasped the other in places that made Caitlyn blush, blowing flames instead of kisses onto their bodies. Just as the Ringmaster had said, it was turning from chaotic to slightly erotic, and yet, Caitlyn couldn’t look away.
As the stage began to dim leaving an ember-like glow, the dancers allowed a single flame to envelop them. It clung to their bodies and receded, leaving only the female dancer behind who now appeared wearing a tiny red sequined top hat and leotard with a severe neckline. She curtsied to the audience as a thick rope fell from the ceiling which she pulled gently. Nothing happened.
Motioning that she had an idea, she pointed at a man sitting directly in front of her. Waving him up, he climbed onto the stage attempting to avoid any lingering flames.
With her thin arms, she positioned his hands on the rope, motioning for him to tug. He jerked it once, and still, nothing happened. The fire dancer made a sad face, and the audience booed.
“You’re going to have to do better than that!” She patted him on the back. “Come on everyone, cheer him on!”
Caitlyn and Vanessa screamed with those around them, giving him all the encouragement he needed and watched as he put all his weight into it. Suddenly, an echoing rip rang through the audience and the cord fell. In a slow motion blur, the ceiling began to catch fire and spread quickly, leaving behind the twinkling night sky, filled with shooting stars.
A hush fell over the crowd, if from terror or wonderment, the reason was unclear.
What Caitlyn thought were shooting stars, were actually falling ash that drifted down to the audience. A piece landed on her arm. It was cool, like a drop of rain, and left behind a shimmering hue on her skin as she brushed it off.
A moment later, the sky began to concave toward the stage like a rush of water being freed from a blockage. The falling stars turned into fireballs, colliding with the ground while the audience sat in their glow, gasping and holding their breath and as the final flame reached the platform and died out, a murmur started in the audience.
“What just happened?” Vanessa asked, turning toward Caitlyn, her face speckled with stardust.
“I think—” Caitlyn began but stopped as the stage began to shift.
The glitter vibrated and lifted, rippling out from the center like a rock being thrown into a serene pond.
Everyone tittered in anticipation, their seats vibrating with the commotion before them. Vanessa gripped Caitlyn’s hand as the stage exploded, covering everyone in stardust.
After a second of silence, the audience erupted in laughter as it fell like fresh snow, tickling their skin.
Rising from the remaining ashes, like a newborn Phoenix, Daniel proudly stood center stage. His bedazzled suit threw speckled light off him like a disco ball, bouncing from side to side. Removing his top hat, he bowed to the audience. They clapped, standing in ovation at the magic before them.
“Thank you! Thank you all for being here tonight for this magical delight.”
Everyone chuckled. Caitlyn felt herself blush as Daniel made eye contact with her, his smile pulling into a wide stage grin.
“What you just witnessed was nothing more than hypnotic magic as you are all under my control.” He stopped as the crowd gasped then replaced his top hat. “With the clap of my hands, everything you thought you saw will vanish,” he said, lowering his voice. Daniel lifted his hands and clapped.
Caitlyn blinked as if waking from a dream, and realized that they all sat in the original, stardust-less arena. No flames coated the stage, nothing glistened in the moonlight above them, and the big top had not exploded into the night—everything sat untouched.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Caitlyn said, clapping loudly along with the audience.
Vanessa smiled back. “I can’t believe it! It felt so real.”
“Thank you. Thank you!” Daniel bowed. “Now, if you could all reach into your pocket and pull out what’s in there. Oh, no. You don’t have a pocket?” He pointed to a woman who wore a slinky blue dress.
“Well, reach down in front there,” he said, motioning for her to reach between her breasts. “See if—Oh, see, there it is!” He laughed. “Everyone please, pull out the card and raise them high.”
Caitlyn reached into her shorts pocket and felt a thin piece of cardboard. Pulling it out, she saw she held the two of hearts and lifted it high into the air.
“Alright, great! Now, keep your arms up if you hold a card higher than a four.”
Caitlyn lowered her hand and saw confusion cross Daniel’s face. His eyes had been on her, waiting to see what she would do. Vanessa sat at the edge of her seat, her arm up straight.
“Now, keep your arm up if you have a card in the spade family.”
Half of the hands fell.
“Okay,” he said rubbing his hands together. “We are getting there.”
The audience chattered with laughter.
“Keep them up if you have a card of spades that is higher than an eight.”
Only a dozen hands remained taut—one of which was Vanessa’s.
“Higher than a ten.”
Another four or five hands fell. Caitlyn looked wide-eyed at Vanessa who bounced at the edge of her seat.
“Higher than a queen?”
Two hands remained.
“But not an Ace.”
One hand lowered.
“We have a winner!”
The audience clapped.
“Please, come down to the stage, the lovely lady with the King of Spades!”
Vanessa screamed with joy as she jumped to her feet. “Oh my goodness! That’s me! I never win anything.” She squeezed Caitlyn’s arm before bounding down to the stage.
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