Back in December 2011, S.L. Armstrong and I wrote an Advent challenge (I know, I still haven’t posted them ALL up, but we did write them all!), and then wrote an additional collection of short stories to bundle with the Advent for release. Well, we’ve since broken up the Advent from the collection, offering the Advent 100% on on Storm Moon Press, and you can buy our Love & Agony Collection separately. It has seventeen short stories of various heat level and theme, and this just happens to be a teaser for one of those shorts.
Blood and Absinthe is actually a peek at a much larger series S.L. and I are working on starring a demonic traveling carnival, and I can’t wait to return to Roderick and Lee and the whole carnival!
“Ladies and gentlemen, the thrill of your life lies just behind this curtain!”
Lee eyed the poster for the attraction as the man went on about weak hearts or stomachs and children having nightmares. Too terrifying, too horrific for all but the bravest souls, he said, but Lee just chuckled at the painted demons on the poster. There were even a few people in the back giving pretty convincing screams, but he just wasn’t interested. He moved on, stand after stand, listening for a few seconds and considering before declining. He was nearly at the end of the midway, considering turning around and taking his chances with the horrors of the demon tent, when another voice caught his attention. He turned his head and stopped in his tracks so suddenly that a couple slammed into him from behind, and he stumbled, mumbling hasty apologies before stepping out of the center of the alley toward the stand.
The man in front of the tent was… well, he was stunning. There was no other word for it. His orange-red, wavy hair looked like flames in the low light, stopping just below his jawline, and his eyes—the color of honey—smoldered out at the crowd as he called out to the men specifically and twirled a scantily clad dancer with a gloved hand, pointing the tip of an elegant cane out over the gathered men, whose hoots and hollers only seemed to invigorate the dancer as she riled them up. Lee was standing at the foot of the raised platform before he even realized he had taken another step.
“Gentlemen! Le Carnaval du Diable is proud to offer you the chance to see the lovely Laurel, Eve, and Apple dance the sinful dances of the East! One dollar gets you in for thirty minutes of the most sinuous, tantalizing moves, taught by the scintillating Sultana Razia of India!” The man grinned out at the audience, and Lee stepped closer. The barker’s voice was almost hypnotic as he lowered the volume of his pitch, speaking to only those two dozen men who had gathered around him. “The Sultana Razia taught my girls to dance in such a way as to make a man’s loins burn without even a touch. Just one dollar, gentlemen, and you, too, can experience the delights of the East!”
Lee watched as the men handed over their dollar bills, the barker encouraging them at every turn, and then a scantily clad woman opened the tent flaps and smiled brilliantly. He barely paid attention to her, his eyes quickly drawn back to the barker. After the throng had been ushered into the tent, Lee took a breath and approached the man, his palms sweaty. Even before he could open his mouth, the barker was talking to him, though the man never looked up from counting the money.
“We only have room for twenty-five men per show. Come back in forty-five minutes, and I’ll guarantee you a spot.”
“No, thank you,” Lee said, his cheeks flushing. “That’s… not really my thing.”
The man looked up at that, and his eyes were even more beautiful and unusual up close. “It’s not? Laurel might take offense to you not wanting to see her tits.”
Lee could have sworn his face lit up like a beacon. “I mean no offense… I just…” Lee shook his head for a moment, trying to clear it enough not to come across as a bumbling fool. “Do you dance as well?”
The man’s eyebrow arched, and Lee couldn’t look away as something sparked in the deep, golden gaze. “A performance of mine would cost more than a dollar.”
Lee swallowed against his racing pulse, which was forming a lump in his throat. “Are you dancing some other night, then?”
“No.” The man’s tone was mild, but the amused smirk that tugged at his lips told Lee he was being laughed at. “One night only, sir.”
One night? The carnival was supposed to be there all week! If this man was only going to be here one night, then he had to act now. The time constraint made his heart pound, and he stepped a little closer. Well, he tried to step closer, but the rounded brass head of the man’s cane pressed into his chest, keeping him back. He craned his neck toward the entrancing man. “I have money. How much would your hour-long performance cost?”
“That depends. Would it be an audience of one?”
“Yes,” Lee whispered, nervously wiping his palms against his thighs, hoping he was reading the situation correctly.
The man considered. “One hour. Performance for one. Ten dollars.”
Ten dollars? Christ, that was two days’ wages. He’d saved for the carnival, and the man intrigued Lee, but ten dollars… Lee took a deep breath, pulled out his money clip, and slipped a ten dollar bill from the singles. After he put the clip back in his pocket, he held the bill out to the man. “I’ve… never done this,” he blurted out as the man took the bill.
“What? Bought a one-on-one performance from a carny?” The man laughed softly, and then called out to another man with many tattoos. They traded places, and then the man was leading Lee through the packed midway. “Or have you never had a one-on-one performance with a man?”