I thought I'd lead into the weekend with another quick peek at The Ringmaster: Cirque de Plaisir, which is set to debut very soon. In this scene, the heroine, Olivia, has been thrown into an audition with sexy Donovan Haigh, Ringmaster of the Cirque de Plaisir. From Donovan's point of view...
“When we’re in costume, no one calls me Mr. Haigh.” I glanced sidelong and caught sight of raven-haired Naomi stripping off her kit without the slightest embarrassment in front of our guests. Though still masked, she was down to harness and shorts when I said, “Naomi, who am I?”
After a moment’s pause, the leggy acrobat shrugged. “You’re the Ringmaster, sir.” She went back to getting naked when I nodded.
“Ringmaster,” I repeated to Olivia, then cleared my throat to regain her attention as she stared after the utterly unselfconscious Naomi. “You may call me Ringmaster.”
The blond swallowed with obvious effort and nodded in acknowledgement, flushing disarmingly across the apples of her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. “I’m ready to audition, Ringmaster.”
“That I highly doubt,” I muttered under my breath as I motioned for my guests to follow me and led them back down to the warehouse floor where the real work of the set-up for tonight was taking place now that the audience had cleared out. “Have a seat,” I told Gwynne and pointed to one of the crates that hadn’t been moved yet, then to Olivia said, “Up, onto the stage.”
She did as commanded and without hesitation, I noted with approval, but she turned with a concerned look bending her tawny brow. “I’m going to audition here? In front of everyone?”
I glanced about the vast, open room. Rafe, still dressed as the foreman from the performance, was marking out directions on the concrete floor for what stages and equipment went where. Slighter, sandy-headed Thom was passing around small bottles of sports drinks and cautioning everyone to mind their electrolytes like the mother hen he was, combination admin manager-chef-physical therapist, keeping my athletes in top shape. And sinewy Griffin and Piper were working with the crew installing the Chinese Pole, making sure it was secure enough for their performance.
“No one is paying attention to us, Kitten,” I said before I thought better of it.
I avoided looking down again into that delicate, angular face, not wanting to see her reaction to the spontaneous endearment, and took the whip from my hip. From the corner of my eye, I saw her hand clench into a sudden anxious fist at her side. A most curious reaction, like I was going to use the lash on her, and further proof this was a futile exercise. If she was this skittish now…
Still, she persisted. “All right. What do you want me to do?”
So many things… In part to give myself time to consider my response, I stepped up onto the stage and made a slow circuit around waiting Kitten, made a show of studying every line and curve of that petite body. As I noted the firm, smooth musculature along her the back of her calves and the front of her thighs, along that delightfully heart-shaped buttocks, I asked, “Are you trained in dance?”
“No,” she began, shaking her head and sending shimmery waves of movement through the sleek curtain of her hair. I was actively resisting the urge to run my hands through those strands when she corrected herself, “Well, sort of. A little. It was someone else actually taking the lessons, but I was her partner for practice.” I stopped and narrowed my eyes at her. Was every interaction this awkward and difficult for her? As though she read my expression, she hissed her breath out hard through her nose and her clenched teeth. “It’s complicated. Ballet and modern dance, to answer your question.” Finally.
I resumed my circuit. “I can tell; you have a dancer’s legs.” From the confusion clouding those pretty green eyes, she looked like she wondered if that was a good thing. My hardening cock certainly thought so. The parts of my brain not currently occupied with inappropriate considerations of all the ways I could stroke this kitten wholeheartedly disagreed.
The narrowness of her waist made her hips seem larger than they were, lending an alluring sensuality to a body that was actually quite lean upon close examination. The full round swells of her breasts were a perfect counterpoint to the curve of her ass. In a harness, with a tight leather cincher around her waist, she would have looked stunning—in an Old Hollywood, vintage erotica way.
When the impulse to thread my fingers through her hair overtook me again, and I reached a gloved hand out for her, Kitten—Olivia—caught the movement from the corner of her eye and flinched away so slightly. And I caught my breath, though I wasn’t entirely certain why. Perhaps because, though I was of the cooler and more aloof variety of Doms, I was unaccustomed to women wincing away from me. Or perhaps because her apprehension made me wonder if she just expected rough treatment, if someone had misused her in the past. I took the touch of nausea in my gut for the sickness I’d have felt at the thought of any little innocent being mishandled and abused.
“Easy there,” I muttered as I removed my right glove before tangling my fingers in the silky strands just above the nape of her neck. It was unexpected, both my urge to soothe her—I was not the fawning Daddy Dom sort, even outside the performance ring—and the cool softness of her hair, like cream flowing along the back of my hand. “It’s good that your hair is so long and straight,” I continued to encourage her despite being at a loss still as to why I would. She smiled nervously. “Though it could be a bit longer.” And at this she frowned, leaving me with the smallest hint of guilt.
I peered at her again, feeling my own lips pressing into a subtle frown—at myself. This Olivia was so unlike Evelyn, my last assistant, and not what I’d have expected of any of my performers. When I’d auditioned Evi, the busty brunette had thrown back her shoulders and cocked one hip provocatively, exuding sex appeal and a larger-than-life personality that made her a natural for the stage. She was a brat submissive par excellence. Every facial expression, every sigh, every tiny gesture had always been a choreographed reaction playing for maximum effect.
Olivia, she was an open book, a bundle of live-wire nerves without the least protection. What she felt down to the bone was the reaction that rose to the surface, unfiltered and unadorned, so vulnerable and honest. The stage was going to break this girl’s heart, assuming I didn’t do it first.
At this thought, I snatched my hand away and stuffed it back into my black leather glove. Time to stop playing, to stop indulging the false hope that Kitten was going to be my new assistant. Standing directly in front of Olivia, a mere half-step from her faintly trembling frame, I ordered, “Take off your clothes.”
End of tease! I hope that sounded enticing and gets everyone revved up for the release of The Ringmaster. Like the His Series titles, The Ringmaster will be available for a discount price for the first few days of release, as a thank you to everyone who snaps up the new releases as soon as they come out and an incentive for readers who haven't tried any of my erotic romance yet.
Insatiable Reads Book Tour, I'll be giving away a handful of paperback copies of The Ringmaster, and a few of these will get tucked away into every giveaway book. I will also gladly mail them to any readers who want them (while I have any left, at least).
Happy weekend to everyone.