Love animals? Love hot men who love each other? Animal Attraction 2 has all that and more. Talented authors Kiernan Kelly, Aaron Michaels, Jane Davitt, CB Potts, Julia Talbot, and Sean Michael go all out to prove that animals can bring people together, and that love can turn up in unexpected places and in unusual ways. From slow and steady to a hot, fast burn, the romance is right there for the taking, right along with the adventure.
With slithering boa constrictors, big cats, and rodeo roughstock, the stories in Animal Attraction 2 will take you from the jungles of the Amazon forest to the snow-topped mountains of Central Asia to glamorous Hollywood mansions. Racing after dangerous predators-and dangerous men-the heroes in these stories are all chasing something. Or is something always chasing them?
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.63(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Elusive Blue by Kiernan Kelly
Paul couldn't understand what brought him back to the gaudy midway night after night. There was nothing here of interest to him. Nothing he dared admit to, anyway.
When the carnival train had pulled into the station and the parade of performers and animals debarked and made their way to the empty field on the outskirts of town last weekend, he met with the owners. He flashed his sheriff's badge and carefully checked their papers, and gave them the obligatory warnings about cheating the good people of Poplar Grove. Later, he personally inspected every ride and game of chance on the midway, looking for rusty couplings or weighted bottles; anything that might signal a threat for his citizens, either physical danger or one posed to their wallets. He'd found nothing, no reason to suspect the Fairfield Brothers Carnival was anything other than what it appeared: a dusty, slightly shabby traveling show.
Yet he couldn't stay away. The garish lights shining through the darkness at the edge of town drew him like a deer to a salt lick. Even during the day, when he should've been concentrating on important matters like the Anderson boys running wild and playing pranks on their unsuspecting neighbors, or the drunk sleeping off a bender in cell three, Paul's thoughts wandered. His mind continually drifted to the colors and music of the carnival midway, to the smell of freshly roasted peanuts mixing with the less pleasant odors of camels and elephants.
"Sheriff? Fancy meeting you here tonight. Didn't think you were one for all this flashy hubbub."
Paul turned at the sound of the familiar voice. Joe Westfield, owner of thefive-and-dime store on Main Street, stood nearby with his wife and two little girls. The girls held cones of bright pink cotton candy, their tongues and lips dyed the same brilliant color as the fluffy sweets.
He forced himself to return the greeting and be polite about it. "Evening, Joe. Nice night, huh? Having fun?" The last thing he wanted was to spend time making small talk. The show was due to start soon. He needed to get moving, or he'd miss it.
"Yeah, the girls sure like it. Got to admit, I'm partial to the corndogs, myself. Listen, Paul ... while I've got your ear, I have to tell you I ain't too happy about that new parking law the mayor is all fired up about. If'n folks can't park in front of my store, how am I supposed to make money? It's gonna ruin my business! A man's got a right to earn a living!" Joe's jowly face grew as pink as the girls' cotton candy as he began working himself up into a state. His wife's benign smile slipped; it was no secret that Joe's temper often left its mark on her. "If'n he puts in them fancy meters, I'm bound to lose business. You have to stop that dang fool, Paul!"
"Now, you know I don't have the authority to do that, Joe. You can bring it up at the next town meeting, though," Paul said, a little impatiently. He forced his lips to curve into a pleasant smile, trying to cut the vinegar in his voice.
"Well, you can bet I'll be doing just that, and if'n you have any sense, you'll back me up. Ain't nobody in town happy about having to pay to park, Paul. This ordinance goes through, and the mayor will be looking for a new job come the elections."
The threat was there, even if it hadn't been spoken aloud. Paul's own chances for re-election hung in the balance, even though he'd had nothing to do with the decision to put the meters in. There was an us-against-them mentality in Poplar Grove. If Paul wasn't with them, then he was against them, and most likely out of a job come the new elections.
"So I've been hearing. Take a deep breath, Joe. Getting all worked up isn't going to change the mayor's mind. We'll figure it out at the meeting. Y'all go on and have a good time, now. Mary, girls." He tipped his hat, grateful to get away so quickly. He could hear Joe continuing to rail against the new parking meters, and hoped he wouldn't see the result of Joe's anger printed in black and blue on Mary's face the next day.
Unless Mary wanted to press charges--which Paul knew from experience she'd never willingly do--there wasn't anything he could do to stop it. Even if she did, and Paul hauled Joe's ass in, the court would probably turn a deaf ear. It was a family matter, according to the town fathers. In their esteemed opinion, what happened under a man's roof was his own business. Paul didn't agree with them, not a lick, but his hands were tied.
Too bad they didn't feel the same way about what happened in a man's bed. If they did, at least Paul would be free to be happy after work, if not while on shift. Forget it, it'll never happen, he told himself. They'll forgive a man for beating his wife, but never for sodomy.
He felt his cheeks flush and shook his head to rid himself of the notion, as if the folks around him could read his mind. Those kinds of thoughts were too dangerous to be voiced, even in the privacy of his own head. He tried to ignore the guilt and hypocrisy weighing down on his shoulders like two cement blocks as his conscience reminded him of the reason he kept returning to the carnival. Max Löwe, lion-tamer. Ever since Paul had seen him on the carnival's opening night, he couldn't get the fair-haired man out of his head. Stuff and nonsense, he thought. I'm here because I like the acts.
Liar, his conscience whispered.
Paul's feet scuffled across the dusty field, dried grass crunching under his heel. On his right, young men pitched dimes and threw baseballs, hoping to win scruffy stuffed animals and Kewpie dolls for their girls. On his left, a man dressed in shirtsleeves called to the crowd and offered to guess their weights. Beyond the booths, children laughed from the backs of the painted horses on the carousel, calliope music jangling, or screamed with delight as they rode on the back of a lumbering elephant. None of it interested him. His attention was focused on the string of garish posters hanging in a line across the back of the lot.
Each one was bigger than life, painted with bright, eye-dazzling color. See Jasper, the Living Skeleton! Maura, the Armless Wonder, Alive! Gregor, the Amazing Lizard Boy! Paul's eyes flicked from one banner to the next, finally pausing on the very last poster in the row. Max Löwe, World Famous Animal Trainer! Lions! Tigers! Death Defying Acts! In a small yellow circle at the bottom of the poster were the words, See "Elusive," the Only Blue Tiger in Existence!
There was an image of a handsome man on the poster, armed only with a chair and a whip, facing a crouching lion and a leaping tiger. His blond hair was carefully combed, parted neatly on the right side. His blue eyes seemed to spark with courage as he fearlessly stared down the snarling beasts. It was a good likeness of Mr. Löwe, Paul realized as he drew closer to the sideshow. He felt a trill of excitement stir within him, of the kind having nothing to do with the danger of the act.
Löwe was one of the most handsome men Paul had ever seen. He'd been captivated not only by Löwe's looks, but also by his bearing; strong, almost regal, elegant. Each of his movements was precise, while at the same time fluid and polished. Löwe's fingers fascinated Paul. Long and graceful, so unlike Paul's own thick, clumsy digits, they'd spawned fantasies Paul couldn't squelch.
His cock twitched awake, forcing him to slip into the shadows between a peanut stand and the ticket booth, discreetly adjusting himself. The last thing he needed was to be spotted wandering the midway with an erection by any of his neighbors, even if they were likely to blame his condition on Paul's bachelor status and the proximity of the midway girlie show. He could do without the knowing smiles and snickering during the next day's patrol.
Damn it! What the hell is wrong with me?
Horny, whispered the small, insistent voice in his head. You want him.
No! You're a goddamn pervert! His face crumpled into a frown as he returned to stare at the colorful banners. Do you want to be locked up? You know what they did to those fellas they caught over in Mayfield. Do you want doctors to plug your head into a socket and fry your brains?
It was no use. No matter how his mind threatened and argued, his body wouldn't listen. His feet brought him closer to the banners and the long white tent at the back of the lot.
Paul had seen the show every night that week, enough to know the order of the acts. He even had the banter between the performers memorized. It was called a ten-in-one show, according to the owners. Ten individual acts were performed continuously throughout the day. Baby Fae, billed as the World's Hairiest Woman, came on first, followed by eight more acts, ending with Löwe's big cat show. As soon as the animals were back in their cages, Baby Fae would come on again, and the entire production would repeat itself. No matter when a customer came in, he could stay and watch the whole show. When whatever act he'd walked in on appeared again, he knew he'd seen all the show had to offer.
Paul's lips curled tightly in a self-deprecating grin. He'd become something of an expert on sideshow productions, it seemed. Wouldn't the mayor be pleased to know that? Particularly if he knew the real motive behind Paul's repeated visits.
Stop thinking like that! You're the sheriff. You're here to keep the peace, nothing else. To keep these carnival people from cheating the folks who put you in office.
Löwe was the reason Paul came back, and he damn well knew it. Löwe was why Paul handed over a dime of his hard-earned money to be allowed entrance into the sideshow night after night. Why he stood there silently, waiting for up to forty-five minutes while Daisy, the World's Fattest Woman chatted with Melvin, the World's Tiniest Man, the Great Gilbert swallowed swords, and Hugh the Human Blockhead pounded nails up each nostril.
The first night had been for business, true enough. Paul had wanted to make sure the carnival wasn't trying to pull a fast one, taking money from honest folk and tricking them with fakery or illusion. If they claimed to have a two-headed calf, then by gum, they'd better have one alive and mooing, or Paul would gladly kick their butts out of the county faster than you could say "taxidermy."
As for his visits after that first night...
No, this is just business! Nothing else.
He was lying to himself and he knew it.
"Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and view ten extraordinary acts that will amaze, astound, and astonish! Right this way, continuous acts all day, all night!" The talker, a man in his early thirties with a gift for gab, stood behind a raised podium and blabbered on and on with hardly a pause for breath, beckoning people to come see the show. "Nowhere else on earth can you see Daisy! Five hundred pounds of woman, all of it heart! Come see the Great Gilbert swallow twenty-four inches of solid, razor-edged steel and live! Right this way! Hurry, hurry, hurry!"
The show was legitimate. He'd watched Daisy, a woman who was so wide she needed three chairs lined up side by side to support her weight, flirting with Melvin, a man so small the top of his head barely skimmed Paul's knee. Watched swords disappear down the throat of Gilbert, and witnessed Gregor's odd, scale-like skin abnormality that lent him his name, the Amazing Lizard Boy.
No matter how jaded Paul thought himself after watching the acts, he hadn't been prepared for his reaction to the last in the line up. When Max Löwe stepped onto a wide, roped area of the tent, Paul had been transfixed, not by the lions or tigers in the show, or the apparent danger, but by the man himself.
Löwe's startling blue eyes seemed to zero in on Paul, freezing him in place. Although Max addressed the crowd, Paul felt as though Löwe were speaking only to him. His voice was rich, velvety, and utterly compelling. "Step closer, ladies and gentlemen, but keep your hands far from the ropes! Only I am able to control the beasts! I am all they fear and respect! Slip your fingers past the ropes, and risk losing them to the jaws and teeth of these ferocious beasts!"
As if on cue, a thundering roar echoed through the tent. Women screamed and clutched the arms of the men escorting them; children hid their faces in their mother's skirts. The men, hale and hardy farmers and ranchers, paled at the sound of the big cat. Even Paul felt his heart skip a beat, his hand drifting to the butt of his gun, fingers brushing the stock, feeling for the reassuring coolness of metal, although his eyes never strayed from Löwe.
"Good to see you, Sheriff!" Paul snapped out of his daydream at the sound of the talker addressing him. "Come back to see the show again? Tell you what ... tonight's on us, it being our last night here and all. You go on in and have a great time."
Paul nodded, feeling his cheeks heat up. Just what he needed--the talker drawing the crowd's attention to the fact Paul had been there to see the show before.
Relax! They don't know. They can't know. They think you're here to see the acts.
Still, his feet wouldn't obey. He remained rooted to the spot for a moment or two, feeling as if the eyes of everyone at the carnival were burning holes in the back of his neck. He gave a small shake of his head and an even smaller smile to the talker, then spun around and walked away.
Good Lord, you're such a coward!
He tried to shrug off the inner voice condemning him, and didn't look or speak to anyone on the way back toward his truck. It was a '43 Ford, bought new three years ago from Delaney's lot in Saddle Brook, painted black and white courtesy of Mickey's Garage down on Fifth Street, and fitted with a red bubble light on the roof. Sheriff, Township of Poplar Grove was printed in gold lettering across both side panels. He drove home and tried to put the Fairfield Carnival and Max Löwe out of his mind for good. They'd be gone come morning, and it wouldn't be a minute too soon, as far as Paul was concerned.
There'd be no more sideshows, no more gawking at Löwe as if he were a piece of rare steak and Paul was a starving coyote.
Paul would be safe again. His thoughts would go back to his business, and his life back to normal. In other words, he'd go back to his empty house, to being his same lonely self.
He pulled into his driveway and put the truck in park just as a wave of bitter anger rolled through him. He smashed his fist against the steering wheel before he got himself under control again, turned off the engine, and went into the house to try to get some sleep.