Oh, what a tangled web she weaves...
One moment, Elizabeth is the modest, religiously devout nanny who accidentally brings her four charges to a slightly inappropriate circus filled with all the things a phobic like her could ever fear. The next, she's sucked into the demonic world of Arcanium and transformed into Arcanium's newest oddity, the Spider.
Her anxieties and phobias quickly attract the attention of the Creature, the gargoyle-like guardian of the haunted funhouse, who feeds on fear—and she offers a veritable feast from which he can relieve her, especially after she's been locked in a glass box with giant spiders crawling over her eight-limbed body all day.
However, she also catches the eye of her jealous ex-lover, who helped make her into the scared, secretive woman she's become, a woman who wrapped herself in the piety of her childhood cult just to escape him.
Between Arcanium and her own personal demons, Elizabeth has all four of her hands full.
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Copyright © Aurelia T. Evans 2018. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
In retrospect, Elizabeth should have looked up what kind of circus Arcanium was before bringing the Bishop children.
It wasn’t entirely her fault. Mrs. Bishop had recommended it based on a casual glance at the weekend events in the local paper. However, when she and Mr. Bishop went out of town for the weekend on business—which was almost every weekend—it was up to Elizabeth to entertain and care for the children, and she was responsible for the content of that entertainment and care, which meant she’d been responsible for investigating Arcanium’s suitability for an infant, a three-year-old girl, a nine-year-old boy and a monster masquerading as a sixteen-year-old girl.
Standing in front of the half-naked sword swallower performing at the entrance of the circus, Elizabeth shared a look with said monster, who usually just went by Sharona.
“You’re going to be in so much trouble.” Sharona flipped her hair over her shoulder.
She was pretty, just like her mother. Though it was mid-January, the weather was unseasonably warm, and Sharona had taken the opportunity to ignore her mother’s guidelines for shirt length and exposure, guidelines that Elizabeth couldn’t really enforce without Mrs. Bishop’s approval—and Sharona knew it. A teenage girl flaunting her already-beach-ready body next to a woman in orthodox dress turned a few heads from the initial impact of the sword swallower, as though Elizabeth was just another circus oddity.
If the Bishops thought hiring a Petrosian saint for a nanny would rub righteousness off on their children, they’d severely underestimated teenage determination—and chosen the wrong Wu daughter as a nanny, not that Elizabeth’s mother had shared that little bit of information with them.
Thank God, Sharona’s brother Todd was much more manageable. And the toddler and infant were at least predictable.
“Why’s she going to be in trouble?” Todd asked, holding the toddler’s hand tightly. “The guy’s just swallowing swords. Man, three swords now? Wow, gross. Think he can do four?”
“I’ll admit that if he were swallowing dildos, that would be more shocking.” Sharona took her phone out of her purse and framed the sword swallower in the picture.
“What’s a dildo?” Todd asked.
“I mean…this guy? Not hot. But imagine what Mom and Dad would say if they saw the snake lady in the background? Or maybe this nice couple walking by? How romantic.” Sharona grinned at the shot of the woman in shiny purple latex leading a man in red leather around on a leash. The man carried a double-sided torch trident over his shoulder.
“Come on, Todd. We’re leaving.” Elizabeth didn’t think the ticket master was going to give them their money back. The gigantic sign of rules and warnings that she’d apparently failed to read all the way through had been clear about one thing. No refunds.
“Why?” Sharona lowered her phone to follow the progress of the woman and collared man—most likely because, despite the scars on the upper half of the man’s body, the leather cradling his buttocks left as little to the imagination as his mistress’s outfit.
“I am not taking your nine-year-old brother and baby sisters into a place like this.” Elizabeth hooked a hand around Sharona’s elbow to lead her back to the elaborate Arcanium gates.
“It’s not like they get it. He doesn’t know what a dildo is. Do you even?”
“And when Todd tells his parents about circus acts gyrating in fetish gear, who do you think isn’t going to get paid this week?”
Sharona giggled. “How do you know what fetish gear is?”
“How you know is the more important question. I’m thirty-five, and I’m religious, not ignorant.”
“It really isn’t,” Elizabeth said dryly.
Sharona grabbed one of the wrought-iron whorls on the gate before Elizabeth could lead her through. “I want to stay.”
Trying to force a recalcitrant teenager to go somewhere she didn’t want to go while maneuvering a dual baby-and-toddler stroller over grass proved too much for Elizabeth. “Over my dead body. Your mother wanted me to take you to a circus, which was supposed to mean clowns, trained animals, acrobats… There’s nothing redeemable about a freak show pretending to be a floor show. I thought these places had all been wiped out.”
“But I want to see the snake lady,” Todd said. “I like snakes.”
Elizabeth suppressed a shudder. “You know I don’t. But if you want snakes, we can go to the zoo again. Would you like that?”
Sharona crossed her arms. “I want to stay.”
“You just want to look at the boys,” Elizabeth said. “There are boys wherever we go, Sharona. We don’t have to stay here for you to let temptation get the better of you.”
Sharona scoffed. “Look. This is the coolest place you’ve ever brought us to. Come on. This place has, like, three-headed dogs and games and a haunted house. I swear on a stack of Bibles”—she held up her phone as though it were the equivalent—“I won’t tell Mom and Dad about this place if you let us stay. Besides, Todd knows how to keep secrets.”
Elizabeth raised her eyebrow. “What kind of secrets?”