Summer Magic by Sydell Voeller, available at Amazon Kindle
Published by Books We Love Ltd: www.bookswelove.net
Published by Books We Love Ltd: www.bookswelove.net
When her fiancé calls off their engagement, veterinarian assistant Lisa Prentice joins the circus in hopes of escaping the everyday grind. But life under the big top isn't quite what she expected. None of the veterinarian's former assistants managed to please their short-tempered boss, and Lisa fears that her days are numbered, too. Michael Figaro, a dashing young trapeze artist, is also cautious about whether Lisa can stay, and keeps his distance. Still, Lisa finds herself overwhelmingly attracted to him. Although Michael is the aerialist, it is Lisa who is flying on an emotional high wire. What happened to her safety net? Will their love survive?
Introduction to the Story
The year before, while the circus was on a 6-week lay-over at Madison Square Garden, Lisa Prentice had met dashing aerialist, Michael Figaro. There she’d also unexpectedly helped save a critically ill Arabian horse, Ebony, and she’d immediately fallen in love with the horse. Michael was more than a minor attraction too--and now that Lisa’s back, his charisma is once again working its magic on her. Michael has just met her at the airport, brought her back to the circus grounds, and introduced her to his family-- also circus performers. His twin sister, Estelle, welcomes Lisa with open arms and invites her to stay in her trailer, and Lisa accepts. Michael’s second sister, however, gives Lisa a frosty reception, and Lisa can’t help but wonder why. Nonetheless, Lisa is eager to watch Michael and his family perform, and now she has the opportunity to do so:
Partial Excerpt from Chapter 2
Inside the coliseum, Lisa found an unreserved seat and sat down. The band was playing a lively tune. Vendors selling popcorn and cotton candy worked the side aisles.
As the lights dimmed and the music swelled, a rainbow of colors filled the arena. Lisa's meeting with Claudette soon forgotten, new anticipation flowed through her. It was time for the Spectacle to begin.
With rapt attentiveness, she clasped her hands together. Animals in bright head dresses and performers wearing sequin-spangled costumes paraded by. Then came the first act, which soon gave way to the next. Lisa laughed with the crowds at the chimps bouncing on pogo sticks, clapped for the tiger jumping through a ring of fire, and gazed in awe at the red-sequined showgirls performing an aerial ballet.
Next the Flying Figaros emerged. Dressed in glittering silver capes, holding hands and smiling their most dazzling smiles, they sprinted into the center ring. In seconds the troupe was ascending the high rope ladder, Estelle sitting on Michael's shoulders. While Claudette began to swing from a trapeze, Michael and Rudolph, perched on high rungs, balanced poles from their foreheads.
In an instant, the blue spotlight shifted back to the two young women. Lisa watched first one, then the other spin through the air, skillfully performing their famous double somersaults. The most difficult trick--Michael's triple--was only seconds away.
"And now ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages,” the ringmaster boomed, "world-renowned Michael Figaro will perform one of the most daring acts in circus history! The triple somersault!"
A hush blanketed the coliseum. The drums rolled. From somewhere overhead, the spotlights dimmed, casting a dramatic hue over the performers. Lisa's heart pounded. Every nerve in her body stood on end. Oh, Michael. Please be careful, she silently pleaded.
Michael dusted his hands with resin. Then he began to swing. The intensity was etched clearly on his face. His taut muscles revealed the strength in his torso and upper arms. Last year when she'd witnessed Michael's performance, she'd secretly vowed he was the most gorgeous man alive. Tonight was no exception.
Higher and higher he arched. With a quick thrust, he tucked himself into a ball and whirled through the air.
The drums stopped rolling. Lisa felt her hands grow clammy as she braced herself on the edge of her seat. Suddenly Michael's body straightened and his hands connected with the catcher's. The applause exploded.
"Ladies and gentlemen," the ringmaster hollered, "you have just witnessed the most important feat on the face of the earth!"
While the crowds went wild, Lisa went limp with relief.
Oh, Michael, no wonder you came back, her heart cried out. His performance was commanding. Michael Figaro was destined for stardom. How easy it would be to fall in love with him--only to end up heart-broken once again. There must be at least a hundred women, watching him this very moment, who would give their souls just to touch his hand. She could no more hold onto Michael than she had Charles.
One by one, the flyers dropped into the safety net, then onto the floor. The crowd rose from their seats and cheered louder as the troupe took sweeping bows, then disappeared behind a royal blue curtain.
Suddenly the beating of hooves sounded. The air stirred as three gorgeous black horses without riders or reins streaked past. The ring seemed charged with their electrifying energy.
Lisa blinked twice. Ebony! The leading horse had to be Ebony! In the center of the ring stood Mr. Figaro dressed in white and grasping a long whip.
The blue spot lights shifted to red. While the other horses took their places opposite each other near the edge of the ring, Ebony cantered gracefully to the center. She reared up. Like a magnificent mystical creature, she pawed the air. The other show horses immediately followed Ebony's cue.
Step-by-step she led them through one trick after another. Then the lights dimmed as the horses made their exit...
Partial Excerpt from Chapter 3
"You still want to see Ebony tonight?" Michael asked as they strolled down a wide sidewalk that fronted the circus grounds.
"Oh, yes!" Lisa smiled up at him. The pale glow from a streetlight illuminated his profile. Overhead, a spattering of stars winked in the cobalt blue sky. A balmy summer breeze lifted her hair. Until just a few moments ago, Michael had been unusually quiet. Lisa suspected he was pondering his father's leaving and the added responsibilities that entailed. Or was it something more?
They crossed the north side of the lot, then threaded their way among the animal cages, trucks, and horse trailers. In minutes they came to the horse tent and ducked inside.
The sweet smell of fresh hay filled Lisa's nostrils. A horse nickered. She followed Michael past three black stallions and a Shetland pony that were switching their tails as they munched hay.
"Oh, Michael, there she is!" Lisa cried as she pointed to the end of the row.
"Yep! Isn't she a beaut?" he asked, beaming.
As Lisa hurried up to the horse and began stroking her mane, Ebony lifted her head and stared back through half-lidded eyes.
"Ebony, you're beautiful! Just as I'd remembered." The horse's ears twitched. Lisa reached down, picked up a fistful of hay, and offered it on her opened palm. Ebony's snout was velvety soft.
"Instant bonding," Michael said. He grinned approvingly, rocking back on his heels.
"Oh, I hope so. In fact, I'm looking forward to working with all the horses."
"Good. I may need some help."
"How are you feeling about that?" Lisa asked as she stooped down to pick up more hay. "About taking the responsibility for the show horses?" She straightened again, then turned to look up at him. She watched his grin suddenly fade.
He glanced away. "Scared. Very scared."
“I doubt your father would've asked you to do it if he didn't think you were capable."
"It's expected of me, Lisa. That's what being in the circus is all about. Most of us, sooner or later, have to wear more than one hat. Pop would still be flying, too, if it hadn't have been for his accident. And Uncle Rudy...he not only works as our catcher, but oversees the side show most of the time too."
"And here I'm feeling overwhelmed! All I have to do is assist Dr. Woodstock and pass my probation." A ripple of excitement overshadowed Lisa's uncertainty. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she'd finally set out to accomplish what she'd come for. "Back home, my best friend Melanie and I go riding almost every weekend at Doc Largent's stables," she went on. "Will you let me ride Ebony sometime soon?"
"Maybe tomorrow. If you can find a minute or two to spring free, just check with me or one of the stable boys first."
"Let's tell this critter good-night and split." Michael's voice was laced with impatience.
"What's the big hurry?" She met his gaze and chuckled.
"I...I just thought you might be hungry. There's a deli not far up the street that makes a mean grilled pastrami sandwich." He shrugged. "Besides, as far as I know, you haven't had anything to eat since this afternoon back at the airport."
"Thanks, but I'm still too keyed up to eat any more. I should really turn in." She gave Ebony one final pat, avoiding Michael's gaze. Though a late snack with Michael was more than tempting, she knew she mustn't. Already these few short hours with him had stirred too many confusing emotions within her.
Michael reached out and cupped her chin with his hand, gently prodding her to look at him. "Are you sure?"
"All right, then. I'll walk you to Estelle's trailer, but I doubt if she'll be there for another hour or so. She usually goes to my folks' motor home to have a bite to eat. Most likely Mom will save something for me, too." He chuckled. "She always thinks if I'm left to my own culinary devices, I'll waste away."
The air was heavy with the scent of sawdust and animals, mingled with mesquite wafting from someone's small propane barbecue alongside one of the trailers.
As they started out, his arm brushed her shoulder. Though the contact was fleeting, she was acutely conscious of his nearness. A shudder rippled through her.
"Yes...no." She felt like a silly school girl, unable to know her own mind. Though the earlier rain squalls had been warm and humid, now the air was much too balmy to explain her physical response. How could she admit to Michael, much less to herself, that his magnetic presence was hopelessly unraveling her?
But in the wake of that awareness her memory instantly sharpened. The groupies. That showgirl. How could she ever compete--even if she did desire a relationship with Michael? No, they might as well have come from two distinct planets on the opposite sides of the galaxy. She was definitely an outsider to Michael's tightly knit world. She would remain that way no matter how long she stayed. And even if she let down her guard and allowed him to capture her in his spell, how long could it last? Would he soon move on to someone more enticing? Just as Charles had?
She hesitated before going on. "Who was that show girl you were talking to tonight?"
"Her name's Rita and she's new here. She used to be an aerialist with another circus. I hear she was pretty good. Claudette wanted me to do Rita a favor today--give her a lift--but, I managed to get out of it. I went to the airport to meet you instead." He edged away slightly, letting his arm drop to his side.
Lisa pushed back the fleeting thought that Michael's purpose in meeting her might've been simply to avoid giving in to his twin sister. "I bet that ticked off Claudette," she said.
"She'll get over it," he answered, his expression unreadable. "Besides, there was no reason why Claudette couldn't have played chauffeur to Rita. Rita's great- aunt Mildred--or whoever she wanted to see--apparently lives on some dude ranch near the north end of the county." They side-stepped a wardrobe trunk someone had left near the door of a fifth wheeler.
"The way I see it," Michael continued in an offhand manner, "Rita is fun to joke around with it, but that's about it. If Claudette wants to buddy up with Rita, then fine. She doesn't need to involve me too."
Lisa shot him a questioning glance. Wasn't Michael aware of his charismatic appeal? Even something innocent like joking around might give Rita reason to believe she stood a chance with him.
"So are you trying to say Claudette's playing Cupid?" Lisa asked. "Your sister wants to bring you and Rita together?"
"It all goes back to her fear of me leaving--just like we talked about earlier. Claudette figures if I end up marrying another flyer, then I'll stay with the troupe forever."
"And what do you think?" She stopped walking and swung around to look at him.
"I'm going to stay, no matter what," he ground out. "I've tried it on the outside. I'm back where I belong."
"Of course. Your performance tonight made that more than obvious."
Michael’s message had come through loud and clear. He could never make a life for himself anywhere other than the circus.
As they started walking again, a picture of Rita returned to her mind. "Any special reason why Rita decided to join Jessell and Stern?" she asked.
He chuckled. "So what's with this Rita bit? You certainly seem more than mildly interested."
"Just curious, that's all," she replied with a shrug, though she could feel her face growing warm with embarrassment. They passed two keepers carrying buckets of water.
"Rita's troupe broke up so she decided to move on. According to Claudette, when Rita came to Jessell and Stern, she said she needed a change and wanted to work as a showgirl instead. I guess my sister's made an extra effort to welcome her."
"How accommodating," Lisa said in a low voice. Actually, it was difficult to understand how Claudette could make anyone feel welcomed. But maybe she wasn't being fair. Maybe she'd judged Claudette too hastily.
"What was that?"
She flushed again. "Nothing. I...I didn't mean that the way it probably sounded. I guess I'm more tired than I realized."
"Which means I'm doing the right thing by making sure you turn in now." He grinned again. "Not that I particularly want to, mind you."
She peered down the row of RVs. They'd almost come to the end. "Where are you staying?" she asked.
"Three doors down." He nodded to a small eighties-vintage trailer. His pick-up was parked close by. "It might not be the Taj Mahal, but it gets me by."
"And Claudette? Where's her place?"
"We passed it already. Back this side of the costume trailer."
Outside Estelle's RV, Michael dug into his hip pocket and pulled out a key. "Here. Take this. It's a spare and Estelle said for you to hold onto it." He pressed the key into her palm, prolonging the contact.
"Uh...a couple of more things. Estelle also said to tell you the bottom bunk is yours. And don't mind her little poodle. His name's Rags. Used to be one of Mom's show poodles, but Estelle's let him get soft. Anyway, he might just decide to give you an overly enthusiastic welcome. He tends to get a little carried away at times."
"Thanks again. I'll like that." She locked her gaze with his. "Sleep well, Michael."
"You too." He gave no indication of leaving, but rather leaned closer and settled his hand on the back of her neck. A suggestive smile hovered on the corners of his mouth. His lips were only a fraction away.
"It's kind of weird, isn't it? I mean...I never expected to see you again. When I met you last year, I figured you were just another townie who wandered through."
"Well, I guess I was then. But I'm not anymore. I'm here to stay."
A shadow of doubt passed over his face. "Just hang in there, okay? Things are gonna be different here. I guarantee it."
"I realize that, Michael." She offered him a hesitant smile. "Truth is, I never expected to sign on with Jessell and Stern either. Serendipity, I guess. You're right. Life can be kind of weird sometimes."
"Uh-huh." Weird and scary, he thought. His stomach knotted. He felt as if some bozo had just kicked him in the gut. Hold on, Figaro. Get a hold of yourself... Yet being close to Lisa, touching her like this...
His voice was ragged as he dropped his hand. "See ya...see you around." He hesitated, then reached for her hand and gently pressed her knuckles against his lips. "You'd better get inside. Now."
He turned on his heel and without a backwards glance strode quickly away.
She couldn't go in. She had to keep watching him. Slowly, gradually his retreating figure faded into the night. Michael, come back! she yearned to call to him.
No! her better judgment ruled. You don't fit in. You could never be his. And even if you could, he'd only end up hurting you. Let him be.
What was the matter with her? she wondered miserably as she turned the key in the lock. Why had she allowed her heart to take this crazy roller-coaster ride? And now, foolish woman that she was, she wanted him more than ever...
Author’s website: www.sydellvoeller.com