Word Count: 20000
Gargoyle Killian has the unenviable job at Darque and Knight Rodeo of wrangling the sideshow acts. When he meets Micah, one of the freaks from a new troupe contracted to perform, he's instantly drawn to the poor, pathetic creature. The more he learns about Micah’s situation with his reprehensible handler, the more determined he is to protect Micah.
Trapped painfully between two forms—man and snake—Micah knows nothing about his past except for what his handler tells him. The attentions of the gargoyle boost his mood, but what can Killian do to help him find the truth he seeks?
Killian recognized the setup in an instant. It was a typical ten-in-one layout. An elevated walkway was constructed for marks to walk across, which overlooked “pits,” — curtained, sectioned off spaces on ground level where the freaks were exhibited.
“Hey, you! We’re closed. We don’t open until four. Get your ass out.”
The voice was rough and carried an edge of both arrogance and contempt, which made it clear the speaker thought highly of himself and was used to being obeyed without question. Its owner was an ogre, creatures known for their craggy faces and sour dispositions. Unlike most of his ilk, though, this one was less muscled and far fatter than other ogres with the show. His jowly cheeks sagged on his face, softening the coarseness in appearance his species were known for and almost melding with the deep rolls of fat on his neck. A ponderous belly strained the buttons on his frayed and faded black tuxedo jacket. He kept his sausage-like fingers hooked into the jacket’s lapels.
“Are you Emmet?”
“Yeah. Are you deaf?”
Killian bristled. Swallowing the anger summoned by the ogre’s disrespectful tone took what felt like a Herculean effort. That Emmet assumed at first glance Killian didn’t belong in the tent, that he was nothing but an insignificant mark, didn’t sit well with him. His ego was already bruised by his earlier conversation with Phillip; he felt the sting and the resulting need to hurt back was strong. “Listen, I’m here to—”
“I don’t give a sack of flying pig shit why you’re in here. Fucking brainless local yokels. Don’t you get it? Nobody gets a free show. You pay your money like every other fucking mark if you want to see my acts, and you do it after we open for business.”
“I’m not a mark! I’m—”
“Who are you, then? One of the rodeo roughnecks? Don’t you have a stake to pound or a pile of cow shit to shovel somewhere? Get the fuck out before I break you in half and feed you to the Snake Man.”
Killian felt his instant dislike for the ogre deepen into active loathing. That is the sound of an asshole speaking, he thought. His breath must reek of the shit he’s spewing. He tried to fight against his rising temper. A confrontation with a pissed off gargoyle rarely ended well, and he didn’t really want to explain to Phil and Cody why he’d murdered their newest hire. “I’d check my tone if I were you, jerk-off. Unless you want to find yourself and your acts booted out of the show, that is. I’m Killian, and I run the fucking sideshow.”
The ogre had the audacity to laugh at him. “Are you now? Well, I say you don’t run jack shit when it comes to me and my acts. I make the rules here, and you can fucking suck my dick if you don’t like it, little man.”
Little man? Seriously? He wants a pissing contest? Okay, then. No problem. Killian shifted into his gargoyle form, and noted with satisfaction the glitter of fear as it swiftly replaced the arrogance in the ogre’s expression. Damn skippy, you fucking overgrown troll doll. “Nobody fucks with my sideshow. This is how it works here, fuck face. You report to me, and I report directly to Darque and Knight. You got a problem with the chain of command, you’re free to voice your concerns with them. Of course, that might be hard to do after I rip your tongue out of your mouth and strangle you with it.”
“H-hey, now. No need for threats, friend.” Emmet held up his hands, palms facing outward, as if to ward off an impending attack. Not that anything short of a brick wall could stop Killian if he attacked while in his gargoyle form. His talons would shred the ogre as easily as a sushi chef could slice sashimi. “Just trying to protect my investments, is all. You understand, right?”
Typical of a bully, Killian thought. All bluster and no balls. “I want to see your acts. Now. Darque and Knight may have signed you on with the show, but I’m the one who decides whether you stay on.” Not really, but he figured Emmet-the-Asshole didn’t need to know that nugget of information.
“Sure, sure. I’ll send them into their pens. Give you the full show.” Emmet moved quickly for as such a hefty man, although the catwalk trembled under each of his steps. He disappeared behind a black curtain hung at the rear of the exhibit.
Killian swore softly under his breath. He’d only meant to wander around, observation without interaction and all that psychobabble crap. He had no intention of meeting the attractions face-to-face, but now he was stuck with a private viewing. He felt like a naughty little boy caught doing something he knew he shouldn’t. He felt anxious and guilty, and pissed off at himself for feeling that way.
I’m not doing anything wrong, he reminded himself. This is my job, right? I’m supposed to make sure the acts are legitimate. Except he hadn’t hired these acts — Darque and Knight had. He wasn’t responsible for them, Cody and Phil were.
Then why, he asked himself, do I feel like I am?
Kiernan Kelly's stories of gay romance envelop diverse themes ranging from paranormal, to fantasy, and science fiction to contemporary romance. She is the author of over eighty titles available in both print and ebook.
Kiernan also writes young adult GLBT romance under the pen name, Dakota Chase.
For more information on other books by Kiernan, visit her website: