The Ringmaster ~ Outside the Margins with Shae Connor

Join Prism Book Alliance® as Shae Connor goes Outside the Margins today.

Shae Conor

When Brandilyn asked for birthday stories based on the image here, this is what I came up with. A bit longer than the 500 words she asked for… 😉

Happy birthday! 🙂

ImagePrompt

“Oh my God.”

Jeremiah winced at the awe in the voice of the twink across the bar. He knew what was coming next.

“You’re him, aren’t you? The Ringmaster?” The way he said it, the capitalization was clear.

Jeremiah muffled a sigh and nodded. “Yeah,” he admitted, giving a wan smile. “It was a few years ago.”

A few years ago when he’d needed some extra cash and had agreed to pose for some pictures a photographer friend-of-a-friend needed for his portfolio. The shoot had been equal parts grueling and fun, and after four hours, he’d signed on the dotted line and walked away with a cool thousand bucks in cash.

Then a few months ago, ads started showing up for a new burlesque show at a club a few miles away from the bar where he worked. Ads that featured an image from the photo shoot he’d done. From the way his face was angled in the picture, you’d think he wouldn’t be that recognizable.

No such luck.

“You look so hot in the ads,” the twink was saying. “Do you still model on the side?”

Jeremiah shrugged. “Nope, just the once. Got lucky.” Unlucky, more like it. “What can I get you?”

“Oh, three Cosmos, please.”

Jeremiah started on the drinks, a common enough order, though beer and harder liquor tended to be the norm. Hammered drew a rough-edged crowd, mostly blue-collar guys, though the proliferation of beefy types meant plenty of guys like this one looking for a bear to go home with.

Jeremiah finished the order and took the twink’s card to start a tab. After he’d finished that up, he turned to wipe down the inevitable spill left behind by an attempt to carry three drinks in two hands—and found himself face-to-face with a wet dream.

The guy was big but not overly huge, tall and muscled, with dark hair and a heavy layer of scruff along his jaw. He wore an open flannel shirt in nondescript brown plaid over a snug white tank top, and Jeremiah would bet on jeans and work boots below the bar where he couldn’t see.

“Hey,” the guy said as he slid onto a barstool. “What do you have on tap?”

His raspy voice send shivers down Jeremiah’s spine, and he had to fight against an irrational urge to climb over the bar and into the guy’s lap. “Um, Bud, Coors, Miller Light, SweetWater 420, and Yuengling.”

“Yuengling, please.”

Jeremiah nodded and turned away to draw the draught. He watched the man in his periphery as he worked, noting the droop to his shoulders and the way he blinked slowly, like at any moment he’d forget to reopen his eyes.

He walked back over, grabbing a napkin as he went, and slid the glass in front of the guy. “That’s six-fifty.”

The guy rotated up onto one hip and extracted his wallet from his back pocket. “Can I start a tab?”

“Sure.” Jeremiah took the offered card and then stepped back to the register. He checked the name: ARNOLD M. SCANLAN. Arnold? Really? He’d bet the guy went by his middle name.

He closed the register and crossed back to finish wiping down the bar. Arnold, or whatever his name was, must’ve drunk half his beer at once but now sipped at the remaining lager. The bartender habit in Jeremiah kicked in, and he spoke up.

“Long day?”

The man chuffed out a laugh. “Long life.” He took another sip of his beer, studying Jeremiah over the rim of the glass. When he put it down, Jeremiah braced for the question he expected.

“You look familiar,” the man said, eyes narrowing.

Jeremiah chuckled. “So I’ve heard.” He deflected quickly. “I haven’t seen you in here before.”

The man lifted one shoulder. “Just moved to town a week ago.” He eyed Jeremiah again. “You don’t know where I can find an apartment around here that won’t cost me a first-born child I’ll never have, do you? The extended-stay hotel I’m in is killing me.”

Jeremiah paused at that. His roommate had just told him the night before that he’d be moving back home to Michigan in two weeks, and Jeremiah hadn’t had time to even think about finding a replacement. He didn’t know this guy from Adam, but then, how was that any different from advertising on Craigslist?

Jeremiah wiped his right hand on his jeans leg and held out his hand. “Jeremiah Massey,” he said. “And I just might know of something.”

The man gave an almost smiled and reached out to shake the offered hand. “Marc Scanlan,” he replied, answering Jeremiah’s question about his name. “And I’d be really grateful for any help.”

……………….

“Is that the last of it?”

Marc dropped the last cardboard box onto the bare mattress in the second bedroom. “Yeah.” He blew out a breath. “All I gotta do now is unpack all this shit.”

Jeremiah snorted. “Dude. You have, like, ten boxes and two suitcases. That’s nothing. Gary had to get a Uhaul trailer for his crap, and he didn’t even take the furniture.”

“And thank God for that.” Marc had paid Gary $200 for the bed, dresser, and chest of drawers he’d left behind. Jeremiah had ignored the broad hints Gary had dropped during that little transaction about them not needing the second bedroom for long. He and Marc had talked a lot over the past couple of weeks, making arrangements for Marc to move in, but it had never gone past that.

Jeremiah was fairly certain Marc liked guys—the rainbow flag and disco ball in front of the bar where Jeremiah worked meant it was unlikely Marc had wandered in unaware. But he’d never given any hints about what kind of guy he liked. For all Jeremiah knew, Marc went for the big, beefy types like him, not the slim, sleek ones, which is where Jeremiah fell on the scale.

Not that it matters, Jeremiah reminded himself. He’s moving in to be your roommate, not your boyfriend.

Marc blew out another breath. “I need a shower,” he said, and then, in one quick motion, he stripped off his tshirt.

Jeremiah almost swallowed his fucking tongue. Holy hell. Marc’s upper body rippled with muscles, not the picture-perfect, sculpted perfection of a gym bunny but the kind carved out by hard work. Marc had worked in construction for nearly a decade, had moved to Atlanta because of the booming industry, and he had the physique to show for it.

“Jer?”

Marc’s voice came from much closer, and Jeremiah blinked when he realized his new roommate stood less than a foot in front of him. Without realizing it, Jeremiah had leaned against the wall next to the door, and Marc took another small step toward him. Jeremiah could feel his body radiating heat, and it made him want.

Marc’s eyes gleamed as he leaned in. “I have a confession to make,” he murmured. “I knew who you were the moment I saw you.”

Unable to tear his gaze away from Marc’s, Jeremiah swallowed. “You did?”

“I saw one of the posters a couple of days before that. That new show thing at S&G that starts tonight.” he paused. “That is you, isn’t it?”

Jeremiah could only nod. “I was…”

“You were beautiful.” Marc’s lips were a bare inch from Jeremiah’s. “I didn’t say anything because I wasn’t sure, and then when you offered the room, I didn’t want you to think that’s why I was moving in. I really did need a place to live.” He paused. “But the truth is, the room isn’t the only thing I wanted.”

Jeremiah believed him, and that gave him the strength to close the distance between them.

As first kisses went, theirs was… spectacular. It went on so long that Jeremiah began to wonder if it would ever end. He decided he didn’t care. He just wrapped his arms tighter around Marc’s shoulders and let sensation take over.

When they finally parted, Marc smiled slowly. “So,” he said, “I just moved into this great new apartment with a really awesome roommate, and I was thinking about going out to dinner to celebrate. Would you be interested in joining me?”

Jeremiah grinned. “I hear there’s a new burlesque show that starts tonight too,” he replied. “Wanna make it dinner and a show?”

“You’re on.” Marc kissed him quickly. “Last one ready to go buys the tickets!”

He was off and running to the bathroom across the hall before Jeremiah could even shout in protest. Still smiling so wide he felt like his face would split open, he headed toward his own bathroom, in no great hurry. He didn’t care who won. After all, he’d already stumbled on a pretty damn good prize.

 

~Shae Connor

 

About Shae Connor

Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. She’s conned several companies into publishing her work and adds a new notch on her bedpost each time another story is unleashed onto an unsuspecting universe.

A member of the Romance Writers of America and the Rainbow Writers chapter, Shae was first published in 2010 and has a lineup of short stories, novellas, and novels available from Dreamspinner Press, Wilde City Press, MLR Press, and Amber Allure.

Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously, and she’s an annual volunteer for the Dragon Con on-site publication, the Daily Dragon. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at shaeconnorwrites@gmail.com or visit her website at shaeconnorwrites.com. .

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
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