Night of the Tiger (Hades' Carnival) (7 page)

BOOK: Night of the Tiger (Hades' Carnival)
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A satisfied male groan filled the air.

Aimee’s eyes flew open. The group had shifted position while she hadn’t been watching. The woman was now on her hands and knees, breasts jiggling and hips pumping as two men fucked her. One of the men was beneath her, his erection sliding in and out of her sex at a rapid rate. The second man was on his hands and knees behind her. Grasping her hips in his large hands, he grunted hard as he drove his cock into her ass. The third man was kneeling just to the side and had dragged the woman’s head lower so she could suck on his shaft while the other two men fucked her.

A low, throaty laugh emanated from the group. Horror filled Aimee. She knew that laugh. As if the woman could read her thoughts, she let the man’s erection slip from between her lips. She turned her head and her face came into view for the first time. Rich, red lips curved up into a smile. “Why don’t you join us?”

Aimee gasped and stumbled back. It couldn’t be. Not Sandra. Shaking her head, she backed away, tripping over a peg holding one of the ropes in place. Whatever force had been holding her here had been broken. They knew she was here. Had known all along.

She tried to catch herself, to gain her balance, but it was too late. She fell, coming down hard on her behind. By the time she scrambled to her feet, the tent was dark. There was no sign of Sandra or the men who’d been pleasuring her. The platform bed had disappeared.

Her breath was coming in short, hard pants. She felt dizzy, was afraid she might pass out. She forced herself to breathe more slowly, to think. “I must be losing my mind.”

There was no way she could have imagined that. Was there? Had she fallen into some kind of waking dream? Feeling light-headed, Aimee started toward the entrance. She had to leave. Had to get out of this place.

Whatever was going on here, it wasn’t right. Aimee had a sense that something wrong permeated the carnival, like some malevolent specter lurking just beneath the glossy facade. The place had given her the creeps from the moment she’d set foot on the grounds, but she’d ignored those feelings to please her friend.

Or maybe she was the problem. Maybe she was slipping over the edge of sanity and into the realm of her nightmares when she was awake. She shuddered at the thought and glanced at her surroundings to get her bearings.

Aimee came to an abrupt halt, totally disoriented. There was no center aisle behind her. She was alone, all the other people and performers had disappeared. The fortuneteller’s area was nowhere to be found.

Aimee peered around what appeared to be some other smaller performance area. “That’s impossible,” she whispered, trying desperately to remain calm. Where was everyone? Her heart pounded as she took a step forward. There had to be an entrance somewhere near.

Eyes suddenly glowed in the darkness—large, red eyes, just like the ones from her nightmares. She wasn’t exactly in an underground cave, but the feeling was similar. It felt as though the walls were beginning to close in around her.

Aimee blinked several times to clear her vision. There had to be a logical explanation for everything. There weren’t any eyes watching her. It was probably just security lights. The sideshow had simply closed while she’d fallen into some kind of waking dream or hallucination or whatever it was, and lost track of time.

She glanced at her watch and gasped. It was almost midnight. Somehow she’d lost over two and a half hours. The carnival was certainly closed, and Sandra would have gotten tired of waiting and surely left by now.

Aimee swallowed and checked her watch again, squinting in the dim light to see the dial. How had this happened? There was no easy answer. She’d have to think about everything that had occurred tonight, but not until she was safe at home.

The main problem to deal with now was to find a way out of this canvas maze and start the long trek home. She didn’t fancy walking down the lonely, deserted roads at night, but it wasn’t as if she had any other choice. Sandra had probably assumed she’d found a way home earlier in the evening with a neighbor. Her friend was going to be pissed with her, thinking she’d been abandoned.

That was almost funny considering how long she’d been searching for Sandra, but Aimee wasn’t laughing. Her left leg ached, and she was more than a little scared. This entire evening had been like something from a horror movie. “Fodder for your work,” she muttered to herself. “Now find a way out.”

The sound of footsteps echoed off to her right. Swallowing hard, she took a step back. “Who’s there? This isn’t funny.”

As if to mock her, laughter rang around her, bombarding her from all sides. It grew louder and louder. She slapped her hands over her ears and stumbled off to her left. She had to find a way out. A bright light flickered up ahead and she lurched toward it. Maybe it was the exit.

At the last second, she drew up short, not willing to just rush in. She didn’t trust this place or the people who ran it.

Reaching out, she cautiously drew back the canvas flap, giving a nervous glance over her shoulder. No one appeared to be following her. The footsteps and the laughter had faded as quickly as they’d begun. She took a breath and stepped inside.

Chapter Four

The room before her was enormous, almost as if it were a large tent on its own. And perhaps it was. Because of the dim lighting, it was impossible to tell how many tents were connected in this maze of canvas.

Aimee gasped at the sight in front of her and found her feet moving of their own accord. She’d never seen anything quite this beautiful in her entire life. Her fears and misgivings were momentarily forgotten as a sense of wonder and anticipation swept over her.

Spotlighted in the center of the canvas room was a beautiful antique carousel. It was an ornate masterpiece from a bygone era. The base and the top were heavily carved with curlicues and spirals. It was fanciful and gorgeous, exactly what a carousel should be.

There were four carved and painted animals anchored to the base of the carousel. But there were also several empty spots, which meant there had been more at some earlier date. Obviously the ride had been damaged at some point and that’s why it wasn’t available for the public.

The crowds of people who visited the carnival were missing out on a gem. The carousel was exquisite, a work of art. Aimee slowly circled it, admiring each of the animals in turn. A bear, lion and wolf all sat poised and ready for someone to sit on them. They were huge animals, big enough for an adult, and so lifelike she almost expected the lion to roar and the wolf to howl.

But it was the gigantic white tiger that drew and held her attention. It was exactly like the one from her dreams, exactly like the one she’d seen in the funhouse earlier this evening.

White tigers weren’t completely white—the fur was interspersed with a pattern of black bands. This one had bands that hugged its muscular body and fiercely handsome face. Its blue eyes seemed to pierce the darkness like glowing sapphires. It sat low on its haunches, muscles coiled and ready to jump. “Aren’t you gorgeous,” she whispered as she stepped closer.

She had no idea why she was whispering. She appeared to be completely alone. But there was something special, almost magical, about being in the presence of something so magnificent.

Aimee knew she had to get out of here and go home. She had to call Sandra and explain what had happened. Well, maybe not everything. There was no need to tell her friend about the erotic vision she’d had featuring Sandra as the star. That was just too weird.

There had to be some logical explanation for all the strange things she’d seen and experienced. Once again, she toyed with the idea that maybe she’d had a hallucination of some kind and imagined the whole thing. She’d certainly never thought about her friend being part of a
ménage a trois
before. Aimee wasn’t quite certain what it was called when there were more than three people.
Maybe a
ménage a quatre
?

Whatever it was called, Aimee knew she wouldn’t forget it any time soon. She wouldn’t be surprised if her friend had done something like that in her lifetime. Sandra was an incredibly beautiful woman and not shy about admitting she enjoyed sex and all its variations.

That had to be it. For whatever reason, Aimee had dropped into a waking dream and her wild imagination had taken over. Perhaps it was due to the erotic dream she’d had last night. She was probably projecting those thoughts onto her friend.

She glanced around the tent, relaxing slightly when she assured herself she was still alone. It was just her and the carousel. She had to see it up close before she left. There would never be another opportunity for her to do so as there was no way she was coming back to the carnival.

And the carousel was a thing of beauty. It sat there looking forlorn and forgotten, and it called to her in ways she couldn’t explain. She
had
to get closer. She bit her bottom lip and kept glancing over her shoulder as she crept toward it. The white-and-red paint and gold gilding was chipped and fading on the top and base, but the animals themselves appeared to be maintained in perfect condition. Slowly, she circled the ride again, this time studying each animal in turn.

She eyed the wolf’s flank. The muscles rippled as though the creature was in mid-stride. The beast’s mouth was open in a silent snarl, sharp white teeth threatening. This was no softened version of an animal, but the creature at its most wild and elemental.

“I wouldn’t want to make you angry,” she murmured as she walked on without touching the wolf. Somehow, she had the impression he didn’t want to be touched. Which was crazy.

“No crazier than the rest of this night’s been.”

There was an empty space beside the wolf. A small metal label bolted next to it read
serpent
. Aimee shivered, wondering what a giant serpent would look like. Maybe it was more dragon-like than serpent. But she’d never know.

Another empty space appeared. This one also had a metal label, which read
jaguar
. A pity that one was gone. She would have liked to see a larger-than-life jaguar. She imagined he’d be very impressive with his sleek, muscular body, sharp teeth and strong jaws.

She stepped up to the next animal and read the label bolted next to one of its massive front paws. “Brown bear,” she whispered. The beast was massive, his fur a combination of brown, blond and black. Powerful and commanding, this was the king of the forest. Hesitantly, Aimee reached out and stroked the tips of her fingers over its thick hindquarters. Fur brushed against her fingers. She could almost swear she’d felt a ripple of muscles.

“Impossible,” she breathed. It was carved from wood, wasn’t it? She peered closer. It looked like wood, and yet when she touched the fur it felt incredibly real. Shaking her hand, she moved on.

Another empty space. The label on this one seemed slightly scorched. She had to bend down to read it.
Phoenix
. She straightened and stared at the metal plate. Aimee liked the fact that there was a mythical animal mixed with real ones. What would a phoenix look like? Larger than life, for sure. Probably shades of red and orange and gold, like fire. She wished all the creatures were here for her to see.

The lion was next, and she couldn’t resist reaching out to touch his mane. Although he appeared to be a fierce fellow, she didn’t think he’d mind. As with the bear, the fur seemed soft when she dragged her fingertips across it.

She enjoyed the sensation, but didn’t try to find a rational explanation for it, writing it off as nothing more than her overactive imagination.

Aimee finally came to a stop beside the elusive white tiger. There were hardly any left in the world. They’d been hunted for their beautiful fur pelt and their habitats taken over by man until they were on the endangered species list. This one wasn’t real, but it appeared incredibly lifelike.

“Magnificent.” Real or not, she had to touch him. And she somehow knew it was a male tiger. All the animals on the ride were male.

Reaching out, she stroked her palm over the creature’s side. She jerked her hand back and curled her fingers inward. The tiger had felt warm, almost hot beneath her palm. Not cold like the other animals.

Intrigued, she stepped up onto the platform. The base was solid, her weight not shifting the ride in the slightest. She rested her palm against the crown of the tiger’s head. Fur, soft and warm, pressed against her skin. A voice in her head urged her to sit on his back.

She furtively checked the shadows. There was no one here but her, if you didn’t count the animals of the carousel. Aimee chewed on her bottom lip. What would it hurt?

She wanted to climb onto the back of the tiger, even if it was only for a second. What’s the worst thing could happen? Someone would find her and kick her out of the tent. She’d planned on leaving anyway, so she had nothing to lose.

But if she left without sitting on the back of the tiger she knew she’d regret it until her dying breath. She felt a connection to the ride, to the tiger, deep in her soul.

“You won’t mind if I sit on you, will you?” she asked the tiger. “Just for a minute?” She stroked her fingers over his wide forehead and down his flat nose. Soft fur brushed her fingertips. She ignored the tingling sensation that continued when she lifted her hand away.

She hooked her purse strap over her head and shifted it beneath one arm to get it out of the way and leave her hands free. “I need both hands to ride a tiger,” she confided to the patient beast.

BOOK: Night of the Tiger (Hades' Carnival)
8.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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