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Knot That Hot (Rainbow Circus Book #1)

LGBTQIA+ MM Romance

Please note: Copyright Kai Parker 2021. THIS IS A FIRST DRAFT of Chapter One of Knot That Hot and much editing is required; however, your feedback and thoughts are so welcomed and encouraged. Come play at the Rainbow Circus! Interact if you’d love to read chapter 2.

Rainbow Circus is just as it sounds,
but there is more to it than lions and clowns.
You’ll find no animals, but there will be beasts, 
for when the lights go down, you are in for a treat.

Chapter One – I Ran Away to Join the Circus

I can do this. Just get out of the damn car. Just do that. First step. I take a deep breath in and let it out slowly as I grip the wheel. If only it was that easy. If only I could just get out of the car, walk up, demand what I wanted, and have it. But I tried that. It didn’t work.

I tried that with Pattens. I tried that with Fine Brothers. I try with Twagglers. Well, Twagglers, I went in a little less cocky. But now I have no cock left.

I felt like I was walking into this place, my last chance, with my tail between my legs. And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about circus folk over the years, it’s that they can smell fear. They are like animals. And I love animals. But yeah, they can smell fear and I reeked of it. If they said no, I wasn’t about to give up, but it’s going to make things so much more difficult. Already, I traveled an hour from my home and I know that if one of these places actually take me on, I am going to have to leave my home for good unless it was Fine Brothers. But to be honest, they are my last choice so I wasn’t too upset when they turned me down. Still, it would have been better than nothing. If this circus takes me on, I’ll have to leave home; they’re only in town for a few months and I have no intention of only playing while they’re in town.

This is my next life’s mission and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to give it my all. I’m not upset about leaving home because the fact is it has been kind of lonely over the last few years. I kind of like the idea of hanging out with a bunch of people, maybe having a roommate. I haven’t slept in the same room as anyone going on 13 or 14 years now. But the idea of doing that again kind of thrills me. Everyone sees me as a loner, at least I think they do, but I’m really not. I’m affectionate and I love cuddles and I love touching and I love having people near me. I just repel them for some reason.

“Hey bro, whacha doing?”

I jump a little at the unexpected sound of my brother’s voice. I look down at the phone in my hand. Huh. I don’t even remember pressing call, but apparently, I did. I press speaker. “Hey, I’m good. How are you?” Even I heard that waver in my voice.

“Oh, no. It’s happened, hasn’t it?” he asks and I can’t help but laugh.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’ve done it again, haven’t you.” There is no question in his statement.

I sigh. He knows me too well. “Yeah.” I rub my forehead, like that’s going to do anything to help the situation.

“Ok,” says my older brother of eight years, always the supporter.

“This is the last time,” I promise.

“It better be. You’re getting a bit too old to do this, don’t you think?”

I snicker, but he is right. I’m looking at 40 in the rear-view mirror and throwing my life into complete disarray, chucking in my job, taking a completely different route, has become my calling card. But I’m smart about it. All of my jobs have been intense and highly rewarding. I played them out until I had nowhere else to go or at least, nowhere else that would fulfill me. Now it’s time to reach that last goal, that last dream I had since I was a child. I WILL join the circus.

“I’m in the car park of the Rainbow Circus,” I say and wait. Dave would never judge me but still, I can almost hear his conscious effort to calm his frustration.

“Circus,” he says simply.

“Yeah.”

“How many said, no?” I scoff. He really does know me too well.

“Three.”

“So, this is the one that you’ll join, huh?”

I hope so. “I don’t know. I haven’t even spoken to them yet.”

“Haven’t you noticed your own pattern?” asks Dave and I’m not sure what he means. I massage the crease that’s formed between my eyebrows with my thumb as if the answer can be squished out of it.

“You don’t call me until after you’ve already applied for a few and every single time you’ve called me just before you go into one that you ended up getting.”

“Have I?” I thought back over the years. My first job was with the fire department. My first application was denied and my second one was approved. I called Dave just as I submitted it. When I joined the paramedic course, I’d been rejected four times. I called Dave on the fifth as I went in for my interview and that was the one I got. Then, when I went for the police service, I told Dave straight away and I was accepted immediately. Huh.

“So you’ll get this one.”

I sigh and a smile spreads across my face. “Thanks, Dave.”

“You’re all good kid. But seriously. The circus?”

I can’t help but laugh. There is no judgment in his mocking tone, Dave has always known what all my dreams were and he said himself a long time ago that I am the kind of man that would make his dreams come true. Damn straight I am.

“Then why is this freaking me out so much? What can’t I just go in there?”

Dave laughs. “Think about it, kid. When you join the fireys, you knew what the job would be. When you join the paramedics. You knew what your job would be. Same with the police force. What’s going to be your job here? Or are you just joining the circus?”

I huff. “I can do plenty of things.”

“Yeah, I know you can. But that’s the point. You don’t know where you fit in yet.” I slump in my seat. Dave is silent.

A beastly roar turns my head without thought and I look out the window as a bike screams past into the circus lot. I smile and shake my head. “You wouldn’t believe it. There’s a guy on a motorbike with no shirt on. Long hair just flapping in the wind, not a care in the world.” I can’t deny the jealousy flavoring my words.

“Is he hot?”

I choke on air. “Yeah, I guess,” I say with a shrug that my brother can’t see. I can’t really tell anyway from the distance but, I don’t really know what hot means. The guy is built but I can’t see his face.

“Take a photo,” says Dave with a laugh.

“Nooooo,” I say at length but my own laugh makes it sound choppy. “Stop being such a perv.”

“I cannot believe you’re eight years younger than me,” Dave laughs. That has always been our dynamic; Dave is still so full of his youth whereas I am the calculated one, usually. The only thing I ever throw caution to the wind over is the whole purpose-driven need to fulfill my childhood dreams. But even that is calculated. And most of that is because of Dave anyway, I can’t let him down. Not again. “Be like the biker guy.”

“What?” I ask suddenly snapped out of my thoughts.

“Be like the biker guy,” Dave repeats.

I can still hear the distant roar of the bike but the half-naked man is far out of my sight. I let the recent memory of him solidify in my imagination. His skin was a deep olive, his jet black hair flowing behind him, his body was firm and muscular, much like most of the paramedics he worked with, but not much like the firefighter or police officers. He was like something out of a movie. Who does that? Be like the biker?

“How is working out going to get me a job,” I ask.

Dave laughs. “Working out, huh? So he was hot. That’s firstly. Secondly, he was going into the circus, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So he has a job there, right?”

“That would be the assumption, yeah.”

“Put two and two together, man.”

I couldn’t stop the laugh bursting from me if I tried so I didn’t bother trying. “I didn’t think he got a job just because he’s built like a Greek god.”

“You don’t know that? And wait. You didn’t say Greek God before. Where is this circus exactly?”

“Why did I even call you?” I sigh dramatically but I love these conversations.

“Because you needed to be reminded that when you do this, when you seemingly just throw everything away, it’s because you’re going in the direction that you’re meant to go in. So go get it.”

I sigh and suck in a deep breath. Dave is right. “Ok. I’ll call you after I have this job.”

“That’s the spirit,” quipped Dave. “Can’t wait to find out what the hell you’re actually going to do at the circus, but whatever. You’ll be amazing at it dude.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Anytime. And, hey. Get me the number of that Greek God biker, yeah?”

“Bye, Dave.” I end the call. Gripping the steering wheel, I twist my hands around it replaying Dave’s words. He was right. He always was. I need to be more like the biker, throw caution to the wind. What was the worst that could happen anyway? If they say no, I still have options. I just really want them to say yes. Dave is right though. At least, I think he is. Most of my anxiety comes from not knowing my place. I hadn’t thought of that before. What would be my place?

I close my eyes and take another deep breath in letting it out slowly before I open the door and step out. Before I can stop myself.

The entire place is completely open. There are no fences, no gates, anyone could walk in. The security is absolutely atrocious. In fact, it is non-existent. I forget any concern I had about how I could assist, I was already having some ideas. I pull my phone out of my pocket and jotted down a couple of notes. Perhaps I could help them with organizing temporary fencing. Or security staff; they needed something right now. Anyone could walk in off the street just like I am literally doing, right now. As I walk slowly down the long path track that had been trodden down from years of use in the large showdowns, I note how easy it would be for the lack of security to be disastrous. A train of caravans on one side, one after the other, undoubtedly housing people’s personal possessions, their entire lives, and there is nothing to stop some hooligans or thieves from walking right up to their front doors. I hope they have security during the night shows, I can only imagine what a shit show disaster this could be if they don’t. My pulse increases a little as it usually does when I see chaos I can’t control because there is nothing I can do about it right now. I need to find the owner. They need me. Simple as that. I may not be able to juggle or handle animals but I can make sure the security is tight. I can make sure that they’re up to the fire code. Hell, I can be their on-site paramedic. I wonder if they have medical staff. Surely they must but looking around, I’m not convinced. Twagglers were unpleasant, to say the least, and the Fine Brothers were quick to dismiss me but at least they both looked like they had everything covered. They both ensured their staff is safe. This place, The Rainbow Circus, is a mess.

I make a few more notes on my phone. Actually, speaking of animals, I look up and turn left, then right, the stop still for a moment before I turn in a tight circle. I listen. I sniff the air. Twagglers and Fine Brothers both had the sound and smell of the circus, the stench of animal feces and fur. It was not completely unpleasant, but not entirely my cup of tea. And there were the sounds of elephants and the occasional roar of the lions, but here, all I can hear is the laughter of people. All I can smell is the very faint hint of a chemical that is not at all unpleasant. Just as I am noticing the lack of animals, the cutest bark I ever did hear cuts through the air.

As I pull up and turn, I feel myself grin - I love dogs! I always get way too attached to Dave’s service dogs. But so does he. The pup comes bounding at me and it is not what I expected. Still, my smile spreads. I dated a woman in my 20’s, Carrie. She was so liberal and opened me to a lot of things, including the pup scene. It’s not something I ever personally got involved in, but just the joy and fun of watching pups play is something that still gives me joy. So I didn’t expect the pup running at me on all fours to be human, but it certainly doesn’t make me any less happy to see them.

They are adorable in their caramel piebald pup mask with tufts of fluffy pink hair sticking out from behind their pointy little ears. Their little frilly pink tutu matches their hair and I stand still as I watch them run around my feet in two tight little circles. They move quickly and pant, sniffing at my feet and I don’t even try to stop myself from laughing with the joy of it. They paw at the dirt with their little covered paws, one caramel, one white, as if they aren’t sure if they can touch me but so want to.

“Puppy.” The voice comes from behind me and while stern, it sounds amused. The pup backs away a little and sits back on their haunches, their front paws propping them up. Their tail is wagging and they yelp as they lean forward as if they want to run but are too obedient. I turn to follow the pup’s focus and see a person dressed in plain sweats and a black t-shirt, strolling towards me. They would look quite plain if not for the bright yellow top hat covered with red and orange sequins patterned into a flame.

“Puppy. Heal,” they say in a deep rumbling voice and the pup at my feet doesn’t even give me another glance as they bound over to their handler and sit at their feet, staring up at them. My eyes drop to the handler’s chest and I smile. He’s wearing a pronouns badge. “I hope puppy wasn’t bothering you,” he says and without taking his eyes off me, reaches down to pet Puppy.

“Not at all. She?” Puppy’s head cocks to the side and I swear her eyebrows raise under her hood but in my experience, that doesn’t mean they understood.

I look back to the man who is now smirking. “Yes. You’re interesting,” he says as he scritches behind Puppy’s ear and she stretches up into the touch. “You are?”

“Oh, he/him,” I answer quickly and the man closes his eyes and laughs lightly.

When he opens his eyes, he licks his lips and sighs. “Is there something I can help you with?” he asks as he tilts his head to the side a little too far.

“Ah, yes,” I stammer, unable to not. I don’t know who this guy is but maybe he can direct me to who I need to see. “I’m actually looking for a job.”

Through his perpetual smirk, one corner of his mouth twitches. “A job?” he asks and the ways he says it is as if he doesn’t understand the concept. He rolls back on his heels a little and his eyes roam down my body and back up, sizing me up. I was used to this look from other men, searching if I was a threat, but they were usually guys that were bigger than me wondering what I was hiding. This man in front of me is several inches shorter than me and half my width but he’s bringing some pretty intense big dick energy.

“Walk with me,” he says, his voice pitching high as he spins on his heels with expert balance and instantly cuts off any potential pissing contest. I am eternally grateful. He steps away from me and it takes me a moment to snap out of my stunned silence, but when I do, I jog the few steps and fall in alongside him. He may be short, but he has a long and steady stride that I have to focus on to keep up with. “A job you say.”

“Yes, sir.”

He giggles at my response, a sound that is strangely too high for his voice. “What can you do?” he asks without turning to look at me.

“Oh, ummm,” I start as I step around people and random objects on the ground that I can’t even identify. “I was… Ah… I could do security. I wince at my own inability to make words when it matters. I take a quick deep breath to steady myself. I’ve got this. “I was a paramedic. I was a firefighter for a few years. And a police officer.”

He tsks at me. I can’t quite place his age. He seems strangely wise in his persona and yet he gives off the aura of a teenager. I turn and get a closer look at his face but I can’t tell if the lines are from age, laughter, or something else. “I didn’t ask you what you’ve done,” he says, holding the last word and drawing it out. “Honey, I asked you what you can do.”

“Oh, oh, anything,” I said and I mean, it is true. I’ve done a lot of things and given the chance, give me a task, I’ll own it.

“Hmph. Bit of a Jack of all trades, are you?”

I can’t help but laugh at that. It isn’t the first time I’ve been called that. “Yeah, you can say that.”

“Well, Jack of all trades. We are the best. But I’m sure you know that.”

Now is probably not the time to disagree. They aren’t. I know that. I’ve done my research.

“So tell me,” he continues. “Which letter are you, honey?”

Letter? I’m not sure what he means. Is he asking my name? I scratch my ear. “What, what do you mean?”

He stops in his tracks so fast I take another step before I can pull up too. I turn to face him. I want to ask his name but I should have done that at the start right. It’s too late now, right?

He gives me a cute lopsided smile and shrugs. “I’m sorry, Jack of all trades.” I open my mouth to offer my name but he keeps talking and I’m extremely averse to cutting people off when they speak. “We run a certain establishment here. If you’re not part of the rainbow, you cannot be part of the ‘Bow.”

Confusion rocks me hard enough that I feel myself stumble back a step. I look around. We’re right in the main ring under the big top. I hadn’t even noticed we’d stepped out of the biting sun and into the cool shade. I hadn’t noticed he’d walked be right into the center of the circus, the main tent. The hub.

She is the beauty.

Trapeze artists practice overhead and a handful of others attend to their varied tasks; cleaning the grounds, checking equipment, practicing their crafts. Quiet and gentle music is flowing out from somewhere but I can’t quite get a sense of where.

This is my last chance, I can’t just let it go. “I don’t, I don’t know, what you mean,” I stumble. “I can be part of the rainbow, just tell me what you need me to do.”

The man in the fire top hat smiles at me and it reeks of sympathy which makes me wince. “Sorry,” he says as he reaches out but doesn’t quite touch me. “We don’t have anything right now.” And just like that, he turns away from me. Turns me away.

“Wait,” I say reaching out, but he is already well out of my reach. “You can’t just tell me no. You’ve got to give me a reason.” I can feel my face heating up. Not good.

He turns back to me, his brows furrowed, and waited.

I was blowing it, I knew that. But hell, if I was going down in flames, I may as well explode. “You can’t just turn me away,” I say, my voice cracking a little more than I would like. I don’t usually lose my cool, but something is squeezing my chest, urging me to fight for what I want. “This is my dream. This,” I say and point indicating, well, everything. I vowed that one day I would work in the circus and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone take that away from me. Even this guy, who I have to assume has some say over who gets a job here (I don’t even know his name). If this guy is saying no, I’ll just go find someone else.

“I’m sorry,” he says as the seemingly perpetual smile finally drops from his face. “You just aren’t the right fit.”

Not the right fit? How can I not be the right fit, he hasn’t even given me a chance. Heat wells in my cheeks and I clench my teeth. Stop. I take a slow breath and swallow my frustration. I can’t completely blow it right here. There is still a chance. I just have to go find whoever ran the place, or the owner.

I push the anger, disappointment, and frustration back down in my chest and look back up at him with a smile. “I’m sorry,” I say with a smile. The last thing I need is some story getting back to the owner about a crazy man who came in and demanded a job. This isn’t over yet.

I nod once more and begin my hasty retreat. As I step past one of the workers, my eye catches something it probably shouldn’t have that instantly stops me in my tracks.

There is one thing that matters more to me than a job and that is safety. The knot they had tied to hold one of the corners of the safety net taut, may be considered acceptable to most, but not to me. It would probably hold, it would probably be fine but probably isn’t enough to me. I’ve seen too much to risk a single life on probably. I’ve seen too many lives destroyed with probably. People die, from probably.

“You,” I say, pointing at the worker and they instantly stop and gesture to themself in question. “Yes, you,” I say, briefly registering the rainbow pin on his chest. You’re in charge of this?” I ask and point at the knot that would ‘probably’ hold.

“I… ahhh…” he stammers. He looks over his shoulder as a woman, tall and sleek, jogs towards us. She drops a protective hand on the young man’s shoulder. He is a good foot shorter than her and several years younger.

“He’s my apprentice. I’m in charge. Who are you?” she asks, her voice gruff.

“I’m the person that’s going to save their lives,” I say pointing up at the aerial artists. “And save your ass from a lawsuit,” I say, pointing at her. I gesture around the tent. “And keep this place running.”

She looks me up and down without apology or respect. “Who are you?” she asks again.

“He’s Jack of all trades,” calls a voice I now recognize.

“What is this, Mark?” she says to the man behind me, Mark. I could thank her for making an awkward situation a little less awkward but right now, I was too focused on doing what I’ve done my whole life. I don’t even glance at Mark, I keep my focus on her. She rolls her eyes and nods then turns her attention back to me. I take that as my sign to go ahead.

I look to the apprentice, he seems more likely to follow my directions than the bossy one. “Look, this knot here,” I say pointing at the knot that would probably hold. “Is good. But good is not good enough when lives are on the line, right?”

“Right,” he replies with a sturdy nod. I smile. Good man. I look to the woman and wait. I can wait all day but luckily, she doesn’t make me. Her eyes flick away for barely a second and she gives a firm, sharp nod. Ok. Progress.

“What even is this?” I say and flick the back of my hand against the knot that would probably hold. “I’d expect this kind of thing at Twagglers, but I thought you were best.” I smirk and the young man laughs. Perfect. “Okay. I’m going to teach you how to tie this correctly. Pay attention.”

To the bossy one’s credit, they both step in a little closer, their focus moving to my hands as I easily untie the old knot. I feel myself relax. Even if there isn’t a place for me here, I was still going to leave my mark and maybe, save some lives.

Image credits: Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

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