"Here we go."
Bobbie Ann pulled out a set of keys and led him to a service entrance for the arena. They wended their way through tunnels and under pieces of stage until they popped out at the north ring, where most of the prop-driven shows took place, like the tarot and the crystal lady. From there he had a clear view of the new and amazing set-up in the center ring, which had multiple levels of trapeze rigging and lots of shiny chrome. "Hell of a lot different than when I was still in the show."
Bobbie Ann snorted. "You're old. They're on in three or so. Can you handle the evaluation? I have a meeting with the costume manager." She shot her French cuff back to look at her watch.
"Sure. Nice to see you too."
"You have dinner at eight with Victor. Casual. That seafood place."
"I'll meet him at his bus."
"Excellent." She patted his hand before she let go. Then she disappeared, her heels making a lot less sound on the pads that were laid down on the wood floors. Sports arenas. Always protecting their precious playing surface.
He waited, his eyes adjusting to the gloom. Seconds after he started forward to get a better view at the rig, though, the technicians arrived, one of them a familiar face. David Rass, a senior stage tech, smiled at him, nodding.
"Vance. You like the set-up?"
"I do. When do they start rehearsal?"
"Three minutes. You want a chair?"
"Please." He would settle in, be unobtrusive and observe the show. Then he'd go tell Victor what he thought and maybe troll the beach that evening before he turned around and went back home.
"You got it." David got him a chair before directing the stagehands on setting up the rig. Vance noticed that they also set up a net.
"They use this during the show, too?"
"All but for the last trick, yeah. Boss says it's a legal thing these days."
"Yeah." There were a whole lot more rules and regulations than there used to be regarding circus safety these days. "Do they actually need it?"
David gave him a long look. "Never seen anyone who needed it less than you until now."
"Even I fell." He hated to be reminded of that, but it was true.
"That fall of yours would have killed anyone else. You were the best I've ever seen." David grinned a little. "These two don't have your style, but they make up for it in raw power. They're sexy, too."
"They're not siblings?" That wasn't unheard of, but often teams of two were related.
"Nope. Not even married. Hot as hell, though."
Hmm. Victor had said he was trying to spice things up a bit, to compete with the big shows in Vegas. Nothing too adult, but something with some heat behind it. Interesting. "Thanks." He settled in to watch, trying to be inconspicuous. It wasn't easy; he and Victor tended to stand out with their black hair and pale skin. Vance knew his bright gray eyes tended to make people nervous. One ex-lover had called them icy. Vance tended to think of them as clear and direct.
Music started up, and while there was no lighting check or live orchestra like there was at a real performance, the atmosphere would work for a basic rehearsal. A single, static trapeze was lowered from the rigging at the center of the ring. Vance squinted at the spotlighted area, waiting.
He saw her first. The female half of the act was small, maybe five feet tall, but she had the kind of body only professional athletes and performers could maintain. Small breasts and strong abs gave way to slim hips and strong legs. She had the legs of a gymnast. She wore a practice leotard and a pair of hand wraps, but her only other adornment was resin on her hands and feet. Her hair was pulled back in a simple bun, tight enough to keep it out of the way, but that didn't hide the fact that it was nearly white-blonde with pink streaks.
Her face surprised him with its sensual arrangement. She had slightly slanted eyes, an upturned nose, and lush, full lips. Beautiful.
The music swelled, and she stepped up to the bar, grasping it with her left hand. Her muscles bunched and she lifted off, the bar rising back up into the air, leaving her dangling. Her first few moves were graceful, strong, and lovely, but nothing special. She had all the hallmarks of a great flier trained in Eastern Europe; she was seamless and musical, but it just didn't seem special enough for the Cirque Caprice.
Until she let go. She just let go of the trapeze and the bar rose out of sight before gravity even latched on to her. Just as she began what would be a nasty fall even with the net below, though, another flier swept through the air on a dance trapeze, the kind with a swivel instead of a traditional bar.
That would be the woman's partner. The man was just as stunning as his female partner, longer, a little leaner. He had the chest and shoulders of someone built as a catcher, which made him wonder what troupe they were from originally. He wasn't husky like an anchor, but he was long enough to be a primary catch artist.
Their twisting and turning on the long swivel line reminded Vance of birds of prey fighting. Swooping, diving, swinging, they maneuvered the female into split and catch ankle poses, backbends and single-handed shows of strength.
The poses were far from erotic or obviously sexual, but there was an energy to the performance that made Vance's hair prickle on his scalp, made him breathe harder. There was also something there, so subtle that someone without the same talent might have missed it. Vance didn't miss it at all. One or both of them had a very fine-tuned kinetic talent. Some of their catches would have just missed if they were average fliers; some of the hand-clasps were too loose to hold unless they had some help.
That was the thing that tipped the performance over the edge for Vance. He sprang a hard-on like he hadn't had in ages. It pulled up so fast that his lower belly ached a little. God, that felt good.
The music swelled to a crescendo, and the swinging, twisting act ramped up to a finale. The endgame was a full-release move with a double twisting flip that plunged the female into what looked to be certain death.
The dance line lowered with shocking speed, the male performer catching the girl maybe two feet from the ground. The two ended in a beautiful embrace on the floor of the center ring, touching down light as feathers. Goddamn. That was, indeed, hot.
He did the only thing a man could do when faced with a show like that. He stood up and clapped, letting them hear his appreciation.