Twilight character names belong to Stephanie Meyer. All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the respective author. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without express written authorization. ©2010 FoxxyJ. All rights reserved worldwide.
Story Summary: Quiet Bella Swan ends up the newest member of The Volturi Bros Circus. Friendships unfold as she begins to discover herself. Edward Cullen has never had to keep his hands to himself, until now. Will the charming trapeze artist be able to control his need? OOC, AH, NC-17 Eventual Lemon ExB
Hi, I got the idea for this story while looking at pics of The Pretty on the set of Water For Elephants. I was thinking Rob plus a circus equals HOT! So, if you are with me on that idea, please have a read. But, if you're after a lemon per chapter, then this isn't the story for you. I'll get there, but I want to play with them first.
A massive thank you goes to Kas90 and KelseyJane from PTB for helping fix all my mistakes. I really appreciate your time and effort.
And, thank you to Browns, my beta on Twilighted.
Step Right Up
Chapter 1 - The Circus Comes to Town
Bella was leaning as far as she could down the stairs, listening to her father's phone conversation. She could tell from his tone that it was not good news, and she feared it had something to do with her.
Bella had been living with Charlie since her junior year. Her mother, Renee, was a costume designer and lived on the road travelling with various shows. This ranged from theatrical productions, over the top rock tours, magic shows, and even Disney on Ice once. Bella was all too familiar with this lifestyle, having followed her mother across the country endlessly while growing up. She was also aware that she had no desire to go back to it, after enjoying the stability of life in a small town.
"BELLA," Charlie yelled from the kitchen. "Your mother wants to speak with you."
The shock from Charlie's unexpected bellow nearly made Bella slip off her hidden perch on the stairs. Eyeing her father carefully, she made her way into the kitchen as calmly as she could. He was avoiding her gaze, and in that instant she knew she was doomed.
"Bella, darling, your father and I have decided that it's time you get a job," Renee announced.
"I'm trying, Mom. It's just that there isn't a lot available in Forks right now."
"No, Bella. That excuse is long past its expiry date, young lady. You are coming to work for me, and I don't want to hear another thing about it. I will give you two days to pack your bags, and then I'll see you in Denver."
"No WAY! I'm not leaving Dad's. You can't make me, and I certainly don't want to join whatever crazy ass show you're following around this time," Bella stated desperately, trying to hold her ground against her mother. But she could see the defeated slump in Charlie's shoulders, as he stared out the kitchen window. She knew she had lost this battle, but was determined to go down fighting.
"Bella, your father will be taking you to the airport in two days, whether you are packed or not. So I suggest you make it easier on yourself and bring some of your belongings, because whether you like it or not, you are now assistant costume designer on The Volturi Bros. Circus Extraordinaire."
Bella slammed the phone down, trying not to focus on the moisture in her eyes. She hated confrontation, and at the first sign of tears she knew Charlie would completely shut down.
With her eyes clenched shut she said, "Dad, I'm staying here with you. I'm not joining a freak show! I promise I'll get a job tomorrow. Okay? Mom can't make me leave if I'm paying my way here with you."
"Bells, you've been saying you'll find a job every other week for years now, honey," Charlie told the window frame, still not able to look his daughter in the eye.
"But, Dad, I mean it this time. Tomorrow, I'll find one. Please?"
"Baby girl, you know I love having you here with me. But your mother is right. You can't keep hiding out in your room all day long, cooking and cleaning for me. You're a young woman who needs to be out experiencing the world."
"No, Isabella. You are going. I've given you plenty of time. I always thought you should have gone off to college, but you convinced me you could get a job and be happy instead. You're going to be twenty-one this year, and you're a live-in house keeper for the local Police Chief. Seriously, honey, it's got to stop. Go start packing."
Bella flew up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door before she collapsed on her bed. She dragged air into her lungs trying to prevent the panic from taking over. She was really leaving; going on the road with Renee once more. What had her life become?
Bella watched her father haul her suitcases down the stairs. She was sitting in the front seat of the cruiser, clutching her dented metal Care Bears lunch tin that Charlie has given her for her ninth birthday. The sky blue handle had faded away to an almost nothing color, the latch was held closed with a hairpin, and the picture of Cheer Bear and Tenderheart Bear was scratched and chipped. This small case had crisscrossed America with Bella the last time she lived with Renee and held her most cherished possessions.
Silent tears slid down Bella's cheeks as Charlie drove to the airport. He was heartbroken at shipping her off, but he couldn't stand by and watch her life slip away any longer either.
"Bells, it's gonna be okay. Once you get there, you'll meet new people and have a great time." He encouraged.
"Dad, how many friends did I make growing up on the road with Renee?"
Charlie kept driving.
"Hmm, how many?" Bella insisted, the tears slowing as her anger began to rise.
"Do not sit there and tell me how wonderful moving from town to town every few weeks is going to be for me. I know the drill all too well. I'll have a million acquaintances, but not one single friend."
"Now, that's not true at all, Bells. You'll have Jake." Charlie brightened.
"Jacob Black is the animal handler for The Volturi Bros. I guess you never gave your mother the chance to get to that detail on the phone," he added, grinning.
. . . .
Renee was as excited as a kid in a candy store, as she showed Bella around. The circus was set up in a large football field. In the middle, the main tent dwarfed the smaller sideshow tents. All of them were red and white candy stripes with a navy blue trim - the all-American dream. On the southern end, large trucks with 'The Volturi Bros Circus Extraordinaire' painted along the sides, were parked strategically to block access to the living quarters of the animals and performers. To the north, were the food stalls, children's rides, the house of mirrors, main gate, and even a bar. While behind the main tent was the preparation area - one large tent for costumes, two trailers for hair and make-up, restrooms, and a caged arena for the animals waiting to perform. Bella was utterly speechless as she followed Renee through the winding maze of RV's, tents and trailers. People were everywhere running back and forth, yelling instructions to each other preparing for the show. All the while, animals were being groomed and dressed.
"Watch your step, baby girl. Working with animals is such a hazard," Renee said pinching her nose. "The horses have been through."
Bella interpreted her mother's words a moment too late and swore under her breath. Welcome to the circus!
Renee pulled aside the heavy canvas flap on an antique, faded purple circus tent. It was leaning at an alarming rate to the right and had small Nepalese pray flags waving in the breeze from the four corner posts. Inside was surprisingly spacious. Bella guessed about one-hundred square feet. It was partitioned off with colored silk hanging from the ceiling to give the impression of rooms, even though you could see through the silk screens. Fairy lights were strung along the edges of the tent, giving off a soft glow. The left half of the space was Renee's office. Costume mannequins, sewing machines, mirrors and racks of costumes dominated the space around the massive workbench. Rolls of bright colored fabrics, half completed outfits, and sewing supplies covered every available surface and most of the carpeted floor. To the right, was a modest living area and behind it, two bedrooms. Renee disappeared though the silk, calling to Bella.
"So here's your room." She beamed, placing a plastic bag of toiletries on Bella's tiny bed. "Room," now that's a lose interpretation of the word, Bella thought, looking around.
"Is that a camp bed, Mom?" Bella asked, trying to mask the horror of her new surroundings.
"Look, kid, this accommodation might not be as modern as some of the others, but it's cheap and gives us more space than those silly RV's with all their gadgets and mod cons."
Bella didn't even want to know where the bathroom was located.
"The show starts at seven pm each weeknight, and on weekends there is an earlier one at eleven am, as well. So I'll let you get settled here while I start dressing the first act. I've organized for you to spend the night with Jake. He'll explain the show. If you're hungry he can find you something, since the canteen has already closed." Renee could tell that Bella was a heartbeat away from passing out. She knew her daughter would take a long time to settle in, and by then, they'd be packing up and heading for the next town to start the cycle all over again.
Bella sunk into the middle of the camp bed. With her Care Bear tin in her lap, she covered her face with her hands. The tears were on their way. If only she'd gotten a job last week back in Forks. Would working in the diner have been that bad?
Before she had a chance to let her emotions go, big strong arms were pulling her to her feet and surrounding her in warmth. Jacob.
"Bells, it's so good to freaking see you." He breathed into her neck.
She clung to him, not breathing, not moving a single muscle. She didn't need to explain because this was Jake, and he knew. He slowly withdrew and pulled her face up to look into her sad brown eyes.
"It's really not that bad, trust me. You'll get used to it and everyone's like a family around here. Plus, you and I get to hang out every day." He grinned.
Just like always, Jake was infectious. Bella couldn't stay sad, angry or depressed when he was nearby.
He dragged her by the hand, back through the winding maze of the living quarters. The sun had set, making it even harder for her to remember her way in the dingy lighting. The backstage area was even more chaotic now - various animals waiting impatiently, performers stretching while being primped and preened by Renee and another girl with long black hair. Jake pulled Bella into the huge glowing tent and pushed her up into a rather empty seating stand. Bella figured these seats would not offer the best view for paying customers, but it allowed her a view of the performance rings and part of backstage.
The atmosphere was amazing. Two large performance rings occupied the middle of the tent. The larger centre ring was covered in a rich blue carpet. Set next to it was the second ring, enclosed in iron bars. High seating stands surrounded these and were packed with adults of all ages, groups of giggling teenagers and kids with bright balloons tied to their wrists. A brass band was playing just below where she was seated. Jake sat down close to her and began pointing out who was who in the circus zoo.
The lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and a tall dark haired man appeared out of nowhere in the center of the main ring, under a huge spotlight. He was wearing a red velvet suit and tails with gold trim and a matching top hat. He held a shiny black cane in the air before he began his welcome.
"That's Aro - Ringmaster," whispered Jake. "He's one of the Volturi brothers."
Bella was transfixed as the great show began. A leggy, strawberry blond wearing a candy pink corset, fishnet stockings and silver heels walked into the ring. She waited until all eyes were on her before whistling. Instantly, four white Pomeranians, wearing matching pink tutus trotted in and circled their Mistress.
"That's Tanya and her bitches," muttered Jake. "Stay out of her way if you can. And under no circumstances touch those mutts. Like her, they look cute, but have a nasty bite."
The dogs jumped through hoops, danced and performed their way into the audience's hearts. Tanya glowed with pride as she took her final bow and sauntered towards the exit as Aro sang her praise. Jake left, stating he had to check on Seth and would be back by intermission.
All of a sudden, four huge black Friesian horses galloped into the ring and began circling. On each of their backs was a girl clad in a sea green sequined leotard, a large feathered headdress, and tiny green ballet slippers laced up their calves. There was no saddle, or even bridle, that Bella could see. However, a green leather harness circled the horse's neck and chest and then continued down under its tail. The horses were magnificent; with very long flowing manes and tails - also wearing matching feathered headdresses. Bella could tell that they were born to perform and were encouraged by the cheers and shouts. In unison, the girls began a serious of gymnastic moves, while the horses kept their pace cantering around the ring. A man appeared to the side dressed in a dark suit and sea green vest. He was holding a long horsewhip that went unused, as the horses would change direction or stop on his voice commands alone. The girls twisted and turned, hanging off the horses at frightening angles, but completely one with their steeds. Bella loved it. She was beginning to relax as the crowd roared their approval.
Aro came back into focus, motivating the crowd for Act Three - the tigers. Bella could hear Jake outside calling commands, when the tent went dark again. The band added to the atmosphere with a drum roll, before six sleek cats ran into the caged ring on the far side of the tent under the spot light. Their trainer entered through a small door. He was extremely well built - muscle bound almost, wearing tight leather pants and boots that came to his knees with a dozen silver buckles. His tiger skin vest was opened to his navel, revealing his hairy chest, and chunky, gold medallion. Bella thought it looked like a tiger's head snarling, but hoped it was only the distance that was affecting her eyesight. From a costume assistant's point of view she wondered if his pants and vest should be one size larger. Aro had referred to him as James in his intro, and Bella silently prayed to the wardrobe gods that her mother would be handling him.
He brandished his whip, forcing the tigers to retreat to their platforms. They reluctantly obeyed his every command, snarling and flashing their claws in his direction at every chance. Bella had to wonder about the trainer/cat relationship. Each tiger performed perfectly - jumping through flaming rings, rolling over, even dancing on their hind legs - but something was off. His creepy smile as he walked about the ring, arms held open wide, asking the audience for more, made her shiver.
Before she knew it, the tigers had vanished, and Jake was climbing the stands loaded with corn dogs, cotton candy and cola.
"So what do ya think? Pretty awesome, huh?"
"Actually, it's a lot better than I was expecting. I'm kinda surprised Renee hasn't mentioned it before."
"Jeez, don't go overboard on the praise there, Bells. Our animal acts give Cirque Da Sol-whatever-it's-called a run for their money." He beamed. His animals. He was so proud, watching them all perform perfectly. They deserved the cheers and applause more than the human performers, Jake thought.
At the end of intermission, a young kid appeared at Jake's side. "Bella, you remember Seth Clearwater from the Res?" Jake asked.
"Yeah, wow, you've grown," Bella noted as she stretched around Jake to shake his hand.
"Nice. You can call me 'Snoop Sethie C', home girl," Seth announced without a hint of a smile. Bella was about to laugh when she saw Jake's face.
"Seth, how many times do I have to tell you how ridiculous that sounds? You are not a freaking rapper!" Jake shook his head frowning.
"Can I call you, 'Sweet Baby BS'?" he asked, looking excited.
"SETH!" Jake roared. "What the fuck? BS?"
"Bella Swan, dude - BS. Get it?"
"You are not calling her that! End of conversation."
"So what's Jake's rap artist name, Seth?" Bella asked, genuinely enjoying herself for the first time in ages.
"Funny, you should ask. My personal favorite is 'Jazzy B Boy Black a.k.a Wolverine'," he said, trying to contain his laughter. Bella snorted cola out of her nose, clutching her chest trying not to make a bigger mess.
"Do NOT encourage him, Bella, or use that name, particularly if you want me to answer."
Again, Aro was calling the audience to attention as he introduced the second half of the show. It was time to lighten the mood a little as clowns entered from every angle. Bella had always loved clowns as a kid - brightly colored oversized trousers and shoes; silly hats that were too small and sprouted flowers, with happy face paint that made them far from scary. Renee had done a marvelous job with their costumes. The fabrics were loud and covered in conflicting patterns of polka dots, stripes and checks. The two head clowns were driving around in a tiny yellow car, spraying the audience with water cannons and making lewd gestures at the other clowns who scrambled to get out of their way. Jake identified them as Mike and Eric, brothers from California, who apparently knew how to party hard.
The audience loved every second of it. Bella couldn't help but laugh at their crazy, predictable antics. As she was wiping a tear from her eye, she spotted three young men, wearing matching red and silver tracksuits, in the dim backstage area. They were all stretching; helping each other. Bella wondered who they were as they didn't exactly look alike, but something about the way they interacted suggested intimacy. The bronze haired one left the circle and strode over to engulf a middle-aged woman with caramel hair in his arms.
Raucous laughter, followed by gasps, bought her attention back to the ring. Eric was hanging upside down from a ladder, with his enormous trousers completely covering his head and shoulders. It looked like a giant pair of pants, with feet and arms had come to life and appeared to be on fire. She then noticed the dark skinned Fire Eater in the middle of the chaos. His dreadlocks were woven with beads that shimmered as he put his head back to let lose a giant burst of flames from his mouth. Mike, meanwhile, was now riding a unicycle - blindfolded, and was set on a collision course with the pair.
The act finished, and the clowns left the ring dragging their various props with them. Aro was forced to threaten to use his cane on Mike's behind in order to persuade him to leave the stage. It appeared that Aro was not only a charmer, but a comedian as well.
"Carlisle and Esme are up next. You're gonna love 'em. They're my favorite act, and really nice folks to boot," Jake whispered.
A devastatingly handsome blonde man, wearing a tuxedo, entered the spotlight with the woman Bella had seen earlier on his arm. She was wearing a beautiful evening gown that shimmered as they took a bow. Bella soon learned that Carlisle was the circus Magician, and the lovely Esme, his assistant, waiting to be sawed in two. Together the pair wowed the audience with their faultless illusions. Doves flew out of apparently empty boxes, objects disappeared before her very eyes, and Esme's legs managed to be wheeled around, quite separate from her waving torso that stayed in the middle of the stage!
The crowd was on their feet, cheering and wolf whistling in appreciation of the pair. Carlisle graciously gave Esme the stage, indicating that it was all her. They seemed like a lovely couple to Bella, and she hoped she could watch them perform every night.
"This is the act for me," announced Seth. "If you thought that was good, just wait Sweet Bab..." he trailed off, and Bella noticed Jake giving him the evil eye. She was so surprised at how good of a time she was having. Bella usually preferred her own company. She rarely went out, and usually felt uncomfortable surrounded by so many people. That was one of the reasons that Forks was perfect for her, as it was a tiny ghost town on the outskirts of civilization.
The grand finale was announced by Aro as 'The Amazing Cullen Brothers'. Bella had failed to notice the large net strung above the main ring, signaling a trapeze act. The crowd bellowed as five elegant figures appeared. They were the three men that Bella had spotted earlier, plus two beautiful women, all holding their joined hands in the air as they greeted the crowd. Bella couldn't help but notice the similarity in the boys, as they gave the audience their jaw dropping smiles. She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks as they dropped the floor length black capes from their necks, unveiling five toned, and taut bodies dressed only with red and silver leotards. The girls, Aro continued to introduce as Alice and Rose, stepped forward, wearing revealing costumes covered in a stunning sequined design. The costumes barely covered the girls in the essential places. Bella then remembered the trick of using skin-colored fabric to make costumes look more daring and alluring.
After taking a bow, the girls began to climb a thin metal ladder that had dropped from above. Next, the largest of the three was introduced as Emmett. He had short dark hair and massive broad shoulders. Bella wondered how someone of his size could possibly fly through the air. His leotard was the smallest, almost like bike pants, and left his chest completely bare. The muscles in his huge arm rippled as he gave the crowd a salute before jogging to a second ladder at the opposite end.
Bella hardly paid attention as the wavy haired blond was introduced. He was handsome, sure, but it was the bronze god waiting behind him that had her eye. Finally, Aro welcomed Edward to the spotlight. Clearly the troupes' star as the audience noise increased a decibel or two when he took a low bow. His costume, the same as the blond guys, covered his legs completely. Again, using the skin-colored fabric, Renee had given the impression of flames leaping up one side of his chest and back. Bella realized the girls sequined design was also fire licking up their torsos. The same fire seemed to be burning in Bella's stomach, as she watched the hypnotic motion of his Lycra clad hips glide up the ladder. What on earth was wrong with her? She gulped more cola, trying to make the unfamiliar sensation abate, but was unable to shift her eyes from his body.
The audience hushed as the flyers got into position. Emmett turned out to be the catcher and was already hanging upside down swinging, waiting for the others to start the show. Alice grabbed the fly bar, yelling, "Listo". Emmett responded immediately with, "ready", followed quickly by a timed, "HEP". With that, Alice swung towards him, immediately pulling her legs up between her arms, hooking her knees over the bar and letting go. She was now swinging upside down and was ready for Emmett to catch her on his next pass. She looked like a miniature doll hanging from his huge arms. The crowd cheered loudly as she prepared for her return.
The performance went on with more complex combinations of the flyers vaulting through the air to be caught by Emmett. Rose turned out to be strong enough to be able to dangle little Alice from the bar in a double act. Bella spent a good portion of the time with her hands covering her mouth in disbelief, as they somersaulted and twisted through the air, narrowly making it to the bar each time. The difficulty of each trick was increasing, and Bella noticed she had started to bite her nails.
Edward took position on the board, holding the flyer bar while the blond guy, Jasper, climbed onto his back. Bella could hardly believe it when he leapt into the air giving his brother a piggyback. Edward swept towards Emmett pulling his legs up while his brother let go of his neck, dropping backwards still holding on with his legs before transferring to the safety of Emmett's waiting arms. Edward swung back towards the board, increasing his speed as he maneuvered to release over the top of the fly bar. As he neared the catcher he flew over the bar, flying over the top of Jasper as he spun and reached out to catch the bar. They had swapped places. Jasper swung back again, and Edward let go of Emmett's hands and joined Jasper. The two men, now hanging together from the fly, then returned to the girls waiting. It all happened in the blink of an eye and the crowd went wild.
Edward now stepped up on the riser board above the others. On Emmett's command, he jumped off, kicking his legs out in front of him to get maximum height. The drum roll added to the atmosphere, as he let go to execute three and half perfect somersaults towards Emmett, who caught him by his feet. Bella was now on her feet, along with half the audience, as all five performers gracefully twisted and dropped into the net. The two girls hugged the guys before they all held hands, bowing repeatedly to the frenzied applause. Aro appeared, encouraging the crowd and taking his final bow as he closed the show.
"Seth and I have to go put the last of the animals to bed before we hit the bar. We'll meet you there, okay?" Jake asked.
"Not a chance in hell am I going into the bar alone! I'm going to bed." Bella knew with the amount of adrenalin pumping through her veins sleep was unlikely, but she never felt comfortable in bars. "Besides I'm not dressed for it."
Jake eyed her jeans and the enormous charcoal hoodie that finished mid-thigh.
"Your usual attire will be fine, Bells. Granted you'll probably be the most covered chick there, but nobody cares. No dress code and no ID checks."
The two boys were not taking no for an answer, so Bella agreed to go, if they could all stay together. After watching them tether the camels for the night, lock the tiger enclosure, close the children's petting zoo, and water the horses, Bella followed them to the bar. It was a tent like her mother's, hidden amongst the sideshow, although she noticed it looked a lot newer than the one she was expected to live in. Jake explained that by this time of night most of the performers would have gone. He wanted her to come earlier next time to meet everyone, but Bella knew hell would freeze over before that happened.
A large bar ran down the middle of the tent, surrounded by mismatched chairs and tables. It was practically deserted apart from a few couples scattered around the place. The boys ordered beers and a coke for Bella, before dropping onto bar stools to toast her arrival. She sat between the two boys, listening as they planned their work for tomorrow. A soft moan caught her attention as she looked over Jake's shoulder. There, leaning up against one of the sturdy tent poles, was a rather amorous couple. The girl was crushed against the guy's body as he kissed her. Bella couldn't see his face, as it was hidden amongst her hair as he worked down her neck. She moaned again, and Bella watched his long, slender fingers graze up her thigh, pulling her dress up with them as he pulled her ass against him. She felt like she was watching a horror movie. She knew she shouldn't look, but part of her had to know what was going to happen next.
A velvety voice crooned, "Ooh, baby." Bella eyes left his fingers, as she tried to get a better look at him. It couldn't be! She'd recognize that hair anywhere now. It was her bronze haired trapeze god. She gasped in shock, and Jake followed her stare.
"Ah, you'll get used to seeing that and more. Magic is a regular fixture here, the only thing that changes is the chick that's hanging off him," he said with a hint of jealously.
Blinking rapidly, but still starring Bella asked, "Magic?"
"Yeah, Edward. He's the reason that Seth has taken it upon himself to think of a "cool" nickname. He just wishes he could pull the chicks that easily too. I keep telling him that Snoop Sethie C crap is only gonna make 'em run." Jake laughed.
The moaning, groaning and grinding continued over Jake's shoulder. Neither of the boys seemed phased by it, but Bella had to get out of there. The fire in her belly was starting to re-ignite, and there was now a strange ache in her chest that accompanied it.
"I'm gonna go find Mom, I mean, Renee. I'll catch you tomorrow. Thanks for everything, Jake." Before the boys could utter their goodbyes, she was gone.
Finally, alone in her bunk, Bella let her mind wander over the day. Was it really just this morning that Charlie drove her to the airport? So much had happened, and her entire world had changed. She thought about the circus that she was now a part of as she tried to drift off to sleep. But sleep was not coming. Every time she closed her eyes, images of two bodies, molded together in passion, flickered in her mind. Bella couldn't ever imagine her body wrapped around someone like that, or that much of her flesh exposed in public, either. The thought actually frightened her. The sounds of that girl and the sight of his fingers pressing into her skin were caught on replay. She shifted uneasily, burying her head under her pillow. Why did she even care? But the questions lingered...Magic? Magic what?
A/N: The trick performed by Jasper and Edward is called a Piggyback followed by a Passing Leap. If you type into YouTube "Piggy Back Catch" or "Passing Leap", you can see how it's done.
Listo – term the flyers use to indicate they are ready.
HEP – term used by the catcher to start the trick when the timing is right.
This is the trick I was thinking of when Esme's legs move around the stage, but imagine they aren't dressed as tacky nursing staff.
Thank you so much for reading. And welcome if you were sent by the lovely ladies at Rob Attack!