Carnival (The Traveling Series #4)Jane Harvey-Berrick
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Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
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Copyright © 2017 Jane Harvey-Berrick
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are STEALING. I support my family through my writing. Pirate copies are illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Harvey Berrick Publishing
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Hang Le / www.byhangle.com
Interior design and formatting by
Christine Borgford / www.typeAformatting.com
The Traveling Series
All the fun of the fair . . . and two worlds collide
The Traveling Man (Traveling series #1)
The Traveling Woman (Traveling series #2)
Roustabout (Traveling series #3)
Carnival (Traveling series #4)
The Traveling Series (Boxed Set)
The Education Series
An epic love story spanning the years, through war zones and more . . .
The Education of Sebastian (Education series #1)
The Education of Caroline (Education series #2)
The Education of Sebastian & Caroline (combined edition, books 1 & 2)
Semper Fi: The Education of Caroline (Education series #3)
The Rhythm Series
Blood, sweat, tears and dance
Slave to the Rhythm (Rhythm series #1)
Luka (Rhythm series #2)
The EOD Series
Blood, bombs and heartbreak
Tick Tock (EOD series #1—coming soon)
Bombshell (EOD series #2—coming soon)
With Stuart Reardon
Undefeated (January 2018)
Model Boyfriend (Fall 2018)
For standalone titles, click here
To the child in all of us
Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
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I was nearing Missoula when the phone rang. I’d covered a lot of miles today, driving the eight-wheeler across the rolling plains of Montana, the sharp silhouettes of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
Our destination was the County Fairgrounds. It was one of the smaller places that we played, but I liked that. I got a buzz out of bringing our show to small-town folk. They always gave us a great reception when they saw Donohue’s Daredevils roll into town. Well, except for the people who thought carnies were trailer trash. These days, I couldn’t afford to get into anything with fucktards like that, so I walked away. Mostly.
The Western Montana Fair was a big date on the locals’ calendar. We’d played there for the last two years, and I loved the soaring skies and wide open spaces.
Outside my air conditioned cab, the early June weather was hotter than a furnace, and the blacktop shimmered and danced like a mirage in the desert.
I glanced down as my cell started playing Daddy Yankee and Mirelle’s name flashed up. Damn, it was good to hear from her—it had been nearly three weeks since we last talked, much longer since we’d managed to get together.
I took the call on my hands-free cell, in a cradle on the dashboard, grinning as her east coast accent with a Puerto Rican lilt filled the cab.
“Hey, beautiful! How you doin’?”
There was a short pause.
“I’m pregnant. It’s not yours.”
One week later . . .
I watched the flames leap and dance, sending a shower of sparks into the sky as one of the logs caught light.
Even though the daytime temperatures had soared into the nineties, it was considerably cooler now and everyone gathered around the circle of fire. It was a carnie tradition that went way back, signaling the end of another day.
Tonight was special because it was the penultimate night at this pitch, and our last chance to take it e
asy for a few days. The final night was always crazy busy because it was a jump day—which meant that all the roustabouts were taking down the carnival rides and packing everything back into the rigs, then driving through the night to get to the next town by morning, to set up for the following afternoon, when the whole cycle started over again.
In fact, the 24-Hour Man had already left. He was the guy who went ahead, signposting the way for the rest of us to follow. It may not sound important, but you don’t want fifteen eight-wheelers getting stuck or ending up driving down a one lane road to the wrong field.
So tonight was our night—our time to kick back, relax, and visit with other carnies.
“Bro, you look like someone just kicked your dog. What’s up with you? You’ve been a pain in my ass all week.”
Tucker left the others by the fire and squatted down beside me, ignoring the fuck-off vibes I’d been giving everyone else.
“What’s eating you, man? Tell Uncle Tucker all about it.”
Tucker was a year younger than me, but sometimes he acted like a teenager and spoke like a California surfer, if you ignored his Tennessee accent. We were all like that in the carnival—mongrels who didn’t call any place home, but everywhere was our kingdom and the road was our right.
He sighed when I didn’t reply and threw an arm around my shoulder.
“I know about Mirelle. Tough break, brother.”
I shot him an angry glance and he pulled a face.
“Mirelle called Aimee, Aimee told Kes, and well . . . you know how it goes.”
Yeah. I knew. Kes and Tucker were my family, my blood brothers—cut one, we all bleed. We didn’t keep secrets. And since Mirelle was Aimee’s best friend, I’d expected the news to circulate faster than it had. Perhaps she’d thought I’d tell them myself.
I should have, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want their pity.
“She wasn’t right for you,” Tucker said softly. “I like Mirelle, but she wasn’t going to make it as a carnie. She has roots and that big ole Puerto Rican family back on the East Coast.”
I knew he was right, but the sharp cut of disillusionment was hard to take. Aimee had lived out East and she’d followed Kes to the carnival; Tucker’s woman flew out to see him every couple of weeks. Why couldn’t that work for me?
I shrugged off his arm and stood up. I was ready to walk away when a thought stopped me in my tracks.
“Did she tell Aimee who the father is?”
“Yeah.” He stared down at the dirt, idly pushing his fingers through the tough, brown grass. “Some dude who teaches at the same school.”
Suddenly Kes rose to his feet. Everyone stopped talking and we all turned to face him.
He stood with the fire at his back, the flames dancing behind as he faced us. His people, his family.
“I’ve got some news I want to share with you,” he said. “Perhaps I’d better say that we’ve got some news to share with you.”
He smiled at Aimee as she walked to his side, her eyes glowing with love as she looked at him, and he slid his arm around her waist.
“We’re going to be parents. By January, there’ll be a new little carnie joining the family.”
Yells and cheers rose from the carnies around the fire, then Tucker called out,
“Oh my God! Does that mean you’ve been having sex?”
“No, it’s an immaculate conception, dufus,” I muttered, slapping him around the back of the head.
Aimee shot Tucker a look that said he’d be paying for his dumb joke later.
Everyone crowded around offering congratulations.
“A new little stunt rider for the family business?” asked one of the carnies.
Kes shrugged, his whole body lit with happiness as men slapped him on the back or shook hands, and women kissed him on the cheek. Aimee was surrounded with her own admirers, smiling and laughing, glowing with joy as she turned to look at Kes to hear his answer.
“Our kid can be whatever he wants.”
“So, it’s a boy?”
“Maybe. We don’t know yet.”
When the crowd around them thinned, I walked over to give Aimee a kiss on the cheek. Then I turned to Kes.
“Congratulations, man. That’s great news.”
“Thanks, Zef. I appreciate it. And I wanted to ask you—Aimee wants the baby to be Christened, something old school, you know? So I was wondering if you’d be Godfather.”
That was the last thing I’d been expecting. I wasn’t the kind of guy that a kid could look up to.
Kes read the doubt on my face and laughed.
“I’m going to ask Tucker, too. So the kid will need at least one Godfather who’s not completely crazy.”
I grinned at him.
“Well, when you put it that way . . . I’m the lesser of two evils?”
“Something like that.” His voice sobered. “So, will you do it? If anything happened to me and Aimee . . .” he swallowed, a flicker of fear on his face, “if anything happened, I’d want to know that I could count on you.”
“Fuck, man, nothing’s gonna happen to you!”
“Yeah, but it could. We both know . . . we know it could and . . . I need you to say it, man. I need to know that you’d be there. If I hadn’t had Dono to take care of me and Con, I’d have been in a fucking foster home. ”
I rubbed my hand across of my face.
“Of course. Of course I’d do it—anything.”
I stuck out my hand and he shook it before pulling me into a swift hug.
I nodded, then asked the question that had been burning me since he’d made his announcement.
“Are you scared . . . about being a father?”
Kes cocked his head to one side, thinking about it.
“Nah, I couldn’t fuck it up as bad as Mom the alcoholic or dear ole dad who barely knew I existed, or cared. Anyway, I’ve got Aimee to keep me straight.”
He grinned and turned to accept more congratulations from other carnies.
I walked away, surprised by the emotions I was feeling.
Kes, a father!
That was some pretty serious shit. Coming on top of Mirelle’s news, I was feeling off kilter. I tried not to picture her with a guy who wore a collared shirt to work, some nice, safe townie who’d give her security. But she deserved that. She deserved more than a tatted up wiseass who jumped motorcycles for a living—a man with a criminal record who’d served time in prison.
Someone walked over my grave and a shiver ran down my spine. I’d cleaned up my act since then and I wasn’t ever going back.
And I meant what I’d said to Kes: if anything happened to him and Aimee, I’d take care of their kid. Fuck knows what kind of parent I’d be, but he’d asked me and I’d sure as hell try.
The breeze had picked up since sunset and I could see the tops of the distant trees swaying blackly against the rising moon.
The Ferris wheel was still and silent, a towering monument to man’s desire for mindless pleasure. It didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t do anything—except give the illusion of movement. And wasn’t that what the carnival was all about? Cheap thrills for a few bucks before moving on to the next small town. And yet, even with the existence of Netflix, tablets and smartphones, people still came, searching for a little of that stardust, that illusive magic, the freewheeling world of the carnies. Maybe that was what made it so unreal: we’d arrive in the half-light of dawn, and by the evening a world of bright neon and music erupted from an empty field. A few days of eating cotton candy and corndogs, a few moments of adrenaline as you were whirled around the Tilt-A-Whirl or rode the bumper cars, and then we’d vanish in the night, leaving patches of flattened grass and an empty field.
I pushed my hands into my jean pockets and stared up at the moon as if it had called my name.
How many years did I have before my body broke down, before my knees or ankles or spine couldn’t take it anymore, when throwing m
yself through the air on 200 pounds of metal no longer seemed like a good idea? Then what? What would my life be then?
“The Cheyenne tell a story that the moon was held by a warring tribe, so a pair of antelope tried to rescue the moon and take it to a good village. But Coyote, the trickster, decides to make trouble and the antelope chase him. Coyote tosses the moon into a river each night, just out of reach of the antelope.”
I didn’t turn around as Ollo spoke.
“Is that supposed to mean something to me, old man?”
I heard his soft chuckle behind me, a wheezing hiccupping laugh.
“Nope, it’s just a story about the moon.”
“Great, thanks for that. Very educational.”
He sat down behind me, ignoring the obvious message that I didn’t want company.
I felt a soft tug on my pants leg as Bo started to climb me like a jungle gym, nestling into me and throwing his thin arms around my neck, chattering in my ear.
“Damn monkey doesn’t know when he’s not wanted,” I grumbled, supporting Bo’s tiny fury body as he snuggled into my chest.
Ollo laughed again.
“I’d say he knows exactly when he’s wanted. Capuchin’s are smart critters—smarter than most damn humans.”
I sighed, knowing I wasn’t getting any alone time tonight.
I sat down on the bone-dry dirt next to Ollo, smiling as Bo took his chance to go scampering off into the darkness. For a moment, I listened to him rustling in the tall grasses at the side of the swing-boats and I leaned against the canvas backdrop of the Ghost Train.
When I was a kid back in Georgia, I used to try and sneak in under the canvas without paying when the carnival came to town. Sometimes I made it, and sometimes I got dragged out by a hard-faced carnie and sent packing with a smack to the back of the head.
It didn’t matter how many times that happened, I always snuck back. I was fascinated by the mechanics, all of those big machines whipping you into the air or speeding around in circles. I hadn’t heard of hydraulics or knew anything about the physics of gravity, but I loved the dirt and grease behind the scenes, and the rides that made people laugh and scream.