Jonathon Parker stood at the gate, his teeth in his mouth, just as quiet and as stunned as he could be. His heart slammed so hard he thought he would collapse in a heap.
He covered rodeos all over Wyoming and Colorado for LetsRodeo.com and Western Times—everything from the little bitty ranch rodeos to the Daddy of ‘em All—but he’d never seen anything like this.
The men that walked the stands glowed, while a huge bear walked about the arena, the clown makeup floating above the thick fur.
“Oh damn.” He swayed and almost lost his balance.
What in fresh hell was this?
He blinked, trying to make sure he wasn’t just really tired. Sometimes when he did that, his vision cleared.
That was a bear in clown makeup and…
His breath stopped short. A fire-breathing horse. A ghost. A ghost in a cowboy hat. A ghost in a cowboy hat riding the fire-breathing…
He was going to pass out. His ears rang, and he turned in a circle just in time to see a storybook vampire bare his teeth in a sick parody of a smile.
Oh, dear God.
“Are you okay, honey?” A woman with a faceful of scales of a bright shining gold and the longest teeth he’d ever seen smiled at him, staring into him with glowing eyes. “Oh. Oh, sweetie. You’re totally not okay. Erik? Erik, honey? We have a gasper!”
“Shee-it.” He heard a slow, southern drawl, and a very handsome man with eyes as black as night appeared in front of him. “Hi there. Can you come with me?”
“Don’t eat me.” Although the guy’s teeth looked pretty damn normal. “I have a press pass.”
“I don’t have the chops for that, honey.” The Erik man took his arm and his brain immediately quieted.
“Yeah. Yeah, come on. You look like you need some air.”
“I do. I— It’s so stuffy.”
“I understand. There’s a room where you can get your bearings.”
“Did you see…” No. No one saw the hallucinations he did and he’d learned as a small child never ever to talk about them to anyone but Aunt Belle. She saw them too. Of course, everyone called her crazy… Like, batshit crazy.
“I saw the rodeo setting up. Can I see your press pass?”
“Of course.” That was on the level. Totally. He’d heard the Darque and Knight show was coming to Cheyenne and he’d never seen this company before.
“Thanks, Jonathan. Very nice to meet you. I’m Erik. Here, have a seat in here and I’ll get you some water.”
“Thank you. Thank you. I’m sorry. I’m not usually so…” Out of control.
“It can be overwhelming. All that animal scent.” Erik patted his arm. “Be right back.”
The door closed behind Erik and oh, he was so drowsy.
There was a heavy silence here, a warmth, a comfort, and he hummed softly, his eyelids growing heavy. So nice, just for a moment, to have the constant noise in his head fade. He could sleep here.
He sat bolt upright, jolting out of a deep sleep. A bottle of water was pressed into his hand. “Here you go.”
“Thank you. Thank you. I’m sorry.”
“It’s just fine. Would you like us to call you a cab or do you think you can drive?”
“I can drive. Sure. I can.” Jonathan stood up, confused, unsteady on his feet.
“Whoa.” The man caught him under the arm. He had a name… what was it? “Just breathe for a moment. You had a hard nap.”
“What?” Wait. No way. No. Way.
“Right? Those deep naps always leave me fucked as all get out. Are you sure you don’t need a ride?”
“I have a rental car.” Where was it? He couldn’t remember.
“You’re in a hotel?”
“The Motel 6.”
“I can have someone take you. Someone can follow him to take him back, so that way you have your car.” This guy made plans so easily.
“It’s a good idea.”
“Yeah. Yeah, it’s a good idea.” A really good one. Right.
“Good deal.” The man pulled out a tiny phone and punched buttons. “He’ll be here in a moment. His name is Steve. Very safe. Very nice. You like him.”
“Is he an Uber driver?”
“Something like that.” The man patted his shoulder, the touch making him jump. “Just rest.”
“I can do that.”
Hell, he didn’t think he had a choice.