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Charismatic. Devious. Secretive. Emerson Durand is the ringmaster for the illustrious Cirque des Miroirs. In each city he finds a new woman to command for the night. Until he finds the one woman who doesn’t bow to his demands.

Luna Rider soars through the air as an aerial acrobat. She’s determined to provide for herself and her sister, but she doesn’t count on being gambled away. Or the secrets that hover under the striped tent.


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Blue Moon

Skye Warren

Expected Release Date: 12 March 2024

Book Series: 

An all-new story in Skye Warren’s Smoke and Mirrors series is out this week, and I have a little sneak peek for you.

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Excerpt

Standing with my feet planted firmly on the ground, I bend backwards until I can reach my ankles, then I come back up again and freeze because someone is there—a man.

He has dark hair, a little glossy with a surprising amount of volume.

One part falls rakishly over his eye.

Dashing, that’s the word that comes to mind.

He looks dashing.

Which I distrust immediately.

Dashing isn’t real, it’s a fairy tale.

And I learned a long time ago that fairy tales don’t exist.

The twinkle of mischief in his eyes proves me right. The fact that he’s tall with broad shoulders, obviously strong, even through his suit, that doesn’t matter. None of it matters.

He’s a stranger and even worse, a townie.

Circus folk are insular, almost xenophobic.

We take money from the people in town. We serve them popcorn and we perform for them, but we never trust them. He is some member of the audience who decided to sneak backstage for reasons unknown. Probably so he could hit on the performers.

It’ll be a lucky thing if my father doesn’t see him.

Underperforming circus folk aren’t the only people he’s ever rolled into a ditch as the caravan moved through a lone moonlit highway.

The man leans back against a temporary wooden wall.

“Like what you see?” he asks.

My cheeks flush, I’ve been staring like an idiot. “You shouldn’t be back here.”

He looks around. “I don’t see a sign.”

“There doesn’t need to be a sign. This is backstage. You should be in the stands.”

“No,” he says, “I should be in neither of those places. I belong in the ring.”

I roll my eyes at the arrogant statement, even though it rings true.

This is a man who would be perfect as a performer. He commands attention just by standing there. He’s commanding my attention right now.

“Go ahead.” I tell him, “Sasha probably wants a snack.”

Something dark flashes across his eyes. “She probably does. That’s what you do to the animals, right? You keep them hungry before a performance. Of course, you don’t want to go too far. You don’t want them too hungry. You don’t want them to decide that one of the audience members looks more delicious than whatever the trainer’s got on a stick.”

I shiver. “You don’t know anything about us.”

“Don’t I?” He pushes away from the wall and walks toward me.

I want to back away, but I force myself to stand my ground.

I belong here, he doesn’t.

Besides, I can’t miss my cue. I don’t think my father would actually push me into a ditch, but that’s not because of familial love. I’m the headliner for the circus right now. The draw.

The reason why we get even tiny snippets of media in local TV shows when we pass through towns. The great Luna Rider, so much potential, Olympic hopeful…

At least she was a long time ago.

Now she’s just a circus sideshow, something to do on an afternoon in a rural town.

The stranger circles me, watching far too close for comfort, his dark eyes taking in everything from my hair in its tight bun to my leotard, my stockings and my bare feet. And they aren’t pretty feet. They’re the feet of a dancer, of an athlete. They’re feet that were cut time after time on tight ropes when I was just little.

The audience can’t see them, so it doesn’t matter that I can’t cover them up with ballet shoes or something else in order to do my act.

This man sees them.

He seems to notice every cut and bump and scar.

He meets my eyes. “I do know you,” he says, his voice low, so low.

I almost don’t notice how close he is. Not until his breath brushes my temple, warm and almost soothing. In contrast to his words.

“I see that they keep you a little hungry too. That you’re strong, muscular, but not as much as you should be. Not for someone who works out ten hours a day. That’s because they keep you hungry, isn’t it? You wake up hungry, you perform hungry, and you go to sleep hungry.”

A full body shiver racks me, confirming his words even as I want to deny them.

Yes. My father trained me the same way he trained the animals.

And the worst part, the reason why I can’t even condemn him, is that it works. He wanted to build something to revive his flailing circus.

He worked at it and now he has it.

I remember when we would only draw a handful of people when I was a child. They were more concerned with drinking and fighting in the stands than watching the show.

Now, our biggest tent packs 100 people a night, even more if my father can sell the tickets, the fire marshal’s rules be damned.

“I’m serious,” I say, my voice unsteady. “You shouldn’t be back here. The owner of the circus will be upset if he finds you.”

“And then what?” he says. “Will he kick me out of the circus? No refunds, right?”

“Right.”

“Is that what you want?” He circles me again. And from behind, he leans down, his words soft, his lips moving against my neck. My entire body wakes up, that’s the only way to explain it. It comes alive. After nineteen years of sleep, I thought my body was only good for one thing—performing, doing what other people want to see. But this reaction that runs through me, it has nothing to do with being seen. It has to do with feeling the warmth of him behind me, the strength and size of him. A contrast to the softness of his mouth.

He kisses his way up toward my ear.

I should be offended.

I should be horrified.

I should turn around and slap him.

Except then everyone would hear us.

The audience might look over.

The show would stop.

My father would definitely find out.

So I stand very still.

At least, that’s the excuse I give myself as I allow his teeth to gently grab my earlobe and tug.

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Smoke and Mirrors - Recommended Reading Order

(standalone stories with interconnected characters)

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