Theo stared moodily at the coffeemaker as it percolated the magical black gold that gave him a will to be awake in the early spring morning. It was after eight and the sun was just now gracing the late April streets of Three Lakes, Michigan. He didn’t do mornings unless it was summer, and it definitely wasn’t summer yet. Snow still hid in the corners where the sun didn’t quite reach and the air contained a bite of winter that made him sleepy.
That’s the problem with being a bear shifter.
And the oldest bear shifter in Three Lakes, to boot. There weren’t many of his kind left in the world overall, much less in a little Upper Peninsula Michigan town. It made for a lonely life.
The coffeemaker dinged and he sighed with relief. Finally, and just in time, too.
He poured his coffee, added cream and a dash of honey, and headed to the front of his clock repair shop to flip the sign to open. And to listen to the music.
Let’s be honest. It’s not just the music that has you up so damn early.
No, it was the person who played the music that got his motor revving. And the coffee.
Osera Rockwell rented the shop next to his on Main Street for a 3D art gallery. He’d often stopped to look through the window at her creations, intrigued by her use of old junk to make wondrous figures and images. She had a whimsical style to her art, with a Steampunk slant that made him think of times past when steam engines were all the rage.
Loud, dirty things.
But what he liked most was Osera herself. She wore top hats with goggles made from the same cast-off junk she used in her art and corsets over her peasant blouses, wonderfully outlining her breasts. The skirts with garters tied with ribbons above knee-high boots weren’t bad, either. He loved when she wore her long-tailed coat that floated around her like an extra skirt. Made him hard as a rock, but he didn’t mind. It felt good to feel something at least.
The building that housed their two shops had brass grates in the adjoining walls and they could be opened to allow for heat and air flow between the shops. As far as he knew, Osera had never closed hers. Theo reached up to open his side and allow the sound of her music to enter his shop. Today she’d picked a cello-violin instrumental piece that reminded him of someone searching for something or working on a project with intense focus. Like Osera often does. He couldn’t see her through the grate, but he imagined her dancing in her flared skirt and knee-high boots.
His cock hardened at the thought and he moaned in the back of his throat as he closed his eyes, savoring the image with his coffee.
Until the bell above the door chimed and someone came in his shop.
Theo jerked his eyes open and he managed to dart around the counter, hiding the erection tenting his jeans. He looked up with his best non-committal expression and met the glacier-blue eyes of his beautiful neighbor Osera.
Fuck a gomphothere! Nothing like showing the woman he’d wanted to impress his boner.
“What are you doing here?” Okay, not his most cordial greeting.
“Good morning to you, too, Theo.” Osera raised an eyebrow along with her smile. “Did I come at a bad time?”
“Uh, no. No, I just haven’t had enough coffee.” He cleared his throat and tried to think about something other than her breasts straining her shirt above her corset. “What can I do for you, Osera?”
“I was wondering if you could come and help me?”
I’d like to come in you. He gritted his teeth lest the thought escape his mouth. “Help you how?”
“I need you to help me move something. It’s heavy and I need to put it up high. I’m not quite strong enough.” She gave him a hopeful look. “To make it worth your while, I have freshly made cinnamon buns with honey-lavender glaze. Please?”
He couldn’t resist her request any more than he could resist the cinnamon buns. He just hoped she wouldn’t notice his dick pointing at her the whole time. Because while he had control over most aspects of his life, reining in his attraction for Osera Rockwell, the Steampunk artist who collected teddy bears, wasn’t one of them.
“Yeah. Okay. Lead the way.” And don’t look back.
Yeah, he probably wouldn’t be that lucky.