Monday, April 2, 2012
Dressed to Grill
Like most creative types, Jase Dearborne loved what he did for a living. Except when it sucked. Like now.
“Why aren’t you working?” he muttered to himself while he stalked around the dressmaker’s dummy. He ran his hand through his bristly hair—plum this week, the same rich shade as the shimmery fabric draped on the dummy. A bit too matchy-matchy. Maybe that was causing his block.
He went through this with every dress, every piece he sewed. He would stroll through Talbot’s Peak until something inspired him, sketch until his fingers hurt, then scoot off to Tina’s for just the right fabric. Or a different fabric, if he came across something that wowed him out of his initial idea. The plum silk had cried out to him from across the room. He knew any number of women who would look spectacular in the dress that lived in his imagination. Getting it out of his head and into the world made up the tricky part.
Once again he both thanked and cursed Dante for opening the supperclub. The ladies of the Peak wanted unique gowns to show off in and make other females jealous. To achieve that they’d have to drive into Billings and buy off the rack (horrors!) or come to Dearborne’s Designs. His little dress shop’s business had boomed, and Jase was going buggy from the pressure.
“All right,” he addressed the cloth on the dummy. “What is it you want to be?” Something flowy. Shifter women preferred garments with plenty of leg room, the better to chase or to flee, depending on their species. Ease of removal was a major requirement, for shifting and other fun reasons. Above all, they wanted to look fabulous. Jase prided himself on his ability to make any woman’s decadent fantasies come true.
The bell over the door in the front of the store chimed a warning. Jase turned his frown in that direction. He had no fittings or consultations scheduled. Why did browsers always have to barge in when he was sunk in a crisis?
Perhaps they wanted plum. This might work after all. Jase hurried to the front.
Where he promptly froze. That was no woman poking about the prom dresses and casual wear. The image of a white tail raised in warning flashed across his mind. The presence of a man in a dress shop never boded well for anyone.
And what a man. Everything about him, from his broad chest and shoulders to the way he walked, proclaimed him male in all caps, bold and underlined. That walk had set off Jase’s danger instincts. Predator, without a doubt, but what kind? His yellow eyes said wolf, but not that walk. Wolves prowled. Cats stalked. This man undulated. His fluid movements suggested limbs were an afterthought.
Oh cud. Jase’s gut did a nose dive when he realized he was looking at a dragon.
The man angled toward him, with a smile that did nothing for Jase’s peace of mind. “Are you the dressmaker?”
“I’m the designer,” Jase snapped. “There’s a difference.” He strode forward and stopped before the dragon with his head up and his spindly chest out. No one, not even a dragon, intimidated Jase in his work space. All most Peakers ever saw of deer were raised white tails and hindquarters in retreat. They tended to forget deer had hair-trigger emotions, and antlers with stiff, pointy tines.
And dragons breathed fire. Don't forget that.
Jase continued to glower upwards. His head barely reached as high as the dragon's collar. Well, cud that. You want a garment, you play nice with the designer. Nuff said.
A bit less gruffly, he added, “What can I do for you?”
“I need a new wardrobe. A suit, several dress shirts and slacks.”
Jase waved his arm to indicate the obvious. “This is a dress shop. I don’t do men’s wear.”
“And I don’t buy off the rack. It’s too difficult to find my size. I need my clothing tailored.”
“There are excellent tailors in Billings.”
“But I’m not in Billings. I’m here. And so are you.” He showed off his teeth again. “Too big of a challenge for you?”
Jase’s nostrils flared. Nothing involving fabrics or sewing presented a challenge to him. He might get blocked on occasion—okay, every cudding time—but sooner or later the ideas broke free and magic happened. If this meat-muncher figured Jase couldn’t work magic for a dragon, he could blow smoke up his own ass.
“I won’t make any promises,” he said. “Men’s wear isn’t my thing.”
“I get final say on the patterns and fabrics.”
“No,” Jase said, “you don’t. I make the clothes. I’ll decide what you look best in.”
The dragon chuckled. “I came to the right dre—that is, designer. I’m Burne.”
A dragon named Burne. How on-the-nose. “We’ll need to discuss your preferences, and I’ll need to take measurements.” He eyed the dragon warily, and made mental note of the location and condition of the shop’s fire extinguishers. “That won’t be a problem, will it?”
“Not at all.” A dimple appeared beside the dragon’s mouth. “Of course, I don’t wear undergarments. For best fit you’ll need to measure me naked. Will that be a problem?”
Jase gulped. His customers were primarily female. He had no trouble seeing them as bodies to be clothed. His overactive imagination pictured the dragon sans garments. He swallowed again.
“Do we have a deal?” the dragon asked.
“That depends,” Jase said. “How do you feel about plum?”