I write erotica for pay under a number of pseudonyms. My favorite stories are the ones where I get to create entire worlds. Here is one of my favs – a short shapeshifter romance. Enjoy!
“I need a man like you,” Lucy said as she rubbed Jeff’s belly. “You know, a bigger guy, good beard, gentle and masculine at the same time. Someone who is not overly man-scaped.”
“Honey, if only you were a gay guy, I would have half of my friends knocking down your door!” Jeff wrapped his arms around his bestie, giving her a big, solid bear hug. “You’re my Goldilocks.”
Lucy laughed. She loved this term. Since she started hanging out with the bears at the local leather bar, she felt like she had found her people. Gay bears were the best. Big, hairy guys who were comfortable in their own skin, who did not conform to society’s ideals of masculinity or gayness, and who thought her own ample curves were sexy. They called her their “Goldilocks” and showered her with love and free beer whenever she went out with them.
“Le sigh. Alas, my lack of a dick means I will never be too big, too small or just right,” Lucy giggled at her own joke.
“You’re perfect the way you are honey! I mean, look at those curves! Who out there can’t resist your double-Gs!” Jeff gently squeezed her breasts together creating an inordinate amount of cleavage. “I mean, James Franco could lose his arm in there for 127 Hours!”
Lucy laughed, “I wish! The only things to get caught in there in the last four months have been crumbs! Can you believe it, four months since Paul and I split.” Lucy screwed up her mouth, “Such a dick-face.” She was still angry about the split.
“Sweetie, we will find you someone. Someone who deserves you. Not some guy who comes in pretending to be one thing, then three months later is all ‘I need you to know something. If you love me you will support me through this.’ Then goes out and cheats on you.’” Jeff wrapped his arm around Lucy’s shoulder and gave her a solid squeeze.
Lucy sighed. “You’re right. I know you are. I just can’t deal with another round of online dating. There are so many trolls out there who send me nasty messages about my weight. It’s hard not looking like a yoga model when you are trying to find a man.”
“We will find you a nice, straight bear. They are like unicorns. People think they are a myth, but if you believe they exist, you will eventually find one. The big difference is bears don’t fart glitter.” Jeff laughed.
“I couldn’t date a unicorn. I HATE cleaning glitter out of bedsheets!” Lucy smiled broadly. “See you Saturday?”
“Yep, four o’clock at Scuffy’s. They are doing a barbeque on the patio.” Jeff confirmed their regular Saturday date at the local gay bear bar.
* * * * *
“Fuck, I hate online dating,” Lucy thought to herself. She flipped to her Facebook page and scrolled through her list of friends. Reaching the end of her list, she sighed. With over 400 friends, there should be one datable man, but alas, no. They were friends but there was no romantic chemistry, or they were married or dating, or they were gay, or something. But she did not have one single male friend with the characteristics she wanted in a partner.
She sat and stared at her feed. It was a late Wednesday night. The usual pictures were up: memes about love and friendship, pictures of friends at dinner, lots of pictures of beers or food from various restaurants, a few invites for weekend events. The feed continued to load but she did not register what was on the screen.
She took the last sip of her vodka tonic and clicked over to LoveMatch, her online dating site. She clicked on her own profile to bring up any messages. Her own pale face with dark brown hair smiled back at her. She chose this photo because she thought she looked cute in it. Her hair was in a short bob, her make-up was on point, and she was sporting a Led Zeppelin t-shirt which she thought made her look hip. She was also out at a local park which she thought conveyed the idea she was active despite being overweight.
Her stats showed 17 men had “loved” her profile since she logged in on Monday, two had sent a “love tap” and there for three new inbox message. Looking at the flashing three above the envelope icon made her heart sink. Her thin girlfriends reported getting 40 or 50 messages a day on the site. Admittedly, most of the men that messaged them were dismissed out of hand as undatable for one reason or another, but still three in comparison to 50 was a blow to the ego.
She clicked on the first message from Hunkaburninluv.
“Hey you! Love the curves! Would love to roll around in those tits!”
“Delete. Asshole,” she spoke out loud. Did men really get dates with opening lines like that?
The second message was from PinkTacoLvr23. “Not a fucking chance,” she laughed. “God I hope there were not 22 other PinkTacoLvr’s on the site necessitating the 23.”
The last was from ManForYou. She clicked on the message.
“Hey there sexy lady. I love women with curves! They make me HOT!!! Want to meet? Click on my URL below and we can chat.”
Scam! She slammed the “Delete” link. Gigolos prowled these sites looking for less attractive women and those whose stats indicated they had not had a successful connection that week then sent url links to malware sites or pay-for-porn sites.
Disheartened, she closed her computer and picked up her phone. She poured herself a shot of vodka from the bottle on the coffee table and texted Jeff.
Assholes on LoveMatch tonight. : (
Lucy sipped the vodka and flipped through her Netflix selections on her television. Her phone chirped.
Sorry hon. Men suck. And not always in a fun way. : /
Lucy chuckled a little.
Where did you find your papa bear? Jeff had met his man online, a bear website she recalled.
Scruff. It’s an app for gay bears.
Fuck. Do they have one for straight bears?
Her phone was silent. She went back to scanning her movie selection. She decided to rewatch Being Human, a sci-fi thriller about paranormal beings. She started the pilot episode.
Finally her phone chirped.
Did some Googling. App called Shiftr. Apparently straight bears exist. Could try it?
Lucy couldn’t bring herself to type out “Thank you.” Her feeling was very half-hearted.
Luv ya Goldilocks!!!
Lucy found her app store function and typed in “Shiftr.”
An icon featuring the Wonder Twins from Marvel Comics was at the top of the list. It was listed as a dating app. She clicked on it to check it out. Apparently there were a half million downloads and it had 3.5 out of five stars for user ratings. She clicked “Install.”
Two minutes later the app opened on her phone. The Wonder Twins icon covered the top third of the screen and there was an option to sign up for a free account.
She had to come up with a user name. On LoveMatch she used “CurvyGirl4You.” That had not brought her luck so far. This was a chance to try something new.
“BearLover?” No, that didn’t feel right.
“YourGirl?” Eh, that sucks.
“Goldilocks” Lucy entered.
“Name not available” was spit back.
“Goldilocks22” was suggested. She spiced it up to Goldiloxxx. Her name was accepted.
She selected a password and entered her birthday, then clicked, “Sign Me Up!”
The app asked her to create a profile. It looked pretty standard.
Tag line, hmmmm. She hated these. They always seemed so trite. She opted to run with the Goldilocks idea. “Looking for a Bear who is just right!” She smiled to herself. That was as honest as she could get.
She finished her profile and uploaded a few pictures. The app gave her the option to take a quiz that was supposed to improve the quality of her matches. Three vodka tonics into her evening and she decided to take it.
The questions started out pretty standard. How many dates before you are willing to have sex? Is jealousy good in a relationship? How long was your longest relationship? Do you believe in birth control?
Then the questions got a little strange. Do you watch science fiction television shows and movies?
“Well, I am streaming Being Human, so that would be a yes.”
Do you believe in things like ghosts?
“Hmmmm, I guess there is a possibility they exist, so ‘yes.’”
Are you fascinated by the paranormal?
“Yes, very much so,” she thought. She loved paranormal shows and books.
“I wonder if there are a lot of gamers and role play people on this site,” she thought to herself.
Do you believe in the existence of shapeshifters?
“What the hell! That is a weird dating question. Wonder what they are getting at with this?” Lucy though. “I don’t even know what they are measuring. Open- mindedness maybe?”
She clicked yes. Politically she was liberal and wanted to attract other like-minded men.
Do you like men with a lot of body hair?
“Finally! This is a site for bears!” Lucy got a shot of hope that this site would pay off.
Describe your perfect match with one of the following words: Lion, wolf, shark, fish, cat, dog, horse, goat, snake, unicorn, bear, kangaroo, alien.
“Bear! Yes, finally! A bear!!!” Lucy hoped clicking this answer would send the right message in combination with her name.
She submitted her quiz. The app returned to the home screen. The tab for “Matches” flashed.
She clicked on the link. Forty-three potential matches loaded onto her screen. She scrolled down slowly. Picture after picture was a bearded man, a little heavy-set, not overly man-scaped with bright eyes. A wave of hope filled her chest.
A red-headed bear with green eyes caught her attention. She clicked on his profile name: GingerBear. She read through his profile. He seemed to be sane, he did not have kids, and said he was looking for a woman with a sense of humor. She clicked the “Wink” button to let GingerBear know she liked his profile.
She continued to read the profiles: BearWitness was a lawyer, PapaBear appeared to be very into leather, GummiBear was very cute but very young, BearNaked was a nudist. Then she saw FullMoonMan. He had dark, thick hair and a full curly beard. His hazel eyes had a bright yellow ring around the iris. He said he was a local construction worker, single and no kids. The five things he could not live without included music, laughter, a soft bed, community and the love of a good woman. Lucy was smitten.
She stepped outside her comfort zone and decided to message him.
“Hi! I love your profile and your pictures. You are quite handsome. I am a Goldilocks for many local gay bears but am looking for a bear to romance me. Check out my profile and message me if you are interested in chatting.”
She clicked “Send.”
As soon as the message disappeared and was replaced by the word “Sent,” she began to rethink what she had written. Was it clever enough? Did it make her sound desperate? Did she compliment him enough? Did she sound bossy with the phrase “to romance me?” Fuck! It was done. There was no way to retrieve the message.
She glanced at the time, 2:15 AM. “How did that happen?”
She picked up her glass and the vodka bottle and took them to the kitchen. She checked her phone. No new messages on Shiftr. She decided to go to bed.
* * * * *
Lucy sat in the cafeteria of her modern office building. She picked at the Caesar salad she had selected for lunch. Bored, she pulled out her phone. The Shiftr icon had a bright green “4” in the upper right corner. Messages!
Lucy clicked on the app. There were four messages waiting for her in her inbox. Three were from men whose profiles she had liked and there was a reply from FullMoonMan. She clicked on the reply.
“Hello! You are a beautiful lady! Thank you for the message. As you saw in my profile I am a bear and I am looking for the love of a special woman. I am very involved in my local community and I love the local music scene. I would love to chat! Barrett”
Lucy found herself smiling. A man, a straight bear at that, had messaged her back! He found her sexy!
“I have to thank Jeff!” Lucy thought. She took a screenshot of Barrett’s profile pic and sent Jeff a text.
Thank You!!! Apparently straight bears ARE more common than unicorns!!! Lucy attached the profile pic to the text and sent it to Jeff.
She clicked back to Shiftr. She needed to reply. The pressure!!
“Barrett, nice to meet you! I am Lucy. I have been waiting a long time to find a straight bear. I was beginning to think they did not exist! I love the local music scene too! What type of music do you like? What venues do you frequent? Maybe we could take in a show together and get to know each other a bit.”
She read the message over five times. It was forward, but now that she knew a straight bear existed she did not want to miss her chance because she was slow on the draw. She clicked send and returned to eating her salad.
She tapped her phone to check the time. The Shiftr icon was at 4 again. A new message!
Lucy opened the app. Garrett had replied to her message again.
“Hi Lucy! Nice to meet you. I like rock and alternative. I frequent most of the venues downtown. I like the Stork Club and Cry Wolf. I actually have friends playing at Back Alley this Saturday. They do folk-rock. Would you be interested in going to the show? Maybe grab a drink beforehand? If you are busy we can figure something else out. –B”
A date with an attractive bear at a cool bar was well worth foregoing her weekly date with Jeff at Scruffy’s. She Googled the band. The bar listed the show as starting at eight on Saturday night.
She sent Garrett a message, “Bar and band look cool. Yes, I would love to join you. Should we meet for a drink at seven? Lucy” She clicked send and watched her phone. She clicked reload, twice.
A new message came through. “Sounds great! We can meet at Back Alley at seven and chat before the show. I will have my buddy put you on the list so you won’t have to pay a cover. Looking forward to meeting you! Barrett”
Lucy replied immediately, “I am so excited. This sounds great to me! Looking forward to meeting you.”
She had a date with a very attractive man. She prayed the pictures were recent and representative of what he really looked like. She mentally scanned her closet for something to wear.
* * * * *
Saturday afternoon Lucy stood in her kimono staring into her closet. Jeff sat on her bed and flipped through his phone. “I have nothing to wear!” she moaned.
“You say that all the time. Go with the green top and black jeans.” Jeff had this conversation all the time with Lucy. She would become frustrated with her wardrobe, he would suggest one of her “go-to” outfits, and the crisis was over.
Lucy dropped her kimono on the bed.
“Sweetie, you have to have better bras than that one!” Jeff was appalled at the beige monstrosity his friend was wearing.
“What? Why? I don’t plan on sleeping with the guy tonight. This is supportive for these puppies!” Lucy lifted her breasts high.
“You never know girl. He is a bear. We like to cuddle. I think you should be prepared.” Jeff gave a half smile then frowned at her bra selection again.
“Ok. You are probably right.” Lucy opened her lingerie drawer and pulled out a satin black bra.
“Now that is upping your game!” Jeff encouraged his friend.
Lucy changed her bra, pulled on the green shirt with the logo of Dog Days, a local rock band and her black jeans. She turned toward Jeff, “So…?”
Jeff gave her the once over. “You look great. And approachable. And like you are not trying too hard but did put thought into your appearance. It will be a good balance for a bear.”
“Thanks. Pre-game?” Lucy raised her eyebrow.
“Sure. Where are you thinking?” Jeff knew Scruffy’s was out of the way for her date.
“Ummmm… Dad’s Biergarten?” Lucy suggested.
“Sure,” Jeff shrugged. He was along for the ride on this one.
* * * * *
“Ok girl, good luck! Hope Barrett is a great guy!” Jeff hugged his friend as they parted company.
“Thanks, I’ll text you tonight.” Lucy hugged him back.
“Hope it’s not too early!” Jeff smiled and walked toward his car.
Lucy walked the three blocks from Biergarten to Back Alley. She got to the door and the bouncer asked for her ID. “That will be five bucks for cover,” he said.
“Um, I think I was supposed to be on the list.” Lucy didn’t want to be pushy, but Barrett had mentioned he might get her on the list.
The bouncer referenced his list taped next to the door. “Lucy Mond. Yep, you’re here. Right hand.”
Lucy extended her right hand and the bouncer stamped it. “Have a good night.”
She walked into the bar. Lucy had been to Back Alley a couple of times, but it was not a regular haunt. The bar itself was unremarkable. Long bar, stage along the back wall, a few tables and chairs scattered about and a pool table occupied the inside space. Framed playbills of former shows donned the wall. The big draw of Back Alley was the enormous patio out back. The builders had sacrificed on the indoor space to maximize the amount of patio access. In the summer, misters kept it cool. It had been well appointed with a container garden and local metal artists featured their works on a rotating basis.
When she entered, Lucy looked around the bar for a man resembling Barrett’s photos. At the end of the bar there was a dark haired man that looked like he might be the man she was supposed to meet. She caught his eye and he smiled. He raised his glass and stood up.
The man standing looked somewhere between Hagrid from Harry Potter and Zack Galifinakis had a kid but he got Bob Marley’s nose and eyes. His hair was thick and black as was his beard. He was broad-chested and clearly comfortable in his own body.
As Lucy approached him she noticed his incredible presence. He was at least six-four, his shoulders were broad and square, and his beard was full and reached toward his chest and up into his hairline and his eyes seemed to glow. She reached him and confirmed, “Barrett?”
“Yes. And you are Lucy?” he asked, extending his hand.
“Yes, glad to meet you!” Lucy smiled broadly. Barrett leaned in and hugged her with one arm. He smelled amazing. It was some combination of sandalwood, musk, black pepper, and pine. It was woodsy, masculine and sensual all at once. She felt tingly all over.
“Can I get you a drink?” he asked.
“That would be lovely. How about a Guinness?” Lucy needed to stay with beer since she had started with one on her pre-game outing with Jeff.
“Good choice,” Barrett nodded in approval. He waved over the bartender and ordered a beer.
“Shall we adjourn to the patio?” Barrett asked and nodded toward the back door.
“Let’s!” Lucy smiled, picked up her beer and followed this wall of a man to the patio.
He led Lucy to one of the picnic tables at the back of the patio and they sat down. It was a perfect night: low 70s, a light breeze, and it was deep enough into summer it was still quite light out at seven.
Lucy sipped her beer but had a difficult time breaking away from Barrett’s eyes. They were like a tractor beam pulling her into him. “So, have you been on Shiftr long?” she asked.
“Only a couple of months. Just recently found the app. I think it is pretty new actually.” Barrett smiled. “And you?”
“Just started this week. You are actually the first person I contacted on it.” Lucy was a little embarrassed by this, but couldn’t break away from looking at Barrett to glance down when she blushed. As the blood filled her cheeks, she felt it warm throughout her body. The reaction was overly strong for her, she noted.
“What attracted you to my profile?” Barrett asked and took a sip of his beer.
Lucy raced back to the night when she was looking at photos on Shiftr. What had made her reach out to Barrett? “Honestly, I guess it was a combination of the way you looked and the five things you couldn’t live without.” She sipped her beer to force a pause.
“I am glad you sent me a message. I am actually really shy and it’s hard for me to initiate contact with women on dating sites,” Barrett admitted. Lucy was taken aback by this honesty. Most of her experience with online dates included men complaining about how women are so inundated they never get replies back from the women they message and how hard it is to find a woman without drama.
“You don’t seem overly shy. I am surprised that a man who appears as powerful as you would be slow to approach women.” Lucy had a hard time seeing the bear of a man being afraid to ask a woman out. He came across as powerful and comfortable in that large, hair-covered, sexy skin of his.
“When it comes to dating, I have a hard time putting myself out there. I am not your typically attractive guy and I tend to need my own space. A bit of an introvert, I guess. I don’t know if that makes sense.” Barrett looked down into his beer.
Fireworks went off in Lucy’s head. Finally! A man who understands what it is like for her on the dating scene. A rush of empathy and compassion and deep sexual attraction coursed through her veins. “I think I get it. It is hard not being a yoga model when you are looking to date.” She flashed a sympathetic smile. “I find you remarkably attractive.” She blushed again with this confession.
Barrett caught her eyes and reached out for her hand. He interlaced his enormous fingers with hers.
“Wow! Those are some paws on you!” Lucy loved this. Here was a man who could make her feel small and girly. That was no short order as she was five-ten and a good size 26. Seeing her hand look small in comparison to his was an enormous turn-on.
Lucy saw something flash in Barrett’s eyes when she said “paws.” The minute changes in his expression told her she had hit some nerve. Fearing she had offended him she over-corrected. “I’m sorry. Poor choice of words. I like you large hands. They make me feel girly.”
“It’s okay. So, how did you find Shiftr?” Barrett asked.
“A friend of mine, a gay bear, found it on Google. I was looking for a someone like the guys he hangs out with out with, but you know, straight. He said this might work. And so far, so good!” She felt bad about concentrating on the bear identity of her date. She wanted to shift the conversation to something else.
“Ah, ok. So you want a straight version of a gay bear?” Barrett asked.
“Pretty much. I like big guys, guys with good hair, manly guys. The gay guys I know who are bears tend to be comfortable in their own skin and they don’t have to conform to societal expectations of male beauty. They also tend to be confident.” Lucy shrugged her shoulders.
“So you aren’t interested in the other parts of the sight? Some of its special features?” Barrett asked.
Lucy was confused by this question. Special features? Wasn’t Shiftr just a dating site? “I am not sure what you mean. I haven’t seen the special features.”
“Ah, you are using the free version.” Barrett nodded his head. “Ok, that works.”
Lucy furrowed her brow. She was unaware of a paid option and what the features were. She wanted to ask but held back because she didn’t want to appear to be hedging her bet if the date didn’t work out.
The two continued to chat on the patio until they heard the band warming up inside. Lucy realized she had been so drawn into Barrett’s world through his eyes and voice she had failed to notice anything around her for the last hour. It was like he could somehow shut out the rest of the world and they were the only two existing in the space. She looked around and noticed the patio was now standing room only.
They walked back into the bar and Barrett bought another round. They took a place at the back of the floor to watch the band. Barrett was standing behind her, resting a hand on her waist. Heat radiated from his palm and enveloped her body. She reached up and stroked his beard.
As her fingers ran through his beard, she felt Barrett turn her around to face him. “You like?” he smiled at her.
“I like.” She smiled back.
Barrett bent down and kissed her, using a large hand on her waist to pull her close. His kiss was warm and soft and his beard felt silky on her face. She breathed in his scent and sunk deep into the kiss.
Barrett released her from his lips. Lucy stood there for a second. “I’m dizzy,” she giggled. “I have never had a man make my head spin like that from a kiss.” She smiled wide with bright eyes.
Barrett smiled back and kissed her again gently on her lips. An image flashed through Lucy’s head. She was in an open meadow high in the mountains. It was spring and wild flowers added color to the grasses. She was walking next to an enormous grizzly bear with her hand on its shoulders. A breeze blew the skirt of a white dress she was wearing.
As soon as Barrett stopped kissing her and looked back at the band, the image vanished. Lucy’s mind raced. She had never been to this meadow. This was never a thought or fantasy she had. Why would this image come to her here and now? She pushed it out of her mind and turned back to watch the band.
The bands finished. Barrett turned to Lucy, “Do you need to get home or do you want to grab some late night bites?”
Lucy didn’t want the evening to end but she also hating eating in front of a new date. She was always conscious of her size and she worried she was being judged by what she put in her mouth. Her desire to continue the evening won. “Let’s grab a bite.”
She and Barrett walked a few blocks to the late-night taco stand. It was crowded with people leaving clubs and shows and grabbing food on their way home. As they stood in line, Barrett held her hand. There was a warmth and assurance she felt. She dismissed this as simply a response to being alone for too many months after being dumped by the dick-shit she last dated.
“What sounds good to you?” Barrett asked.
“I think I am going to go with the street tacos. Probably the pork.” Lucy selected two small street tacos and water to drink. She could have gone for the chile verde burrito, but did not want to consume that in front of her date.
“Is that it?” Barrett asked.
“Yeah, that will be good.” Lucy squeezed his hand.
“Ok. Mind if I get a meal?” Barrett asked.
“Sure! I am just not that hungry.” Lucy didn’t want to appear to be ordering a small meal in order to limit the time she spent with Barrett.
They reached the window. Barrett ordered her street tacos, and then he ordered the giant vegetarian burrito with the works, a side of chips and guacamole, and a horchata. He paid, took their number and they selected a small table under the awning.
When the waitress brought out the food and left, Barrett dug into his burrito. “No meat?” Lucy inquired.
“I am mainly vegetarian. I eat meat on a rare occasion, but mostly stick to a vegetarian diet.” He smiled. “I have nothing against meat; I just like the whole vegetables, fruits and berries thing.”
“Cool,” Lucy nodded and nibbled on the street burrito.
Lucy watched Barrett as he ate and they chatted. She loved the way he did not seem to notice people watching them. He seemed content just to eat and talk to her. The rest of the world did not seem to enter his consciousness. She felt he really heard what she said and was truly just paying attention to her. After her last relationship, it was nice to meet a man who seemed to care about what she said.
The breeze began to pick up. Barrett’s hair swayed in the soft gusts. Lucy flashed back to the image that came to her at the club. His hair moved the same way the bear in the image did. The sense of calm happiness that filled her when the image appeared filled her now as she watched her date’s hair as it was teased by the wind.
She shook her head to erase the thought like an etch-a-sketch.
“You okay?” Barrett asked.
“Yeah, just getting rid of a stray thought.” Lucy smiled softly at him.
“I should let you get home. It’s late.” Barrett said.
Lucy was a little crest-fallen that he was drawing the evening to a close. “Ok. I would like to see you again if that sounds good to you.”
“Most definitely.” Barrett smiled and reached over to squeeze her hand. An image of a giant bear paw flashed in Lucy’s brain. She pushed it to the back of her mind and attributed it to being embarrassed at her “paws” comment earlier in the evening.
“Where did you park?” Barrett asked.
“Seventeenth and J. Not far.” Lucy said.
Barrett walked her back to her car. She unlocked the door, and then turned to face him. Barrett bent down and kissed her long and slow. Lucy felt his warm tongue exploring her mouth. His large hands ran over her curves and cupped her ass cheeks. He pulled her close and kissed her deeper.
Lucy melted into his body. She began to feel like he was breathing for her. Her inhalation and exhalation was controlled by him. His hands ran up her back and around to the sides of her breasts. Barrett cupped them gently and continued to kiss her.
Lucy drew a sharp inhale and moaned gently as Barrett squeezed her ample cleavage. Lucy pulled out of the kiss. “God you are good at that!” she whispered softly.
Barrett smiled and began kissing her again. As he pulled her body back into his, she felt a hard cock pressing up against his zipper. “I want to take you home,” she whispered.
“Not tonight, but soon.” Barrett hugged her close.
When he released her, Lucy felt her blood return to her extremities. She had not noticed during the kiss, but her blood flow was significantly redirected toward her core, fueling intense sexual desire. She steadied herself against the car. “Ok, next time, definitely.” Lucy flashed a big grin.
Barrett gave her a quick kiss. “Definitely. I will text you soon.”
* * * * *
Lucy pulled into her driveway and pulled out her phone to text Jeff. It was three in the morning. She had no idea it was so late. Time seemed to slip away when she was with Barrett. She tried to reconstruct what happened between the end of the show and making it back to the car. She could not figure out how she lost three hours at a taco stand.
She texted Jeff a series of fifteen happy face emojis altered with fireworks and lips. She went in and tucked herself into bed.
That night she had the most vivid dream of her life. It began in a dark room in a small cabin somewhere in the Rockies. She was sitting by a fire. It was winter. She saw a large bear pass outside the window. Its eyes glowed in the firelight. They were hazel with bright yellow circles around the iris. All of the sudden it was spring. She was bathing in stream. A grizzly approached but she did not panic. It stopped directly across from her and took a long drink from the river. As it watched her bath, she became aroused and began masturbating in front of the bear. Then it was late summer. She was in a simple wedding gown and walking with the grizzly across a meadow in the mountains. Feelings of peace and security coursed through her.
She woke at nine on Sunday. Jeff had returned her text.
Looks like you had a good night. Were you naughty Goldilocks? Did you sleep in someone else’s bed?
Lucy laughed. Jeff could always crack her up. As she peed, she texted him back.
No nookie but an AMAZING date!!!!!!!!! Barrett is awesome! Brunch?
Cool. Dontellos? Noon? Endless bloody mary’s?
Definitely! See you soon! Kisses!
Lucy signed off and went to make herself coffee.
* * * * *
Lucy was in the shower at 11:30 when her phone chirped. She assumed it was Jeff saying he was leaving for Dontello’s. She finished and toweled off. She checked her message. It was Barrett.
I had a great night! You are an awesome woman! And soooo sexy! Hope you had a good time. : )
Lucy replied immediately,
I had a great night. Didn’t want it to end.
Her phone chirped.
2nd date?? Maybe Wednesday?
Lucy checked her calendar on her phone. Nothing big on Wednesday night so it was a go for her.
Works for me. How about dinner at Howl at the Moon?
Howl at the Moon was a well-appointed, dimly lit bar with an attached restaurant known for exotic meats and odd vegetables on its menu. There prime seats were leather booths with curtains diners could draw to provide privacy during meals.
Sounds good! Seven on Wednesday it is!
Lucy replied. She made a note in her calendar, not that she would forget this appointment.
She dressed and walked to Dontello’s to meet Jeff. When she arrived he was seated on the patio with two bloody mary’s on the table. He waved her over. “So? Was he the papa bear of your dreams?
Jeff smiled at his best friend.
“He was pretty great.” Lucy smiled. “Sexy, big old bear, amazing kisser.” She giggled a little. “We have another date Wednesday at Howl at the Moon.”
“Good for you! Hope this works out for you.” Jeff passed her the untouched drink. They toasted to love and excitement and ordered brunch.
* * * * *
Lucy arrived a few minutes before seven at Howl at the Moon. Barrett was not there yet. She opted to wait by the hostess station for him. Luckily he was only a couple of minutes behind her. Barrett walked in and immediately hugged Lucy. “So good to see you again!” He kissed her gently.
“You too.” She smiled at him.
Barrett gave the hostess his name. She escorted them to a booth toward the back of the restaurant.
“So fancy! You managed to score a booth!” Lucy was genuinely impressed. Booths at Howl were difficult to book, even on a Wednesday night. Barrett had scored not only a booth, but one of the most private ones.
“Actually, I am an investor here. A few friends and I know the chef. We all bought shares when he wanted to open this place. Four of them are also on Shiftr. We are all kind of loan wolves, or bears, it seems.” He picked up his menu and browsed it.
“Very cool! I have heard excellent things about this place. Never eaten here though.” Lucy picked up the menu to see her options. “What do you recommend?” she asked.
“The hand cut pasta with chanterelles is always fantastic. I also like to start with the peasant bread with nasturtium butter and apricot jam. The double-cut pork chop with rhubarb preserves is another fave of many people.” Barrett helped her narrow the menu.
They ordered and sipped cocktails. Once the waitress delivered the main courses, Barrett pulled the curtains. “Mind a little privacy?” he asked.
Lucy smiled, “That would be lovely.”
Barrett drew the curtains. The booth was lit by a small amber sconce. Even in this low light, Barrett’s eyes glowed bright.
“I really like you.” Barrett began. “I think this has some possibilities.”
Lucy nodded gently, “I agree.”
“I like to go slow with a relationship, but I also don’t want to be one of those guys who gets involved with someone and then springs some awful surprise on them months down the line.” Barrett’s voice was low and slow.
Lucy felt a bit of panic rise in her. What had Barrett brought her here to tell her? Why did they have to be so secluded? It is a good thing he wants to be straight forward, but what is so major that he needs to tell me on a second date?
“So did you check out the paid features on Shiftr?” he asked.
“No. I actually forgot about that after our date,” Lucy was amazed that she had completely forgotten this detail.
“You know it’s a site for more than heterosexual bears, right?” Barrett asked.
“I saw it had lots of different types of guys on it. The questions made me think there were lots of gamers and sci-fi fans on the site.” Lucy had no idea what Barrett was hinting at.
“You said in your questionnaire you believe in ghosts and the paranormal and want a bear.” Barrett laid the groundwork.
“Yeah?” Lucy wondered where this was going.
“I am a little more of a bear than your average guy.” Barrett stated.
Lucy was very puzzled at this point. “I don’t know what you mean?” She furrowed her brow.
“Do you understand why the site is named Shiftr?” Barrett asked gently.
Lucy shook her head “no.”
“Do you believe that things like werewolves and shapeshifters can exist?” His tone was quiet and probing.
Lucy answered without much thought, “I guess so. I think that there may be a possibility that people can undergo big transformations. I don’t know if I believe things like werewolves exist as they are portrayed in science fiction and fantasy stuff.”
“What would you say if I could prove these things exist?” Barrett asked.
“I think that would be very cool! I love that type of stuff. But are you like a mad scientist or something? You are not creating hybrid creatures in a basement somewhere?” Lucy feared things were about to go very awry. She could only imaging that Barrett had a basement full of cages where he was surgically attaching different animals to one another to see what would happen. Something horrible like in the movie Human Centipede. “Stop being ridiculous!” she silently scolded herself.
“No, not at all,” Barrett smiled a bit. “Would you want to meet someone who is a shapeshifter?”
Lucy sat in silence. This was never a conversation she thought about having. This is not something she had learned about from former relationships. She had been told her date had a prison record, or was in the country illegally, or had tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt, or had donated sperm and now had seven biological kids across the Eastern seaboard. Shapeshifting went so far beyond these reveals she thought this must be a joke.
“This is a joke, right? You have hidden cameras somewhere and some tv host is about to jump out at me, right?” Lucy asked in all seriousness.
“No.” Barrett sat quietly after this statement.
Lucy did not know how to reply. She sat in silence searching Barrett’s face for a clue at what was really going on with this exchange. She took a sip of water. Barrett was still not saying anything and the silence became uncomfortable.
“I mean, this is out of sci-fi. Am I being set up for some reality video?” Lucy still did not by that her date, this amazingly handsome man, could be serious about being a shapeshifter.
“No, this is not being filmed or anything. I promise. We, I mean people who are shifters, try and keep this quiet. I just don’t want to start something with you and have it go really well, then tell you months down the line and have you leave.” Barrett seemed serious about this to Lucy.
“Ok, I guess if you know a shapeshifter I would be interested in meeting them.” Lucy decided to run with the absurd premise but could stop her face from screwing up an expression of disbelief.
Barrett reached up and touched a spot below the scone. Lucy had not noticed the small button below the light.
Moments later there was a quiet knock on the booth outside the curtain. Barrett parted the curtains and their waitress stood there. “Sandy, would you mind joining Lucy and I in the booth?” Barrett nodded at the woman reassuringly.
Sandy sat next to Barrett and drew the curtains.
“Lucy, this is Sandy,” Barrett began the introductions. Sandy extended her hand to Lucy. Lucy shook it but held a look of deep skepticism.
“Sandy is a Kitsune. She began transforming into a fox on her 100th birthday a few years ago.” Barrett smiled at the beautiful dark-haired woman sitting next to him. Sandy smiled back then smiled at Lucy.
Lucy nodded slowly. “So… you turn into a fox?”
“Yes, would you like to see?” Sandy asked.
Lucy prepared herself to keep a stoic expression just in case she ended up on a YouTube video. “Ok.”
Sandy closed her eyes and looked down. Lucy saw the long dark hair begin to shake. Sandy’s back arched forward and she shifted in her chair. When she looked back up Lucy saw the face a dark-haired fox looking at her. Four tails streamed out across the back of the booth. The fox was beautiful and sat on the bench seat looking at Lucy.
“What the???” Lucy’s jaw dropped. She shook her head violently trying to shake off the image. “You’re a… What?”
“She is a Kitsune. Do you want to pet her?” Barrett asked.
Lucy stared in disbelief. She found herself reaching out a hand and leaning forward to touch the creature. Her fingers touched the fun on the Kitsune’s nose. “She is real.” Lucy breathed out and kept stroking the fox’s nose.
“Yes. Shapeshifters are real. She won’t hurt you.” Barrett scratched the fox behind its ears.
Lucy sat back in her bench. She continued to stare at the fox.
“Sandy, you can change back if you want,” Barrett instructed.
The fox looked down and its fur shook. Sandy looked up and smiled at Lucy. “See, we can be gentle. You okay?”
Lucy sat there and took a sip of water. “I don’t know what I just saw.”
“It can be a lot to take in. I just wanted you to know we are real.” Barrett said.
“We?” Lucy searched Barrett’s face.
“Yes, we. I am a shifter. Sandy that will be all. Can you give us a bit of privacy?” Barrett dismissed the waitress. Sandy left and tugged the curtains closed tight.
“Lucy, I am a werebear. Once a month, during the new moon, I shape shift. That is what my screen name on Shiftr means.” Barrett extended a hand to touch Lucy’s hand which was clutching her drink.
Lucy stared at him. “A were-bear?” She had never heard the term.
“Yes, a werebear. It’s a bit like a werewolf in that I shift only during certain parts of the moon cycle. Unlike werewolves though, I remember what happens when I shift and I don’t hunt people. I do go out into parks or the mountains, if I am near them, and spend some time in nature.” Barrett knew he was downplaying the shift but this was a lot to drop on a person so he did not feel the need to go into great detail.
“How did you become one?” Lucy asked.
“I was camping in the Grand Tetons about ten years ago. A couple of buddies and I were in the tent one night. We heard a bear come into camp looking for food. My buddy shot him in defense. We decided that since we had killed the bear that we should not waste it. We had it butchered and I ate some of the sausage. The next month, I transformed for the first time.” Barrett relayed his story with a matter-of-factness that bothered Lucy.
“You ate a person then?” Lucy felt vomit rising in her throat.
“No, I thought I was eating a bear. Werebears do no revert to human form if we are killed while we are in our other body. I saw a bear come into camp. My buddy shot it. It was a bear when we took it to the butcher. I had no idea it was a shapeshifter.” Barrett tried to keep a calm voice.
Lucy started to gasp for breath. She picked up her purse and stuck her head in it to calm herself. When her breathing returned to normal she looked at Barrett.