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Sun Bear Buns: A BBW Bear Shifter Menage Paranormal Romance Novella (Bear Buns Denver Book 3) by Sable Sylvan (1)

Chapter One

Monday

Grace Martinez’s cab dropped her off in the Bear Buns strip club’s employees-only parking lot an hour ahead of schedule. Shiny employee badge around her neck on a rhinestone lanyard, she sauntered into the building wearing her surprisingly stretchy pencil skirt, patterned blouse, and low kitten heels.

Grace walked around the strip club. She was no architect, but she could tell the place had good bones. She was aware that the building used to be a movie theater, which explained all the stages. The strip club read as a boudoir fantasy play space for women, but Grace was sure she could make it so much more. There were many tricks for making a space seem luxurious, even on a budget, although, part of the appeal of Bear Buns was that they’d spare no expense in making their strip club into a strip palace. That was appealing to both the audience and to Grace, who was looking to do things with fabric that had not been done before, starting with costumes for the strippers.

Grace walked backstage, to find her base of operation, and that’s when she saw them.

Two pairs of big bare buns, staring her right in the face

Grace gulped. She was a professional. She’d seen people of all walks of life naked – actors, athletes, dancers. It was part of the business. Often times, costume changes happened on the fly.

Grace kept her head down and quickly made a beeline to the first sewing machine she spotted. It was perched on top of a costume trunk.

“Hey!” shouted a voice.

“Yes?” asked Grace, not turning.

“Are you the costume lady?” asked another voice. “You’re here real early.”

“I’m the head costume designer, but I suppose ‘costume; lady is not an entirely inaccurate description of my job,” said Grace, still facing away from the nude strippers.

“Sorry if we startled you,” said the first voice, getting closer to Grace. “We’re, uh, decent now.”

Grace turned. In front of her were two men with tanned golden skin and thick black hair. They were wearing black shirts reading ‘Bear Buns’ across the chest and black booty shorts. The men were big – real big. Grace had seen shifters before, but she never quite got used to the fact shifters were often much taller and broader than humans. Predators like bears, well, they were also very muscular – a fact Grace was seeing for herself. Both men were also handsome. They had a layer of stubble around their jaws. Their black hair contrasted against their deep golden skin. Both men had firm jawlines and sensual hooded eyes with lashes like a werecamel’s eyelashes. Their eyes were a shade of emerald so green that it reminded Grace of a wild forest, untamed by man.

Grace’s heart started pounding. She was used to seeing attractive men in her line of work. Those men had never made her heart race or filled her stomach with butterflies. They usually stayed professional…aloof, but, professional. Very few deigned to interact with the costume designers, not that Grace took any offense. Her job was to provide costumes under the direction of the director. She rarely ever had to interact with the talent. She hadn’t had to take measurements or handle fittings for years, always leading a team of tailors. Her place was at the drafting table, not in the hustle and bustle of the backstage area. The two Asian bears in front of her, well, they were exceptionally hot. For the two handsome bear shifters in front of her, she found herself willing to make an exception.

“The name’s Apollo, Apollo Huang,” said the first man, reaching out to Grace to shake her hand. Grace took his hand and gingerly shook it. She felt rough spots on his hands and, for a second, was surprised. Then, she realized it was silly to be surprised. Of course, the man had pawprints on his hand. He was a frikkin’ bear shifter. They all had pawprints on their hands, and mate marks, the marks that would lead them to their fated mates, on their chest. That was Shifters 101.

The man’s inner bear roared. The man howled with the bear as if they were two wolves baying at the moon. He agreed that the woman was even more attractive when she was facing them. The man and his beast had seen the woman from behind. Her ‘modest’ pencil skirt was professional looking, but it accentuated her curves. When paired with the loose top she was wearing, it gave her a natural hourglass silhouette.

“Surya,” said the second man, who was slightly tanner than the first men. “Surya Patel.”

Surya’s bear roared. Surya told it to hush. The only way that Surya would even get close to claiming the curvy woman in front of him was by playing it cool. It was men who won the hearts of women, not bears.

“Nice to meet you,” said Grace, shaking the second man’s hand. “I’m Grace, Grace Martinez. Today’s my first day.” Grace was sure she’d seen both Apollo and Surya’s eyes flash bright emerald green as she’d touched them. The men looked pretty different, but there were three key similarities. First of all, they both had brilliant green eyes that she could get lost in. Second of all, they were both drop dead gorgeous. Finally, they were built. They weren’t just muscular in the way many male dancers were. They didn’t have a swimmer’s physique. They looked like bodybuilders, but even hours spent in the gym couldn’t make them as tall as they were. Both shifters towered over her and made Grace, a certified BBW –a big, beautiful woman – feel absolutely teeny.

“We’re looking forward to what costumes you’ll whip up,” said Surya. “It’s getting kind of boring to just strip out of the leftover costumes sent to us from the Bear Buns strip club back in Seattle.”

“Right? You all would look so, so much more stunning in new outfits,” said Grace. “Sequin shorts are nice, but, nothing special.”

“Hey, why mess with a classic?” asked Apollo. “I’ve got a soft side for those old hot pants.”

“Well, from the way it feels in here, I might need to start making the club some frikkin’ parkas,” said Grace, holding her arms. “Hopefully some hard work will help warm me up. It’s like a freezer in here.”

“That’s the AC,” said Apollo. “We run it all the time, heck, even overtime. We have a deal with the electrical and HVAC company.”

“At least it’s better than having to work in the July heat,” said Grace. “I’m going to bring a cardigan to work tomorrow though. You should be careful about running the HVAC system this way. It might bust. I saw that happen at a theater I worked for in Las Vegas. Trust me. Management was not happy about having to dish out all those refunds for annoyed audience members who didn’t pay top dollar to see our leads’ makeup melt off their face.”

“Trust me, Bear Buns is going to be fine,” said Surya. “Can we help you get situated?”

“I showed up early to do just that, but this place is a frikkin’ maze,” said Grace. “I know I’m supposed to be meet with the theater manager, Melissa, later, but...if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, would you mind showing me around?”

“Absolutely,” said Apollo. “Come on.”

Grace followed the two bears around the backstage area.

“On each side of the wing, there are two racks for clothing,” said Apollo. “We need to do quick costume changes. There’s a dedicated space for trunks marked in green and blue painter’s tape. Remember, green trunks are sent to stage left, to the green rectangle, blue trunks are sent to stage right, to the blue rectangle.”

“Got it,” said Grace.

“Costumers are not responsible for hauling the trunks into position,” said Surya. “You have to coordinate all that with the stagehands. They’re practically performing their own show back here, so the sooner you let them know you’ll need these trunks hauled out, swapped out, whatever, the better.”

“Back here, here’s the costume development room,” said Apollo, leading Grace to a room connected to the backstage area.

“Whoa,” said Grace, peeking inside the room. There was a large drafting table with art supplies, which would be her base of operations. That’s where she’d sketch designs. There were six sewing machine stations. That must be where her subordinates would sew together the costumes. There was a large platform with mirrors, no doubt for the dancers to stand on to get measured and to try on outfits.

“Back here is the supply closet,” said Surya, opening a door that led to a walk-in closet filled with bolts of fabric, sewing notions, and various decorative items like spools of sequin ribbon and lace trim.

“Over here, this is the storage closet,” said Apollo, opening the door and showing Grace a huge storage closet that looked like the lost and found of a coat room of a drag queen nightclub in Greenwich Village. The room was full of all kinds of over the top costumes, and glittery mix-and-match separates.

“Think you can work in these conditions?” asked Surya.

“I think I’ll manage,” said Grace. “Thanks. I should let you two get back to practice or whatever it is you two were doing. Thanks for showing me around.

“No sweat. We’ll let Melissa know you’re back here when she gets here,” said Apollo. “And hey, Grace? Welcome to Bear Buns.”

Grace watched as Apollo and Surya left. Their buns were covered, alright, but by the words ‘Bear Buns’ written in silver glitter. She watched as the two broad-shouldered, muscular men walked out of the costume room. She smiled to herself. Maybe she’d have more fun at Bear Buns than she’d thought.

Grace knew the Bear Buns headliners had a reputation. She’d heard the gossip at industry events. There were six pairs of bears, each pair looking to claim their fated mate. At least, there’d been six when the club opened. Two pairs had already found their fated mate. They’d found them at the strip club, but not in the audience. The first set of bears, the Himalayan ‘mountain’ bears, had gotten with the chef, Christine, and the second set of bears, the glacier bears, had fallen for the theater manager, Melissa.

Of course, that meant that Bear Buns was due for some peace and quiet. What were the chances that a third set of bears would claim a woman who worked for Bear Buns? It was as improbable as lightning striking a single place twice. No, it was as unlikely as lightning striking a single place thrice. There was no frikkin’ way that another set of dancers at Bear Buns was going to find their fated mate so soon.

That didn’t mean Grace couldn’t dream.

Grace went through the costume storage closet, the supply closet, and the tailoring room, familiarizing herself with all the parts of the space before she was interrupted by a knock at the door.

Grace opened the door. Outside was a familiar woman. It was the curvy woman who had hired her – Melissa, the theater manager.

“Hello Melissa,” said Grace, opening the door. “You ready to give me the grand tour?”

“I’m more than ready. I’m excited,” said Melissa. “I know you’re going to love working at Bear Buns, Grace. Plus, I’m excited to see what you’re going to do with the costumes, and with the space. You’re truly a double threat – costumer and interior designer! Well, that means you’ll fit right in…because Bear Buns is full of double threats – our headlining pairs of bears. It’s a great time. Did the sun bears show you a good time?”

“The who? Oh, you mean Apollo and Surya?” asked Grace.

“Yes, the sun bears,” said Melissa. “You do know what a sun bear is, right?”

“I thought that was just a marketing term you all made up,” said Grace.

“Well, you’ll see them shift soon enough,” said Melissa. “Trust me. Those two, they’re a real handful.”

“They are? They seemed nice enough to me,” said Grace.

“Get prepared to have to make them a lot of costumes,” said Melissa. “They’re great dancers, but they go through a lot of costumes. I mean a lot. I thought my glacier bears were a handful, but, well...I guess I can’t fault the sun bears for putting on a show.”

“How many costumes are we talking?” asked Grace.

“I’ll put it this way. We have six sewing machine stations so that six tailors can work on costumes at the same time,” explained Melissa. “That’s one tailor per pair of bears, working nonstop, during the week, to either make outfits or help the bears get into outfits.”

“Wow. Sounds like I have my work cut out for me,” said Grace.

“There’s not a lot of downtime in your department, or really, any other department. For instance, the woman in charge of the kitchen, Christine, she whips up brand-new ice cream treats for the audience, on a weekly basis,” explained Melissa. “She also handles the shared group meals, which, of course, I encourage you to attend. We do breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can find snacks backstage on the craft service table, or, you can go to the kitchen and get a snack there.”

Melissa showed Grace around the rest of the club. Grace thought back to what Melissa had said about Apollo and Surya. They seemed like such nice guys. It was hard to believe that they were going to be a thorn in Grace’s side. Melissa must’ve had them mixed up with another set of bears.

Grace got settled in the costume room after Melissa’s quick tour. The tailors streamed into the room and worked on their projects. They made quick introductions and went straight to work. Grace took the setlist Melissa had supplied her and made sure there were enough costumes in storage for Friday’s show – both a set for practice and a backup set, in case any wardrobe malfunctions happened.

“Why are there three sets of sun bear costumes in storage?” Grace asked the room.

“I’m sorry,” said one of the tailors. “I’m still working on the fourth set.”

‘The fourth?” asked Grace. “I thought we only needed two sets of costumes per dancer.”

The tailors all exchanged looks.

“The sun bears are...well, they’re not exactly careful with the clothing,” said one of the other tailors.

“So, the rumors are true,” Grace tut-tutted. “Don’t worry. I’ll handle this.”

* * *

“And that’s break,” said one of the moon bears. “We go again in five.”

Apollo and Surya walked off stage toward the craft service area. They took their water bottles and filled them with sports drink.

“I need this,” said Apollo, chugging the salty-sweet teal fluid.

“You’re really busting move after move out there,” said Surya. “Don’t exhaust yourself. You know she’s not watching us, right?”

“You felt it too, didn’t you?” asked Apollo.

“Of course, I did,” said Surya. “Of course, she’s the one. You saw her. She’s sexy. Curvy.”

“But she’s also capable, smart,” said Apollo. “She’s the full package. The only question is...”

“How to get her,” said Surya, completing Apollo’s sentence. “Trust me. Heck, trust Fate. If she’s fated to be ours, well...there’s no reason to worry, is there?”

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