It’s 1902 and Daniel has left a life of luxury in New York to run his late uncle’s bakery in Milford, Pennsylvania. Though he’s made many friends in the small town, not everything has been rosy. His uncle’s outstanding loan has fallen upon his shoulders and he could lose the bakery if he doesn’t pay it back in time. Additionally, Daniel feels that lecherous loan officer Simon Prickson is actively trying to make it harder for him to repay his debt.
Furthermore, not everyone in Milford likes him. Adrian Dane, the cantankerous town blacksmith, seems to hate Daniel, and he has no idea why. Though Daniel finds Adrian irritating in every way, the two can’t manage to stay away from each other. Will Daniel ever figure out what he’s done to upset the inscrutable man? Can either find the companion they so desperately need?
“Oh bother,” he huffed under his breath. It was nearly midnight and highly unlikely that anyone would be frequenting the park for hours. It was much more likely that a townsperson would find his frozen body in a tree the next morning instead. How embarrassing.
Adrenaline and panic seemed to take over as he weighed his options. It felt like an absolute miracle when Daniel noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. He clutched the shaking cat closer to his body. “Uh, hello?” he called out. “Is anyone there?”
“Daniel?” A voice answered. “Is that you?”
Daniel could feel a pit form in his stomach as the passers-by came into focus. Oh, no. It was Adrian Dane, wearing an obscenely large smirk on his face. Daniel could feel himself grimace. He’ll never let me live this down. Adrian took a step closer to the tree and leaned against the trunk while lighting a cigarette. “God, did you actually get yourself stuck up there?”
“No,” Daniel lied unconvincingly as he attempted to casually sit on a branch. “I’m perfectly fine. I just needed a short break while climbing down.”
“Uh-huh,” Adrian started, a smile pulling at his lips. “And you decided to shout a panicked hello for fun?”
Daniel could feel his face flushing red with embarrassment. He prayed to every deity he could think of, but unfortunately none had the decency to strike him with lightning. “Uh, yes?” Daniel said slowly.
Adrian gave another infuriating smirk in response. “Alright, so you wouldn’t mind if I left and went home for the night? Since you obviously have everything here under control.”
Daniel bit his tongue, knowing Adrian had called his bluff. He released a large exhale, which contained all of his remaining self-respect. “Wait! Don’t leave. I -- I may need a little bit of your assistance.”
Adrian tossed his head back with a hearty laugh. “Wow, you could have fooled me,” he laughed. “Why are you up there anyway?”
Daniel extended his arms, showing off the distressed Miss Fluffy. “I was trying to help this poor thing, but I’m having trouble getting down.”
Adrian gave the cat an unimpressed once over. “You should have just left it up there.”
Daniel drew the cat closer to him once more, giving a shocked gasp. “Only a truly odious person would ignore an innocent animal in distress!”
Adrian laughed once more. “Odious, am I?”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it!”
“Do I?” Adrian countered, as he began to turn away.
Daniel could feel panic rising in his throat as he watched Adrian’s retreating figure. “You’re leaving?!” he shouted after him. “But I never called you odious!”
Adrian didn’t turn around, but he raised his hand and gave a lazy flick of his wrist. “I’m just getting my ladder. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Once alone, Daniel examined the ground below. This whole situation was humiliating. Maybe it would be better for him to risk spraining his ankle with a jump before Adrian got back. That way, he could scuttle away in peace without any more of Adrian’s teasing for the night. Daniel He was still dithering about what to do when the man returned with a metal ladder.