The wind-driven snow lashed against the roof and walls for the second straight night, and it didn't look like it would stop tomorrow, either. The electricity had been out since the first night-no big surprise, being this deep in the woods, and it didn't really matter at first, but by the time Kel woke and set his feet on the freezing floor boards, he knew that they were snow-bound for a few days.
Immediately concerned for the pipes, he rushed down the stairs from the bedroom loft and grabbed the three legged stool that sat in front of the wood stove. The fire had died during the night, but some residual heat had kept the hearth tiles warmer than the rest of the floor, so he propped his feet there as he opened the door as quietly as he could so as not to wake Liv.
Nothing left, he thought, as he peeked into the depths of the stove. Guess I'll have to start over.
Kel leaned over to what was supposed to be the ash bucket and pulled out a couple of strips of birch bark, plentiful here in the New Hampshire woods. Tearing it into smaller strips, he layered them in the still-warm ashes of the stove, piled a handful of dried twigs (also plentiful), and grabbing the box of matches, opened it to select and strike one on the cover.
The flame snapped to life, and Kel tipped the match as he usually did to ensure that the flame would burn the shaft of the match and not just sputter and die when the sulpher of the match tip was gone. Sure now that he had a durable flame, he carefully reached between the twigs and lit the bark on fire.
Closing the door quickly, he let the smoke build and seek its only exit-the insulated steel chimney. Once the twigs caught and a decent draft was established, Kel loaded the stove with four split logs from the rack.
Waiting patiently, as he was wont to do, he watched the fire build, crackling and snapping, his body shivering from the cold not yet expunged from the cabin. He had not packed for the winter nights, leaving his not-so-sexy polar fleece jammies at home, and opting for his oh-so-casual boxers instead. As of now, he was sitting on a short stool in front of a still-cool wood-fired stove, clad solely in boxer shorts.
A light rhythmic step announced the arrival of Liv. She had woken when Kel left the bed and a quick blast of cool air urged her toward morning. Groaning lightly, she rolled and reached out to find her lover of last night, only to find the emptiness. I should be used to this, she thought, sardonically. She had spent the last eleven years reaching out in the night to find him, only to find an emptiness, or someone else who was very obviously not him. Once, last night, she reached as she now did automatically, and woke with a start to find Kel beside her. Even in sleep, as soon as her hand contacted his chest, she knew it was him. He had changed, of course, as years had intervened, and they had only spent the one night together anyway, but she woke with a start and wept with the realization that she was where she had ached so long to be.
Now she listened in the grey of the dawn, trying to decide if Kel had left her to answer a call of nature-a different call of nature than last night! She thought to herself with a smile, or if he had left her for another reason, like the anger he might still be harboring.
A soft metallic clang, followed a few seconds later by the tell-tale snapping of twigs burning in the stove told her the story that every sense of her body was listening to hear; that he had stayed...he hadn't left her again.
I owe him this much, she thought, as she forced herself from the comfort of the bed. Crossing the wide pine planking that served for a floor in the loft of the A frame, she felt she was crossing a familiar territory, even though she had never been to this cabin in the woods before.
I wonder if it's because He's here, she thought, and anywhere He is is comfortable, is home, or if it's more than that...that leaving the comfortable to find Him is familiar to me because I've spent the last ten, no, eleven years and thousands in therapy in doing just this. It should be familiar by now!
She peeked over the railing and saw him sitting crouched at the fire, a glow illuminating him, almost as if coming directly from him. He manages to light my fire! She laughed to herself, smirking at her metaphor. The damn English teacher is affecting how I think, now too!
Her own gasp of shock stilled her thoughts as she suddenly saw. He was inked! He hadn't had a tattoo when they met and he never mentioned it since they had somehow stumbled upon their mutually agreeable forgiveness. In all of their conversations, he hadn't said, and she was a little busy last night, in the light of the candles to notice. Smiling, she forgave him that omission-what was that in the grand scheme of things anyway-and moved silently down the stairs.
Liv approached with as much silence as she could, but a rustle from her silk negligee and her steps across the room alerted him, and all senses were tingling. He stilled his breath which had always been hard to do when she was around, and listened as closely as he could. Debating whether to speak and break the silence, or to let the silence between them say its own volumes, he chose silence and remained motionless to let her approach him. Her presence still affected him, but it had returned to a stirring of passions instead of the anger which had replaced it for eleven years.
Liv came up behind him, sure that she had made no noise, but somehow sure that he knew she was there. He always seems to know, always seems to have an answer, she thought, as she resigned herself to being discovered. Reaching out again, she paused, her hand just above his shoulder, almost afraid to touch him, afraid that it was all some terrible dream that would evaporate in front of her, just as she finally had him within reach. Summoning her courage, long practiced in dealing with Kel's absence and her continuing dreams of him, she grazed his skin with just the tips of her fingers. The minutest of touches spoke the largest of emotions for her and for him both. She knew both his aversion to casual physical contact in his everyday life as well as his almost overpowering need for close emotional contact in his personal life.
At her touch, Kel breathed again with an almost audible whisper, and the stiffness in his back as he sat on the stool lessened. He noted his own reaction, allowing himself to feel his honest emotions, unaffected by the past for the first time, and nearly overwhelmed, stiffened again, gathering himself back into control. Liv smiled, knowing how he liked to be in control. Kind of like in bed, she thought. He likes to be in control there too!
What is it about this man? She wondered. He has always been so easy going, so even keeled, and yet so determined and so in control of what he wants in life. Why is he actually letting me come along in his journey?
She let her hand caress his shoulder, and stepping forward, slid her hand around to run her fingers through his chest hair. So manly, she thought. Just enough and not too much. It marks him as a man and is so sexy to feel against my own chest during sex!
Kel felt her caress drift to his chest and finally to his sensitive nipples. He hissed a sharp intake of air in response, and Liv's nostrils flared with excitement. She loved how she could turn him on with a single caress. With a man like Kel, you have to know how to act, what to say, how to move. It would be too easy to go too far. You have to lead by following, hint and suggest, and let him make the decision. If I learned anything about this man, I have come to accept this as fact. It certainly worked well last night!
She took another step closer and pressed her ample breasts against his back. She withdrew her hand from his chest and traced with curiosity the tattoo on his back. In a vague, half-remembered way, she thought she understood the past experience he was honoring and displaying, but she wasn't sure. Not a good time to be wrong about anything here. I missed birthdays, holidays, graduations; I couldn't remember his dog's name...I really messed things up before. I can't do it again. I'll let him tell me when he's ready. Just tracing the tat should show him that I'm interested. That's got to be enough. Be patient, Liv!
Kel felt her stroke his chest, and it felt nice. He closed his eyes for a minute and just let her touch him. Sensing a change, he felt her shift her balance and take a step forward to press her silk covered breasts against him. God, how he loved that! The silk and the flesh behind them warmed his still cold body, and he shivered, partially with the temperature and partially with the urges of his body and libido.
He almost leaned his head back, to wordlessly request her kiss, but just as the idea came, she moved her hand again to his back to trace his tattoo, scars and all. A slight frown wrinkled his face and a slight stiffening were the only ways to tell that this was a private matter, and he wasn't yet ready to talk about it. To Liv's credit, she had learned a lot in their time apart, and she knew that now was not the time. She let her hand drop to his shoulder and arm, feeling the muscles beneath the soft skin. They felt good now, she thought, but when she grabbed onto them in passion to steady herself as he thrust himself into her, she felt the flexing as first the bicep tightened and he penetrated her. Then the tricep contracted as he pushed and slid himself almost out of her silky sheath.
I almost fainted with joy, she thought, reliving the scene again. I had always thought that if we would ever get a chance to make it right, even just one more time, one more night, it would be amazing. But it was better than that. He looked me in the eyes again, just like he did before. He looked me in the eyes as he pushed his hard cock into my aching pussy. Oh my God...Baby I'm amazed...
Liv squeezed the arm like she did last night, and feeling the passion in her grip, Kel finally turned in the stool.
"Morning," was all he said. For someone as gregarious as he was, there were times when he didn't say a lot. There were times when words were extraneous.
Smiling back at him, Liv hesitate, hoping that she wouldn't be overstepping the bounds of the agreement and returned his greeting with, "Hey, there... sexy!"
Kel felt the first gnawings of hunger and realized that with the storm coming in last night, the rush to the cabin, the hasty and hurried reactions to the loss of power, he had simply missed dinner, and his guest had missed it as well. She hadn't asked, and he hadn't offered.
I'm starving, he realized. Liv's gotta be starving too. Why didn't she say anything?
Turning his head, half cocked to the side, he gave her one of his patented, crooked smiles and asked quietly, "Are you ready for breakfast?"
Liv, caught off guard with her musings, stroked her fingers lightly across the back of Kel's head, feeling the softness of the baby-fine, short-cropped hair. She paused, then replied, "Yes! I'm starving!"
Smiling back at Liv's energetic beaming, Kel gathered himself and stood up. Still feeling the stiffness from the previous day's snowboarding and the previous night's sleep, he reached for the peak of the cathedral ceiling, fingers set like claws, and stretched as far as he could, groaning with pleasure. Liv noted the muscles flexing and relaxing, and especially noted his gluteus maximus muscles and how they shaped his ass.
Finishing his almost orgasmic stretch, Kel said, "Why don't you make yourself comfortable on the sofa. There's a fleece blanket there somewhere. I'll make something to eat."
Crossing the open living and dining area to the kitchen with its breakfast bar, Kel continued. "Glad I insisted that the oven and range be propane. I figured we'd run into power outages out this far from the road. The fridge should still be cool enough, but if this goes on for much longer, I've got a lock-box on the deck to use in the winter as a fridge and freezer for this reason."
Kel, who moments before had been nearly silent, even in her presence, was now the gregarious, outgoing conversationalist that had originally attracted her to him those years ago when they met in the store. He had been a sales associate and she a shopper at the American Eagle Outfitters. She smiled with the memory.
I was so annoyed at first. He was following me around like a puppy dog. I guess I kind of knew the effect I was having on him, even though it was kind of like a game for me then. But when we figured out that he had known my brother and we had both instructed at the mountain the same winter, I took another look at him.
Even right away, his smile was so disarming, so genuine. I couldn't help myself. I wanted to know more.
Liv took a glance at the sofa, saw the fleece throw Kel was talking about, and grabbed it. She padded after Kel toward the kitchen. Being close to him was so important to her right now. It looked like it was going to be longer than the one night that he had promised her when they met accidentally on the ski slopes yesterday, but it was going to end soon and she wanted to be as close to him for as long as she could.
Stepping delicately around the woven rush bar stool that she had selected, she swung the dark red blanket around her shoulders, being careful to ensure that her breasts were still visible. A girl can dream, can't she? Liv chided herself, even as she knew she was doing her best to appeal to this man.
Kel's first stop in the kitchen was for a sauce pan. He bent to draw the pot from the lower cabinet, and Liv found herself leaning forward so she could watch his ass and back as he bent over. He's still so sexy! She thought at first, but even as the idea crossed her mind, she corrected herself. He's not yours. You're only borrowing him. You're lucky you got last night.
One of the things Kel had insisted on when building the cabin was a water storage tank in the loft storage room. The water came from a well, and without power, the cabin wouldn't have flushable toilets or any tap water. With careful use, the water could last all weekend. It would still be better to melt some snow and filter it in case we're here longer than that, he thought, even as he opened the tap to fill the pot.
"Coffee?" he asked, even though he already knew the answer. Liv had never developed the taste for the bitter morning stimulant, so he was sure he knew what she would say. He had already shut off the tap with enough water in the tap to make only one cup.
"Yes, I would love a cup."
Mildly shocked, but amused, Kel stopped, turned, and gave her one of his eyebrow raises that always had stood in for an unspoken question.
"It's been a while. I've changed. In a lot of ways."
It wasn't quite the explanation he was looking for, and while he tried to conceal his feelings, Liv managed to see right through him. Her answer broached the topic that they had, by mutual unspoken agreement, not spoken of since they had ended up as paired singles on the lift and had spent the rest of the day skiing and riding together, even lunching together in the resort's restaurant.
Kel's look nearly broke Liv's heart. His sadness was as obvious to her as if he had cried openly. Oh my God...he's as hurt and tormented by the past as I am!
Recovering, the expression returned to impassiveness, and while Liv secretly was happy to discover the depth of Kel's feelings toward her, she knew that she would now be subject to her punishment-Kel's ambivalence for a while, at least. Accept his demeanor and attitude-you brought it out-and find a way to be playful later. Give him time.
Kel said, "Wow, I guess you have!" and added enough water to boil a second cup.
He reached into another cabinet and pulled out some coffee and a filter and took the pot from the coffee maker.
"Can boil water with the propane range top but can't use the electric coffee maker," he said. "I hope this works."
He set the pot with its integrated grind basket on the granite counter, installed the paper filter, then measured out the grinds for two cups.
Once done, he paused again and tried to assess the foods he had purchased from the local supermarket Friday afternoon on his way in.
"Eggs?" he asked. "I'm sorry I don't remember. I know what you like for lunch and dinner, but I don't remember what you like for breakfast."
"No thanks. Not big on eggs, unless you're going for an eggs benedict thing. Then you're on!"
"You want eggs benedict? I don't have muffins, but we can do it on toast. I've got the ham, eggs, and butter. I can do that if you'd like"
"Don't go to any trouble on my account. Whatever is easiest is fine."
"Easiest is not the issue. I want to do this. What would you like? I'll do my best to make it for you."
He always did try to take care of me. I had that migraine at my apartment and when I called him for help, he got asprin, drove over, took care of me, then let me sleep.
"Ok, eggs benedict it is."
Kel smiled, happy to cater to his guest's needs, but it was more than that. This was Liv, and she always put herself in his hands. He took care of her; that's what he did. She didn't need it, and she wasn't trying to manipulate him, it's just that he could help and he wanted to, so he did.
The water was boiling, so Kel turned down the burner, took the pot off the stove, and poured it slowly into the coffee and filter. It trickled through and settled into the pot.
"Voila!" he said, proud of himself and happy to have shown off for someone. He really wanted this morning to be successful.
He poured two cups and set the sugar and creamer on the breakfast bar with a teaspoon.
"Sorry it's only powdered creamer. I didn't want to deal with the regular liquid stuff for just myself for only a couple of days. I wasn't really thinking I'd have a guest."
"It's ok. Anything is good. Just need something to get me going in the morning."
After a first sip and a sigh, Kel reached into the fridge and put the ham, eggs, and butter on the island. He could have used the counter, but he would have been facing away from her. He got a larger pot and a bowl, filled each with water and put a couple of drops of vinegar into the pot.
"Vinegar?" she asked.
"Yeah. Chef Fabio says it helps to keep the egg together when poaching it."
"Chef Fabio? I didn't know you were into that."
"Not usually. My wi...umm, I saw a video online once and it showed him cooking eggs benedict. I made them this way a couple of times and they always turn out well."
Great. I guess it was my turn to say the wrong thing.
Liv decided to ignore the near mention of Kel's marriage. He was free. I messed up and he was free and ready for the family I couldn't give him. Oh God, I wish it had been different!
Kel continued to make the eggs, juggling the toast, the eggs, the ham, and the sauce so that everything was done in a few minutes.
"I didn't heat up the ham. Sorry. I didn't want to dirty another pan when we don't have a lot of water for washing. It should still taste good. It's really about the eggs and the sauce anyway."
"I'm sure it's good," she said.
"Well, bon appetite!" he said, plating the sauce and drizzling it with some olive oil.
Neither of them spoke during the breakfast, famished as they were. Other than Liv's "Mmmmmm," and the clicking of silverware against the plate, the wind blowing the snow against the windows was the only sound in the cabin.
Kel had joined her on the other side of the breakfast bar and taken the other of the two stools. Wiping his face, he set down his fork and knife and spent the rest of the time it took Liv to eat drinking his coffee. She set her own fork down when she was done and reached over to his plate to gather them all together.