byk.k. rhine©

It was not too far from the middle of nowhere. I stood beside the rented truck, arms folded protectively against the wind, eyes searching the landscape for any sign of life. North, south, nothing but pale, dead fields. East, west, only a slim gray road. Both views for as far as the eye could see.

"Well, Sanvalle is about ten miles west." I turned quickly to face the only other soul on this desolate patch of land, and the only person I'd spoken to in over eight hours. "Straight down this road," the gas attendant said smiling through the gap in his teeth.

I was on my way to Sanvalle on a freelance assignment from a travel magazine. As a part of the upcoming election year's "Heartland" focus, the February issue would feature the most unlikely, or less obviously romantic, Valentine's Day destinations in the States. Sanvalle was celebrated for its Valentine's Day festivities. A strange local legend about two lovers had left this Middle American town a hot spot on the Valentine's Day map.

When Nebraska was still the wild west, two unmarried lovers settled a little piece of land, just west of what is now the center of town. A small town quickly grew up around them, as towns seem to do. Many attributed the town's rapid growth to the lovers -- they were said to be warm, friendly and loyal neighbors, and in spite of their non-married state, their fellow pioneers were drawn to them and held them in high esteem. And so a warm, kindhearted community grew on the cold, heartless plain.

The winters were frigid, and for that reason, most people kept to themselves during that season. It wasn't so surprising, then, that no one saw the lovers for an entire winter.

Spring came and still no one saw the lovers. The neighbors came to call and found the couple together in their barn, in a bale of hay, with arrows through their hearts. Some of the more God-fearing folk in the community considered it a sign of God's disapproval of the unholy union. Most were heartily sorry for the loss. Though these locals knew that most likely the lovers had been killed defending their property from marauders, as time went by there grew a great myth surrounding these events. Each generation added something new, increasing the romantic value of the story, until the story went that two lovers, making love in a barn on Valentine's Day, filling the cold night with the warmth of their love, experienced such an intense passion that they could no longer live in this world, and so Cupid himself claimed them.

With this myth as inspiration, the locals began referring to the town as St. Valentine's Town, which over the years evolved to Sanvalenton to just plain Sanvalle. And so from this great myth, Sanvalle hosts a week-long Valentine's Day celebration to reinforce this creation myth, which culminates in the Great St. Valentine's Day Ball, held in the town's recreation center, formerly a barn, which is thought to stand on the original site of the lover's homestead.

And so here I was, a city girl at heart -- I mean, I never even went to Brooklyn -- in America's heartland, in the bitter cold, with a chill of bitterness in my heart.

Hopping back into the truck, I headed west and turned the heat up.

This myth was very cute, but I was not amused. I hated Valentine's Day. It fell in the coldest, meanest month, when the frigidity of the wind chills one right down to the bone, so that it is physically painful. And then there are all the Valentine's Day accouterments -- red heart-shaped candy boxes cluttering every pharmacy shelf, cards, synthetic roses and insipid stuffed animals bearing red bows and signs saying "Be mine", couples out clogging up and increasing the prices at every decent restaurant in Manhattan. And if left without a love of your own, the deep bone chill of this day was even more painful.

What was worse -- I didn't believe in love anymore. At least if I felt a hope of it I might've been able to bear all this, writing this damn story. My hopes for love had been shattered when I had to break off my engagement a few years ago. And then those little shards of hope still scattered on the floor were ground away as each new man in my life stepped over those pieces, crushing them beneath heavy and heartless feet. And so I felt by now that it was better to be alone than to face the hurt inevitably inflicted by a relationship. I had no interest in men. Truth be told, I didn't even find them attractive anymore. I didn't want them in any way, shape or form. The only thing I might possibly need a man for wasn't even an issue -- I had fingers and a vibrator.

Driving into town was like taking a step back in time -- Main Street lined with quaint wooden storefronts, squat, square turn-of-the-last-century buildings, trucks sparsely parked next to wrought iron street lamps, Men wearing cowboy hats, women in plaid, denim everywhere. As Main Street veered north, the storefronts were replaced by lovely old Victorian homes, with wide front yards and thick aged trees surely planted a century ago. In their midst I found my bed & breakfast -- The Cupid's Bow.

Pink wallpapered and smelling of cinnamon, the entryway opened into a lobby where a blazing fireplace pointed the way to a majestic mahogany staircase. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. The proprietress, Carol McKay, gave me my key, and her husband, Bob, carried my bags to my room, but not before stopping to kiss his wife on the cheek. Oddly, I was not repulsed.

I sat at the Sanvalle Diner, right smack dab, as Bob McKay had said, in the middle of Main Street. I had enjoyed my dinner and was now sipping my Budweiser slowly. Couples sat everywhere. Even the diner was run by one. It all seemed so simple here, I thought. You meet your husband in high school, you get married and open a diner, a B&B, and you are easy and content the rest of your life. None of this writing for a living, living alone, wanting more. It was all simple and plentiful.

My thoughts were disrupted by the bell on the door, and I turned to look at the door. I met a back, wide shouldered and suede clad. The back of his neck was tanned, as if it were summer, and dark blonde sun kissed hair shone out from under a baseball cap. I hated that look in New York. But here it fit and I couldn't stop looking at this figure. I watched as he left the diner, and caught a glimpse of his profile, surely rugged, softened by the twilight.

I returned to my room at The Cupid's Bow and asked Mr. McKay to light a fire in my room's fireplace. I poured myself a Talisker from the bottle I had wrapped up in a sweater and packed in my suitcase, and drew a hot bath. A series of candles decorated the bathroom, and I lit each one. I took a sip of scotch and it burned my mouth, throat and belly. Climbing into the massive porcelain tub, I felt the steamy water scald my skin. My legs blushed with the heat, as I sunk into the water. My flesh welcomed the hot, comfortably embrace of the waters. I rested my head on a plump white towel, and relished the warmth and the flickering candlelight and the quiet -- only the sizzle of the fireplace in the next room and the lapping of water against my body. My hands brushed against my thighs, feeling of velvet. My fingertips lifted and grazed my belly, soft and smooth. And then my breasts, full and round and rising out of the candlelit water. I closed my eyes.

The week had passed -- and now the night Sanvalle had anticipated all year. A night of warmth and pleasure in a cold and bleak winter. I stood in my room, examining my clothes. I had laid out a black cocktail dress for the event. But standing before my bed now, after a week in this town, I decided to take a different fashion path. I descended the mahogany staircase. Clad in a brown suede jacket, a white shell top peaking from beneath, a white flared skirt left over from last year's petticoat craze, and brown suede cowboy boots of a decade ago, I looked, as Mr. McKay said, like a local.

I pulled up in front of the Sanvalle Recreation Center. The immense old building was alight with golden Christmas tree lights. Candlelight from inside sparkled in the misshapen old glass windows. And from behind the building, the orange glow of a raging bonfire danced against the black night.

Entering the building, the warmth of the crowd, dancing and chattering, enveloped me. As expected, red hearts, bows and arrows dominated the decoration scheme, and happy couples arm in arm milled around with great red plastic cups of beer. Before I had the chance to obtain my own red cup, a red-faced, soft-spoken old man asked me to dance. And so I did.

A beer and dance later, I stood alone soaking in the whole scene. Surveying the room, my attention stopped on a shadowy figure, looming in a darkened barn corner. The glow of the firelight illuminated the peaks and valleys of his face, rugged and good looking. He met my gaze. His casual lean switched to a stand. Quite naturally, he swaggered toward me, head slightly tilted, chin toward chest, eyes looking up from under his brow, shy, almost, but sure with shoulders straight, hips in perfect alignment.

"Care to dance, ma'am?" His voice was soft and gravely.

I took his arm.

He was tall, and his arms strong, and his looks chiseled and handsome. I let him lead, and swing me around the room, saying little, and feeling wonderfully lost yet somehow secure.

The room was brimming with light and spinning, bodies swirling on every side my turning body, bodies sweating, howling in the hot middle of a cold night. Light and life in the midst of a dark and dead landscape. Maybe I would survive this sadness.

"Let's see the bonfire," I suggested. And without saying a word he led me out.

The night was alight with the orange blaze of the fire. It was massive and its heat radiated out to me, the flames licking at me like a luscious tongue. I suddenly spun round to face him, and after the shortest pause, kissed him with all the intensity I felt within me. He reciprocated, and there followed a long, deep kiss wrapped in a long, deep embrace.

We stood for a moment looking into each others' eyes, my head in his strong hands, his fingertips massaging my hair. I felt balanced and safe. Someone had the strength to hold me. It was possible. He led me around the bonfire, across a small stretch of dead grass to an old barn.

He closed the barn door. It was dark, save the orange glow of the bonfire through the large, old glass windows on each side of the door. The air was infused with the sweet, earthy smell of hay. It crunched beneath my boots and loomed up all around me in massive hills. Scattered throughout were old wooden boxes, and rough hewn stools and benches.

He walked toward me, his swagger obvious even in the near darkness. As he met me, we both looked up to see a small trap door in the barn's roof. It was open, the dark night sky looming above us. His rough, calloused hands gently touched my face and led me forward for a kiss. His lips were soft and salty. In the deep, wet kiss, a hint of stubble grazed my upper lip. His body, smelling sweet and earthy like the hay, pressed against mine. He walked me deep into the barn, behind a long, high bale of hay, where a soft, low bed of hay stretched out beneath it. He threw his hat off. He slid my suede jacket from my shoulders and removing it, threw it next to his hat. His hands cupped my breasts. My hands cupped his denimed ass. His chest felt firm and muscular beneath his musky flannel shirt. I was so soft, I felt, against his hard body. Wrapped in his embrace, I sank with him to the hay. Our legs wide and interlaced we sank into our soft bed. Softer than I imagined, the hay, though as I moved, it occasionally scraped at my bare arms and shoulders.

He slid the plain cotton straps of my shell top off my shoulders, his fingertips brushing my skin all the way down, raising the blonde hair on my arms and the back of my neck. He undid half the buttons, and opened my top so that my breasts were exposed to the cool barn air. My nipples stood up as if reaching toward him. He took both soft breasts in both his hands and kissed each abundant breast softly, before encircling each nipple, one then the other with his insistent, but soft tongue. I stretched my arms out in abandon. I was giving myself up to this.

I slipped my hands up his soft flannel shirt, fingertips lingering at the taut lean stomach. One by one, I unbuttoned the buttons on his shirt, until his whole, hairless chest was pressed against mine. I rolled on top of him, and worked my way down his body, kissing each square of flesh as I went. I reached the cold brass buckle of his belt and rested my hot cheek against it, as I unzipped his bulging jeans. Peeling them down, I revealed a blonde, soft down that thickened as I followed it south. I licked the hot flesh from belly button to the base of his penis. My tongue strained to reach his dick, still trapped in the depths of his jeans, and so I thrust my hand down into his jeans, grasped his dick with authority and finally freed the hard rod trapped inside.

I worked his long, smooth dick with long, pressured strokes. His fingertips played with my hair as I took his soft, hairless balls into my hot mouth and tongued the round ridge under them. He lifted his hips and moaned with each hard lick, and pressed his hands down onto my head, drawing me closer to his tightened sack. I licked up his balls to his penis base and wrapped my mouth around it. I followed it up and up, until rounding the top, I brought my lips tightly down over it and took it all slowly into my mouth. With long, smooth, circular swipes, I sucked him harder and harder.

At the brink of climax, he pulled my mouth toward his, and our mouths locked in a deep, tongue-infused kiss. As we kissed, he reached up my skirt and pulled my panties to the turn of my knees. He rose to a sitting position, taking me with him so that I straddled his hot, throbbing dick. He grasped my ass and massaged his dick against my sopping pussy. I was tingling, and quickly approaching climax with the meeting of his dick and my clit.

I began to fall back with the weight of his body. I fell onto my back, and he, hovering above me, began crawling forward. I, on my forearms, began crawling back. Both of us moved in the hay toward the center of the barn. As we moved, my panties, which had been stretched between my legs, slid off onto the hay-covered barn floor.

At the center of the barn, he kneeled above me, and pulled me up off the ground so that we met again in a kiss. He moved from this straddle, knelt beside me and took me at the waist, turning me over onto my belly. He reached for a rough hewn bench arm's distance away and pulled it toward me. Reaching around my waist, he pulled my hips up toward him, and raised my skirt to reveal the round high curve of my ass.

His rough man-hands on my hips, I bent forward, my forearms on the rough wooden bench. Anticipation surging from my neck to loins. I shivered, the wait, only a few seconds really, seemed an eternity. He entered me with a long, slow slide. I felt each inch of his penis pass, with all its details clearly filtering up through my belly to brain. The round bulging head, the cap rounding over to the shaft, the flesh spot just below it, the smooth skin as it thickened, the prominent ridge of the vein each step on its diagonal path from midpoint to base, and finally, the thick solid base with its rough hairs tickling my soft, wet spot. Swiftly, he slid out and then teasingly paused. I ached for him, my pussy throbbing and ready for him to enter me again. He plunged in again, and with smooth, rounded motions, steadily increased the pace of his thrusts.

I arched my back, lifting my ass, and he entered me so completely. As he continued to pound into me, my clit continued to hit his soft balls with each thrust. I was as hot as I'd ever been. The beat of his balls against my clit sent a serious sensation up through my spine. I felt the wetness and the sensation grow. I bucked harder and moved my ass in a circular motion. He reached around, and massaged my clit with his fingers. He rubbed hard and I moaned. After I drenched his fingers with my juices, he pulled them away from my clit, and then, massaging my asshole, slowly eased his forefinger in. With his other hand, he reached up toward my neck, and grasped it in his hand. His hand on my neck, just below my chin, he fucked me harder and harder. His thumb moved over my lips, and I with greedy mouth took it in and sucked it. I was so totally taken, I couldn't stop the feeling rising from my clit. My orgasm sent me moaning and pounding uncontrollably against him, and tilled his dick with the hard, pulsing muscles of my cunt, so that he came just as hard an instant later.

We collapsed in the hay, hot and exhausted. Underneath the trap door, in the center of the barn we lay, looking at the dark sky. Slowly, large, wet flakes of white snow began to fall. The flakes fell down into the barn, and stung cold against our hot skin, before melting and rolling off our flesh.

It was morning, and I rolled over to find him still lying there in the hay. He was handsome, almost boyish, and not nearly as rugged as the dark night had rendered him. I thought for a moment about waking him, about eggs and coffee at the Sanvalle Diner, but thought better of it. I got up quietly, got dressed and left.

I packed up my things, put everything in the truck and then headed for the highway. On my way out of Sanvalle, I passed a swaggering, rugged, suede-clad figure walking down Main Street. I looked in my rearview mirror and took my foot off the gas. A tingle rose from my clit, and thankful for that, put my foot on the gas. I had what I needed now. Hope. I could now go home and write this story.

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