Thaw In Winterbydlmercer©
Mark Bartel relaxed on the sofa, soaking up the warmth of the fire. He smiled, his gaze resting on his dog Chip. The big English spaniel was sprawled on the rug, sound asleep.
"We had quite a day didn't we buddy?" Mark murmured softly, "Lots of fresh air, exercise and a hot hunk who could thaw a glacier in the middle of winter."
Mark snorted softly, knowing Chip could care less about the hunk. He had more interest in the wildlife. Although, he reflected, anyone hooked up with that guy could probably expect a lot of wild in his life. Chip remained still, except for the slight twitch of one ear. His master's voice was low and soothing. Even in sleep, the dog instinctively knew, nothing was required of him.
Having just quit his job at Davis Architectural Designs, Mark was taking a well earned vacation. At 26, he'd gone from highschool, to college, to job, with barely a break. His hard work had paid off by earning him a well deserved reputation as a master architect. He was preparing to open his own firm, but first, he was taking some time off. He was looking forward to an entire three months of nothing but rest and relaxation at his cabin in the woods.
The cabin was located a mile off the main road, in a wood shrouded clearing which also contained a garage and a shed. The garage housed his 4 wheel drive jeep and a snowmobile. The shed was home to a generator that could be used in case of power outages, the fuel for which was in a large underground tank.
Outwardly rustic, the cabin fit effectively into its environment, reflecting the natural surroundings. Mark had done some extensive modernization of the inside. It now contained some very nice amenities, extra large tubs and multi-head shower stalls in the bathrooms. The kitchen boasted granite counter tops, natural wood cabinets and convenient, modern and unobtrusive, built-in appliances. There was a hot tub on the small deck off the living room. The living room itself was primitive and cozy with its log and quarried stone walls. A large fireplace complimented the wilderness ambience.
Mark spent considerable time here as he was growing up. His parents, both career driven, did quite a bit of traveling, with the result that Mark had been raised almost exclusively by his grandparents. It was in fact at this very place, the summer he turned 13, that he admitted to himself that he was gay. An admission that left him feeling alienated and afraid. He'd seen at school, how some boys were teased about being gay, whether they were or not. He didn't want the same thing happening to himself. He'd never had trouble before, but then he'd never acknowledged the truth until that time. What if they noticed some change in him?
One day, deeply troubled, Mark had gone for a walk in the woods. He'd stopped and sat in the grass under an oak tree, his thoughts jumbled and confused, his stomach feeling like lead. Tears had welled up, spilling silently down his cheeks as he rocked slowly in distress. It was thus his grandfather found him.
Without a word his grandpa eased down beside him, putting his arm around his grandson, "Tell me about it, son." His words were so encouraging and gentle that Mark told his grandfather everything.
His grandpa listened and nodded, letting Mark spill his troubles without interruption. When he'd finished, his grandpa gave him the greatest gift he'd ever received. Acceptance.
"Mark," he told him, "you've been given a hard row to hoe, son. It won't be easy. There are a lot of people in the world who don't hold with the notion of homosexuality. They think it's something you choose to be, they fear it, and what they fear they hate. If they took the time to really think about it, they'd realize that no one chooses to be gay. Who in their right mind would want all the problems associated with it?"
"Not me, that's for sure." Mark put in.
His grandpa squeezed his shoulder and smiled, "I know that, son, but the good Lord has His reasons for making you this way and that's the way it has to be. The way I see it, just be the best man you can, gay or straight, nobody could ask more of you than that." he paused, then continued, his words somber, serious, "You're going to have to be real careful about who you tell, you know that don't you? There are those who aren't above tormenting, even physically trying to harm, those they know are gay."
Mark nodded, having already seen for himself the truth of his grandpa's words.
"Damn son, I wish I could make things easier for you."
Mark heard the slight tremor in his grandfather's voice and hugged him, "You have grandpa, you still love me."
His grandpa returned the hug, "Damn right I do. Your grandma and I will always love you and be here for you. Speaking of your grandma," he stood and offered a hand up to Mark, "she sent me to fetch you for lunch. She's probably wondering where the Sam Hill we've gone off to. You'll have to protect me when we get back, son."
Laughing, the two of them returned to the cabin. Mark's grandparents remained true to their word and were always there for him, filling him with their love and acceptance. In time, they deeded the cabin and the surrounding thirty acres of land to him when they moved to Arizona for the drier climate.
Mark knew there wasn't any other place he'd rather spend his time off than here.
Following his grandfather's advice and his own natural caution, Mark kept his sexual orientation to himself, a thing not always easily accomplished. Rather than make excuses as to why he didn't date, Mark kept himself buried in his studies, then his work. A social life was too much trouble to cultivate, too risky. The result of this self-imposed isolation being a tendency to shyness and reticence.
When it came to his work, Mark was very much in charge, sure of his plans and ideas, not afraid to voice his opinions and comments. He dealt with his clients effectively and efficiently. In any other arena, he found himself fumbling, uncertain to the point of being tongue tied while trying to make the simplest of statements. Socializing became the stuff of nightmares. His solution, to retreat behind his professional facade, to keep people at arm's length so they never saw the kind and gentle dreamer. The man who liked to laugh and joke, the insecure man who sometimes lost the fight to fear and loneliness. The man who longed for a strong lover, one who would see him, take him and yet let him be his own man with his strengths intact, his weaknesses buoyed, uplifted by their love.
Such was the stuff of dreams, part of his thoughts as earlier in the day he and Chip wandered the woods around the cabin. Following a favored trail, they hiked some distance into the national forest/wildlife refuge that bordered Mark's land. The entire area was beautiful, even this far into winter. All of the deciduous trees had pretty much shed their leaves, but the evergreens were there, plentiful enough to relieve the stark display of bare branches.
The air was crisp and cold, the breath of man and dog clearly visible as they hiked. They had seen a few deer and other smaller examples of the areas wildlife such as rabbit and squirrel. Chip, being well trained, remained at his master's side, sometimes quivering with the desire to give chase. Mark let him flush a few birds, quail and pheasant, just for the practice and as a reward for his obedience. They hadn't come out to hunt, but to enjoy the day before the coming snows would keep them mostly cabin bound.
It was while on their hike that they came across the hunk. Joe Moning. Joe had set up camp a two-day hike from the park's visitor center.
Mark had brought a backpack and was contemplating stopping for a midday meal when he caught the smell of wood smoke. Fearing that a fire might have somehow broken out, he and Chip emerged into a small clearing. There in the clearing, someone had set up a camp, just a tent really. A small fire was burning merrily in a shallow pit. Nearby, water trickled over a jumbled grouping of rocks. An underground spring had decided to make a random top-side appearance. Mark wondered where the camper was. As though conjured by the thought, a man emerged from the tent.
Mark felt his heart skip a beat as butterflies took flight in his stomach. The man was beautiful. He was tall, exceeding Mark's own five foot eleven inch height by perhaps three or four inches. His hair was dark blonde, short at the sides, longer on top, wavy, with a lock that fell artlessly over his brow. The sun highlighted its healthy gleam. His features were put together in such a way as to make the breath catch in Mark's lungs. Under a wide forehead, streaky blonde brows shaded deep blue eyes that held a benign, yet shadowed expression. His nose was straight, with a slight downward curve at the end. He wore a neatly trimmed mustache which topped sculpted lips. The full bottom lip and firm jaw line were accented by a short well trimmed beard. Dressed in jeans, a tucked-in tee shirt which was topped by a flannel shirt, and hiking boots, his clothes revealed a wide shouldered, trim and muscular body. He projected a fit, rugged, even tough image and yet there was something gentle and refined about him as well.
Mark hesitated, torn between the urge to run from the sudden surge of desire the sight of this man stirred in him and the almost magnetic pull he felt between himself and the stranger. The decision was taken out of his hands.
At first preoccupied, he seemed to suddenly sense Mark's presence and turned his slightly distracted blue eyed gaze in his direction. Momentary surprise crossed his features, then a tentative smile.
"Hi, you startled me. Wasn't expecting to see anyone out here." his voice was rich and smooth, the almost husky timbre sending a shiver down Mark's spine.
Mark mentally shook himself and replied, "Sorry, my dog and I were out hiking and I smelled your smoke," he paused with a grimace, "I mean the smoke from your fire. Didn't mean to imply you were smoking, not like cigarette smoke, but like you were on fire, smoke. Ah jeez, do you have any idea what I'm getting at here?" Mark wanted to kick himself for his rambling, tongue tied explanation. He felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment.
By this time the stranger was chuckling, "I think I get what you mean." he came forward and offered his hand, "Joe Moning."
Admonishing himself to get a grip, Mark shook Joe's hand and felt a warm rush of heat pass between them. He would have been gratified to know that Joe felt the same heat. He released Joe's hand, feeling a residual tingle in his palm, "Pleased to meet you Joe, I'm Mark Bartel. Guess you startled me too, I'm not usually so incoherent."
Joe smiled, "That's ok. It was entertaining."
Mark felt he could bask all day in the warmth of Joe's smile.
"So what brings you out here Mark?" Joe asked.
Again he gave himself a mental shake, "Just getting some exercise, me and Chip." he indicated the dog who sat obediently by his side, "We live about three miles north of here, thought I'd take advantage of the weather before the snow starts flying."
"I didn't know anyone lived around here. I didn't realize they allowed private homes in the park." Joe commented
"Oh they don't, my land and the park share a boundary line."
"You're lucky, I wouldn't mind having a home around here." Joe's face took on a somewhat melancholy expression, "I love this place." He seemed lost in thought for a moment then returned his attention to Mark, "I was just about to fix some coffee, care to join me for a cup?"
"Sounds great." Mark accepted and released Chip, allowing him to go exploring.
The two men continued to chat as Joe fixed the coffee. Mark surreptitiously watched his every move, trying not to be obvious in his attraction, especially when he noticed the gold wedding band on Joe's left hand. Inside he heaved a mental sigh at the knowledge that this gorgeous man was married. Not that anything would have come of their meeting anyway, but still it would have been nice to have that possibility. He's probably got a sweet wife tucked away somewhere waiting impatiently for his return, Mark thought to himself. Hell, if he was mine I'd never let him leave home without me.
As conversations will, the talk turned to work and what each man did for a living. Joe revealed that he was a carpenter. In addition to working on homes, he designed, and sold, handmade wood furnishings, chairs, tables and the like. He even did a bi-monthly show on a small public access channel on which he taught basic woodwork. Apparently he had quite a client base and was kept constantly busy with the demand for his work. His eyes lit with enthusiasm as he described the pleasure he derived from taking simple wood boards and planks and creating pieces of furniture that were not only functional but beautiful.
Mark watched Joe's hands as he spoke and wondered what it would be like to have them touch his body with the care he lavished on his work. He felt a frisson of jealousy and smiled at his odd notion. Jealous of a piece of wood?
Joe paused, noting Mark's smile, "Guess I got carried away huh?"
"Not at all," Mark assured him, "it's great that you enjoy your work. There are so many people who don't. I guess we're both lucky in that way."
Their eyes met and held, a silent communication passed between them. Mark felt a warm flush begin to move through his body causing his cock to stir. Breaking the eye contact, he rushed to fill the silence, unable to resist the question, "I noticed you're wearing a wedding ring. Does your wife not care for camping?"
When he didn't answer, Mark looked up. Joe was looking at the ring on his finger, the thumb and forefinger of his right hand gently rubbing and twisting the polished gold band. His face bore a look of ineffable sadness. Finally he began to speak, "I don't...," just then Chip began to bark urgently.
Both men jumped to their feet, following the sound, to find Chip, standing on his hind legs, front paws braced against the trunk of a tree. Above him in the branches, a squirrel chittered angrily at the barking dog, for all the world looking as though he were cussing him out royally. As the men approached, the squirrel gave a final indignant squeak and took off into the branches.
Laughing at the antics of dog and squirrel, they returned to Joe's camp. Mark glanced at his watch and noting the time, reluctantly decided it was time to head out or risk being lost in the dark before he could make it home. Turning to Joe he explained, then held out his hand, "It was nice meeting you Joe. Thanks for the coffee." Wanting to extend their contact, Mark extended an invitation, "If you're going to be here awhile, I'd be glad for some company. I'm no gourmet, but I can offer you a decent meal."
Joe shook Mark's hand, "I sure appreciate the offer, but I'll be heading out tomorrow. I filed my itinerary with the park service. They'll be expecting me back, and I've got some impatient customers waiting at home as well." They wished each other well and with a final goodbye, Mark, whistling for Chip to join him, headed home.
After a solitary supper, seated on the sofa in front of the fire, he recalled his meeting with Joe. His thoughts drifted randomly as he remembered not so much the words, but Joe's voice and the way it made warmth and desire spread through his body. His cock began to fill and rise, the thick, erect column tenting his sweats. Mark pulled his tee shirt off and loosening the tie of his sweats, eased his hand under the waist band, wrapping it around his demanding flesh.
He groaned as he began to slowly jack his stiff, seven inch length. Needing to be free of his confinement, he loosened his hold and quickly stripped his sweats down and off. Completely naked, he swung around, lifting his legs up on the sofa, lying back. Returning to business, he again took his rock hard cock in hand, slowly squeezing and stroking. A thick bead of precum oozed from the slitted head and trickled down the heavy reddened cap, anointing his taut flesh.
Using his thumb, he spread the slick fluid over his cock, while constructing a fantasy in his mind. In his fantasy, it was Joe's tongue sliding over him, Joe's mouth engulfing his rod, Joe's lips pursed around his straining flesh, sliding up and down, pulling him closer and closer to ecstacy. He rode the wild wave of his fantasy, struggling to maintain control, to prolong the aching pleasure.
He groaned again, his heart pounding, his breath rushing through his laboring lungs. His strokes became almost frantic as he tripped over the edge. Mark's ass tightened, muscles quivering as he thrust upward, his seed bursting forth. Pulse after pulse brought thick ropes of cum spurting from his turgid cock. The first burst hit his neck just below his chin, the second landed on his chest and each subsequent burst landed lower as a creamy trail was formed.
Mark sighed and relaxed, his hand resting on his firm belly, absently spreading the cooling semen over his heated skin. The gesture was slow and soothing, Mark caught himself drifting into sleep. Yawning he forced himself up and gathering his clothes, headed upstairs for a quick clean up.
In the bathroom he looked at himself in the full length mirror as he scrubbed a washcloth, damp and warm, over his chest. While not overly muscled, his body was tight and fit, the muscles in his shoulders, arms and legs well defined. He ran a hand through his short, tousled, light, golden brown hair as his hazel eyes followed the moderate trail of hair that began between firm pecs and arrowed down his body to join the moderately furred bush that topped his pubic area. At rest, his cock hung a modest three inches that partially hid his rounded ball sack.
He stared into the mirror grimacing slightly. He knew some would catagorize his looks as boyishly handsome. He would never exude that rugged, alpha male quality that Joe projected so effortlessly. His gaze became distant and unfocused. Over his shoulder he pictured Joe behind him. He studied the contrast between Joe's coloring and his own, realizing they both fit into that 'golden category.' Only a few shades separated them in regards to the color of their skin and hair. He pictured Joe moving in behind him, Joe's hands resting on his shoulders as he leaned forward to tongue his neck and ears. Mark shivered and came to, mentally chastising himself.
This obsessing over Joe had to stop. It was unlikely he would ever see the man again, much less enjoy a physical or emotional relationship with him. After all, Mark reminded himself sarcastically, why start now? Why break this phenomenal 26 year streak of virginity? Grimacing with disgust, he turned from the mirror. It seemed to silently mock his loneliness.
Shutting out the lights, he slid into bed and with a disgruntled sigh, settled down to sleep. His last coherent thought involved a tall, golden, god-like figure, a bearded Apollo who seized him roughly in his arms, taking his lips in a passionate kiss. Mark's lips curved slightly as he drifted away into his dreams.
* * *
Mark woke to a cold wet nose insistently nudging his hand. He groaned and rolled, coming face to face with Chip and his intent brown eyes. "Hey buddy, kinda early isn't it? Guess I should be glad you're not licking me in the face."
Chip promptly obliged, sliding his tongue over Mark's chin and cheek.
"Shit bud! Ok, I'm up, I'm up." he croaked, scrubbing a hand over his face as he stepped into a pair of jeans.
Bare chested and with bleary eyed, zombie-like grace, Mark stumbled downstairs and flung open the door to let Chip out. His eyes widened in surprise. The woods had been transformed into a winter wonderland. From the look of it, it had snowed most of the night. There looked to be four or five inches at least, with more coming.