Daring a snowstorm might not be the smartest thing Aiden Evans has ever done, but he can’t stand being in his flat a moment longer. With only three days to Christmas, he doesn’t want to be alone. He wants a place to belong, wants people around him who won’t look down on him. He might not find that at his mother’s place, but it’s better than being alone in the city. If he can make it there, that is.
Tristan Gardner is looking forward to a quiet night in front of the TV, but instead, he has to save an idiot in designer clothes from freezing to death in his forest. Tristan tries not to notice the man’s good looks, just like he has tried not to notice any man’s good looks for the last seven years. He knows where relationships go and is far better off living alone, with his dog, in his cabin.
Aiden is driving Tristan mad with his bratty comments and irresponsible ways, and Aiden is going crazy from Tristan’s judgmental attitude. Luckily, in a few days, the weather will clear up, and the two men won’t have to be together any longer. But will a few steamy nights with the grumpy lumberjack change Aiden’s mind about wanting to leave? And will Tristan still want to go back to his peaceful, predictable life without fear of getting his heart broken?
Contains the stories “Once in a Snowstorm,” “The Empty Egg,” “Happy Endings,” and “Just Words.”
Tristan hoped Tom had helped Jennifer clear the parking lot outside the motorway café. People stopped by on a night like this, especially if there was a power outage. The ones living a little closer to town than he did would make their way there. Everyone benefitted from the café’s emergency backup electrical generators in times like these. Not that the centre of the town had power outages nearly as often as Tristan did, out here on the outskirts, but it was always a comfort for people to know the café would be heated and serving food. It was the town’s gathering point, and Tristan hoped someone would help Jen out. Maybe he should take the snowmobile and head in to give her a hand. But he didn’t want to leave Og in weather like this, when there was no guarantee Tristan would be making it back any time soon.
“Og!” His call was answered by a bark nearby. “Come on, boy.”
The darn dog didn’t come. Tristan sighed, grabbed the yellow snow shovel standing by the door, and started trudging through the snow. Og had better be stuck, or Tristan would strangle the stupid mongrel with his bare hands.
Snowflakes clung to his beard, and as he touched the knitted cap on his head, he realised it was already covered with snow. A walk outside was not what he’d envisioned after his arduous journey into town. He’d only gone in on his snowmobile to make sure he’d have enough dog food at home -- he was pretty sure they would be snowbound for days. He’d had a quick chat with Jennifer, and then he’d headed back home. Maybe he should’ve stayed in town.
Jen always worked too hard. Running the motorway café and taking care of Luke all by herself was tough, and Tristan always worried when he couldn’t be there.
“Og!” The dark and the snowflakes made it hard to see. Nothing but snow-covered tree trunks and not a dog to be found.
Another bark came from close by. Tristan squinted into the woods. Og’s bright eyes glowed in the dark. A white-spotted dog was not easy to locate when everything was white-spotted, but now when Tristan knew what he was looking at, he could see that Og was indeed trapped. A dark figure held on to his collar, not that Og appeared to be bothered, judging by the happy thump of his tail against the snow, creating a white cloud around both him and the person on the ground.
Tristan took a careful step closer. His grip on the shovel tightened. What kind of lunatic came into the woods in weather like this?
“Hello?” Tristan stopped a couple of metres away from the body -- a man, he saw now -- and waited for a response. Only a muffled groan came. Fuck!
Tristan dropped the shovel and hurried forward to the man and shook him lightly. “Hey. Come on, wake up.” The eyelids fluttered as the man tried to open his eyes. Tristan touched his forehead -- icy cold. The man was almost completely covered in snow and his hair was wet -- Tristan assumed his clothes were, too. Without thinking, he reached for the man’s hand, shook loose his fingers from Og’s collar, and started to pull him out of the snow.
He sighed as he took in the trendy jeans and sneakers. Why couldn’t people dress according to the weather? If Og hadn’t found him, he’d have frozen to death -- he wouldn’t look so pretty in his designer clothes in a casket.
He hefted the man up in a fireman’s carry and started making his way towards the cabin. It was like carrying an ice block. He guessed he should be pleased about the man being short and small framed. His curly dark hair flopped around his face with each step Tristan took.
They weren’t far from the cabin, but ploughing through the snow with the extra weight of the man and Og running around his legs had Tristan sweating and out of breath in no time at all. He grunted as he sank knee-deep into the snow, mentally cursing the stupid man for walking into his forest.
He couldn’t stay angry, though. He worried about the man being injured. It would be impossible to get an ambulance out here, and Tristan only had a basic knowledge of first aid. First, he needed to get him out of his wet clothes, that much he knew. Hypothermia was no joke.