When bookish photographer Andrew Evans gets separated from his hiking companion sin a Garnet Mountain Range blizzard, the lone cabin he finds in the woods is a lifesaver. There's only one problem -- someone else is already using it.
Art Evans -- no relation -- seems like a threatening jerk when he and Andrew first meet. But Art hunts and cooks for them both, making the small cabin homey in the midst of the winter storm.
But there's more to the cabin than either man knows, something that drives Andrew into Art's bed and eventually scares them outside to seek rescue despite the blizzard. Can their unexpected romance survive the storm? Can they?
Art pulled his chair even closer, and we started on our third beers. I was getting a little warm, but it didn’t seem to bother him. He put his hand on my knee. “Would you like to recreate some of the Tom of Finland pictures with me? Just for fun?” He blinked his eyes and licked his lips.
“Stop toying with me! I admit nothing!” I exclaimed, spilling my beer dramatically and leaping to my feet. This can’t go on! And the bastard was laughing.
Then he stood up and took my arms. “I don’t know if you hate me or not, but I like you. I really do.”
I realized I didn’t hate him. In fact, parts of me wanted him. Parts of me really liked him, too.
“I’m really sorry,” Art said quietly. “I didn’t realize how this situation might affect you, or any other normal person. Here you are, stuck in a tiny cabin with a half-crazed maniac twice your size who could probably break your neck as easy as…”
He must have seen my face go ashen. If I hadn’t been afraid before, I was now.
“Shit, I’m sorry, I do everything wrong. Small wonder nobody likes me. We were having fun, and now I’ve ruined it. Like I usually do. Damn it!”
I was watching a grown man, strong as an ox, start to cry, right in front of me. I couldn’t believe it, but I did, because I wasn’t exactly star social material either. In fact, I’d always wondered if I was autistic or something. His tears were real, though, and he was shaking.
“I’ll try to get out and get help tomorrow. I can make some snowshoes or something. I should be back in ... oh, that’s probably worse, leaving you here all alone, isn’t it? I wouldn’t want to be alone here, now that you’re here.” With that, he spun away from me, wiping his eyes with his back turned, as if I couldn’t see him. I realized he didn’t want to appear weak in front of me.
“I have never been afraid here before in my life, or anywhere else, really, but all I’ve ever had to take care of was my sister, when we were kids, and after she died, well, just chickens. She always loved her chickens. I thought they’d bring her close to me. I haven’t killed too many yet, you know?”
When he turned back to me, I was done for. He was shaking. Now it was my turn to take him, and lead him to a seat. I took him to the couch, and we sank down on it together.
“What happened to your sister?” I asked. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“She died in her sleep. She was older than me but had Downs, and we were always concerned about her. Finally, one New Year’s Eve, my parents had a chance to go out to a party together. They’d gone out before but had always had a nurse or professional babysitter come in. I was fifteen. I thought I could handle anything that came up.
“I read her favorite story; it was The Little Red Hen, and got her drinks of water and tucked her in. She liked that. She said, “I love you forever, Bubba,” and I thought she went to sleep, so I went back downstairs. I’d been invited to a party, too, that night, for the first time, and my crush was going to be there. So, of course, I was somewhat resentful, you know? But that’s how it worked out. Nobody else was available. And my parents took a chance on me.
“Well, you can see where this is going. I heard a noise that seemed unlike her and went upstairs. The more stairs I climbed, the more afraid I got. In the light from her Little Pony nightlight, she looked peaceful and asleep. I almost turned to go. Almost. But I didn’t.
“Long story short, my parents blamed me. Hell -- I blamed me. And it all went south from there. And now because I’m a mix of a terrible sense of humor and a huge need to take care of those whom God, or life, puts in my path, I’m fucking things up again, and I’m not even sure how.”
So what did I, the smart one (for a change, ha-ha), do? I kissed him. I closed my eyes and went in for the big one, right on the lips. And I put my hand around his neck and rubbed a hollow spot behind his ear. When I pulled back, before I even opened my eyes, I said, “That’s my secret fear. That you’ll know what I am and throw me out. I just wanted to give you something important, and the knowledge of who I really am, on the inside, where I hide. It’s all I have to give. Usually, it’s tossed back. That’s up to you.”
The way he was looking at me, from eye to eye, from heart to heart; from secret hidden inner place to secret hiding spot, gave me my answer.