www.alex-de-kok.com


Merry Christmas!

© Alex de Kok, 2005






The mountain road was badly rutted, the snow in thick banks at the side. Jack peered through the screen, barely kept clear of snow by the windscreen wipers, blessing the fact that he was driving a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The Jeep wasn’t new, but it was in good condition and well maintained. Maybe coming up to the cabin for the holiday wasn’t such a good idea after all. He told himself not to worry. The cabin was well-stocked, there was plenty of gas for the generator and his hardened muscles testified to the logs he’d cut during the summer for the stove. Once there, he could hibernate if necessary.

The Jeep lurched sideways on a curve and Jack eased the throttle. Four-wheel-drive or not, if he went off the road he'd be in trouble. He wished the snow would stop, so that he could at least see where he was going.

Further up the mountain, Anne knew she’d taken a wrong turn somewhere. Walking out on the shitty job at the lodge had been satisfying, but now she was in the middle of nowhere with all of her possessions in the back of her Honda, and she was scared, because the little auto was skidding all over the place. She thought she knew where she’d gone wrong, taking a right instead of a left, but that didn’t help the fact that there seemed no way to turn on the narrow mountain road. There was a corner coming up and she knew enough to brake gently, brake early, but what she didn't know was that there was ice under the snow, just where she braked. The skid was slow motion, inevitable, unstoppable, the boulder-lined ditch waiting for the Honda. Anne braced herself for the impact as the little Honda slithered backwards off the road and into the ditch.

There was silence after the impact, a hiss of steam as the running water forcibly cooled the hot engine. Anne sat, shuddering, scared. She was alone on the mountain, lost, and nobody knew where she was. She'd told Sal on the phone that she would head for town, but that was the other way at the intersection, where she'd missed the turn. She fought back panic, and tried to open the car door, but the boulders stopped it after only an inch or two, and she couldn't move it further. Tears filled her eyes and she began to cry.

Jack was puzzled. He was convinced he'd seen tail-lights ahead through a gap in the snow flurries, but now they'd disappeared, and the snow had actually stopped for the moment. He slowed the Jeep even more and tried to look around. A shock ran through him as he realized the beams of the other car's headlights were pointed at the sky. Cautiously, Jack braked the Jeep, holding his breath for a moment as all four wheels locked, but he stopped safely. He set the parking brake, left the motor running, and climbed out.

The Honda was about twenty feet off the road, canted over at an angle, and Jack realized at once that if anyone was inside it, they were going to have a hell of a job getting out, because the car seemed to have settled down between two walls of rock. Not only that, but the little stream that ran through the ditch here had been blocked by the crashed car, and the water was beginning to rise.

Jack slithered down the bank, and tapped on the window. At first he thought the occupant had been injured, but the tear-stained face which appeared as the head jerked around at his tapping was alert and awake. The driver reached down and the window inched open. She, for it was a woman, stopped it after an inch or two.

"Are you all right?" said Jack.

"Yes, but I can't get out. The door's jammed."

"So I see. Can you get through the window, if I help?"

"I think so."

"Better do it soon, because your car's damming the stream and the water's rising. You'll either drown or freeze if you stay there."

"Everything I own is in the car," she said, her voice strained.

"Can you pass them out? Is there much?"

"My clothes are in the trunk," she said, and Jack made a wry face, because the icy water was already finding its way in. "I have some valuable stuff in here, but the rest will have to take its chance."

"Give me the key," said Jack. "I'll get the stuff in the trunk. You get the window down and be ready for me to help you out."

She said nothing, but passed him the key and he unlocked the trunk. The two bags were half-submerged in icy water, but he fished them out and put them on the bank, out of the way of the stream. When he turned back, she'd got the window open, and was kneeling on the seat. She passed a shoulder bag to him, and turned back into the car, passing out a portfolio case, and a camera bag. "What's left will have to take its chance," she said, "but those belonged to my husband."

"Okay, I got 'em," said Jack, and put the cases on a rock, turning back to the woman. She put her head and shoulders through the window, holding out her arms. Jack braced himself, one foot against a convenient boulder, the other behind the front wheel of the Honda. He braced himself, tugging, and she slid awkwardly through the window. Jack felt his foot slipping, and desperately tried to keep his balance, but his foot slipped and he fell backwards, against the boulder, the woman slipping from his grasp and sliding into the icy water. She scrambled to her hands and knees and crawled up the bank, kneeling, crying. Jack moved up and took her arm, helping her towards the waiting Jeep.

"Get inside," he said, opening the door. He reached in and turned the heater control onto full, and then helped her into the passenger seat. She was trembling, and even in the dark of the snow-filled night Jack could see her face was pinched and pale. "I'll get your things into the car," he said. "Don't let yourself fall asleep."

Hurriedly, Jack put the sodden bags into the back of the Jeep, the shoulder bag, camera bag and the portfolio onto the back seat. He closed the doors and ran round to the driver's side, climbing in quickly and shutting the door. The woman was shivering violently, startled as Jack touched her arm. "My cabin is about another mile. Stay awake, I'll get you there as quickly as possible."

She managed to nod, and Jack got the Jeep moving again, still moving cautiously. Relieved, he spotted the sign at the roadside and turned onto the track, virgin snow crunching under the Jeep's tires. The cabin was only a minute's drive along the track, even in the snow, and Jack drew up as close as possible to the door, leaving the motor running.

"Hang on here for a moment," he said. "I have to get the generator going. We need electricity. There's an electric shower, and you're going to need it. Two minutes, and I'll be back. Okay?" She managed a nod, and he got out, quickly closing the car to keep the interior warm. His cold fingers fumbled with the lock for a moment, but he got the lean-to door open against the drift half-blocking it, and slipped inside. There was enough light from the loom of the snow, and he was familiar with the controls, so it was only moments before the motor fired, and he adjusted it to a steady roar. A little fast, on the cold setting, but once it warmed up he'd adjust it. First priority was getting the woman out of her wet clothes and under a hot shower.

He went out and back to the Jeep, opening the passenger door. "Can you walk?" he said.

"I don't know," she said, trembling violently. "I'll try."

Shock and cold were getting to her, and Jack helped her out of the Jeep. He felt her starting to fall and scooped her up, carrying her to the cabin, fumbling with the door. He managed to get the light switched on, blessing the generator that he'd really only installed so he could use his computer, and carried her to the couch, letting her slump back.

"You must get those wet clothes off," he said, and her hands moved feebly to the fastening of her coat. "Sorry, lady, but I'm going to have to help you," he muttered, beginning to unfasten her coat. She was wearing a thick sweater, wool ski-pants, and walking boots, and he managed to get her out of the coat, bending to remove her boots. The ski-pants defeated him for a moment, until he remembered how Jenny's had fastened, and he slid them off. She had managed to raise the hem of her sweater, but only to her waist, and he pulled it off over her head. All she had on now was a thermal vest, and her underwear and socks, and Jack left those. It was more important to get her under the shower. "Back in a moment," he said, "I have to get the shower going. We've got to get you warm." She nodded and he ran to the bathroom, switching on the shower, starting the water flowing. He checked with his hand under the spray. Yes, it was warming up. He hurried back, and stopped for a moment, surprised. She'd managed to get the thermal vest off, and was in the process of removing her bra, awkward because her trembling hands couldn't manage the catch at her back.

"Leave it," said Jack. "Come on, under the shower." She tried to stand, wobbling, reaching out for something to hold onto. He picked her up again and carried her into the bathroom, but she was in no shape to stand. He put her down on the toilet seat. "Just hold on a second," he said. "I'm going to have to get in there with you, or you'll just collapse." He stripped quickly to his undershorts, feeling the goose-bumps rise in the cold air. He pulled her to her feet and carried her into the shower, under the now hot spray, feeling the delicious warmth going through him. The woman was trying to stand and he let her, holding her shoulders, letting her lean against him. He made sure the spray was getting to her, and began to massage her shoulders.

After a moment or two, she sighed, and straightened. "I think I can manage now," she said over her shoulder.

"Okay, stay in as long as you can bear it, because I have to get the stove going, or we'll both freeze. Once I get it going, I'll warm a towel for you. Okay? I'll be as quick as I can."

"Thank you."

He didn't linger, grabbing two towels as he went out, rubbing himself hard as he dried, shivering, dragging on his thick shirt and trousers, thick socks. The stove was ready, kindling placed, and it took on the first match. He closed the front, for the moment, and hung the fresh towel on a rail he'd rigged for that very purpose. The fire was his next priority, again ready, with kindling placed and it, too, took on the first match. He went back to the stove and checked the towel. Warming, but still a little cool. Hell! Clothes! Did he have anything? Maybe. A wool shirt that had shrunk, and a pair of cotton corduroy trousers that had been too small from new, never worn, somewhere in the back of the closet. He went into the bedroom and searched them out. A sweater, too. Underwear she'd have to do without, for the moment. He went back and checked the towel on the rail again. Yes, warming nicely. He went back to the bathroom and opened the door a little.

"I've got a warm towel for you, if you're ready?"

"Yes, please."

"I'll just get it." It was the work of moments and he opened the bathroom door. And stopped dead, turning away and holding the towel out behind him. "Sorry," he said, "next time I'll knock." He felt her take the towel from his hand and moved back to the door. "I've got some clothes warming. They'll be too big for you, but they'll do until we can get yours dried. Okay?"

"Okay. Thank you."

"Back in a moment. I'll knock this time." He closed the door but he could swear he'd heard a soft chuckle behind him. He shook his head, but the vision persisted. She'd removed the sodden underwear and his mind's eye held the memory of small, firm breasts, nipples erect, flat belly and a neat delta of dark hair between her thighs. The clothes on the rail were warm and he took them to the bathroom, knocked on the door, and opened it only a crack, holding the clothes out so that she could take them.

"I'm sorry, I have no underwear for you until we can get your own dried."

"That's all right. I'm sure I'll manage for a little while." He felt her take the clothing.

"I'll start some coffee," he said.

The percolator was bubbling nicely before he heard the bathroom door open and she came out, hair damp around her face, looking like a little girl in her daddy's clothes. Jack smiled involuntarily, then sobered, but she smiled back.

"I must look ridiculous," she said.

"A little. But dry, and it's getting warmer in here by the minute. Coffee?"

"Please. Black, no sugar."

He busied himself pouring two mugs, and handed her one. "We'll sort some food out in a minute, so just sit yourself down on the couch and tell me what you were doing out in weather like this in a little Honda? My name's Jack Kearney, by the way."

"Anne Matthews. What was I doing?" She made a face. "Running away, I suppose."

"From what? Or don't you want to say?"

"No big secret. I was working at the lodge, just down the mountain. It's closed until December 28, but a few of us were working. Call it a maintenance shift, because that's more or less what we were. There were supposed to be four of us, but the other two girls called in sick. I think I know why, now. When he found out there were only the two of us, the maintenance chief tried to make a move on me. I told him no. He didn't like it, and turned ugly. I put all of my stuff in my car and took off."

"He let you?"

A fleeting smile crossed her face. "He tried to stop me. My brother taught me a good bit of self-defense. I threw the bastard and told him I'd break his arm if he tried to touch me again."

"The lodge is down the mountain. You must have turned right instead of left at the junction of the two roads. Easy mistake to make, as the downhill road goes up at first from the turnoff, and the uphill road down."

"So I found out." She looked up at him. "Thank you for saving my life."

"I'm only pleased I was there, and able to do something about it. I'm afraid for your car, and anything there's left in it."

"I was thinking about that. The car's only worth a couple of hundred, if that. My clothes are safe, if a little wet," she added with a wry grin. "My husband's cameras, and the portfolio, and my laptop, they're safe. Apart from that, there's only an old coat, and some assorted pots and whatnot, electric kettle and the like. I won't worry about them." she looked around. "Where is the camera bag, by the way, and the other things?"

Jack gave her a rueful smile. "Still on the back seat of the Jeep. You stay there, I'll fetch them." Anne nodded, both hands wrapped around the mug of coffee. Jack stamped into a pair of rubber boots he kept by the door and stepped out, closing the door behind him. He was sheltered on the porch, but the snow was coming down thick and fast and the Jeep was almost obscured. He waded across and retrieved the two bags and the portfolio, and made his way back into the cabin. As he kicked off the rubber boots, his burdens slipped. In a reflex action, he hung onto the two bags but was forced to let the portfolio slip. Whether it was a broken fastener or not, he didn't know, but as the portfolio hit the floor it opened and several photographs spilled out.

"I'm sorry," he said, putting the two bags down and bending to retrieve the photographs, stopping, startled, at the nude images before him. He looked up and she gave him a rueful smile, a touch of heat in her cheeks.

"Yes," said Anne. "They're me. The last ones Peter took before he was killed. For our eyes only, he used to say, but I'm not ashamed of them."

Jack picked up the rest of the photographs and handed the portfolio to Anne. She nodded and laid it on the table behind her.

"I'm afraid you're stuck here," said Jack. "It's snowing heavily, and I think the road will be blocked soon. Christmas Day tomorrow, and I have the feeling that they'll concentrate on plowing the lower roads. They'll get around to us, but not for a few days. The good news is that there's enough food to last us for a month, enough gas for the generator, and enough wood for the stove and the fire, for even longer. I was planning to stay up here through January. The bad news is that there's only one bed." Jack gestured. "As you can see, the cabin is basically one room, plus the bathroom. The bed is up there, above the dining table. Heat rises, so up near the rafters it's warmer. There's a lot, and I mean a lot, of insulation under the roof, so it stays warm up there even when the fire dies down, so you'll be fine."

"I'll be fine. What about you?"

"I've got a super new winter sleeping bag, and the couch is long enough to sleep on, as you can see."

"For me, yes, Jack Kearney, but you're nearly a foot taller than me. You'd never fit. I'll sleep on the couch. Unless . . ."

"Unless what?"

Anne bit her lip. "Is it a big bed?"

Jack nodded. "King-size." He gave a wry grin. "My wife never slept in it before she took off with her Texas millionaire."

"I'm sorry."

"No matter. You asked about the bed?"

"Jack, I'm a rapid judge of people. If you promise that you will not make any move to touch me without my consent, I see no reason why we can't share. We'll be warmer, for one thing."

Promise not to touch her without her consent? Interesting wording. "I have no hesitation in giving my word for that," said Jack.

"Okay, we share. Now, food. I don't know about you, but I'm hungry. I'll happily pay for what I eat."

Jack laughed. "Let's wait until we see what your appetite's like. What would you like?"

"What have you got?"

"Come and look, and after we've eaten, I'll see about rigging some lines so that we can dry your clothes."

"I'm an excellent cook, Jack. Can I at least earn my keep a little by cooking?"

"That sounds like a deal to me."

"Can I make a phone call first?"

"There's no phone line here, I'm afraid."

"Damn, Val will worry."

"Val?"

"A friend from the lodge, she's at home. I told her I was quitting and she offered me a bed for the night. She'll worry when I don't turn up."

"All is not lost. Modern technology has arrived in my pocket in the form of a cell phone. I'm not sure if we'll get a signal, but hang on and I'll try it." Anne watched as Jack tried the phone, smiled as he grinned in triumph. "Fickle thing. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Here, ring your friend."

Anne dialed Val's number and it was answered immediately. "Anne, is that you?"

"Hi, Val."

"Where are you? You should have been here an hour ago."

"Val, I crashed the car in the snow."

"Ohmigod, are you all right? Where are you?"

"In a cabin on the mountain, with a charming gentleman who rescued me from certain death."

There was a pause. "Anne? You are kidding me, aren't you?"

"A little. But I think there's a very good chance I would either have drowned or frozen to death."

Val lowered her voice until Anne had to strain to hear. "You're safe, aren't you?"

"Yes, Val, I'm quite safe. I've had a bath, a hot coffee, toasted my toes in front of a log fire, and we're going to have something to eat." Anne giggled.

"What?" said Val.

"If you could see me. Borrowed clothes that are way too big for me. Orphan of the storm, that's me."

"When are you coming down?"

"Val, the road is blocked. It's Christmas tomorrow, so I'll probably be stuck here for a day or two, probably more. Maybe a week. I'll ring you when I get off the mountain."

"Promise?"

"Absolutely, Val. I promise."

"Okay, girl, take care." There was a chuckle on the line. "Is he good-looking?"

Anne glanced across to where Jack was checking the fridge contents. "Yeah, Val. Very. 'Bye, girl."

"Bye. Be careful."

"Put your friend's mind at rest?" said Jack as he took the phone from her.

"I think so. Now what have we got?" Conversation was easy as they prepared the food, cooked the meal, and ate it. Anne directed his assistance as she needed it and Jack thought afterwards it was the most fun he'd ever had preparing a meal, because Anne was just so easy, so natural, to talk to. She was telling him about her husband as they sat on the couch with coffee after they'd eaten, and Jack was staring into the fire, enjoying just hearing her voice, when she stopped. He turned to her and, alarmed, saw tears streaming down her face. He reached out a hand, but hesitated to touch her, remembering what she'd said, when she turned to him.

"I miss him, Jack," she said, fighting a sob.

"Of course you do, Anne, of course you do." Jack took her hand, and squeezed her fingers gently. Anne gave him a wan smile, and dashed tears from her face with the back of her other hand.

"I'm sorry," she said.

Jack shook his head. "No, Anne, you never need to apologize for honest grief."

She nodded, then gently withdrew her hand from his. "Thank you, Jack," she said, her tone soft. "If you'll excuse me, I'll just wash my face."

"Of course. Another cup of coffee?"

"Please."

She was calm and composed when she came back from the bathroom, accepting the coffee and sitting on the couch beside him.

"I'm sorry for that, Jack. I thought I was over it, but every so often something happens that reminds me of Peter. It's been three years now, I should be getting on with my life."

"Healing takes time, Anne, but it happens."

"Deep down, I know that." She took a deep breath, and smiled. "Enough about me and my troubles. What about you? What do you do?"

Jack smiled. "I write."

Anne smiled back at him. "I'm going to avoid the cliché response, because you've probably heard it before. 'You're a writer, wow, that's wonderful. I have a little piece here that I wrote. Would you look at it?' I suspect you've had that happen to you?"

Jack laughed. "Not yet. Most of my writing so far has been technical manuals. Good money, but I want to try my hand at a novel. I arranged a two month leave of absence, and here I am. My laptop's in the cupboard. I was going to celebrate Christmas by making a start."

"No reason why not. Since I'm stuck here, I'll cook, and if you don't mind I'll plug in my own laptop." Anne gave a wry smile. "I've written a few short stories." She flushed. "Mostly erotic, I have to say. I don't know if it's losing Peter and missing him at night, or what, but that's what seems to come out when I start writing."

"Any published?"

"I've submitted a few to Literotica. What's so funny?" said Anne, a little annoyed, as Jack laughed.

"Sorry," said Jack, smiling at her. "I have, too. Submitted to Literotica, I mean. I even got a couple of little red H's."

Anne grinned. "Me, too."

"Small world."

Anne laughed. "I wonder. They must have millions of readers, so the fact that we both know the site isn't so surprising."

"True, but both being writers? Not so common, surely?"

"You're probably right. What time is it? I seem to have misplaced my watch."

"Your watch is on the mantel, and it's, um, just after seven."

"Still early. Jack, can we do something about getting my clothes dried? I might be able to dry some pajamas by bedtime, otherwise I'll have to borrow another of your shirts as a nightshirt."

"I'm sorry, Anne. I meant to rig up the line earlier. I forgot when we started chatting."

"Don't blame yourself. I did too. Now, how are we going to do this?"

"There's a rail on the stove, see? We can put some on there, and now that the stove is going well, the radiator over there will be warm. I have a rack that clips on that I use to dry things."

"Sounds like enough to get started. Underwear and PJs first, I think." Anne looked down. "And socks that fit me!" she added with a laugh. "No, you get your laptop out and start writing. I'll sort my clothes out."

"Okay," said Jack. He hadn't planned on starting until the morning, but the circumstances were giving him ideas for a short story, and he could probably finish it before bed. Tomorrow would be soon enough for The Novel. He got the laptop out of the cupboard and moved to put it on the table, but Anne's portfolio was in the way and he moved to pick it up, then laid the laptop down. Portfolio in his hand, he looked for somewhere to place it. She was looking at him, several pairs of skimpy panties in her hand.

"You can look at them if you wish, Jack," she said softly. "I told you, I'm not ashamed of them."

"Are you sure, because I'd like to?"

"I'm sure," she said, and moved to arrange a row of panties on the stove rail. Jack moved the laptop to one side, and opened the portfolio. There were a couple of dozen nude studies and several landscapes. The landscapes were excellent, the mark of a good cameraman who could see a photograph in the simplest of subjects, mostly hill and forest pictures. Jack put the landscapes aside, and picked up the first nude study, a full-length, standing shot, Anne leaning against a tree, smiling. It was a totally natural pose, the subject beautiful, the location verdant. The other poses were similar, natural, no coy placement of hands, celebrations of female beauty. Jack glanced across at Anne, to find her watching him, her gaze solemn. He smiled.

"You are beautiful, Anne Matthews. He loved you, I can tell just from his photographs of you."

"Thanks, Jack. You like them?"

He nodded. "I like them. A lot."

There was a pause. "Do you have a favorite?"

"Yes. This one. Like I said, you're beautiful, especially so in this one."

"I never thought so until I saw Peter's photographs, but I have to admit it, he made me look good. Even then, I think my mouth is too big and my nose is crooked."

"Believe me when I say that no-one will notice looking at those."

Anne laughed. "Why? Because they'll be staring at my tits and my tush?"

"No, not exactly. There's much more in these pictures."

"Not exactly, he says. Gimme a break, Jack. I know men!"

"Come here," said Jack. "Look." He turned the picture he'd chosen towards her. "See? That lovely long curve, down your side, around your bottom and into the thigh? That's poetry, woman."

Anne looked at him. "Like I said, my tush." But there was mischief in her eyes.

Jack threw up his hands in mock surrender, grinning. "I give in. You're right, it's the tits and the tush!" He held her gaze. "And they're lovely."

Anne flushed and looked away, confused for a moment. She looked back at Jack but he was sliding the pictures carefully back into the portfolio. He glanced across at her. "Writing time?"

She smiled, nodding, obscurely relieved, feeling frustrated, and not knowing why. "Writing time." Fetching her bag, she set her own laptop up on the opposite side of the table. "Power outlet, Jack?"

He pointed. "On the wall there. It's a dual, so we've got one each. If you need anything printed, I can set up the laser printer."

"Not at the moment. I'm just starting a fresh story," said Anne, plugging her laptop in and switching it on.

"Erotic?"

She grinned. "I don't know yet, it hasn't told me."

Jack laughed. "I know what you mean. My last story, I was just going to write a two or three thousand word vignette. I eventually got it told in about sixteen thousand. Took on a life of its own."

"It's happened to me, too. Can be fun."

"It can. First one to five hundred words gets the coffee. Okay?"

"That'll be you. I'm slow." There was a pause. "Um, Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm also stupid." Jack raised his eyebrows in mute query, and Anne smiled. "It's okay, I live with it every day. Jack, any time you want me to get you a coffee, say so. I owe you my life."

"There's a saying. If you save a life you become responsible for it, so I'll get you the occasional cup to make sure you don't collapse from exhaustion. Deal?"

"Deal. Now, let's write."

There was little sound for a while except the click of keyboards, interspersed with Anne's occasional journey to set a fresh batch of clothes to try. She came back smiling from one trip and Jack glanced up at her. "What's so good?"

"My PJs. They're dry, so I'm going to leave them on the rail, and they'll be toasty-warm when I get into them. Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"It's almost eleven, and I'm tired. Have you any cocoa?"

"I do. You're right, it makes a nice nightcap. My turn, I think."

Jack went across to the stove to prepare the cocoa and Anne turned to watch him. After a little while he looked across. "Keep an eye on the pan, will you. I need the can."

"Sure." She stood as Jack disappeared into the bathroom and moved towards the stove. Catching sight of Jack's open laptop, she decided to peek, see what he had written, and stopped in shock. It had obviously not been intended for her eyes, that was plain. She thought he'd been working on a short story and, yes, the bottom of the screen showed another file open, but on the screen was a poem.

Anne, she crashed into my life
Anne, she's so unlike my wife
Anne, whose body is a dream
Anne, with skin of rosy cream
Anne, who's going to share my bed
Anne, who says, I touch, I'm dead
Anne, attracts me so damned much
But, Anne, I'm not allowed to touch!

Hearing a noise, Anne scrambled towards the stove, in time to stop the pan of milk from boiling over. Mechanically she made the cocoa, her mind whirling. Obviously, Jack was attracted to her. And you to him, she acknowledged to herself. He's a very attractive man, and it's been three years, since Peter was killed, since you had a man in your bed. She shook her head, but there was no mistaking the once-familiar but now almost forgotten feeling of heat in her.

She heard Jack coming back and focused her attention on the cups.

"Something up? You look tense."

She forced a smile and looked at him. "I wasn't paying attention. I almost let the pan boil over."

"No big deal. It cleans up. I know, I've let it boil over before." He smiled, and she felt herself responding. There was something very attractive about Jack Kearney. Was she ready? She didn't know. Hell, she'd only known him for a few hours. It was strange, they were so easy together it was as if they'd known each other for ages. Wait, girl, don't do anything rash. You're here for a couple of nights, at least, maybe longer. Don't do anything to spoil it.

"Jack?"

"What time do you usually go to bed? I don't want to interrupt your routine."

"Routine? What routine? When I feel like it is probably the true answer, but normally between eleven and midnight. Up here, with no TV, I make the most of daylight so sometimes I'm in bed by eight or nine, and get up early. Tonight, well, why don't we just finish the cocoa and then you can have the bathroom. When you're done, I'll use it, and we'll get ourselves some sleep. I don't think I snore, but you have my permission to dig me in the ribs if I do, okay?"

"Sounds like a plan to me. I'll just check that I've saved what I've written." Because she was watching Jack out of the corner of her eye she caught the worried look he gave towards his open laptop, but she went straight to her own, saved, and closed down, just as Jack sat down to do the same for his own. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"Is it okay if I hang onto this shirt as a robe? Mine is going to need drying. I've concentrated on getting underwear and nightclothes dry."

"Sure, no problem. If you need a toothbrush, you should find a new one in the bathroom cabinet."

Anne smiled. "It's okay, mine survived the flood My toilet bag was wrapped in a towel and the water didn't get through. Okay, it's bathroom time for me. Back shortly."

In the bathroom she studied her face as she brushed her teeth. You're not ugly, girl. In fact, for someone very nearly closer to forty than thirty, you're not bad at all. How old is Jack? Maybe forty? Well-preserved, for sure. Admit it, you think you'd enjoy it if he was to make love to you, so make up your mind. If he makes a move, are you going to slap him, or kiss him? He liked the photographs, and they're only five years old. You haven't changed much since thirty. Lost weight, if anything. She stared at herself, then shrugged. Wait and see. Quickly, she stripped and pulled on the still-warm pyjamas, then pulled Jack's thick wool shirt back on as a robe.

Jack was sitting on the couch when she went out. He stood as she came across, still skidding around in his too-big socks. "All set?

She nodded. "And tired, suddenly. I think it's delayed reaction."

"Understandable. Anne, if you don't mind, take the left-hand side of the bed. I've gotten used to sleeping on the right."

"No problem That's the way Peter and I did it."

"I'll bank the stove, so it will still be warm in the morning. I'll have to reset the fire, but it's the stove that provides most of our heat."

"Okay, Jack. I may be asleep when you come to bed, so, just in case, thank you, thank you for everything." She stood on tiptoe and kissed his cheek, then turned and climbed the steep stairs to the bedroom area. Moments later, she was in bed, shivering as the thick duvet began to warm her. She never felt Jack come to bed, for she had indeed fallen asleep.

Something woke her. She lay still, barely breathing. Still night, the cabin was dark, the only light a glow from the stove, flaring briefly as a log moved. There was the buzz of Jack's breathing, a grunt as he moved in his sleep, then it came again. She fought a giggle; Jack must be having an erotic dream, because for sure it wasn't his finger that had just poked her butt. Scarcely daring to breathe, she pressed gently back, lifting her right leg, so that the bulge in Jack's pajamas slid between her cotton-covered thighs, then lowered her leg, trapping him. She sighed, feeling the heat of him, hard between her thighs. She lay still for a few moments, but she could feel the excitement building in her, and she began to move her hips gently back and forth, a fraction of an inch, but she knew it would be enough.

She knew when he woke, for his breathing changed, a soft sound, half-moan, half gasp, in her ear.

"Anne?" he whispered. "Are you awake?"

For a moment she debated feigning sleep, but she knew she wanted to take this further. "Yes," she said, her voice soft."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I was asleep, I didn't know what was happening. I know you said not to touch you. I'm sorry, Anne."

"Don't be, Jack. I knew what I was doing." She chuckled, soft in the night. "I'm a big girl now."

There was a pause. "Does that mean I can touch you?" he said, a catch in his voice."

She laughed, soft and low. "I though you were already."

"You know what I mean, minx."

"I know. Yes, Jack, touch me, please."

"I want to kiss you, but it's awkward this way. Think you could turn over?"

"And lose my big, hard friend? Okay, but bring him back soon." Anne eased forward, then rolled over to face Jack, just a shape in the darkness. His hand came up and caressed her cheek, and she turned her head to kiss his palm. His hand curved behind her neck, and he drew her closer, slow, gentle, giving her all the time in the world to break away, but she knew she wasn't going to reject him. Not now, for she'd made her mind up.

The kiss was gentle, too, as their mouths explored each other, moving, clinging, drawing heat from each other until Anne was almost gasping as she broke away. She took a deep breath, for she'd had an idea.

"What time is it, Jack?" she said.

"What time?" Jack laughed. "I've no idea, but it was after two when I used the bathroom, so I'd guess at about four, maybe five, in the morning."

"In the morning of Christmas Day. Merry Christmas, Jack Kearney."

"And a Merry Christmas to you, too, Anne Matthews."

"I didn't know I'd need a present when I left the Lodge, Jack, so I'm a little unprepared. I thought about it, wondering what I could give you, then I had an idea. A good idea, I think, in fact a brainwave."

"Oh, yes?" She could hear the smile in his voice.

"Yes. I thought of something I could give you, Jack Kearney, something I think - I hope - that you'll like."

"And just what is this something, Anne?"

"Me, Jack. I want to give you me. Would you like to unwrap your present?"

There was a pause, and Jack's hand stroked her cheek again. "A wonderful gift, Anne, one that I shall treasure, but I have nothing to give in return."

"But you have!"

"I have?"

"Yes, of course. You were poking me with it before. All hot and hard it was."

"Ah. Right. In a moment, then. I think you said something about me unwrapping my present?"

"Yes, I did. This present would rather enjoy being unwrapped by you."

She felt his hand move from her neck, holding her breath, letting out a soft sigh as she felt his fingers on the buttons of her pajama top. Her nipples were erect in anticipation, and she held her breath as fingers undid the last button, spread her jacket open, and moved carefully to her breast. She moaned, quiet, soft, as she felt his fingers cup her breast, his thumb stroking her nipple. Then he moved, his head going down, lips closing over the nub, sucking gently. Her hands moved to his head, pulling him close. Jack suckled on her breast for a moment, then he moved over, giving her other breast the same loving attention.

Anne was wet now, soaking, but she didn't want to rush anything; she just knew, deep within her, that it would be good. Jack eased back, and his lips came to hers again, the kiss a promise, long, clinging, until he broke it gently.

"I've only unwrapped half of my present," he murmured. "I want to unwrap the other half."

Anne said nothing, just let her arms slide from him as he moved to loosen the cord at her waist, his fingers sliding under the waistband, stroking the silky fleece at the apex of her thighs, sliding into the gap, his finger running along her cleft, dipping into her wetness. His finger came away, and his hand went to her waistband.

"Lift a little, sweetheart," he murmured, and she arched her back, raising her butt so that he could slide the pajama trousers down. She pulled her knees up and helped him wriggle her out of the trousers, so that all she was wearing now was the jacket, unbuttoned and open to him.

"Now you," she said, coming up onto her elbow, running her fingers across his chest, then unbuttoning his jacket, awkward with one hand, but the awkwardness was adding to the tension that was building in them, adding to the excitement they were both holding in. Last button undone, she flicked the jacket open, bending to tug at his sparse mat of chest hair with her teeth, her lips closing over his male nipples, sending a frisson of pure pleasure through him, a gasp as her teeth nipped him. Her hand moved down, across his stomach, tugging at the cord at the waist of his pajama trousers, loosening it, her hand moving into the trousers, finding him, a gasp from him as her hot fingers measured his length.

"Lift your ass," she commanded, her voice gruff to hide the desire flooding her. Amused, he complied and she tugged down. He wriggled and kicked off the trousers, letting himself lie back as she rolled half on top of him, her breasts against him, her chin on his chest. His hand was on her shoulder, stroking, gentle. She wriggled back, down, and her breath was hot on him as she took his hardness in her hand, stroking, squeezing, slowly jacking him. He gasped as he felt her mouth close over him. In the darkness of the room everything was sensation. Touch, taste, sound, texture, everything but sight. Her head bobbed, once, twice, her tongue busy on him, but then she lifted her head and wriggled up, offering her lips to his in the darkness.

The heat was strong in their kiss, and he moved her over, onto her back, his lips never leaving hers, so that he could bring his free hand up to cup her breast, to mould, to squeeze, caress, thumb stroking her nipple. She broke the kiss and her hand moved down, taking his, pushing it lower, across her stomach, into the fleece at her fork. His hand moved over her, stroking, warm on her skin, his extended finger sliding into her cleft, stroking, spreading her wetness, moving into her, into the heat of her, moving in and out like a miniature penis.

She wanted more. "Come into me, Jack. Slide your prick into my pussy, deep into my pussy. Fuck me, fuck me, lover. Oh, God, fuck me!" He needed no second bidding and moved across her as she spread her legs, ready to accept him, her hands on his shoulders, drawing him to her. She was tight around him as he pressed into her, and he pulled back, spreading her juices, and this time when he pressed forward he moved deep into her, feeling her around him as he pressed in, feeling the clinging scald of her inner walls as he sank into her.

She was full, as full as she'd ever been, and she whimpered her loss as he pulled back, but only to gasp acceptance as he sank back into her. She was wet and he moved easily within her, the noise of their joining adding to the warmth of touch, and the heated aroma of her driving him on. He was moving more quickly now, but it had been a long time, and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to last long enough to bring her to climax, but Anne had been in abstention, too, and the excitement was building in her, more quickly than she remembered happening before, a tide rising in her, lifting her, carrying her, her fingers moving aimlessly on Jack's back and shoulders, her knees and thighs clamping him, pulling him close, urging him into her.

Jack gritted his teeth as his thrusts quickened, trying not to let himself fall over the edge of climax. Anne's voice was hoarse gasps in his ear as he thrust into her, quickening now, his own breathing a hoarse travesty of its usual self. They were both excited, both wanted this moment, both aware that they were coming quickly, ever quicker, to the threshold of climax, and it was Anne who tumbled over first, her voice a tight scream in Jack's ear, her pussy a pulsing clutch at his prick as he thrust into her, her contractions bringing him, too, over the edge and he cried his triumph as his seed blasted into her.

Slowly, they calmed, whispering wordless endearments to each other, Jack slowly shrinking inside her. A sudden, worrying thought struck him.

"Anne, love," he whispered. "We didn't use any protection. I'm sorry, love, I wouldn't want to put you at risk."

"Risk?" she said, frightened.

"Pregnancy, love, pregnancy. Only that, on my life."

She chuckled. "I have my diaphragm, if we want to do this again. Do you?"

"Yes!"

"Me too, very much. No, it's okay, Jack. I keep a careful check of my cycle, and I think I'm at about my lowest likelihood tonight." She laughed, soft in the darkness. "Quite why I keep such a careful check I don't know, as you're the first man to touch me since Peter was killed."

"I hope it was as good for you as it was for me?"

"Fishing, Jack?" Anne laughed. "It was good, Jack It was very good."

"I was scared I'd pop first touch, it's been so long for me."

"Don't you masturbate? I thought all the men did?"

"Yeah, but it's so lonely."

Anne snorted. "You are so damned right. I masturbate, too, but you're right. It's lonely. Good sex with someone you're fond of is so much better isn't it?"

"Very much. I think I'd better pull out before I fall out. That way I can pretend it was my idea," said Jack, laughing. He could just make out the gleam of Anne's eyes and teeth as she smiled at him. He snuggled down beside her, making sure they were both covered by the duvet against the cool air. She stretched across and kissed him.

They lay quietly for a while, Jack's hand gently stroking Anne's side and hip. "Jack?"

"Yes, love?"

"How long do you think it will be before the road is opened?"

"I didn't want to worry you earlier, but the road up here is a dead-end. The other way, to the Lodge, they'll probably have that open again in a couple of days. The lodge is closed at the moment, right?"

"Until the 28th, yes."

"They'll probably have that road open by then. You might be here a week or ten days before we can get out."

"Think you can stand me for that long?"

"I think I just might. What about you? Can you stand me?"

There was silence for a long moment before Anne spoke. "Jack, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be, nor anyone else I'd rather be with."

"I take it that's a yes?"

"That's a yes, Jack."

He stretched across and kissed her. "Get some sleep, love. I want to ravish you again at first light. Later, when I've got the fire going again, when it's warm enough, I want to make love to you on the rug in front of the fire, so that I can see you."

Anne laughed. "You've seen me, Jack, surely? The photographs?"

"That was yesterday. Today is new, and wonderful." He kissed her. "And you are beautiful, love. So very, very, beautiful."

Anne sighed, long, content. "Yesterday was horrible, at first. Today is wonderful."

"Anne?"

"Yes, my love?"

"Thank you for my present. Merry Christmas."

"And Merry Christmas to you, Jack. Thank you for my present." She giggled.

"What?"

"Unwrapping presents is fun!"

* * * * *

This one originally appeared on Literotica under the title 'Unwrapping presents is fun!' I've edited it slightly - very slightly - and offer it again, here. If you like it, tell your friends. If you don't like it, tell me! If you did enjoy it, I'd love to hear from you. If you didn't enjoy it, I'd still love to hear from you, as constructive criticism can only help me improve.

Alex



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