When a funeral calls his friend Martin away, sunbelt resident Chris is left alone in Martin’s cabin in the dead of winter—and in a blizzard to boot. When the power goes out, Chris thinks he’s going to freeze to death. Luckily, Horace drops in to check on him—and then runs out after a few kisses, leaving Chris upset and feeling used. Horace does come back with explanations, but is their time together keeping each other warm enough for them see they belong together? Or are these sudden emotions the product of being snowbound?
“You said to come and spend Christmas with you so I wouldn’t be alone,” Chris whined into his phone after he’d set down his bags and closed the front door of the small lake house in the woods. “So I left Phoenix to come to northern Wisconsin in December.” Chris shivered at the thought, even though the house was warm enough. He was beginning to believe he’d truly gone crazy and that they were going to find him frozen solid come spring.
“How was I supposed to know that one of the few relatives I had left was going to die?” Martin said, and Chris immediately felt guilty. It really wasn’t something Martin could have helped, but the entire purpose of this visit had been so Chris wouldn’t have to spend the holidays alone. “The funeral is tomorrow, and afterwards, I need to meet with the executors of the will. I should be home in a few days, and then we can spend the rest of the next two weeks together. I promise it’ll be fine.” Martin sounded a bit frazzled, and Chris let his own angst and anger go. “I left plenty of food in the house, and you should have everything you need for a few days. I also marked one of the trees on the property for us to use as a Christmas tree. You can cut it if you want, and there’s a stand in the basement.”
“I don’t think so. There’s snow on the ground,” Chris said. Martin had been surprised when Chris had told him he’d never actually been in snow and appalled when Chris had told him recently that he would be spending the holidays alone. Apparently, even though Martin had very little family, and even less now, he had a group of friends who always spent the holidays together. So Martin had talked Chris into visiting for the holidays. More like cajoled and bugged until Chris had agreed just to shut him up.
“It’s not going to hurt you, but we can do that when I get back if you want. I have you in the first bedroom in the right as you go down the hall. You’ll find the bathroom, I’m sure. I set out warm clothes for you on the bed, and if you need anything, check out my closet. Like I said, I should be back in a few days.” Martin paused, and Chris heard voices talking softly behind him. “I have to go, but you know I love you and can’t wait to see you. I’ll get there once this is over.”
“Okay.” Chris held back a sigh. “I’ll see you then.” He hung up and shoved the phone into his pocket before looking around the small house. It had obviously been built as a summer cabin. Chris knew Martin had done a lot of work on the place so he could live here year-round, and it did seem rather cozy. It had a lake house feel, with big overstuffed furniture that looked amazingly comfortable, pictures on the walls of boats and people fishing, rugs spread over pine floors. There were huge windows that overlooked the tree-lined lake, which had what looked like mini-icebergs floating on it.
Chris sighed softly and let some of the tension that had built during his drive slip away. He had flown into Wausau and then driven almost two hours to get to Martin’s. The sides of the roads had been piled with snow. He was thankful it hadn’t been snowing during his drive because he wouldn’t have known what to do. Instead, the sun had shone and he’d had to stop at a wide spot to dig out his sunglasses because of the way the sun had reflected off the whiteness that hung everywhere. The sun had lasted until he’d approached the lake, and then gray clouds had obscured the sky. Chris had had to take off his sunglasses in order to see. As he stood looking out the windows, the first flakes of snow began to fall. Figuring he should experience everything he could while he was here, Chris found the bedroom Martin had indicated and spied a coat, gloves, and hat on the bed and a pair of boots by the closet. He wasn’t planning to traipse through the snow, so he left the boots alone, but put on the coat, gloves, and hat before walking back through the house. He unlocked and opened one of the patio doors and stepped outside.
The cold immediately braced his cheeks, but he was warm otherwise, so he ignored it and walked to the edge of the deck and stood still. The snow was falling faster and getting thicker. Standing stock-still, Chris listened. He’d never have expected snow to make a sound, but it did, a soft underlying hum that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Through the increasingly thick falling snow, the lake and trees seemed to slowly retreat, getting father away as they were obscured by the swirling flakes.
The wind shook the branches of the surrounding pine trees, sending cascades of snow billowing around. Chris shivered as the chill went right through his clothes, and he turned and hurried inside before closing the patio door behind him with a resounding thud, as if to shut out the wind and the cold it brought. “Why did I come visit the cold? It’s beautiful,” he said out loud to try to fill some of the empty space, “but it’s so damned….” He shivered. “Cold!”
Chris found the thermostat and turned it up a few degrees, listening until he heard the soft, reassuring hum of the furnace. He took off the outside gear and placed it in the closet before deciding it would be best to hunt up something to eat. Martin was true to his word, and Chris found everything he could want. He made a salad and broiled a steak, then opened a bottle of wine and sat in front of the television to eat. His improving mood lasted until he found out there were only six stations, but at least Martin had Internet access, so he booted up his computer and found something to watch on Netflix.
The wind rattled the patio door, and Chris shivered again, but he was warm; the furnace’s sound reminded him of that. He had his feet up, his belly full, a glass of wine, and something to watch. He was fine. He could do this. Chris set his glass on a coaster before carrying his dishes to the sink. He rinsed them and looked around for the dishwasher. Not finding one, he placed the dishes in the sink and cleaned everything up before returning to his spot on the sofa. The wind whistled around the corner of the house, and Chris got up to find a blanket before curling under it on the sofa. Everything was fine; it was just the wind. After a while, Chris found the switch for one of the outside lights. He turned it on and peered through the window. All he saw was snow blowing and swirling in the circle the light created. He couldn’t even tell where the ground began. Chris turned off the light and sat back down on the sofa, returning to his movie.
The credits had just begun to roll and Chris was about to close the window when the house went dark, the glow of the computer screen the only light, and the howl of the wind sounding more and more like it was trying to get inside with him. Chris used the light from the computer to find his phone and called Martin.
“Hello,” Martin said.
“The power went out, and I’m going to freeze to death,” Chris said in a hurry, burrowing deeper under the blanket. “The wind is rattling everything, and I can only see snow outside. I’m going to die, and it’s all your fault.”
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