I sat on the cabin’s rickety porch, looked out at the rain coming down in sheets, and jonesed for a cigarette. Two days into my self-imposed detox exile, I was pretty confident that my third attempt to quit smoking was going to end in failure.
Both previous attempts to quit had been played out in urban environments where 24hr convenience stores are just far too ubiquitous. The third time, I had resolved to wean myself off the demon weed in the middle of nowhere.
72 hours, my doctor swore, is all it took to completely cleanse the nicotine out of your body. So, although I was the very opposite of an outdoorsy individual, there I was, sleepless at three in the morning, sitting in a diabolically quaint, hand-made rocking chair, getting splinters in my ass cheeks. I was cold, half-insane and fantasizing about biting the heads off small warm-blooded animals when he sauntered by.
Yes. He sauntered. In the middle of a rainstorm, in a stretch of virgin forest beside Lake Williams, at three in the morning. He sauntered by, right down the path that led to the cabin, like he owned the place.
“Hey, you! What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
He stopped and turned towards me. His dark hair was plastered to his face. The sweatshirt and jogging pants he wore were so drenched they were stuck to his body.
“Who are you?” he called through the downpour.
“Don’t ‘who are you’ me, asshole. Who the fuck are you?” I’ve always been ripe-mouthed, but the lack of nicotine made it much worse. And for no logical reason, my withdrawal symptoms had taken on a manic, territorial aspect.
“I own the place. Who are you?”
That brought me up a little short and explained why he was walking around as if he did. But rationality wasn’t getting in my way. I stood up, wrapped the grungy couch throw around myself and glowered at him. “I rent the place.”
He straightened a little and pushed his hands into his wet pant pockets. It made the whole garment sag. “I didn’t realize I was renting to an grouchy insomniac.”
It was his tone. It had an undercurrent of such easy good humour, it made my teeth itch.
“I’m not an insomniac, fuckhead. I’m a…” I paused, the combativeness suddenly evaporated. “Do you have a cigarette?”
The grass squelched jello-like beneath his sneakers as he strolled over to the front of the cabin. In the glare of the porchlight he looked like a drowned corpse. His skin took on a greenish tinge; his lips were almost cyanotic. My paranoia was on overdrive. Zombie.
“Not an inch closer, asshole.”
He took a pace back and held up his hands. “Do I look like a smoker to you?”
“Frankly, yes. You look like a dead smoker. A dead, waterlogged smoker. Recently arisen from its watery grave.”
He smiled. “You don’t look so good yourself. It’s the fluorescent light. Makes everyone look sick.”
I glanced up at the tube lighting which had been roughly installed on the roof’s overhang. “It could be entirely coincidental. You could still be the walking dead,” I said dryly.
“There’s only one way to tell, for sure.” He stepped forward again and held his hand up, over the rustic porch rail. “Carson.”
Securing the throw around me with a single hand, I shuffled forward, reached for his with the other and shook it limply. He was wet, but definitely warm. “Jill. Are you sure you don’t have a cigarette?”
“There are very few things in life I’m sure about. But that’s one of them. Don’t smoke. Never have.” He had very white teeth. They annoyed me.
“Lose the smugness,” I said miserably.
He shrugged without losing the smile, which only made me want to cleave his skull in two with an axe.
“So, you’re my new holiday renter. I’m kind of surprised. My agent usually finds nicer people.”
“I’m trying to quit smoking,” I growled, fighting to keep the shawl on. It was made from some hideous, homey knitted stuff that sagged and slipped off my shoulders. “I’m not here for the scenery.”
“You look cold. Why don’t you go inside and light a fire? I leave a good pile of dry pinewood in there for guests.”
“I saw that.”
“So why don’t you light it?”
I clenched my jaw. It hurt to even say it. “I don’t know how.”
Carson furrowed his brow, which channeled the rainwater. He wiped his eyes with a wet hand. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No, I’m not kidding. Why would I kid about that?”
“I guess you wouldn’t.” He looked satisfyingly sheepish. “Want me to light it for you?”
I thought for a moment. I wondered whether wood smoke would feel anything like tobacco smoke when inhaled. I had a hazy memory of burning logs and a sort of acrid aroma.
He didn’t wait. He bounded up the porch steps like a radioactively mutated giant puppy. It made the entire structure shake.
“Wait a minute!” I said. “You’re not going in my cabin dripping water all over the floor.”
In fact, as he stood there, his sopping clothes pooled a modest lake around his large, grubby running shoes. And that’s when I got a good look at him. The withdrawal-engendered anger released its vice-like grip on my jaw and slid down into my groin.
“You’re going to have to take them off,” I said, sitting back down on the rocker.
“My shoes? Oh, of course.”
“No,” I said, dropping my voice an octave. I drew my feet up under me and let the throw slip off one bare shoulder. “All of it.”
* * *
For a few seconds nothing happened. Tall and gangly, he just stood there looking at me. The rain hissed into the woods around us. The rocking chair creaked once.
“That’s the second time you’ve said that. It’s boring.”
“All of it?”
“Yes, all of it. You’re…” I looked down at the floor at his feet, “…leaking.”
For a moment I thought he was going to balk. Then, with what seemed to me a fair amount of deliberation, he smiled and pulled the sweatshirt over his head. It was so wet, the t-shirt underneath came off with it, exposing a lean torso with a dark, sparse crop of hair that began at mid chest and narrowed into a line that snaked its way under the waistband of his jogging pants. He didn’t have a six-pack. In fact, he was just slightly and endearingly meaty around the middle. His nipples were small and dark and very puckered in the chill of the air. His skin gleamed under the light.
I may have emitted a little squeak of pleasure. I’m not sure. But as he dropped the clump of wet shirts onto the floor beside him, he looked up nervously.
“I don’t look much like the pool boy in a porn movie, do I?”
I smiled. “I don’t let the pool boy light my fire.”
Carson began to laugh but it fizzled out when I didn’t join in. “Well?”
He pried one off, and then the other.
I watched him hop around a little as he pulled the sopping wet things off his feet.
“Pants.” I said, as nonchalantly as I could.
I stood and, dragging excess knitted throw behind me, shuffled up to stand in front of him. He had almost a foot on me. I looked up into his face and said, in the sweetest voice I could manage without nicotine and at an ungodly hour of the morning in the middle of a fucking forest, I said: “You *did* offer to light my fire, didn’t you?”
Even under the glare of that hideous light, I saw the flush come to his cheeks.
“Yes. I did.” His voice was unsteady.
“And you *do* want to do that, don’t you?” I purred.
“Well…” He looked slightly bewildered. “Yes, I guess I do.”
I fixed him with my gaze. “Then stop being so fucking coy and take your goddamned pants off. It’s not like I’ve never seen a naked man before.”
There was a wonderful quiver in the muscles of his jaw and I heard him swallow. He might have been rain soaked on the outside, but his mouth had dried up.
Keeping my eyes firmly on his, I watched, peripherally, as his arms moved. I heard the slide of wet cotton against skin as he pushed the jogging pants down over his hips and let them drop. They landed with a soft squelch.
“Excellent,” I said, turning away and stepping over the threshold of the cabin. “Come in.”
* * *
There is something truly delicious about watching a naked man with an erection walk around. Especially when you’re wrapped up all snug in a knitted blanket. I stretched out on the rustically downtrodden couch that sat in front of the fireplace and enjoyed the view. Carson, trying desperately to hide his self-consciousness, knelt before the empty hearth and piled first sticks, then logs, and then a few more sticks and wads of newspaper onto the grate. He really did have a lovely back. Long and heavy boned. His shoulder blades rolled beneath his pale skin as he worked.
The fire was impressive. I had, in fact, lied when I said I didn’t know how to build one, but I’d have never done as good a job. He was a firelighter par excellence. When he’d finished, he turned and grinned at me.
“See? It’s easy.”
“Especially when someone else does it for you,” I said. “Thank you.”
His gaze flitted around the room nervously before returning to me. “Would you…”
I arched an eyebrow and waited, trying hard not to let my attention slip down to the rampantly erect cock in his lap.
“…like some tea?”
“I would. One sugar, no milk.”
This time, as he stood up, I could tell he was still self-conscious, but the edge had come off it. I watched him, as he moved, with open admiration. He was decidedly pleasant to look at. His hair was drying off, turning from almost black to chestnut brown. His legs were long and muscled.
When he disappeared around the alcove that served as a kitchen for the cabin, I called out to him. “What were you doing out in the rain in the middle of the night?”
There was clinking and rustling.
“I run when I can’t sleep.”
“In the rain?”
“Sometimes. You get used to it.”
“So, where do you live?”
“Up at the big house. It’s about half a mile further along the lake shore.”
He came out carrying a tray, with two cups, a teapot and dishtowel over one shoulder. My stomach gave a little flutter. My lizard brain wondered why I couldn’t have one of these at home.
There was no coffee table. Instead, he crouched down and, setting the rattling tray on the rug in front of the sofa, knelt beside it. I watched him pour. Watched him drop a single sugar cube into my cup before stirring it and handing it to me.
I sat up a little straighter as I took it, settling one bare foot on his thigh. As he poured his own cup, I stroked the ball of my foot along the taut skin, feeling the slightly wiry hair brush the underside of my toes. The hand that held the teapot trembled slightly. The lid chinked against the pot.
The hardon, which had wilted a little as he’d prepared the tea, perked up again and brought a delightful ruddy flush to his cockhead. I sipped my drink and watched him avoid my eyes. The shyness was back.
I reached forward and let my fingertips trail down the side of his neck. Carson lifted the cup to his mouth and took what looked like a couple of scalding gulps.
“Do you put sugar in your tea?”
“Because after you’re finished drinking it, your tongue will be wonderfully hot.”
The fire crackled and spat. I moved to the edge of the sofa, tugged away the throw blanket and spread my thighs.
He put his cup down. “Now?” he whispered.
I threaded my fingers through his damp hair and pulled his head between my thighs.
I groaned as his warm mouth met my parted labia. And arched my back as I felt his gorgeously hot tongue slide between them.
Quitting smoking turned out to be easier than I feared. You just need the proper level of distraction, a willing and obedient helper, and a cabin in the woods.