Baby, It's Cold Outside [Bellingham Mysteries 2]
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by Nicole Kimberling
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Mystery/Crime
Description: Previous Book: Primal Red
Genre: LGBT Romantic Suspense
Small town Pacific Northwest reporter Peter Fontaine wants to level up. A job offer in Austin seems to be the answer to his prayers, but there's one catch: his boyfriend, Nick Olson, artist, recluse, and snow-loving outdoorsman.
When Peter agrees to go to the Freezing Man snow sculpture competition, he thinks he's going to get a lesson in making love in a hollowed-out snowball in the woods. He thinks he'll either find a way to convince Nick to come to the Lone Star State or be forced to say goodbye. But one frozen corpse derails Peter's personal plans entirely...
Publisher's Note: This book contains male/male sexual practices.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: February 2010
22 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [102 KB]
Reading time: 58-82 min.
Dying in an avalanche was one fear that had never plagued Peter Fontaine. But glancing up at the walls of snow rising on either side of Nick's Audi, Peter thought that might have been an oversight. Nick's expression remained unconcerned as they wound their way through a narrow canyon of snow. Peter's chest tightened. The snowy walls seemed to be leaning toward him. A chunk of white fell to the wet black ribbon of road. His heart hammered as he envisioned himself being buried beneath the building-sized blocks of snow. Sweat beaded his brow. He glanced at himself in the mirror on the back of the passenger-side visor.
A gray-faced ghoul stared back at him.
From the driver's side, Nick asked, "Are you all right?"
Nick, of course, looked absolutely handsome. Through a vigorous regimen of snowshoeing, he'd retained his summer tan all the way till Christmas and beyond. His brown hair was streaked with straw-colored highlights. He wore a trim beard and mustache. It kept his face warm in the winter, he claimed. His pale blue eyes seemed like they could have been made from winter sky.
"I think I might be feeling a little confined," Peter admitted. "How stable do you think these walls are anyway? Have any DOT snowplows gone missing in the last few weeks?"
Nick gave him a level glance. "We're almost there."
"Seriously, this is like driving down a Manhattan alley," Peter heard himself say, heard the note of hysteria in his voice, and yet was unable to stop himself talking. "Have I mentioned how much I hate Manhattan alleys?"
"Maybe you should try to think of something else."
"Tell me about the article you're going to write."
"You always write an article for the Hamster about every place we ever go." Nick smiled easily, carelessly, as if he had no fear whatsoever that he would be imminently crushed under tons of snow, which was probably the case.
Peter took a deep breath.
"I think it will go something like, Anyone who stays in Bellingham for very long will become familiar with the number 542. You see it on bumper stickers, T-shirts, and even occasionally on "scenic highway" road signs. Highway 542 goes fifty-five miles east and five thousand feet up from Bellingham Bay to the Mount Baker Ski Area. If you're lucky enough to not be suffocated in a freak highway avalanche, you will reach Artist Point--"
"We're not going that far," Nick said. "The sno-park is just past Glacier."
"Hooray," Peter weakly rejoined.
"Once we turn off the highway it will be more open. I promise," Nick said. "I didn't realize you were so claustrophobic."
"I don't think it's claustrophobia so much as fear of being buried alive."
"If you want me to take you back to Bellingham, I can do that and still make it back up in time for the festival."
Peter shook his head. "I really want to be there. I can tough it out. I promise."
Nick nodded but seemed worried.
"It's just that I don't ever remember you saying you liked snow camping."
"I like the idea of snow camping," Peter offered. "And I want to be with you for New Year's Eve, and this is where you're going to be, so..."
Nick broke out in the sort of smile that had once made him the darling of the Manhattan gallery scene.
"I really think that after you get used to the cold you're going to like it. The Freezing Man festival is a lot like Burning Man, only colder and with fewer hippies on acid--and with more snow sculpting."
"But there will be some hippies on acid, right?"
"Only if you invited your friends."
When Nick had first proposed the idea of spending New Year's Eve huddled together in a recently erected igloo, Peter had been torn.
Because their families lived in different states, they had decided to spend Christmas apart. Nick had entertained his cousin Kjell's family at the Castle, the enormous, cliff-face domicile that Nick had inherited from his first partner. Meanwhile Peter flew to Austin to visit his folks, who had moved to Texas once Peter graduated from college.
One guest at the Fontaine Christmas barbecue, Larry Polk, happened to be a newspaperman. He happened to offer Peter an interview at the Austin Chronicle. Peter happened to accept.
He'd been drunk at the time, but he'd agreed to the interview again, sober, three days later.
"The Hamster is too small a venue for an award-winning journalist," Larry had told him in his flat, east Texas drawl. "You need to come on down here. We'll treat you right."
Peter loved the Hamster, loved the city of Bellingham, loved his friends here, but he also had a little something called ambition. And to satisfy that he would have to trade up. He needed a bigger city with a bigger paper and bigger circulation.
He hadn't told Nick about either the job or the fact that he'd agreed to an interview; he couldn't. He, constantly talking, constantly writing copy in his head, could not find the words to say that he was thinking of leaving Bellingham. Not even now.
Peter found himself staring out the window and made himself look at Nick instead. He filled up his eye with the image of his lover...felt himself relaxing enough to stare hard at that beard Nick been wearing since November.
Peter didn't know if he liked it, but thought maybe he might. He wondered if he should grow a beard himself, before remembering that he couldn't. Mustaches barely managed to take hold on the outcropping of his upper lip. An entire beard would never grow on the thin, barren planes of his face.
And he could probably count on never having too much hair on his chest, unlike Nick, whose hairy Viking ancestors probably had never needed to wear shirts at all.
Though not born a true Pacific Northwesterner, Nick had nonetheless adapted to local ways and therefore ran the air conditioner in his car anytime the thermometer went over sixty.
Peter preferred to engage the car's heated seats rather than the air conditioner, but then, that followed. An old boyfriend of his had once remarked that he was "as cold as a woman," and that was just about right. He didn't have a lot to keep him warm. He had what some kindly referred to as a "runner's physique" and others, such as his grandmother, called "skinny little string bean."
He had no idea how he was going to survive the weekend in the wilderness and even less idea how he would bring up the job in Austin.
Because he didn't want to leave, really. He didn't want to leave the Pacific Northwest, and he didn't want to leave Nick. But he wanted to level up--go out into the larger world and prove what he could do. Comfort, even affection, couldn't satisfy that desire to compete, to go further. It stayed in Peter's chest, a hard, gnawing anxiety.
The anxiety apparently showed on his face, because Nick said, "You know, there's a lodge on the property about half a mile from the campsite. If it's too miserable, we can always go there."
"That wouldn't impress your outdoorsy friends much."
Nick snorted. "Once they let me out of the army, I no longer had any desire to exercise my machismo."
"That's because you have a natural rugged manliness that makes machismo completely unnecessary," Peter said. In spite of his claim of imperviousness to the opinions of others, Nick beamed smugly at Peter's comment. "I, on the other hand, wouldn't call myself rugged."
"No," Nick agreed, "you're more like a greyhound. Sleek, skinny, and always on the scent of a good story."
"And exactly like a greyhound, I think I'm going to be shivering in this snow."
"You can always curl up on my lap for warmth." Nick grinned.
Peter rolled his eyes. "There is no way I'm going to cuddle up to you in front of all those burly, sporty dudes."
"You will, once you're cold enough. Or drunk enough."
"There isn't enough vodka in the world. And you would die of embarrassment if I did."
"So you think."
"So I know, Mr. I-Don't-Even-Hold-Hands-During-the-Pride-Parade." Peter laughed. "You're shy. Just admit it."
"I admit nothing."
Nick turned right and started up a narrow, slippery side road that seemed more like twin ruts in the snow than a paved surface. Though it was more treacherous, Peter felt better about this road than he had about the snow canyon that was 542. Sliding into an icy ravine seemed preferable to being crushed beneath tons of snow, though he couldn't generate any logical reason why. After ten minutes of slow, careful driving, he saw a handwritten sign ahead:
FREEZING MAN PARKING.
AVALANCHE WARNING IN EFFECT.
HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR!