dontravis.com blog post #368
|Courtesy of NeedPix.com|
“What’re you doing out here in this storm?” the slickered figure asked.
“Acting the fool,” De la Roche answered. “Decided on the scenic route to San Ysidro same moment the Good Lord decided on the second flood.”
The driver flashed a smile that reached down into De la Roche’s groin. “Promised He wouldn’t do that. Didn’t anybody warn you August is our rainy season up here?”
“Wasn’t smart enough to ask,” he acknowledged. “Just took off blind.”
“And wrecked a fine piece of machinery. Lucky you crashed where you did. The road drops off into Cebolla Canyon at the top of that hill.”
He laughed harshly. “Tell me about it. I found a friendly tree before I went over the edge. The accident happened when I back-peddled down the road.”
The young man gave a chuckle that came up out of his belly. “Old Beulah’s saved more’n one careless soul.”
“Old Beulah? You name your trees around here?”
The driver pushed his hat to the back of his head, dribbling water down his slicker. “That one we do. She’s been Old Beulah for as long as I can remember. Where you headed?”
“Albuquerque. I have a meeting there tomorrow. I’ll be glad to pay you to drive me there. Square it with your boss or whatever.”
Another chuckle. Despite his misery, De la Roche became aroused.
“You could offer me a thousand dollars a mile and you’d still miss your meeting. Nobody’s going anywhere until the county or the Forest Service or the pipeline people get out the graders. Is it an important meeting?”
“Yes, but one of my execs can handle it. Do you have a phone at your place?”
“Cell. Not worth a damn in this weather.”
“Same as mine,” he acknowledged. “I feel so damned impotent! Well,” he patted his briefcase, “I’ve got a GPU in here. My people will pick me up by air as soon as the weather clears.”
“GPU? Ground Positioning Unit? Be damned! Haven’t seen one of those since I was in the army.” The young man stirred in the seat as if reminded of something uncomfortable. “You can stay at my place until then. According to the last radio report this storm’s a big one. Likely to last into tomorrow.”
“Appreciate your hospitality. Uh, is it far? Your place, I mean?”
“Couple of miles. I have a little spread up here. Run some cattle on my hundred acres and a permit in the Forest. All the land around here’s National Forest except for some private plots like mine here and there.” He tossed a thumb over his shoulder at the stock trailer. “Today I had to come for a cow with a bummed up leg.”
“Lucky for me that you did,” the executive commented.
The downpour became so heavy that driving demanded all of Austin’s attention and made conversation all but impossible. De la Roche watched the cowboy out of the corner of his eye and recalled the first time he’d been with a man…well, with a boy, anyway.
It had been in high school. Everyone on the soccer team debated about whether one particular kid was queer or not. In typical fashion, De la Roche stayed late one night in the locker room and waved a hard-on at the suspect. In a flash, the guy was on his knees in front of him. That was as far as he’d planned on taking things, but he lost the will to protest. He was shocked that the experience turned out to be genuine pleasure instead of mere relief. He never alleviated the team’s curiosity, but he never went back to the kid, either. Leaking water all over his side of the Jeep, he let out a small chuckle at the recollection.
Austin Andino’s ‘home place’ was an authentic log cabin that would have looked ramshackle if it had been big enough. Big common room, two small bedrooms and a bath plus a walk-in pantry. Maybe a thousand square feet, the engineer in De la Roche calculated. Tight, cozy. A solid sanctuary against inclement weather like this. In the middle of August, he was wet and chilled to the bone at around eighty-eight hundred feet above sea-level. Summer had disappeared… at least in these mountains.
The cowboy opened the door to the cabin and snapped on the lights. They promptly flickered and went out. “It happens every time we have a good rain, so I’m prepared.” The tall man soon had a log fire and kerosene lanterns casting a warm glow around the little building.
“Water’ll still be hot, Austin said. “You need a scalding bath to chase away the chill. I’ll lay out a couple of blankets to wrap up in after you finish. Whiskey’s under the sink, if you need a bracer. I’m gonna go tend my cow.”
“Need any help,” De la Roche asked, fighting to keep his teeth from chattering.
“No, thanks. Get dry and warm. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
When younger man was gone, he poured a straight shot of Wild Turkey and got out of his cold, sodden clothing. Under the hot spray of a shower bath, De la Roche rubbed life back into his numb limbs and gloried in the warmth.
Wrapped in two soft blankets, De la Roche wandered the cabin, feeling the need for activity. He was about to get dressed when Austin reentered, shaking off rainwater and shedding his Stetson and slicker. What had appeared a big, beefy man turned out to be a tall, rangy cowboy with the broad shoulders and deep chest of a gymnast, and the trim lower torso and hips of a horseback rider. By the firelight in the gloom of the rainy day, those attractive angles and planes De la Roche had noticed earlier settled into a remarkably handsome countenance. That wasn’t quite right. Too powerful and commanding to be classically handsome, the raw masculinity of Austin’s face overwhelmed the softer, somehow more feminine beauty of a mere Adonis. The power of the intense agate eyes alone made him striking. De la Roche was momentarily speechless, a phenomenon new and slightly uncomfortable.
“Got the leg fixed,” Austin said in a deep voice as he stripped off his damp shirt.
It took De la Roche a moment to realize the man was talking about his injured cow. Gawking at the smooth, broad chest loaded with muscles and finely pelted by short brown hair between the huge areoles, he closed his mouth with a snap before coming up with a response.
“Nope. She’ll be all right. With beef prices the way they are, she represents a fair investment,” the cowboy said, drying his torso with a towel. “Of course, she wouldn’t even make a blip on your financial radar.”
De la Roche permitted his surprise to show. “You know who I am?”
Austin bent to a table, muscles rippling with the movement, and tossed him the US News and World Report issue that covered the acquisition of a pipeline company for something in excess of three billion dollars. There was a closeup of De la Roche in the article.
“When did you know?” he asked.
“What you said about your people picking you up by air.” Austin paused a moment and swiped at his flat, ridged belly with the towel, one of the most unconsciously erotic movements the older man had ever seen. “Just don’t try to throw your money at me.”
“You got a very important man out of a very bad jam, and that’s worth something in my world.”
“In mine, it’s simply being a good neighbor.”
The throaty growl grabbed De la Roche in the gut. “Well, neighbor, maybe I can reciprocate one day.”
“If you ever find me lost in the canyons of downtown LA, feel free,” the cowboy laughed.
“A rugged individualist. I like that.” He laughed, stimulated as much by what he heard as by what he saw.
Austin’s shower was by necessity a short one; De la Roche had used most of the hot water. In a few minutes, the cowboy strode into the room with a towel clasped around his trim waist, pausing only to indicate a door. “That’s your bedroom for the night.”
Feeling that an opportunity had been missed, De la Roche entered the small room and wiped down his soaked bag before throwing it on the bed. He donned a comfortable pair of chinos and an expensive sweatshirt, assessing the situation while he dressed. He wanted Austin Andino, and he was accustomed to getting what he wanted. But maybe this wasn’t the typical situation. The young man had already shown that he was not interested in his money. Although De la Roche was a handsome man in good physical shape, he seriously doubted that would get him what he wanted in this instance. What was left?
He sat on the bed and watched the rain soak the mountainside outside of the window. Viewed from the warmth and safety of a solid log cabin, it was beautiful… beautiful and nourishing. It made the mountains what they were. And what was Austin Andino? A cow man. An individualist. A maverick. Independent. A man who would respect power… be drawn to it.
But all the power lay on the other side at the moment. He was totally dependent on the young cowboy for his very existence for the next couple of days. He was more refugee than power broker. He had to change that. How? Not by bragging about his accomplishments; that would turn the young man off. It was simple. His mind was his power. Use it!
It looks as though a mental gauntlet has been thrown down. Will Austin pick it up? Did he even recognize the industrialist’s attraction to him? We’ll see. Next week, Chapter 3
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