My eyes ache from starring into the snow that mesmerizes through the windshield, now missing the wintery afternoon sun sinking beneath the hills. Was I not more than half-way to Bill and Louises' cabin, I could have exercised my privilege to book a hotel, get room service after a steaming bubble bath. Just as my weariness threatens to close my eye-lids, ahead, lit by my headlights, I spy 'Daisy Hideaway' — a beloved family retreat for generations, after Louise's Nana.
Her gentle form, huddles beneath a blanket of snow, inviting my mind to imagine sitting before a roaring fire, with a snifter of cognac and my novel open on my knee. One vehicle, a sturdy SUV, greets me in the parking area. I wonder whose ride it is.
Slogging with my bags, my snowshoes, poles, with every bit of cold-weather clothing upon my frame, I grimace, discovering the door locked and barred. Not wishing to complete the freezing of my fingers from fumbling around in my tote, I pound, open mittened, on the wooden panelled door.
My ears catch the clump-clump-clump of footsteps before being blinded by the overhead lights. An unknown man opens the door.
"Oh, it's YOU."
"Philipe; have you been here long? It seems we're the first to arrive."
"Not long at all."
With those words, Philipe swivels around, stomping down the short hallway to the main room. I struggle with my load, through the door, emptying my arm-load into a precipitous pile, then in my sock-feet pad down to stand facing the flaming fire, rubbing my numb fingers to some semblance of warmth.
"Philipe, what room did you select?"
"My usual, the one directly off the kitchen. What room do you usually sleep in?"
"Over the years I've slept in quite a few; however, I recollect Louise suggesting I take the bedroom at the top of the stairs. I guess I'll get settled and then join you here."
I turn to gather my things for the trip up the steps, when I sense Philipe behind me, extending his arms offering his help, so together, we tread with care up to the landing.
"Philipe, thanks so much. I'd still be schlepping up my stuff without your help."
"What can I get you to drink?"
"Gosh, lovely, mmmm, a snifter of brandy would go down super well to warm my innards."
His smile sends tingles across my chest. I had not noticed his glacier blue eyes nor the breathless allure of his lips.
As I unzipped, emptying my bags into drawers and onto hangers, a movie in my mind travelled over the topography of Philipe's facial features.
"My God, hurry up, or I'll simply drink it all myself!"
My ears hear such humorous kidding in his words.
I pull a comb from the dresser top, smoothing my auburn locks to a sheen, then, to my surprise, spritz lavender onto my pulse points, followed by a swipe of lip gloss. My reflection looks at me with rosy cheeks and enlarged pupils.
I slip onto the sofa beside Philipe, taking a grateful sip of brandy.
All lights extinguish, the music from the iPod silences, our only luminescence from the flames.
"Ah, for goodness sakes, the power …"
"So wonderful that we have the fire you started. We may be in the dark but we will be cozy."
"That was a text message from Louise. They've closed the highways due to the snow. They're hunkering down for the night and will resume their travels tomorrow morning."
"So we're a party of two, tonight, just you and me!?"
I giggle as he raises his eyebrows in an exaggerated imitation of Groucho Marx.
In the halo of lanterns, with the flickering flames painting our faces cerise, I feel captivated by the words spoken by his luscious lips, by the attention of his dark, dreamy eyes that sends shivers down my spine.
A lock of my hair falls across my cheek. Philipe's fingers fondle my forehead as he perches the hair behind my lobe.
I sit, face-to-face, knees knocking against knees, transfixed in the pool of his gaze.
Time has ceased, held taut in the tension betwixt he and I.
"Coffee, how about coffee?!"
My inner critic grimaces hearing the cowardice in my diversion.
The spell shatters just as surely as if I had thrown a mirror against a wall. In the kitchen, I fiddle with lighting the woodstove to blazing. Pottering about with cups, saucers, cream, sugar, and spoons, I jam tightly upon a tray.
When I carry the coffee to the couch, Philipe holds a hardcover book open, his eyes flicking left and right across the text. As I place the tray on the table, his hands lower the book to his lap, a smile adorns his mouth.
I smell his cologne, a sensual melange of musk, smoke, pheromones, as he rises from his seat, stepping towards the kitchen, retracing his steps, this time, with a covered tin in hand.
My fingers fight to remove the tight lid, eager to sample what lies inside.
"I baked all of the cookies and bars."
"I didn't …"
"Cora, you really don't know much about me, nor I about you."
"Mmm, so I suppose we can thank the weather and the power-outage for this opportunity to … con…"
Our fingers simultaneously reach for a nibble, tapping tips, connecting the circuit between us.
His lips taste mine with familiarity, not too much, not too little, our kissing a finely orchestrated dance.
Before long, buttons loosened, zippers undone, my skin shimmers with goose-bumps of desire.
"Well, well, well."
Behind the couch, arrayed in a semi-circle, stand snowy figures — Louise and Bill — Cheshire expression on their faces.
"Seems you made the best of a dire situation."
A year later, as Philipe and I sit at the head table, our faces crimson, while Bill, the Best-Man, performs his speech which deals almost exclusively, with our cabin tryst, in the woods, no power except the propulsion of passionate love.