Authors: Jessica Gray
Even though the trip had started out horrible, I soon was thankful it had turned out that way. Thinking back of Michael and the awkward conversation in his car on the way here I was sure, that I had much more fun with this group.
On the third morning, I awoke to find everyone breaking camp and packing up for the long drive home. Yosemite Valley is approximately 4 ½ hours drive from Santa Clara and everyone in the group was anxious to get started early.
I finished packing up my tent and noticed that Marilee, Peter and Seth had a somewhat heated argument off to the side of everyone else. I tried not to pay attention, but Peter looked upset with whatever they discussed. After several minutes, he stormed off.
Marilee looked at Seth and suggested something. Afterwards she came over to where I stood. “Everything alright?” I asked.
“It will be. Look, we can take your stuff back in the cars, but both vehicles are completely packed with people driving up here. We don’t have any room for
I stood there not knowing what to say or do. “Uhm…”
“Wait, I’m not finished. Peter rode his bike up here. He has an extra helmet and everything…”
“… but he doesn’t want to be saddled with me. That’s what has him so upset, right?”
Marilee looked sad but nodded her head, “Yeah. Sorry. Don’t take it personal, he’s had it tough lately.”
I didn’t want to give him that much of a break. The man was rude and evidently very self-centered. I mean, it’s not like I asked to be stranded in the middle of the wilderness, hundreds of miles from home!
“Perhaps you guys could drop me off at one of the lodges and I hitch a ride home with somebody else.”
Marilee shook her head, “No way. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. I mean, what if you hitched a ride with a crazy or something. No, Peter will take you home, he just has to quit having a temper tantrum.”
“Should I go and talk to him…”
“Don’t. Seth’s already doing that. Just leave him alone and finish packing up your stuff. He’ll do the right thing.”
I wasn’t as confident as she seemed to be, but I did finish packing up my stuff. Then I helped Marilee secure it in the luggage rack on top of her vehicle. Peter returned to camp several minutes later with Seth in tow. Stalking by me, he said, “I’m leaving in ten minutes. I only have room for you, so everything that doesn’t fit in your backpack, has to go with the car. Understood?”
I briefly considered saluting, but didn’t. Tensions were already running high and I didn’t want to exacerbate them anymore. I had placed my necessities and a quick change of clothes into my backpack – just in case. With what had happened during this trip I didn’t want to take any chances!
Grabbing my backpack, I walked over to his bike and waited. I didn’t want to give him any more reasons to be upset.
I would be a model travel companion. Maybe he would even forget about me. It was about 4 ½ hours back home. It would be noisy on the bike, we didn’t even have to make polite conversation. I would simply accept the ride and say “Thank you” once we reached Santa Clara. Simple. Easy.
Stupid me! I should have remembered that nothing in this life is as simple as it seems. I said “Goodbye” to the rest of the group and climbed on the bike. Not before exchanging phone numbers with Marilee to get back all my stuff from her tonight or tomorrow.
Peter stopped at the first gas station to fuel up the bike and that’s when the simple began to get complicated.
“I have to run up to my uncle’s cabin before we head home,” he informed me.
“Okay. Is it on the way?”
Peter nodded, pointing to a tall peak outside the park’s boundaries, he said, “It’s up there.”
I looked up to where he was pointing and back at him, “At the top?”
“Not quite, but close enough. The ride’s pretty steep, so even though it pains you to touch me, you’re going to have to hold on when we start climbing.”
I blushed and replied, “It’s not that I don’t want to touch you, I thought you wouldn’t want me to. You don’t seem to like me very much.”
Peter looked me over from head to toe, “I like you just fine, but I don’t think you were very smart in coming up here with your un-boyfriend.”
I narrowed my eyes, “You still assume I’m lying about Michael and I not being a couple?”
Peter shrugged, “Should I?”
“I already told you who Michael is. If you choose not to accept this, that’s on you.” This man just didn’t get it! If he wasn’t so immensely attractive, I wouldn’t bother.
Peter didn’t reply, just mounted his bike. When I climbed back on, he gunned it and headed off. Thirty minutes later, he pulled off the main road onto what seemed more like a trail than a road. As we headed into the timber, I realized that I had no idea where we were heading. Would this guy also leave me in the middle of nowhere? Did he hate me that much as to dump me somewhere in the forest? To be devoured by the bears and wolves and what other dangerous animals lived there? I tried my best not to panic and found confidence in the knowledge that Marilee and Seth knew I was with him. He wouldn’t do any harm to me as long as I was under their protection, at least I hoped so.
The thunderclouds had been gathering all day, and as we came out of the thick timber, the skies opened up in a downpour. Within seconds we were both drenched.
Peter turned the bike around and headed back into the trees. Parking the bike, he helped me off and pulled me with him to take shelter beneath the branches of a large pine tree. It didn’t stop all the rain but the majority of it.
I stood there, water dripping off my bangs, shivering with the cold and my teeth chattering. When Peter stuck a hand in front of me, holding a rain jacket, I took it with frozen fingers and pulled it on. “Thanks,” I mumbled through my chattering teeth.
Finally the rain started to subside. Peter spoke up, “Come on. My uncle’s cabin is a couple of more miles. Let’s go.”
We headed back up the mountain, going a little slower now as the road had become slick and muddy. I ducked my head against his back, trying to keep as much warmth in my body as possible. I considered pressing up against the warm body in front of me, but realized that would be way too forward.
I would have to be a lot colder than I was now for that to be okay.
When Peter stopped the bike, I looked up and had never been so thankful to see a building in my life. I climbed off the bike on stiff legs, shivering so badly I barely managed to walk the few steps leading to the front door.
Peter retrieved the key and opened the door. “Stay there for a minute and let me get the generator started so we have light.” It had started to rain again, and the dark thunderheads made it seem much later than it actually was. Peter disappeared around the side of the cabin and moments later I heard the diesel generator start up.
He returned and flipped the light switch on, bathing the interior of the cabin in a warm glow. I shed my muddy tennis shoes at the door and stood on the tile near the front door, not wanting to drip water everywhere. Peter didn’t seem to mind and quickly disappeared through the cabin, returning moments later with an armful of towels. While tossing me a couple, he gestured towards a closed door, “You can change in there.”
I opened the door and was astonished to see the rustic interior. The hand-carved lodge pole bed with its quilted covering looked perfect. I was glad I had stuck a change of clothes in my backpack, and quickly retrieved my t-shirt and jean shorts. My underwear was soaked through, so I left it off, thankful the dark color of the t-shirt would help protect my modesty somewhat.
I dried my hair as best as possible and returned into the main room. Peter had changed into dry clothing as well and started a fire in the hearth. Puzzled, I asked him, “Do we really need a fire? I thought we were only going to be here for a little while?”
“I’m not driving down in this weather. That road is treacherous when it’s wet like this.” He sounded like trying to explain things to a kindergartner.
“So what, you aren’t suggesting we stay here overnight?”
Peter shrugged, “Why not? It’s clean and dry. We’ve got instant soup, plenty of water and fire. What more do you want?”
“Home? I want to go home. Unless you’ve forgotten, this has been a rather crappy couple of days for me and all I want is to go home.”
“And you’ll get home tomorrow. Now, I have chicken noodle, beef vegetable, or tomato.”
“What?” I asked, not quite sure what he was talking about.
“Instant soup,” he said, holding up several packages. “We have hot water, and instant soup. Dinner. What’s your preference?”
“Anything but tomato,” I replied with a shiver. I hated tomato soup and always had.
Peter gave me a look, tossed me one of the packages and nodded towards the kitchen, “There’s cups in the cupboard above the sink and spoons in the drawer. Bring me one of each, too.”
I couldn’t believe how laid back he behaved about being stranded high in the mountains. I located the utensils and cups and returned to sit near the fire. The warmth of the fire enhanced my mood – much better than the cold outside. I almost started to enjoy the situation. If I only had a more friendly companion! Peter looked so hot and even though his behavior was less than charming I couldn’t help but being attracted to him.
I stirred my soup, waiting the requisite three minutes for the vegetables and noodles to rehydrate and observed how calm and quiet it was. Peter did the same. We both ate in silence and I once again felt the tension starting to build – at least on my part.
Finally, when I pondered to scream just to hear something besides my own breathing, he asked, “You want some tea?”
I looked up and nodded, “Yeah. Thanks.”
He made the tea and brought me a mug. “Be careful, it’s very hot.”
I nodded, murmuring “Thanks” as he retreated to his side of the fire. I took a sip and decided I couldn’t handle the silence any longer. “This is your uncle’s cabin?”
“Yeah. We used to come up here a lot when I was younger. Now, I’m lucky if I make it three or four times a year.”
“Too busy?” I asked.
Peter nodded, leaning back against a pillow he had placed against the couch, “Yeah. I work at least seventy hours a week. A buddy and I started our own company a few years back. It’s doing very well, but since it’s only the two of us, we put in a lot of hours.”
“What kind of company?”
“Computer stuff mainly. Programming and security stuff.”
“Sounds boring.” It was actually right up my alley, but I didn’t want him to know that.
Peter chuckled, “To most people it is. It’s been a good career move for us though. It just doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything else.”
“That’s how I feel about college. This last semester has been tough. I’m glad I’m almost through.”
“Junior?” Peter asked.
I shook my head, “No, senior but I still have a six week internship to finish before I officially graduate. I didn’t care about walking the line, so I put it off until this summer.”
Peter nodded, “So, what made you decided to tackle Yosemite?”
“I didn’t really plan that. I needed to unwind and when Michael said he would be driving up here, I came along. I started a climbing course in January and love it.”
“Climbing in the wild is a lot different than climbing in a gym, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. I noticed that in the last few days. In fact on our first evening here I was almost dead by exhaustion after two hours on an easy trail. And I consider myself in reasonable shape.”
“Being outdoors can be very exhausting, but also lots of fun. I love being up here in the mountains, seeing nature and becoming part of it for a little while. There’s nothing like taking on a steep granite wall, knowing it’s going to require all of your strength and mental acuity to conquer. When you finally reach the summit, that’s the best feeling in the world.”
I watched Peter as he continued to talk about some of the climbs he had completed. His eyes started to radiate and he suddenly seemed much friendlier. The whole grumpy attitude was blown away and he exitedly recounted some of his adventures. He even started telling me about his dream to tackle one day tackling the famous free climber routes in the European Alps.
That man became hotter by the minute! Not that I would ever attempt such an demaning climb, but the sheer thought of him exercising his muscles while going up … to die for!
When I yawned, trying to hide behind my hand, Peter stood up and threw a few more logs on the fire. “We should get some sleep. There’s only the one bedroom, but it’s a king sized bed. I think we could share it and not cause any lasting harm to each other, don’t you?”
I wanted to protest, but was too tired, and sleeping on the hard wooden floor didn’t seem appealing at all. I shrugged and decided if he could handle it, so did I. I didn’t want to upset the fragile harmony we had developed by complaining.
“I’m going to check the generator and make sure there’s enough fuel to get us through the night. Go ahead and get ready for bed.”
He grabbed his rain jacket and headed out the front door. Back in the bedroom, I looked at the bed and chose the side farthest away from the door. I climbed under the covers and rolled onto my side, facing the wall.
I listened to Peter come in a few minutes later and move around the room, taking his shoes off and dropping them on the floor. I heard him remove the rain jacket and then what sounded like his pants. I held myself still, trying to even my breathing out and pretend sleep. My muscles were so tight, I knew sleep would be a long time coming if I didn’t relax.
Peter climbed into the bed and doused the bedside lamp. He moved around for a few minutes before he finally settled. I tried to relax, but knowing this gorgeous guy was lying a few feet away from me clouded my mind. And his smell – a woodsy odor, masculine and one that I would always associate with him. I wasn’t sure what cologne he wore, but I knew I would be making a trip to the local department store and figure it out.
After what seemed like hours, I heard him snoring softly and finally gave up the struggle to maintain my distance. I managed to relax and fell into a deep sleep, Peter’s unique smell and his gorgeous body fueling my dreams.