Rock and Water – Chapter 3
After leaving the gym, I confirm with my parents that they’re picking Addie up after school for the weekend. I don’t tell them about the date just yet. They moved to Oregon from the east coast when she was two since she was their only grandchild, insisting on being a big part of her life. It’s been especially helpful since the divorce. As a single parent, it’s a blessing to have every other weekend to myself. Addie leaves for London in 10 days, and this will be the last weekend they share together for the summer. That evening after work I go out with my friend Johanna for our Friday night sushi ritual. Since splitting from Frank, Johanna has been my shoulder to cry on and my loudest cheering section pushing me back in to the dating world. She’s crass and sometimes loud, but also one of the best listeners I know. We’ve shared everything there is to share with each other. I even admitted to her about my online relationship with Robert, kink and all, along with my need for submission in the bedroom. I’d worried she might judge me for it, but it was quite the opposite. Although Johanna doesn’t share any of my interest in BDSM, she not only held no judgment, but wanted every juicy detail I was willing to share. Her marriage is blissfully stable with an adventurous and loving sex life. I’ve listened to countless stories of the risky public escapades she and her husband frequently engage in. I tell her about meeting Patrick at the gym, and our date tomorrow. She ribs me a bit since I’ve brought “that tall, cute guy” up at least three times in the past few months, thinking each time that I’d never mentioned him. She also asks the question I’ve been a little afraid to confront myself with; am I truly ready for this? I think I am. I know my body is. I can barely contain my excitement about tomorrow. She’s supportive, but goes on to ask how I’ll feel if he’s not in to kink, or even some mild power exchange in the bedroom. I’d thought about this too, and truly am not sure. It’s something that I want so very badly. With these questions in mind, I head home and try to get some sleep. Images of Patrick, and remembering his body pressed against mine at the lockers are swirling in my head as my body starts to betray my need for sleep. I turn on the light and reach for my purse on the floor and pull his card out. I stare at the words on the card, and even bring it close to my face to smell. It smells like paper and I feel a pretty silly but my body is coming to life remembering the touch of his hand on mine. My legs start to squeeze together; creating a delicious friction. My nipples press against the cool cotton of my old t-shirt. I lie on my side and reach between my legs, cupping my pussy in one hand and squeeze. I let out a groan as my palm pushes through my panties into my swollen clit; moisture begins to soak my hand. My breathing becomes short and erratic as I continue to just gently squeeze my cunt and clit, imagining Patrick’s strong had replacing mine, imagining him taking control. I think about the toys in my closet, but my need is too great for them at this point, and I quickly tear off my underwear and plunge two fingers, then three, in to my sopping pussy. My other hand is up under my shirt pulling and twisting on my nipples causing both pain and devastating pleasure. My hips buck in to my palm trying to make contact with my wet, exposed clit as my fingers pump in and out of my hole. The hand on my breasts reaches down and begins to pull and pinch on my clit and my body lets go with a surprisingly quick and intense orgasm that shocks me. My body sated, I check my alarm one last time before drifting in to a deep and peaceful sleep with images of Patrick’s ice-blue eyes gazing down on me. *** The next morning I get up in enough time to take a long, hot shower. I don’t really know what to expect from the day, but I take care to shave my legs and my labia until they’re bare and soft. I trim the already short hair on my mound to a small, neat triangle just at the top of my cleft. I dry off and dress in some green hiking shorts and a black tank top. I grab my favorite, old navy blue zipped hoodie that advertises a local brewery on the back. At just before 9am the next day an older looking, slightly beat up black Bronco pulls in front of my house and I see Patrick unfold his length from the driver’s side door, followed by a scruffy brown and black Terrier mix. The sight of this tall, imposing man with this scruffy little dog that doesn’t look like it weighs more than 12lb makes smile and relax just a little. I look at him through the window as he walks up towards my house. He’s wearing some olive colored hiking shorts that go just above his knees, and black fleece over what appears to be a faded yellow t-shirt. His rugged hiking boots look well-loved, and well-worn. His knock on the door sets Griffin off and his crazed barking then gets Guinness barking on the other side. Madness ensues as I grab Griffin’s collar and open the door just before Guinness comes tearing in the house circling excitedly around us. Griffin appears stunned by the small, hyper dog at his feet, but then breaks free from my hold, throwing me straight in to Patrick’s chest, and runs out to the front yard with Guinness in tow. The two race in happy circles, the smaller dog dwarfed in size by the Border Collie mix, until both collapse contentedly in the grass and look at us expectantly like they’ve been best friends forever. After my graceless fall in to Patrick’s chest, he quickly reaches out and his hands grasp my bare arms to steady me. His hold is warm, secure, and all too short as he takes a step back and looks down at me. “Are you okay? “ He asks with concern. “I’d hoped there’d be less chaos having them meet before the car ride.” The heat of his strong hands on my arms lingers, and there’s no question the chemistry I felt yesterday was not imagined. “I’m fine. I can’t really blame my dog for my lack of grace. I’m really a bit of a klutz. I’ve even injured myself sitting in the studio while on the air. I’m truly hopeless,” I say with a laugh. “I’ll just have to watch out for you then, “ he replies with a slight smile on his lips. “I’ve got plans for us later and they’ll need you in one piece.” The promise in his voice causes my gut to clench, wondering what these “plans” could be. “You look incredible Corrine. There’s nothing sexier in my eyes than a woman in hiking boots.” I look at him doubtful, to see if he’s being truthful, and from the appreciative glint in his eyes I see that he is. I grab my bag that has my sundress for later, some sunblock, and Griffin’s food; we head out the door to his truck. The back seat is covered in old blankets for the dogs. They jump in and shuffle around. True to Patrick’s word, Guinness hogs up about ¾ of the seat pacing back and forth, while Griffin tries to make himself as small as possible against the passenger door. The step up in to the Bronco is a bit high, and I feel Patrick just behind me as I climb in making sure I get in safely before he closes my door. The chivalry is refreshing after my recent dates. He lifts himself in to the driver side, and we both buckle in before he takes off. With a little space between us, conversation comes much more easily for me today. We mostly cover the easy basics that most do on first dates, i.e. what brought me to Portland from the east coast, how I got in to radio broadcast, and a little about Addie. I learn that before he was a carpenter he had been a ski instructor in the winters, and a river rafting guide during the summers. A few injuries over the years, along with his marriage and need to stay in one place, guided his decision to turn his passion for woodworking in to a career. Despite the light conversation, his body so close to mine is keeping mine on edge. After months of crushing on him from afar, it amazes me how easy it is to talk to him. I can’t seem to drop the smile on my face or keep my eyes from frequently looking at him as he drives. Patrick tells me that he has a cabin in the gorge, just on the other side of the river in Washington. I’m impressed when he tells me that he bought it after the original structure had burned down, leaving only the basic foundation. Over the years he rebuilt with his own hands, along with the help of some good friends. It sounds pretty rustic with the only heat coming from an old wood stove, but it does have running water and electricity. “Depending on how our day goes, I’d love it if we could spend the night Küçükköy escort bayan there.” He pauses and looks at me briefly before returning his eyes to the road. “I’m not going to be coy or shy about letting you know I want you, but ultimately it’s up to you. I’m not opposed to sharing the couch with Guinness if you’d be more comfortable, but I’d love to wake up there with you tomorrow and fix you my killer breakfast.” His admission of wanting me sends a delicious ache through my gut and my heart literally flutters. I love his bold and direct nature. I’m over game playing, and it appears he is too. “Wow, I’d…uh, I’d love to see your cabin…. as far as staying tonight, I think it would be ok. It seems a bit premature to plan sleeping arrangements quite yet though. I mean, hell, we haven’t even kissed!” With that, he pulls over to the side of the isolated forest road we’ve been driving on and before I can even speak he’s pulled himself closer to me and cradles my face in his large hands. “We can remedy that right here and now Corrine. I’ve spent too many months wondering what your lips would feel like on mine. I’d really like to kiss you.” His last words come out as a low growl, and as he speaks, his right hand lowers a bit and I feel his thumb drag across my bottom lip. Without thought my tongue darts out and follows the path his finger traced. I can’t be coy either. I need this so bad. “Please yes…Patrick.” I feel his hands shift from my cheeks to the back of my head as he draws me to him. The last thing I see before I close my eyes is the intensity in his, and I expect his lips to crush mine. Instead, I feel the most chaste and delicate kiss caress my lips, then another, and another. His tongue gently begins to trace my lips, but does not enter. This tender kiss is igniting something dormant in me and I want to crush myself against him. I can’t wait any longer and I push forward in an attempt to intensify the kiss, only to have him pull back and smile. I am flustered and left wanting. He appears to know this, but I can see the effect the kiss had on him too as he unselfconsciously adjusts himself through his shorts with a low moan. He backs himself in to the driver’s seat once again, leaning his head back on the head rest he lets outs his breath. “Holy hell, those lips are going to be the end of me…. I think I’d be happy to stay on the side of the road and kiss you all day, but I promised you a hike, didn’t I?” He starts up the truck again and we continue on. My body continues to tremble from the kiss. We both remain quiet for the rest of the ride. After another 20 minutes of forest roads, we pull up to the trailhead. I’m delighted that it’s a hike I’ve been dying to try and tell him so. It’s known for its beautiful views at the top, but also for its occasional rough terrain. Trail books recommend that it not be hiked alone. Patrick parks the Bronco and we put the dogs on leashes. He grabs his pack out of the back and we leave the lot signing in at the start of the trail. A few other cars are already parked, but not too many so hopefully we’ll have the trail to ourselves. With no one around, we let the dogs off leash and they tear up the path out of view, only to double back and check in with us. They repeat this pattern though the morning, occasionally jumping off the path into the creek for drinks of cold water. We walk in easy silence with each other. Occasionally he points out a small hidden waterfall, or a tree struck by lightning, but otherwise we’re both lost in our own thoughts. As the switchbacks begin in earnest I can feel his vigilance kick in as he walks closely behind me, occasionally aiding me over larger rocks with a hand on my hip or elbow in support. Instead of feeling patronized, I feel a warm glow inside knowing he’s looking after me. With each touch I only crave more. A few miles in, we break through the tree line into a meadow of wildflowers. The sun is now shining brightly down on us. The path continues upward through the grasses and I joke about breaking in to the “Sound of Music.” The dogs disappear in to the tall fields; occasionally I can see Griffin jumping out only to dive back in again. I can’t remember feeling so good in a long time. Patrick guides me off the trail towards a clearing and some old logs. I sit and straddle a log as he pulls out a jug of water from his pack. I hadn’t realized he’d been packing along a gallon of water, along with the water bottles we’d already been carrying. He pulls out two portable water bowls and pours for the thirsty dogs. He continues into his pack, pulling out a thick, plaid cotton blanket along with some food for lunch. I can’t believe the spread he brought, including some ham and brie baguettes, a greek salad, a bunch of fruit, a decadent looking brownie, and even a bottle of red wine. He pulls out his camping dishes, then opens the bottle of wine, pouring it in to mugs. “Sorry for the unromantic wine glasses,” he laments. “They’re perfect.” I reply readily looking up in to his bright eyes. “The whole day’s been perfect.” He smiles at that, then before I know it he’s behind me on the log with his body pushed against my back, his legs on either side of mine. His arms circle around my waist, he gives me a warm, almost possessive hug. I feel his breath on the back of my neck as he leans in closer to my ear. “Corrine, it’s been a bitch to follow you all day,” he says with a low chuckle. “Watching your curves, the sheen of sweat on your neck… There’s been twenty times I’ve wanted to pull you off the trail to devour you.” His body against mine and the need in his voice completely undo me. Without conscious thought my body leans back in to his to rest my head on his shoulder. While holding one arm snug around me, he reaches the other behind my neck and begins to gently brush the hair of my ponytail aside to expose the soft skin behind my ear. My skin tingles as his calloused fingertips gently trace against it. I close my eyes and listen to his breathing, enjoying the sensation of his hand caressing my hair, when subtly his hand begins to tighten its hold on the base of my ponytail. I feel my scalp tingle as he pulls my head to the side and lowers his mouth to my vulnerable skin. As his open lips contact my bare skin my eyes shoot open and my body jerks but his arm around me keeps me secure against him. His warm, wet tongue is against my skin, tasting me, before he unleashes a groan and then all I feel are his lips sucking at my flesh with less than gentle nips of his teeth. His hand fists even tighter in my hair and I feel myself arch in to him with a groan. “Yes,” I think to myself. “ He knows. I want to turn around to feel his lips on mine but I’m immobilized by his warm embrace. He continues his assault on my neck, but I feel his hand release my hair then run down my arm, covering my own hand that I now realize has a death grip on my thigh. He coerces me to release the hold on my leg and gently but firmly guides my hand behind my head and without words instructs me to grasp my own hair as he had, holding my neck exposed for him. I do. His kisses have stopped but he doesn’t release me. I leave my hand in my hair; he doesn’t instruct me otherwise. I hear Patrick breathing heavily as his arm around my waist pulls me tighter against him and he grinds himself against me. I can now feel his hard length straining against his shorts and into my backside. Juices escape my pussy and my panties get noticeably wet. His free hand is now on my hip, sliding down the top of my thigh to the exposed skin just below my hiking shorts. He stops and I feel his fingers tracing the soft skin inside of my thigh, just under the cuff, before he squeezes the flesh firmly. The constant pressure of his grip is just shy of painful; my mouth opens and I let my breath out in a low and raspy groan. He too releases a low, guttural moan before releasing his grip on my thigh, leaving his hand where it is. My skin feels singed by the imprint of his hand, and I know if I look there will be a mark on my leg. He takes my hand from my hair and pulls it in front of my belly before grasping it in his own. “Did you like that, Corrine?” His breathing is fast and his voice low and steady. “My desire for you at this moment is a bit intense. I’m not sure I can explain it myself, but the last thing I want to do is scare you in any way.” His embrace has changed from restrictive to warm, with his chin resting on my shoulder. “Oh god no… not Escort Mecidiyeköy scary at all. It was…it was unlike anything… Ugh, I can’t find my words!” “I want to do things to you. I look at you and your beauty, your intelligence, your sexy voice that I’ll never be able to hear over the radio again without thinking of those lips on mine, and I just want everything. More to the point… I want you to give me everything; all you’ve got. More. Do you understand what I’m asking?’ “I think I do, Patrick,” I reply. “I… I want you too. So bad I can’t think straight.” He laughs and swings himself around on the log to face me. My eyes can’t help but look down and see the evidence of his desire for me swollen against the seam of his shorts. My tongue darts out and licks my lower lip and I look up. By the half grin on his face and the light in his eyes I know he caught me looking. “Ignore it,” he gestures to his cock, “While I’m trying to be a gentleman it’s got other ideas…. I have other plans for us right now.” My eyes open wide, wondering what he has in mind. As it turns out, it’s just lunch. We plunk down on the blanket and feast on the amazing food he packed. “Don’t give me any credit for the cooking… I’m a ‘foodie’ that can’t cook anything but breakfast.” “That’s twice now you’ve mentioned that breakfast. You’re raising my expectations pretty high!” “Well, I’m a one-trick pony with my kitchen skills…. Hopefully I’ll find other ways to charm and impress you so won’t notice I fix you the same meal every morning.” The thought of ‘every morning’ excites me. After the last bite of brownie has been eaten, he removes his fleece and balls it up. Laying down on the blanket, he offers the fleece for me to use as a pillow, but I decline and remove my own hoodie to use. Before I lay down, I gawk at his exposed arms, along with the myriad of tattoos adorning them. I can now see clearly the tattoos on his inner forearms that I’d only glimpsed the edges of at the gym. They are the same oak tree and axe that are on his business cards. They are lovely. I ask which came first, learning that they preceded his business altogether by about five years. The tail of a black serpent winds up his left arm. The tip of its tail curls just above his elbow, while the body winds upwards over his biceps disappearing under his t-shirt sleeve. “I got that in my early twenties. Thought it made me look tough. You can’t see its face because of my shirt, but the artist made my bad-ass snake have ‘baby blue’ eyes. I caught so much hell from my friends that I almost had them changed to a darker color, but decided not to give them the satisfaction.” He laughs, then adds, “They still give me shit about it.” We lay there quietly, the dogs resting nearby as the wind caresses the surrounding wildflowers. He’s taken my hand and is gently caressing it. His actions are soft, but I’m sensing some tension in him. Finally he speaks. “Tell me about your tattoo. I know there must be some significance behind it.” He turns on his side to face me. I’ve been lying on my back with my knees up, feet on the ground. He reaches over and begins to stroke his hand slowly up and down my calf, over the tattoo, as if in doing so it may answer his questions. “Well, it does…. on many levels.” I pause, thinking of the best way to explain. “On the most basic level, I’m a total nature freak, especially around waterfalls. It’s where I find my spirituality, my peace.” I stop there, not quite ready to continue. “Go on, there’s more.” His voice is firm; a shred of command underlies his otherwise calm request. I realize now that I’m about to reveal more about myself to Patrick than I have to anyone besides Johanna. I worry that I may be wrong about him. That he’ll think different of me after I tell him, but how can I not? I refuse to go into a relationship and not be true to myself ever again. “Okay…when I look at a waterfall, I see it for what it is. Rocks and water. It’s so simple but so beautiful at the same time. The water is soft, so willing to bend to the will of the rock. The rock stands strong, but over time allows the water to soften its edges. The two elements come together to create something so much better, so much stronger than the sum of its parts.” His eyes leave mine as he looks again at my tattoo, his hand continuing to caress the skin. I go on. “It’s a metaphor for what I want in my life Patrick, from what I want from a relationship. I’ve always had a drive to please, but in my marriage it took form as always trying to be in control, to always be in charge and make everything perfect. The more control I took, the more Frank gave me until it seemed he couldn’t make a decision on his own. I lost respect for him, resented that he couldn’t be stronger for me, and in turn… lost my desire for him too.” Patrick’s eyes focus on mine and he asks me bluntly, “…and in the bedroom?” “I, uh… well, it started off pretty fun, he was a good and attentive lover but not very adventurous.” I look down, noticing my hands fidgeting in my shirt. Looking up I ask, “Do you really want to hear this?” Without waver in his voice, or eyes, “Yes.” Um, ok…. Over the years my… my needs changed. Or maybe they didn’t change… I think I always knew.” “Knew what?” I take a deep breath and close my eyes. “This is hard…” “Open your eyes Corrine. Look at me.” I open my eyes to find Patrick has moved closer, propped up on one elbow. He reaches his other hand and gently rests it on my breast bone, two fingers on my pulse. His hand is hot. His eyes are focused on me. Warm. Accepting. “What did you know?” “Okay… It got to the point that in our day to day lives, I…shit this is hard… I was in control. If you asked him, he would never have thought that, but I was.” I pause, hoping this is enough. One look at him and I know it isn’t. “I felt like I always had to take the lead, to set the tone. He was always so gentle, so giving. I felt like I had no room to complain. I know it was my responsibility to tell him what I liked or didn’t like, but honestly, sometimes a woman just wants a man to know. The thing is, I’d figured out early on that I like it, um, a bit rough. After hinting at it, he figured it out but when he was, I could tell it was only to please me. It didn’t feel real… not to mention it was never really enough anyway.” I feel shy sharing this, but I feel no judgment from him. Patrick’s hand on my chest subtly moves upward until it is lightly resting on the base of my neck. I don’t feel threatened by it, but it feels very intentional on his part. His eyes bore in to me, and he licks his lips before speaking. “It didn’t feel real because he didn’t know you what you needed. He didn’t know you were submissive.” His voice is measured and steady. “He didn’t know your deep need to give up control.” Patrick pauses, gauging my reaction to his words. His voice lowers but remains steady. “He didn’t know how to use your body like a fuck toy.” I startle at his blunt words. I’m both shocked and excited by his directness, but also a bit overwhelmed. My heart and mind start to race so I attempt to sit up, pushing away his hand. He allows me to, sitting up himself too, but restricts me from standing by placing his hands firmly on my shoulders. “Breathe, Corrine.” His hold on me is not painful, but it is clearly letting me know I can’t run from him. I know I don’t want to, but outside of Robert no one has ever spoken to me this way. No one knows how much I crave it; how much I need to let go. “I don’t understand,” I stammer, trying to catch my breath and find the right words. “How could you know? I’ve always been told how confident I come off, how strong.” Patrick smiles, and pulls me in to his arms. My head rest on his chest, hearing his strong, slow heartbeat. “You are confident. You are strong.” His hand caresses my arm rhythmically, relaxing me in to his body. “Being submissive does not negate those qualities. Honestly for me, they enhance it. It was your confidence and strength that attracted me to you in the first place, but it was the way you looked at me, the way your body responded to mine at the lockers yesterday that hinted at your submissive side. I took a chance just now by saying it. I’m glad I did.” “So, uh…does that mean that you enjoy, um, that you are…” “Does it mean that I consider myself dominant? Yes.” He allows me to absorb his words for a bit before continuing. “It’s who I’ve been; always. From my earliest sexual experiences I Merter escort realized I enjoyed taking control, but it was more than that. It was finding someone who would willingly give up THEIR control that had the most profound effect on me. “ “In high school, I never wanted to date a girl that was passive; who would agree with everything I said. I found it was much more satisfying to be with a girl that could hold her own, but then would submit to my will. It was that way also through college. In my twenties, I was relatively active in the local BDSM scene, which is…where I met my wife.” His hold on me subtly shifts. While still warm and comforting, I can sense some tension, or maybe apprehension. He continues, “She was everything I was looking for, really. Intelligent, ambitious, adventurous…” His voice is softer, a bit sad. “She claimed to be submissive, but early in our marriage she seemed less interested in the kink that I thought she enjoyed. I backed off, which was maybe my first mistake, but I’d hoped she’d come back to me on her own. Being dominant, being in control is who I am, but in the end she admitted that it had just been ‘fun’ for her to be submissive; just a role she had been playing.” “We’d always planned to have kids, and when I realized that might not happen I became withdrawn from her. When I wasn’t, I was a bully. I think I was trying to take control of the relationship in any way I could and it blew up in my face. She left me for a business colleague last year.” “Thank you for telling me Patrick.” I’m still a little confused though. I look down at his left hand. His gaze follows mine to the indention on his ring finger. “I can’t explain why it was so hard for me to let go of the ring, but I only took it off for good around 3 months ago.” He tightens his hold on me and rests his head on my shoulder. “I feel like I should tell you, I was a bit of a slut after my marriage ended. Always safe though, I promise. Mostly women I met online; occasionally from bars. There was one time with a personal trainer at the gym… I think I needed to prove something to myself. It was really pretty adolescent but oddly enough exorcised some demons for me. No kink; just straight sex. No dating either. Oddly enough, I kept my ring on during that period of time, only to remove it when I was done playing around a few months ago. I haven’t dated, or been with anyone since.” I look up at him. “Can I ask why?” He says simply, “I want more. I want a relationship.” My heart skips hearing this. “Oh.” “What about you? Have you dated since your marriage ended?” He brushes some loose hair from my face sending goose bumps down my neck. “In recent months I did some online dating, but was never really interested in the men I was meeting” “Have you had sex?” He asks bluntly. I laugh. “Wow, that’s direct.” He just smiles. “Well, no, not really. But… kind of?” “Toys?” He asks, perhaps a little overenthusiastically. “Um, yes… toys. But, there’s more. As you figured out with your ninja/dom mind meld, I am submissive, in the bedroom anyway.” Patrick interrupts me briefly. “We still need to discuss what that means to you.” “Oh, okay…. I fidget a little. “Anyway, I… uh, had no experience so I looked online, eventually finding a BDSM chat site. I met a man there, Robert, about one and a half years ago. We hit it off, but maintained our relationship online or over the phone since we were across the country from each other.” “And you never met during that time?’ “No. We decided early on it would be best not to. That it may keep us from meeting other people. In the end, he did, and so it ended.” Patrick encourages me to tell him more about the phone calls, and I do. I don’t know if it’s his rhythmic caresses in my hair, his warm embrace, or how easy it is to talk to him, but it’s as if I’m in a trance and it all spills out. The toys, the pain, the names. The compassion, support, and encouragement. All of it. Again, no judgment . “When did it end?” I tell him it was five months ago, and I see him do the math. “Although not in person, you had what sounds like a very intense dom/sub relationship with him for over a year. Do you still have feelings for him?” “No. I don’t. I’m very grateful for the time I had with him, but the boundaries we set from the beginning I think helped when it was over.” “Mmmmm…. I’m grateful too, that you’ve researched the lifestyle and embrace it. I also feel very, very lucky that I found you before you met someone else” Patrick lays us both down on to the blanket, then roles over on top of me, propping his weight up on his elbows. It feels delicious to have his body on mine and I squirm under him to create a little friction. “Uh, uh naughty girl,” he says with a grin,” unless you’re trying to tell me you’re an exhibitionist too.” He nods to his left, and I can see some hikers coming over the hill towards us. I jump up abruptly, pushing him over as I do as he lays there laughing. I give him a kick in the ass, which just makes him laugh harder. “Okay, okay…,” he says. “I deserved that. We pack up his sack as the dogs jump excitedly around us. The hike down goes pretty fast and as before, Patrick is there to help me during more technical descents. We reach his truck, pack up the dogs, and I melt in to my seat. Once off the forest roads, it’s about another 30 minutes before we cross the bridge over the Columbia River in to Washington where his cabin is. There’s a sweet looking, small town just a half a mile down the road. His cabin is small and rustic, nestled in the woods a short distance off the road and away from other homes and cabins. It’s surrounded by a mix of old Douglas Fir, Maple, and Hemlock trees covered in moss, with sunlight trickling through the branches. There’s a small shed, clothesline, and a basketball hoop just to the left of the cabin, but otherwise it’s just the trees. We go inside with the dogs, who both immediately jump up on a very comfortable looking old leather couch before Patrick immediately kicks them off. Along with the couch is an old antique wood rocking chair with a Pendleton blanket over the back, and a coffee table with a surface made of slate tiles. A worn Kilim rug covers the living area, while the rest of the floors are hardwood, probably fir. Across from the couch is a wood stove with a generous pile of logs and branches resting next to it in a copper pot. A small round, wood kitchen table and two chairs sit next to a large pane window, and the kitchen essentially runs along the back wall of the cabin. It has an old gas stove, large farmhouse sink, and a fridge. There’s a closet near the front door, and two other doors which I presume go to a bathroom and bedroom. The cabin smells woodsy and yummy and I instantly feel comfortable and at home. Patrick puts our backpacks on the floor then takes me in to his arms. I expect him to kiss me, but instead he just holds me in a long, silent embrace. It’s utterly quiet here except the panting of the dogs, and I feel a peace go through me as I close my eyes. Neither of us speaks for a few minutes, yet I feel a lot is communicated. We’ve had very different, yet very similar journeys, which have brought us to this place and time. Patrick loosens his hold on me but still has me in his embrace. He looks down on me with a contemplative look in his eyes, as if about to speak, but this time I take the initiative and speak first. “Thank you for bringing me here. I can feel you’ve put your heart in this cabin and I’m honored to have been invited.” He smiles warmly. “You’re very welcome.” He pauses and looks at me intently. “I want you to know two things.” He draws me close again so my head rests on his chest. His hand slowly caresses my back as he speaks again. “I built this as my marriage was failing. It was a solace and a refuge for me when I couldn’t stand to be in our home alone while she was traveling. Before it was built, I slept in my tent until it had four walls and a roof. Maureen, my ex, only came out a few times. I think to humor me.” He shakes his head a little, then continues. “Subconsciously I’d hoped that if we had a place away from the city we’d reconnect, but she never seemed to warm to the place. She would rather have stayed in a B&B or resort. You’re the first woman, besides friends of course that I’ve ever brought here.” I take a moment to let that soak in and I realize now that his invitation to stay was not an impulsive gesture on his part. A myriad of emotions go through me including shock, fear, and incredible pleasure that this man seems to be as attracted to me as I am to him. I remind myself to breathe, and to accept things as they come with no expectations or insecurity. “The other thing you should know….” He pulls back, this time stepping back to put me at arm’s length with his hands on my arm.