Breaking The Ice

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Blurb

Jerry is returning to his small Minnesota hometown after the sudden death of his grandfather to a town full of memories he’d tried to escape. He soon remembers one of the only good memories of his time spent growing up in the small town and reconnects with a person he had long forgot about.

However Jerry’s reception in town is not all that welcoming and he’ll have to work hard to break the ice and earn his way back into the hearts of his former friends, and that of David.

Niches:

m/m, love, bears, kissing

*****

Breaking the Ice

Chapter 1

Stepping into his grandfather’s home brought back memories of Saturday morning French toast and warm, happy Christmas mornings. Jerry looked around at the earthly possessions of his granddad, evidence of the only parent he’d known since he was eleven. He put his pug down on hardwood floors and closed the door to the biting Minnesota December. The dog stayed close to Jerry’s feet, suspicious of the unfamiliar surroundings and annoyed by the dog vest clinging to his back to fend off the cold.

Since he was eleven, this was the only true home he’d known. Even after fleeing the small town for the city lights of Los Angeles, he’d never felt more at home than how he did here. Walking through the foyer, he and Butch tentatively made the trek into the small living room that was designed to get as much of the fleeting sun when it reared its head. He’d been afraid that the memories would be suffocating, but as he settled into his granddad’s recliner the memories that flooded him was more comforting than nostalgic.

The home hadn’t changed much over the years, even though he’d only been back here three times over the past ten years since he’d secured his escape to varsity through scholarships and his granddad’s forethought. In fact, much of the town hadn’t changed much at all. He stared at the mantelpiece framing the fireplace and smiled at the photos of his life’s achievements; his beefy build towering over his class and his bearded smile radiating with promise on his graduation day, and the many holiday snaps of him and his granddad when he flew him down for visits during the years.

He leaned forward in his seat and placed his face in his open palms, rubbing his afternoon stubble in deep thought.

“Looks like it’s just me and you, boy,” he said at the wheezing dog at his feet. He made his way up to his old bedroom, in a space vacuum and untouched over the years and passed out on his bed, jeans and boots still intact.

*****

The funeral had been touching, but draining all the same. He’d arrived the day of the funeral in order to lessen his stay in the town and intended to settle all the legalities as soon as possible. The town folk hadn’t been that welcoming to him at the funeral. Only a handful of well-wishers had taken the time to extend their condolences, but for the most part people had kept their distance. He’d chalked it up to people not really knowing what to say, and not really knowing him anymore for that matter.

The fridge contained butter and spoiled milk, the freezer running over with unhealthy frozen dinners. He smiled at his granddad’s undying bachelor ways and shrugged into his jacket – he might not remember how to drive in thick inches of snow, but he remembered the importance of layering up in Bloomington, MN, population 82,960, during winter.

Leaving Butch perched perilously close to the roaring hearth he slipped out of the house and made the trek to the 1997 Tacoma pickup that Jeff Bummer had been driving ever since.

The best route to the town’s largest supermarket was through the main street. Driving carefully on the slippery road, Jerry couldn’t help but smile at all the memories that vied for dominance. He noticed the wall behind the church and instantly was taken back to senior year Fourth of July weekend where he and a few friends had a very close encounter with the sheriff because of a grand homemade firework bomb backfiring in the worst way possible.

Driving past the town’s only youth center, he remembered the Saturday afternoon where two horny sixteen year olds shared their first kiss in the utilities closet – David someone or other, if he remembered correctly. He’d noticed David at the service and had been impressed by the evolution of the ruggedly handsome boy with the sad eyes. He’d retained the same sad looking eyes but a decade later and he’d grown in all the right places Jerry thought as he put the truck in park in the supermarket’s lot.

Jerry noticed Mrs. Anderson who he’d seen at the service that morning, on duty behind the cashier, for as long as he could remember. He made a beeline to the alcohol and filled his basket up on scotch and beers, his drinks of choice. He went in search of peanut butter, but must’ve been missing it. Mrs. Anderson noticed him walking up and down and asked him what he’s searching so frantically.

“You’re going to need more than peanut butter toast to soak up all that alcohol,” she said and moved laboriously from behind casino oyna the counter. She showed him to the back of the store in the only place he didn’t search. “Right here,” she said, “where it’s been for the last forty seven years,” she said.

As he headed to the tills, stocked up with all the beer he’d need, he noticed a lady standing with her small daughter eyeing him disdainfully while weighing potatoes and loading cauliflowers into her trolley at the same time.

He loaded his items onto the conveyor as it was becoming obvious that his reception in town was icy at best.

A bit on edge and slightly annoyed by the attitude of the folks of the town, he was carefully navigating his way down the road en route back to the house. An icy sheath covered the road, the remnants of a light drizzle that was making it especially difficult to steer the car. Well-timed brakes were key to bring the vehicle to a standstill at robots. With only a few blocks to go until he reached home he realized he was in the wrong lane that eventually became a turn lane and switched on his indicators before making a lane change. An obnoxious honk dragged him out of his terse concentrative state back to reality.

He checked his rearview mirror and saw a scowling driver behind the wheel of a bright red Escalade. So he’d cut the guy off, he thought, it wasn’t intentional, unlike the guy’s obvious overreaction. He sighed as he flashed hazards in apology. This just further fueled his resolve to settle his granddad’s estate and get the hell out of this town.

*****

David could hear Butch from the driveway. The dog was barking its head off probably from being kept holed up all day and the sudden shift from a hot climate to this extreme cold. He was comforting the dog when a furious knock on the door rapped the house.

“Will you keep that yapping mutt quiet? I’m trying to work!”

“What the hell is your problem?” said Jerry. He recognized his neighbor as none other than David, the boy he’d shared his first kiss with when he was sixteen and horny.

David’s countenance seemed to vibrate with animosity. Jerry didn’t know where the hostility was coming from. He hadn’t seen the guy in ten years and can’t remember pissing him off any time before that.

“That dog has been barking and driving me mad since the moment you stepped foot here. It’s getting very old, fast. And I’m not the only one’s been complaining about it either.” He challenged Jerry with a daring stare. “I can’t get any work done with that constant racket. And learn how to drive!” David stalked off and left a flabbergasted Jerry staring at his retreating back.

“Figures,” he said as David made his way up the driveway with a red Escalade parked in it. “Goddamn small town blue collar worker bee,” Jerry said and slammed the door.

Chapter 2

Jerry woke in his granddad’s recliner with a stiff neck and shivering, with cold ashes where hours earlier a beautiful fire in the hearth had been keeping him warm. He waded through empty beer cans littered on the ground and stared out at a grey, snow covered front lawn. The sight was enough to further add to his depression.

To make matters worse, the relentless snow since he’s arrival in Bloomington had been doing number on the entire town, and he’d steadily been noticing eerie sounds coming from the porch roof. The last thing he needed was a caved in roof when he was trying to sell the house as soon as possible. Getting the coffee going, he pulled on a jacket and went to investigate the roof. He desperately wished he knew what to be looking for, and berated himself for not paying attention all those years spent in his grandfather’s hardware store about how to take care of snow removal. His years spent in accountancy school didn’t train him for something like this. He did know that he’d have to get rid of that accumulated snow on the porch roof soon, or he’d have a lot of damage and repairs on his hands.

He headed back inside and poured black coffee. It was a Sunday morning but he’d try his luck. He found the number to Bloomington Maintenance and Handyman Services only to get a voicemail from David giving his cell number in out of office hours emergencies.

“Unbelievable,” he said. No way was he going to allow David to clear his roof’s snow. He could just imagine the smarminess. He instead decided to face the cold again and make the trek to his granddad’s old maintenance and hardware store in the hope of a referral to another service provider. Jerry spent a good ten minutes pleading with Butch to keep quiet and settled him splayed out in front of the warmth of the freshly roaring hearth.

*****

Much like everything else in town, his granddad’s old hardware shop hadn’t changed much over the years. Aside from having expanded a bit, it still had the same familiar smells, and the counter was stacked to the brim with all types of odds and ends, just as he remembered it. He was constantly reminded of his granddad everywhere he turned in this town. It made him think a lot about the canlı casino past ten years, and he was feeling melancholy about the memories that was constantly vying for his attention. He felt guilty, having run from this town the moment he graduated and chasing the big city life, but his grandfather had always encouraged him to chase his dreams. His granddad had known he wouldn’t have been happy here, with the possibility and allure of the big city life. In hindsight, though, the big city hadn’t given him the peace and belonging he’d gone in search of. He was constantly reminded by one of the mantras his mother had drilled into his head before her and his father’s death in a vehicle pileup, that no matter where you went, you take yourself with you. He was beginning to recognize the wisdom in those words more and more as he was pushing thirty and had a string of unsatisfying relationships behind him.

Walking to the counter, he was greeted by a bored looking high school student who was absorbed in his tablet. He wondered who now owned and ran the hardware store, which had been in his family so long he couldn’t remember a time in his life that his grandfather hadn’t been behind that very counter – until seven years ago when he had finally retired after a lifetime of achievements and keeping the town intact and the roofs of the homes in good shape.

“I’m in need of snow removal services,” he said as he approached the guy behind the counter. “Do you guys know of any service providers in the area?”

“We offer snow removal services,” said the cashier. “Our owner’s in the back. I’ll have him call you to check availability,” he said and handed Jerry a book to write his details in. Turning to leave, Jerry saw the beefy build of David come out of the back office. Surprise replaced initial shock as he realized David had bought his Bummer’s Hardware and Electrical.

“Hi,” said David. “Was there something you’re looking for?”

“You own my grandfather’s store?” David asked.

“If you’d bother to keep up to date with the life of your grandfather, you’d have known who bought the store from him, and how difficult it had been for him to admit that he couldn’t run it any longer.”

Jerry stared at David. He had certainly filled out well, with a solid build, firm thighs and bulky arms, and a closely shaved head that made him seem slightly shorter than he was. He was the handyman you wanted to pitch up when you had a blocked drain or other home maintenance emergency, and fit the role well – except for the obvious chip that was weighing down his shoulders.

“Can you tone the attitude down a bit? I’m sorry I cut you off, and I’m sorry about the dog, he’s just out of his element a bit.”

“He’s not the only one,” David said.

“What the hell did I ever do to you?” asked Jerry. “I haven’t even seen you in ten years,” he said.

“That’s the point,” David said. “You just left everyone behind and didn’t even look back. Your grandpa was lucky if he saw you once a year.”

“What was I supposed to do?” said Jerry. “I wasn’t about to spend my twenties in this godforsaken place. I came back for him when I graduated, he was the stubborn one. He knew I loved him. He never expect me to give up my dreams for anyone.”

“That’s right, because that’s the type of man he was. He was fine with it all,” said David, “paying for your education, keeping your lifestyle stocked, so long as you were happy, but you weren’t, and obviously still aren’t, and it’s what killed him in the end.”

“Check yourself,” Jerry said. “You know nothing of my life.” He was trying to keep his temper in check.

“What I do know is that you never appreciated the sacrifices he’d made for you, to keep you in that expensive school, pay for your studies and give you a head start in life that many would’ve given anything for,” David said.

“How can you make such sweeping statements about someone you don’t even know?” David asked.

“How can you show your face here, selling your granddad’s house and boxing up all his possessions as if erasing all evidence of his existence from a town he helped build from the ground up?”

“Forget the goddamn snow service, I’ll fix it myself,” Jerry said and left the shop.

*****

Jerry opened his front door to a stone faced David staring back at him.

“I bet you’re doing a how-to web search for snow removal right now,” David said.

David handed him a folded invoice and motioned his team from the truck. “Settle that with accounts. We’ll have your roof cleared in no time,” he said.

“I’ll get the kettle going then,” Jerry said in response. He went back into the living room and closed his browser before heading to the kitchen.

He kept a close watch on David while he instructed his team and was taking care of removing the snow from the porch roof. Not out of having any doubt about his professional abilities, but for other obvious reasons. Despite his biting remarks that had hit very close to home during their confrontation, he found himself incredibly attracted kaçak casino to the jerk.

He’d had his fill of LA twinks the last decade, and had lately suspended his search for a partner, concentrating instead of getting his career as a CA off the ground. He remembered the attraction he’d had towards sixteen year old David all the more clearly now as he watched the beefy chest strain under his work clothes and the sweat collect under his beard line. David had grown into the a fine looking bear and if he could have only had a personality transplant, Jerry could’ve seen a few less lonely evenings in his future.

*****

Taking the steaming mugs of coffee out to David and his crew, bear pheromones immediately hit him from all corners. He was so used to young twinks taking up his free time that being surrounded by these levels of testosterone was a heady experience. David took the coffee and gave a few grateful sips.

“Careful you don’t scorch your tongue,” Jerry said.

“I’m sure you remember,” David said, “the only way you survive winter here is to enjoy scorching drinks. Thanks for the coffee,” he said and walked to his crew.

“Take your time,” Jerry said under his breath and appreciated the retreating view of David.

*****

Jerry had gotten so caught up in his grandfather’s study with the many papers and policies that commanded his attention, he hadn’t noticed David standing behind him.

“I knocked, but you didn’t answer,” David said.

He was momentarily surprised by David’s presence, but quickly recovered.

“Done already?” he asked and got up from the desk.

“It goes far quicker when you have a team behind the effort.”

“Thanks for coming out on a Sunday,” Jerry said.

“Actually I don’t think your porch would’ve lasted another night. I’d wanted to offer my services to you sooner, but I wasn’t that inclined,” he David.

“I get it, you think I’m an elitist jerk, but thanks anyway.”

“Well maybe not elitist,” David said.

“Are you always this passive aggressive?” Jerry asked.

“Was I being? I thought I was always direct.”

Jerry smiled at the acerbic reply. He felt intellectually challenged by David, something he didn’t know he’d been missing from the circle of friends he kept in LA. And he was becoming more and more attracted to his beefy neighbor and wanted to see if anything could come of it.

“Talking about scorching food…” said Jerry.

“We weren’t.”

“I’m making chili buffalo wings for dinner, if you don’t have any other plans tonight.”

David seemed undecided.

“I’m really celebrated for my buffalo wings,” Jerry said, trying not to sound too enthusiastic.

“I like mine extra scorching,” said David.

“Good. So do I.”

“And I’m still billing you time and a half for today’s work.”

“Naturally,” Jerry said.

Chapter 3

David arrived for dinner wearing an open collar long sleeve shirt under his burly jacket and blue jeans with worker boots, already shedding his jacket because of the welcoming warmth from the crackling hearth. David handed him a beer and settled on the ground in front of the fireplace.

“You must be feeling very country,” David said as he popped his beer and settled on the three-seater opposite Jerry

“Not really, I just enjoy being fireside, I always have.”

A wheezing Butch made his way over to David’s feet and settled by his feet. Jerry smiled and sipped his beer.

“That hardly ever happens. He doesn’t like strangers and takes even longer to warm up to them.”

“I’m a lovable guy,” David said.

“Dinner should be done in about an hour.” Jerry stretched his tight jean-clad legs out in front of him and settled with his back against the recliner. He kept one eye to see if he could pick up on any interested signals, but David had become fascinated with playing with Butch’s perpetual downcast face.

Maybe he was spoken for, Jerry thought.

“So is there anyone special in your life?” David asked. Maybe not, Jerry thought.

“No one worth mentioning,” he said and poked the fire. “Do you have anyone?”

“Too many to mention,” David said. “Kidding, obviously,” he said.

“Strange,” Jerry said. “I thought they’d be lining up to catch a catch like you.”

“It’s not like we have a huge population to start out with, and we’re definitely not a gay mecca either.”

He laughed at the wryness in David’s voice. “Did many of our class mates flee?”

“Most of them did,” David said. “Only a few of us stayed.”

“Why did you?” he asked and locked his hands behind his head, stretching his button down over his hairy chest.

“I never wanted a big city life. I knew we were lucky to have a small town upbringing.”

“A part of small town America,” Jerry said and stared back at the fire.

“Why did you want to leave here so bad?”

“It’s not like I set out to abandon my granddad,” Jerry said. “Even though my granddad had done a great job at making me feel at home here, it was still the town that took my parents from me. I don’t know. Maybe I had to leave here to make peace with it.” He looked at David, who was staring at him in contemplation. “Do you feel like I abandoned you?” Jerry asked.

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