Read Cold Feet Online

Authors: Jay Northcote

Cold Feet (4 page)

BOOK: Cold Feet
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

As they were about to pay,
Sam got distracted by a stand of Christmas decorations

“What have you found?” Ryan came to look too.

Sam picked up a box of fairy lights and a few pieces of red and gold tinsel. “Sorry, but I refuse to do Christmas without any decorations at all. I’ll pay for them, though.” He set his jaw and glared, expecting Ryan to tease.

Ryan looked at him for a moment, and then his lips curved in a small smile, as though he couldn’t quite help himself. “Nah, it’s fine. Stick them in with everything else, and we’ll split it.”

“Thanks.” Sam grinned.

The lady behind the counter chatted away as she rang up and bagged their stuff for them. “This should keep you boys going, then. You here for Christmas?”

“Well, we are now,”
answered. “We weren’t planning on it, though.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. I bet your mums will be missing their boys.”

Ryan grunted noncommittally, and Sam swooped into rescue him from the awkward moment, changing the subject by asking her about her own plans for Christmas. By the time she’d finished telling them about her two daughters and their families, who lived close enough that they would be able to get together for Christmas dinner despite the weather, they’d paid and were ready to leave.

“Merry Christmas to you, then,” she said as they loaded themselves up with the carrier bags.

“Thanks. Merry Christmas,” they replied.

Chapter Four

Back at the cottage, they unpacked their supplies and dried out their shoes in front of the fire while they drank more tea and ate their way through half a packet of biscuits.

Sam rigged up the fairy lights over the mantelpiece and twined tinsel around them. When he turned them on, the multicoloured lights gave a pretty glow.

“There,” he said. “That’s better. It feels like Christmas now.”

They did look nice
Ryan had to admit
. He felt a reluctant flutter of Christmas spirit uncurl in his chest, like a damp butterfly trying to spread its wings.

Sam rejoined him on the sofa, and they both sat, staring at the fire that was now framed by the lights and the glitter of the tinsel.

“It’s weird not having a telly,” Ryan said.

“Or an X-box.”

The lack of something else to focus on meant their conversation was stilted at times, but the silences between the words were quite comfortable. In the pauses, however, Ryan found his thoughts drifting to last night. He remembered how good Sam had felt in his arms, and he was surprised he didn’t feel more awkward about it today. He wondered whether Sam would want to share a bed tonight. Ryan hoped so.

They put more wood on the fire, and Sam settled down to read a battered old Agatha Christie mystery he’d found on the dresser, while Ryan played a game on his phone for an hour or so. Then they were hungry again—Ryan blamed the cold for his constant need to eat, so they heated up some soup for lunch and ate it with lots of bread and butter.

After they’d eaten, Ryan was feeling restless. Normally a very active person, the confinement of the cottage was starting to make him antsy. Sam seemed happy curled up on the sofa reading, but Ryan needed to do something.

“I’m going to go and find more firewood.”

The logs in the basket were running a little low. If the ones in the shed were damp, it would be good to bring some in to dry out.

Sam looked up, his hair falling over his eyes. “Need any help?”

“No, it’s fine. I just need something to do.”

Sam smiled. “You’re like a dog who needs walking.”

Ryan didn’t try and deny it. “Yeah, well. You’re a lazy fucker. Some of us like to be busy.”

“Go and be busy. I’ll be here chilling out. But I want to go out in the snow again later.”


Ryan was glad to find a generous supply of nice-looking logs stacked up in the shed. They were too big to burn as they were, but he’d found an axe, so he spent a happy half hour splitting them into more manageable pieces. By the time he was done, his shoulders were aching and he was hot and sweating. He’d stripped down to his T-shirt and had his fleece tied around his waist.

Ryan loaded up the basket and carried them back inside, to find Sam dozing on the sofa. He’d slumped back and his book was lying open on his chest, rising and falling almost imperceptibly as he breathed. Ryan took the opportunity to study him for a moment. A tangled strand of hair lay across Sam’s cheek. Ryan’s fingers itched with the urge to brush it away and feel the dusting of stubble on Sam’s jaw.

Instead he poked Sam in the ribs with his sock-clad toes and wiggled them until Sam squirmed.

“Ugh. Bastard.” Sam grabbed Ryan’s ankle and tugged until Ryan lost his balance and fell on top of him. They wrestled for a moment, laughing. “You’re squashing my book.”

He shoved hard and Ryan rolled, falling into the space between sofa and coffee table. “Ouch!”

“Serves you right, you brute.” Sam grinned down at him, triumphant. Then his gaze drifted a little, and Ryan realised his T-shirt had ridden up to show his abs. Ryan was pretty proud of his abs, so he didn’t normally mind showing them off, but the way Sam’s eyes darkened as he stared at them made Ryan feel uncomfortably hot. He got up quickly, realising as he did so that he was getting hard just from the hungry look Sam had given him.
Bloody hell
. He was never going to get through these next few days without Sam noticing something. Part of Ryan wanted him to notice, but he was conflicted. What would it mean for their friendship if he did?


That afternoon they set out across the fields near the cottage, where a footpath was signposted. The snow was mostly pristine. It was marked in a few places by sheep tracks, but most of the animals had clustered down near a shelter in the bottom of the valley, eating from troughs rather than trying to graze.

Afterwards, Sam denied he’d started it.

He’d been aiming for the tree behind Ryan, not at Ryan himself, he insisted. But whatever its intended target, Sam’s snowball hit Ryan perfectly on the back of his neck, exploding on impact and sending powdery snow down the gap between beanie and jacket.

After that, mayhem ensued.
Snowballs flying as they ran and ducked, laughing and trash-talking each other.
They were in a small copse with a few trees and bushes for cover, but as soon as one of them ventured out in search of a new patch of snow to make missiles with, the other would take the opportunity to release a fresh barrage of snowballs.

Finally, frustrated by Sam’s surprisingly good aim, Ryan reverted to his rugby skills and tackled Sam, knocking him full length into the snow
with an “
!” Of course, Ryan went down too. But by then he was too wet and cold to care.

They were on a slope, and the impact caused them to roll together, over and over until Ryan wondered if they were going to turn into a giant snowball like characters in a cartoon. But they finally came to rest, panting and laughing as the slope levelled out.

Sam ended up pinned beneath Ryan, laughing out loud. He’d lost his hat at some point in their tumble, and his hair was in his eyes. Snow crystals had caught in it, glinting in the sunlight. His smile was wide and infectious, and Ryan laughed too, dazzled for a moment. Then Sam’s gaze drifted over Ryan’s shoulder and focused on something above them.

“Is that mistletoe?” he asked.

Ryan pushed himself up and offered a hand to Sam to help him back onto his feet. Then he tilted his head back to squint at the spherical tangle of leaves in the bare branches of the tree above them. “I think so.”

Ryan met Sam’s eyes again, then realised he was still holding his hand. They each had gloves on, and Ryan wished they didn’t. He wanted to feel Sam’s skin. They stared at each other for a moment, and Sam licked his lips. They were pink, a little chapped from the cold, and Ryan’s gaze locked onto them. His heart surged, and panicky heat flooded him.

He dropped Sam’s hand as though it had burnt him and stepped back quickly. He thought he saw a flash of disappointment on Sam’s face.

“My toes are going numb, and I’ve got half a ton of snow down the back of my shirt,” Ryan said. “Are you ready to head back?”


They trudged back up the hill. Neither of them spoke till they were back at the cottage, both lost in their own thoughts.


“Bloody hell, I’m freezing.” Ryan shivered as he pulled off his snow-damp clothes.

They’d built up the fire again as soon as they got back and were spreading their wet things out to dry, draped over the fireguard.

They’d both stripped down to their boxers—the only items of clothing that weren’t wet from snowballs and rolling around in the snow. Ryan couldn’t help himself from admiring the lean grace of Sam’s half-naked body. His skin was incredibly pale, and his nipples were dark pink, tiny and tight from the cold. Ryan caught a flash of reddish brown armpit hair as Sam lifted his hand to push his damp hair out of his eyes. A matching trail of hair led from his belly button down to the bulge in his brightly patterned boxer briefs. Ryan’s gaze stuck there. He couldn’t help himself.

“Like my jingle bells, do you?”

Ryan snapped his attention back to Sam’s amused expression.

“Huh?” Ryan’s mouth was dry, and he was sure his face must be an attractive shade of crimson at being caught staring at his best mate’s package.

“My Christmas boxers.” Sam gestured back at his groin, so Ryan allowed his eyes to dip again. He belatedly noticed that Sam’s bright red boxers were patterned with pairs of yellow bells tied together with green ribbon.

“Oh, yeah,” Ryan tried to make his voice sound normal, but it came out as a bit of a squeak. “Very festive, mate,” he managed.

“Blame my sister. She bought them for me last year as a joke, but I think they’re quite cute.”

Sam turned away and stooped to poke at the fire. The curve of his arse and the length of his pale legs were distracting.

Far too bloody cute
, Ryan thought.

He forced himself to turn away and stop staring. “Okay. I’m going to have that shower.” He probably needed to make it a cold one.

“I’ll come up and get some dry clothes to change into.”

Sam followed Ryan up the stairs, and all the way Ryan was wondering whether Sam was looking at his arse now the way he’d been looking at Sam’s before. Sam was gay, so surely he must notice other blokes’ arses as a matter of course, even if he wasn’t into them. Just like straight guys checked out girls’ boobs all the time. But could Sam be into Ryan?

Ryan mulled it over as he scrubbed himself quickly in the cramped shower cubicle in the not-quite-hot-enough water. The way Sam had looked at him a few times in the last couple of days had Ryan wondering.
And the weird, thrilling moment under the mistletoe earlier….
For a few heady seconds he’d thought Sam might actually try and kiss him. But of course Sam thought Ryan was straight, so there was no way he’d ever make a move. If Ryan wanted anything to happen between them—and he was starting to think maybe he did—he was going to need to be the one to say something… or do something.

When Ryan got out of the shower, he found Sam in their bedroom, dressed again and putting on his socks. The fire downstairs had done nothing to warm the air in this room. Ryan shivered as a trickle of water ran down his neck.

“God, it’s bloody arctic in here.”

Sam raised his head. Ryan felt his cheeks heat as Sam’s gaze snagged on his belly and torso before finally meeting Ryan’s.

There it was again
. The heat in Sam’s eyes he’d never noticed before.

“Would the other bedroom be any warmer?” Sam went back to putting his socks on. “It’s over the living room rather than the kitchen.”

Ryan turned away and crouched to rummage in his case for clean underwear as he replied.

“Yeah, I reckon it must be. The chimney goes up through that room, so it should get a little more heat from downstairs.” He straightened up and tried, and failed, not to feel self-conscious as he dropped his towel and stepped quickly into his underwear, wondering if Sam was looking at him again.

“Maybe we should sleep in there tonight,” Sam suggested. “If you don’t mind sharing again?”

“Sure.” Ryan carried on getting dressed, hiding his smile with the T-shirt he pulled over his head.

“It makes sense.” Sam sounded as though he thought Ryan needed convincing. “No point in us both being cold. It’s like penguins, isn’t it—huddling or whatever they call it?”

“Sam, I don’t mind sharing. You don’t snore or smell or anything. It’s fine. It’s a good idea.”

When he looked at Sam, Sam was adjusting the toe of his sock and avoiding Ryan’s eyes. But his cheeks were pink, and a hint of a grin lurked at the corners of his lips.


They ended up getting a bit tipsy on the cheap wine that evening. Full of dinner—stuff out of tins again—they holed up in the living room in front of the fire and worked their way through a bottle and a half of red wine while they played backgammon.

The competition was less fierce tonight. After all, backgammon was more a game of luck than skill. But they ribbed each other as they played, taking great satisfaction in sending each other’s pieces to the bar or blocking them as they tried to get back on the board.

When they tired of the game, they sat at opposite ends of the sofa. But as it was only a tiny two-seater, their legs pressed up against each other, Sam’s toes by Ryan’s hips and vice versa. As they finished off the wine in their glasses, Ryan was pleasantly woozy. Warm contentment filled him as he looked around the little room. Dimly lit by one lamp in the corner, it was cosy. The fire crackled, and as he breathed in, he could smell the faint scent of woodsmoke that permeated the cottage.

Sam wiggled his toes and Ryan grabbed them.

“Stop fidgeting.” He held them still.

“They’re cold,” Sam complained. “I was trying to get the circulation back.”

“Even with two pairs of socks?”

Sam shrugged. “They never warmed up after getting wet in the snow earlier. That’s good. Keep going.”

Ryan hadn’t even noticed he’d started rubbing Sam’s feet, but he continued, trying to warm them with his hands. He could feel how cold they were even through the fabric. Sam sighed and settled back, a blissful smile on his face.


Later that night they settled into the double bed together. It was much more comfortable than the single had been—less cramped, of course. But despite the extra space, they still wrapped themselves around each other.

BOOK: Cold Feet
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton
Loving You by Maureen Child
Tear of the Gods by Alex Archer
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld