Out of all the people in all the world to be stuck in the snow with, it had to be him.
I was not going to whine and look weak. Not even in my head. I wasn’t a kid anymore and this wasn’t a bad eighties teen drama. I wasn’t going to be pushed around. If he wanted to side with the fuckers, that was his prerogative.
But that didn’t mean I had to take it.
I just had to find my anger and not get distracted by sweet smiles and muscles wrapped in tight cotton.
Unfortunately, staring up at Forest Patterson, the man of all my teenage fantasies, I knew it wouldn’t be that easy. He’d starred in so many of my horny adolescent dreams, anger would never be my first reaction when I looked at him. He was the tender, strong man who’d always had something nice to say to the shy child who followed him around.
Forest wasn’t mean…at least, the man I remembered wasn’t.
Maybe if the ride up the mountain had been less nerve-racking or maybe if I hadn’t needed to fight so hard to get the time off, it would’ve been easier to take him standing there, but I was done. It was all just too much.
Suddenly, finding the anger I’d wanted to aim at someone for so long wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared.
“I don’t give a fuck what they told you. I’m not driving down that goddamned mountain in this weather! This is my time and you know it.” His eyes flashed with dark emotions as he stalked toward the porch.
If I thought he was sexy when he was angry, I was smart enough not to show it.
My standing stupidly in the doorway didn’t seem to help his emotional instability. But in my defense, I had no idea what he was talking about and it was incredible to see little Joe all grown up. I shouldn’t have found him hot considering I’d known him since he was five.
But the man standing in front of me only vaguely resembled the little boy he’d once been.
Especially the anger part.
Little Joe had been sweet and almost painfully shy. I could still picture him peeking around the wall by the staircase whenever I would visit his parents’ house. Even as he’d gotten older, he would smile hesitantly before quietly escaping any dinner party his family dragged him to.
I didn’t get much out before he cut me off, but it seemed to only make his anger worse. “I’m a part-fucking-owner and this is my week. The goddamned lawyers I had to hire to make sure I got use it cost me a fucking fortune! The rest of the assholes that raised me might have money lying around like toilet paper, but some of us have to work for a goddamned living.”
“Enough.” My harsh tone seemed to shock him into silence, so I used the few seconds of quiet to my advantage. Letting my voice soften slightly, I kept it stern. “You are allowed to be frustrated, but I will not have you cursing at me.”
The yelling wasn’t helpful either.
Stepping back inside from where I’d been standing on the covered porch, I kept my expression rigid but not angry. “The yelling stops right now. Take a deep breath, and once you’ve calmed down you can come inside and we’ll talk, but I won’t be screamed at.”
Joe was just standing there in a T-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes that had seen better days in the freezing cold staring at me like I’d grown a second head. At some point his anger would come back, so I tried to figure out how to stop it in its tracks. At least until I could figure out what he was so frustrated about. “I have no idea what you’re talking about—and as for you driving down the mountain, of course not. With how badly the snow is coming down, I wouldn’t allow that under any circumstances.”
The news had been talking for days about the snowstorm that would be coming, and every time they brought it up the snow totals got higher. I was as set as I could be. I had food and I’d spent several days adding more wood to the pile in the back. Clearing my brain and getting some exercise had been bonus rewards on top of making sure I didn’t freeze if the power went out.
When Joe didn’t move or yell, I tried again. “Are you ready to come inside?”
He nodded slowly, reaching down automatically to grab the duffel bag at his feet. He’d dropped the tightly packed bag as soon as he’d seen me in the doorway. From what I could tell, he’d been planning on staying at the cabin, but that didn’t mesh with what his father had told me.
As he headed inside, I shut the door and pointed to the living room. If we could sit down and talk, maybe we could figure out what had happened. “Now there seems to be a misunderstanding—”
“Oh yeah, misunderstanding.” Joe snorted as he followed me into the warm room. “Let me guess. My father said that no one was using the place this time of year, so you’d be doing him a favor if you watched it.”
As he rolled his eyes, flopping down into one of the easy chairs, I thought back to the conversation with his father. “Yes, that’s almost exactly how it went. We met up again online. It’s been a few years, but since I’m back in the States now, I wanted to catch up with old friends. I’d said I was looking for a place to rent for a few weeks so I could relax and he offered up the cabin.”
I’d thought it’d just been fate that the perfect place had dropped into my lap, but maybe I should have questioned fate a bit more thoroughly.
Everything came with fine print these days.
His laughter was rough and jaded as he shook his head. “Yeah, that’s my father for you, always being the great guy.”
I wasn’t going to touch that statement with a ten-foot pole until I figured out what was up.
When I didn’t respond, Joe continued. “My family are some of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met. I’ve accepted that. But what I won’t accept is them giving away something that isn’t theirs to begin with. Since you seem to have no idea what’s going on, I’ll enlighten you.”
I was used to the feeling of being dropped into an utter mess, but this was the first time it’d happened away from my job with Doctors Without Borders.
“Thank you.” I wasn’t going to say much more until I had all the facts.
Joe chuckled dryly. “You’re just as polite as I remember.”
At least he realized I wasn’t a squatter.
When he continued, I tried to project calm like I would when I was working, but I wasn’t sure it was helping. He wasn’t yelling but frustration was still radiating from him. “When I was a kid, Granddad died and left this place split between me and my father. I think Grandad realized that his son would sell it if given half a chance, so he put it in a trust and made sure it couldn’t be sold.”
He paused. “Ringing any bells?”
I ignored the bratty tone and focused on the words, keeping my voice even. “No, your father always gave the impression the cabin was his. I think I remember him talking at one point about wanting to sell it, but then he changed his mind…something about keeping it for you and your brother.”
Joe’s father and I had never been what I could call close, but after working together for several years when Joe was young, I thought we were at least honest acquaintances. I was starting to get the impression he hadn’t taken losing that promotion as well as I’d thought he had.
This was starting to feel more and more like a setup.
Joe snorted and rolled his eyes again. It seemed to be his favorite expression. He probably thought it made him look edgy and angry, but I thought it was kind of cute. “Yeah, he was so nice. His lawyer just couldn’t figure out a way to break the trust.”
That sounded more like the truth than the magnanimous version his father had told.
“So you came into your share at eighteen?” There were still a lot of holes in the story, but some of the gaps were starting to get filled in.
The biggest ones were still gapingly empty, however.
His eyes narrowed. “If you call having to work three jobs and living out of my car to afford a lawyer getting my share then yes.”
“What happened, Joe?” When he just stared like I was being an asshole, I continued. “No, I’m serious. I’ve been out of the country for almost seven years. It’s been close to nine since I had much contact with your family. Hell, the last time I remember seeing you, I don’t think you’d even reached puberty yet. You were still a short skinny thing with wide eyes who had a habit of hiding at first every time I came over. I have no idea what went wrong with your family, but I can see you’re upset.”
Nothing about his reactions said he was making it up. He was too angry and his emotions were too raw.
Something about bringing up the past had him wincing, but he pushed it away and anger was back in a flash. “Right, I’m sure you never heard about me getting kicked out or about all my perversions.”
“No. Your father and I never talked about personal things like that. I don’t know how he would describe our relationship, but it was very surface and polite for me. That’s it. He never even met any of the men I dated.” I thought I’d get that one out there just in case it was something he needed to know.
But these days being labeled a pervert could be for any number of things.
Straight people could be kinky as well.
Last week I’d heard some little old lady use it to describe her granddaughter’s boyfriend. I wasn’t sure what he was into, but the grandma was shocked and the granddaughter just kept giggling. Not that I was being nosy. They’d just been loud.
From the way he froze, I’d at least hit part of the nail on the head. But it was definitely going in crooked because something about his reaction said that wasn’t the only issue. “Right, my dad would never be friends with a gay guy.”
Did his dad know I was gay?
“I’m pretty sure it’s come up at some point, but when your father and I were initially working together I had a serious lover who was in the closet. He met a few of my closest friends, but that was it.” Matt had been so deep in the closet he’d probably found Narnia, but it’d worked for me because it kept the kinks I had hidden in the closet at that point company.
We stayed together for several years until he’d moved to take a new job across the country. It’d stung at the time, but looking back, it had probably been the best thing that could have happened.
“Like I said, we weren’t close, so I just don’t know. It might’ve been one of those things he ignored to keep the peace. I don’t know how much you remember, but I got a promotion your dad had been gunning for. When I got it, that meant he probably felt he had to mind his manners.” Being out and gay hadn’t been the easiest thing at that point in my career, but I’d been damned good at my job. There was no way anyone would have taken the risk of my quitting, so if he’d been homophobic, chances were he’d have known to keep those views to himself.
“I can see him picking his job over his morals. He chose his morals over his kid, so it makes sense in a warped way.” As his snark faded, Joe gave me a long look.
When I didn’t respond, he kept going, finally admitting some of what had made his father lose his mind. “Yeah, I’m gay. He found out and it was all downhill from there.”
“I’m very sorry. I had no idea.” I wanted to look away and give him a moment to get his feelings under control, but I knew he’d take that wrong. Staring him in the eyes, I tried to let him see how sorry I was. “The last time your father talked about you, it was something about going off to college.”
Looking back, I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could have done. Should I have made more of an effort to stay in contact?
Joe scoffed. “Yeah, with what money? They showed me the door the day I graduated high school.”
None of the people I’d gotten back in contact with had said anything about this. The medical field could be a very small world and even the strongest allies of the LGBT community in the area hadn’t mentioned anything about it.
“I honestly thought you were off at school. I’ve been out of the country for several years, but everything I’ve heard lately made it sound like you were off doing your own thing.” Thinking back to the conversation his father and I had last week, I couldn’t remember if he’d specifically said anything about Joe.
That earned me another scathing look. “Yeah, that’s what rich people call working two jobs and barely scraping by.”
I knew there was more to the story than he was sharing, even though what he’d already said was enough to explain his anger. I wanted to say I couldn’t imagine his father doing all that, but the more I thought about it, the less surprised I was.
“I’m sorry I’ve ruined your vacation.” I finally looked away, studying the cabin. As I focused back on Joe, I shrugged. “I don’t know how to fix this. The roads down are just too dangerous now and I honestly don’t have anywhere else to go.”
That sounded overly dramatic, so I continued. “I’m back in the States now, but all my furniture is in storage and I haven’t even decided what my next step is. In a few days I can find a hotel or something, but until then…”
I shrugged again, not sure what to say next. He didn’t need to know that part of my problem was a complete mental blank about what to do next with my life. Going back to Doctors Without Borders was always an option, but I wasn’t sure if that was the right decision any longer. I loved the job, but…
Joe nodded, some of the anger finally starting to fade. “That’s fine.”
He watched me closely for several long seconds before he stood. “I have a few more things in the car to grab.”
“I’ll help.” I tried to follow, but he shook his head.
“No, I’ve got it.” There was something in his voice that said he didn’t need help from anyone. I couldn’t decide how much of that was just who he was and how much was a defense mechanism against the past few years.
The sweet boy and shy teenager I’d known seemed to be gone and in his place was an angry, bitter man that felt the world—or at least his family—had screwed him over. Maybe it was stupid, but part of me mourned for that boy.
Was there anything left of him in the man who would be sharing the cabin with me for the next few days or was he gone forever?
When Joseph gets trapped with his father’s former coworker in one of the worst snowstorms of the year, he starts to wonder what ancient god he must’ve pissed off. After being kicked out of the house at eighteen and having to make his way on his own, the last thing he wants is to be stuck with the sexy older man.
Forest isn’t looking for a relationship, but when Joseph steps back into his life, grown up and hurting, he can’t walk away. Maybe it’s the Daddy Dom in him, but leaving Joseph confused and angry goes against everything he believes in. But getting Joseph to open up is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to helping him move on from the past.
When a boy is frustrated and confused, can a temporary Daddy step in and help, or will unexpected emotions steer things in a surprising new direction?
Story Contains: MM Sexual Content, BDSM elements, Spankings, and Age Play (no ABDL)