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Snowed In: Zack and Richard

By L.J. Hamlin

Published by JMS Books LLC at Smashwords

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Copyright 2019 L.J. Hamlin

ISBN 9781634868266

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Cover Design: Written Ink Designs |

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published in the United States of America.

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To dodger sister.

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Snowed In: Zack and Richard

By L.J. Hamlin

The lights flicker and then go out, TV, everything off, and Zack isn’t surprised. It’s been snowing heavily since the night before. Zack gets up and puts his coat on. He’s worried about his neighbor, Richard. He doesn’t know him well, but he knows he has severe asthma and weak lungs. The month before, when it had first gotten cold, Zack had seen an ambulance trying to get to the house and had used his truck to help it.

Pulling on boots, a scarf and a hat, Zack puts his hood up and heads out into the snow to check on Richard. When he gets close, Zack is surprised to see lights shining from Richard’s windows. His power doesn’t seem to be out. Zack looks down as far as he can to the next snowed in house, and it is lit up too. He curses. Of course, he loses power, and no one else does. This is just not his day.

Zack trudges through the snow to get to Richard’s door and rings the doorbell. After a few minutes, Richard opens the door. He’s wearing an oversized sweater and lounge pants and fluffy slippers. He looks relaxed and great, and Zack feels a little silly for worrying, but in the short time since Zack moved to this street he has grown to care about Richard. The forty-something year old is handsome and kind with a delightful sense of humor.

“Hey, Zack. What are you doing out in this horrid weather?” Richard asks, his breath blooming in the air like ice flowers.

“My power went out, and I wanted to check on you, I know without the heat your breathing might act up. But I can see your lights are on, so I should leave you be,” Zack fusses. He doesn’t want to show his hand. He assumes Richard is bisexual from the pride flag sticker on his car, but he doesn’t know if Richard is involved with anyone or if he’s single if he’d want to date his thirty-year-old, divorced, late to come out, demiromantic bisexual neighbor.

“That’s so kind of you. Disabled rule one for living in an area that gets snowed in: I have a backup generator and an open fire, so if my power does go out, I’ll be warm. I’m guessing you don’t have those things, coming from the city?” Richard doesn’t sound judgmental, more concerned.

Zack cringed anyway “You guess right. No power, no backup, no fireplace. And even my truck isn’t getting to the main road to go to a hotel.”

“Why don’t you come in till your power comes back on? Warm up a bit,” Richard suggests.

“Really? That’d be awesome.” Zack knows Richard is a nice guy, but he’s still surprised. Before Zack inherited some money and decided to move to the country, he’d lived a few places. His neighbors were never awful, but none of them would have invited him in to stay for who knows how long during a snowstorm.

“Yes, come on in. My book and whisky club had to cancel, so the company will be nice for a bit.” Richard opens the door a little wider in offer.

Zack stamps snow off of his boots and steps inside. “Thank you. Book and whisky club?”

Richard closes the door behind them. “Pretty much how it sounds. A group of us have a book club. We read a book, meet up to talk about it, but when we do, we all chip in for some good whisky to drink while we talk.”

“Okay to take my layers off? And that sounds really cool. Back in the city I used to go to poker nights. Those were fun. Gonna start one at my house, have my friends come up and stay, cook, drink too much.” Zack smiles. He’s been thinking about it a lot. He doesn’t want to lose track of his friends now that he’s moved.

“You can hang everything on that post. Poker, you any good?” Richard asks.

Zack starts stripping off layers. “I’m not bad. Do you play? You’re more than welcome to come join us for a game.”

“I do play. Been a while since I had a proper game. But I’m sure you and your friends don’t want an old man hanging around and taking your money.” Richard winks at the last part.

Zack laughs. “You make it sound like I’m eighteen and you’re seventy. You’re not old enough I’d feel bad about taking your money.”

“Come warm up by the fire, and we can argue about who’d take whose money.” Richard leads the way over to his sitting area, and gestures to one of the seats close to the open fire.

Zack sits down and looks at the photos on the mantel. There’s one of a wedding, Richard in a suit kissing a beautiful plump woman in a white wedding dress.

“You’re married?” Zack blurts.

“Not anymore. She wanted different things. Still good friends. Honestly, best friends and better than before, but I’m a bachelor. I, um, hear you got divorced before you moved here. Small town, people gossip. Your realtor is in my book group,” Richard explains, and Zack has to hide that he’s pleased that Richard isn’t dating anyone. They might not have talked about their backgrounds, but they’ve had nice conversations out front of their houses, and Zack is definitely crushing on Richard. Not just because of his sexy silver beard and deep brown eyes. Those appeal to part of Zack, but not all of him. It’s the humor and kindness he sees in Richard that has him feeling like he’s back in high school.

“I did. We’re not friends anymore. I didn’t tell Greg, the house guy, why, but my wife left me. Divorce went through just before my grandfather passed and left me some money, so I guess timing could have been worse. She didn’t get half.” Zack sighs, feeling the familiar hurt and sorrow clawing up his chest. He wonders if this is how Richard feels all the time, the tightness, and it’s on the tip of his tongue to ask, when Richard speaks.

“I’m sorry. Divorce can be rough. Do you want a whisky? I was going to put some in a coffee to warm my chest. This cold is hammering me,” Richard offers.

“Yes, please. I’d like a coffee, too, if that’s okay. Not straight, too early.” Zack paused, waiting for Richard to walk to the open-plan kitchen.

“Not going to ask why? Most people do.” Zack hasn’t even told his parents why Lisa left him yet, but he doesn’t know what it is about Richard. He makes Zack want to bare his soul every time they talk.

“Why she left? That’s your business. You can tell me, and it’ll go no further, but you don’t have to,” Richard says as he goes about making the spiked coffee.

Zack takes a breath and focuses on his hands. “She wanted kids.”

“You didn’t?” Richard prompts when Zack faulted.

“I did. We tried. Nothing happened for months, so we got tested. Lisa, my ex, she was fine, fertile, not a single issue. Me, I was sterile. She left the same week. I think it was the last straw. She was never comfortable with me after I came out as bisexual. It didn’t fit her image of the perfect couple. She tried to fix us with a kid. I couldn’t, so she left,” Zack says, staring hard at the cuticle of his thumbnail, until his eyes go a little blurry. He blinks to clear them, and Richard is placing a cup of coffee on the low table in front of him.

“I’m sorry, so sorry. That’s so shitty. My wife knew I was bisexual when we met, was never an issue for her. I had to talk to a therapist to deal with it and come out. If you need a pro to talk to in town, I can give you some numbers,” Richard offers, no pity, just trying to help, wanting to make it better. Zack could really fall for a man like Richard. He suspects he might already be half gone.

“Thank you. I think I’m doing okay. I have a lot of friends. They don’t know the full situation, but we talk. Kind of wish I knew more queer people, though, to talk about being bi and demiromantic. I was too nervous to go to many gay bars in the city, but now I have no idea where to start, and bars are not really my thing anymore,” Zack admits.

“There’s a cafe friends and I go to that’s pretty LGBTQA+ friendly. Great coffee and tea selection. Fresh baked cakes. You should come with us some time, if you like,” Richard offers.

Zack smiles and sips his coffee. “I wouldn’t want to intrude, but I’d like that.”

“You wouldn’t be intruding. A lot of my friends have mentioned wanting to get to know my new neighbor after I brought you up a few times. I’m afraid I mentioned how you do tax work from home, and a few want to hire you!” Richard says casually, but Zack can’t help but wonder why Richard has been talking about him and what he’s said other than stating Zack’s occupation.

“Always happy to have more clients, so don’t worry. And like I said before, if you need help with yours, please ask. I know running a bookstore, you’re probably used to it.” Zack has been into Richard’s bookstore in town a few times. It’s a nice place, a mixture of modern and older books.

“Actually, I might take you up on your offer. I used to do it myself, but now that I need glasses for reading, pouring over all the receipts and such is a lot harder,” Richard admits.

“Happy to help, anytime,” Zack says, trying to warm his hands on his coffee cup.

“Still cold?” Richard asks.

“Yes, I got colder going outside than I thought.” Zack takes another sip, trying to warm himself from the inside.

“I’ll put some more wood on the fire, and I have some sweaters that would fit over what you’re wearing, if you want another warm dry layer?” Richard offers.

“I don’t want to be a bother. I’m putting you out enough by being here,” Zack says, feeling bad.

“Nonsense, with my book club members all snowed in, I could use the company. You’re not putting me out at all. I like to host. Now wait there. I’ll get you a sweater,” Richard gets up and goes over to a closet. He comes back with a large patterned zip-up sweater.

Zack stands and takes the offered clothing and slips it on over what he’s already wearing. As he zips it up, he gets a whiff of a smoky and sweet aftershave, slightly spicy. Zack has caught the scent on Richard before. He zips up fully, trying to look as if he’s breathing in deeply. Crushes are a rare thing for Zack, and this one had been far from instant, but being wrapped up in Richards clothing makes Zack want to revert to his teen years and write in his journal about his dreamy neighbor.

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