A cold, midnight rain pattering against the tin roof.
“We should be drinking whiskey,” Violet said. “Something to warm our bones.”
I set another birch log on the fire and crawled back onto the bearskin rug where Vi had sprawled with her wineglass.
“You’re already cold?” I asked.
“I’m a southern girl. I’m always freezing.”
“Hate to say it, but that doesn’t bode well for you this winter.”
“How cold does it get here? Worst case scenario.”
“Fifty below. Sixty on a bad day.”
“I won’t even get out of bed.”
I sipped my wine, glanced at the fireshadows flickering in the rafters over the loft—what had once been my office now converted into Violet’s bedroom and her four-month-old Max’s nursery. He slept up there in bliss, the warmest spot in the cabin, where the heat of the fire gathered.
I studied the firelight flush across Violet’s face.
I’d shunned it, fought it, tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t deny what I felt in the pit of my stomach. I was falling...hard...for this woman.
“What is it?” Vi said.
“No...you have this look.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She smirked. “Are you crushing on me, Andy?”
I blushed through to the tips of my ears, wondering if she could see the color in the lowlight.
“Little bit, I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s completely understandable. I’m adorable.”
I laughed, my eyes closing only for a second, and when they opened again, Violet had leaned in so close I could smell the wine on her breath.
Her green eyes were flecked with black. This I hadn’t noticed before.
“I want this.”
“You’re sure? Because if you have any doubt—”
She shut me up with a kiss.
I could’ve lived there.
We came apart, the corners of my mouth electrified with the taste of her. I ran my hand over the curve of her hip, wondering how far we were going to take this.
“I haven’t,” I said. “Not in a long time.”
“Haven’t what? What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, I just—”
“Wait.” She recoiled. “You think we’re going to sleep together?”
“No, I just thought—”
“I’m kidding, we are.”
“Why do you torture me?”
“Because it’s so easy?”
She set her wineglass on the floorboard and pulled me on top of her.
“Tell the truth,” she whispered. “How many times have you imagined this moment?”
I smiled, feeling her thighs against my ribs.
“You’ve been through a lot, Vi.”
“We both have.”
“It hasn’t even been a year.”
“It’s been long enough for me to know who you are. Stop trying to talk me out of this.”
So I kissed her, my hands running over her body in some kind of wonder. The fire raged behind us and the rain intensified. I had imagined this moment, many times, since the beginning of summer at least and still it didn’t feel anything like my fantasies. I loved her now, and that made everything better.
“Do you want to move over to my bed?” I whispered in her ear.
And still I could barely bring myself to separate from her. Such a sweet and perfect place.
I got onto my knees and helped her up.
“God, you’re beautiful.”
I would’ve undressed her right there in the firelight if it hadn’t been so cold. I wished we’d done this in the summertime.
“I’m just going to run up to the loft for a second,” she said. “Go get under the covers and warm it up for us.”
I stood and moved across the cold floorboards toward the nook under the loft where my bed sat in darkness.
The wine had gone to my head, everything so pleasantly humming.
Violet climbed the ladder toward the loft.
My heart pounded under my sweater.
Reaching the bed, I tugged back the covers, wondering if I should be naked waiting for her, or if maybe there wasn’t something implicitly sleazy about that.
I crawled under the blankets and opted to play it safe, stay dressed for now.
I could hear Violet moving around directly above me in the loft, the boards creaking, thinking how many nights had I lain here in the dark listening to her movements, hoping she felt what I did, that she might decide to creep down the ladder in the middle of the night and join me in bed. A part of me still didn’t quite believe it was about to happen.
It was cold under the blankets, and I was drawing them up to my chin to keep in the heat when Violet shrieked.
I bolted up.
“Andy!” she screamed.
I jumped out of bed, rushed over to the ladder.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, climbing.
I stepped into the loft.
Dark up here and nothing to see except where the firelight reflected off surfaces of metal and glass.
“Who?” I asked, but I understood the moment my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I saw Vi leaning over into the crib, shuffling through the blankets.
“Max,” she said.
“There’s no way he could have crawled out?”
“He’s four months, Andy. He can’t even roll over.”
I turned on a lamp and moved toward her.
“You put him down after supper, right?”
She nodded, wild-eyed, her pupils dilated, chest billowing.
“He went down fast. Ten minutes. Then I came down and we were talking by the fire for what? A couple hours?”
Vi shook. “This isn’t right, Andy. This isn’t right.”
I stepped around the crib toward the only possible exit from the loft—a two-by-two square foot window just under the pitch of the roof.
“Is it open?” she asked.
I knelt down, studied the hasps. “No. But it isn’t locked.”
“I’m ninety percent sure it...fuck.”
Vi hurried over.
I touched the floorboards.
“They’re wet.” A cold, sinking blast of panic ran through me. “Someone was up here while we were down there.”