Cabin Fever

[ pedo, bond ]

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Published: 23-8-2012

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This work is Copyrighted to the author. All people and events in this story are entirely fictitious.

Howling wind whipped across the road, sending blinding swirls of snow skittering across the pavement. Michael silently cursed, his breath frostily steaming in the cabin, as the raging gale made his truck start to fishtail. The storm wasn't supposed to hit until several hours later, otherwise he'd've never taken so long.

Then again, it wasn't as if he'd had any choice in the matter. He needed the supplies in the bed. Needed them desperately. Which meant he had to make the long drive to town. Meant he'd had to, once again, prostrate himself for credit. And that was after he'd spent twelve hours doing the plumbing work for old man Johnson, bartering the labor involved for some of the supplies.

His mutterings grew louder as the whipping wind screamed against the geriatric truck, making it shimmy and vibrate, blasting its icy fingers through every crack and crevice. The windshield wipers creakily churned back and forth, more smearing the melting flakes and spitting sleet then actually clearing the glass. They should have been replaced, long ago but, like most everything else, those were an expense he couldn't afford. He reached down, half-heartedly jiggled the heater slide, which was fitfully blowing freezing air inside. The heater had stopped working two years ago, but still . . . he couldn't help but jiggle it, hoping for perhaps a miracle.

No such luck. He might as well just drive with the windows down. Dammit! Of all times for old man Johnson to play games! Already the snow was starting to lay, covering the asphalt, hiding the lane and shoulder markings. Which was bad, considering the wind was blowing the flakes damn near horizontal to start with! Considering the tires were more banana-skin then treaded, if much more accumulated he'd be in serious trouble.

Michael snorted to himself. Yeah, right. Like his life was anything to brag about to begin with. The truck was older then he was, a '58 Ford his Pa had bought used, that had definitely seen better days; windshield cracked, clutch that slipped, the floorpan rotted out in places, only adding to the refrigeration inside. But . . . it still ran, and that was all that mattered.

Much like the farm: old, past its years, but still functioning. Thanks to Michael.

Wiping the inside glass clear of fogged condensation Michael concentrated on driving. Montana snowstorms were nothing to play with, especially this far out in the boonies, and most especially with an old, broken-down wreck like the Ford. If he went sliding off the road and into a drift, he'd freeze to death, probably not found until the spring thaw.

Not that anyone would miss him, he gloomily thought. Not since Ma died, anyway.

Funny how his life had turned out. The eldest of three kids, he'd just started his sophomore year of High School when his Pa had died. Driver error was the official cause of the accident. Drunk as a skunk - as usual - and his own damned fault, was the judgment of virtually everyone else. Michael couldn't disagree with the unofficial judgment, although it pained him to do so. He'd loved his old man. He'd been a hard worker, and a reasonable father, to boot. A bit of a temper - especially if he'd been drinking; which he did, a lot - true. And hard. But not harsh, or abusive. Well, not according to common practice then, anyway, although by today's standards he'd probably be considered so. But Michael'd never thought of him as abusive, as he was as quick to forgive as he was to correct.

Things were looking good, before he'd died. Although only a sophomore, he was already on the Varsity football team, playing noseguard. Even that early, there were mutterings about him being good enough to earn a collegiate scholarship. But his sister and brother were too young to be of much help around the farm. So Michael made the difficult decision to drop out of high school, give up any possible future with pro football, to help his Ma with the farm, and also let his siblings continue on with school.

Which they did, both of them graduating with honors. Both of them earning scholarships to college.

Both of them brushing the dust from their shoes as fast as possible, moving away and never looking back. Never a 'thank you' to their brother for his sacrifice. Never a 'thank you' to their Ma, for all she sacrificed for them. Never a dime sent back to help, when things got brutally tight. Not even when Sarah was a MD, Julius an attorney, both making in one year what took years at the farm.

And both dead before their thirtieth birthdays. Sarah from AIDS, contracted from her wild, carefree college days of frequent - and unprotected - sex, and Julius from a cocaine overdose.

Of course, no one in the town knew the particulars. Far as they knew, Sarah had died from a contracted disease, which they assumed she'd caught from one of her patients, while Julius had died of a stroke, undoubtedly caused by the pressure, and long hours, of being a successful contract attorney. As for Michael . . .

Michael the dropout. Michael the dunce. Michael the giant, the stupid brute.

Not that anyone would ever dare say so to his face, of course. Not even the boldest Friday-night drunk would do so. Not when facing someone six-foot-five in his socks, and a muscled two-sixty, anyway. Yeah, he might never had played pro ball, or even collegiate ball, but that certainly wasn't because he didn't have the shape or muscles for it.

He wasn't exactly bitter about his choices. Or how his siblings had turned out, either. Angry, yes, at how their divorcing themselves from Ma had made her feel, oh yes. More then a bit of sorrow at his loneliness, a great deal of sorrow at his Ma's passing away, yes. At what might have been for him, had life turned out differently.

But . . . life hadn't, and that's all there was to it.

Michael cursed again, easing up on the accelerator as the ass end started fishtailing again, feeling the steering wheel mushy in his hands. Far up ahead he could dimly see the lights of an approaching car, the first sign of life he'd seen in the last thirty minutes. He wondered who it could be, since anyone with brains, he snorted to himself, or wasn't desperate, was sure as sure long since hunkered down in their nice heated homes.

He knew what waited for him when he got home . . . assuming he managed that feat, anyway: a drafty, old farmhouse. No electric (unless he chose to run the generator), no phone, no heat save for a wood-burning Franklin stove. Running water and an indoor privy, thank God, yes. And hot water, if he decided to fire up the propane-fueled water heater. Whose tank was almost empty, and probably would remain so until next year; it cost too much to have it refueled.

He was gonna have to bust a hump once he got home, too. The cows and sheep were still pastured. He knew he'd been risking just what was happening, but the damned forecast had been wrong . . . again! . . . and he'd thought he could have the livestock free-range forage another day, and save him fodder. First thing when he got home was chase them all in their respective barns, then see that they had hay and water. The chickens were already cooped; no way he'd ever leave them run free while he was gone. He might respect the endangered status of most raptors, he might even admire their beauty, but that admiration didn't extend to providing them with 'fast food'.

And then, after all that, he'd have to get the supplies taken in, stored away. Some were for the house, things like sugar, salt and flour, but most were for the livestock: feed, grain, mineral blocks, medicines and the like. Hay wasn't a problem, as he'd already had the fields harvested, bartering half the timothy baled in exchange for having someone bring their harvester out to the fields. That was a larcenous exchange, and Michael knew it. But, like everyone else in the towns, they knew they had old dropout Michael over the proverbial barrel, laughing behind their sleeves as he struggled to - somehow - make ends meet, keep the farm running.

Except, of course, when they needed plumbing done, wiring run or repaired, and most certainly not when they wanted expert woodworking done.

Michael liked to believe he wasn't a vain man and, in truth, he truly wasn't. But he knew he had a 'touch' when it came to woodworking. Whether that be a wardrobe or cabinet, table, desk or chair, you name it, if it was wood, it came alive in his hands. In fact, that was the only real reason he had a generator at the farm, and that was to power the wood lathe in the workshop. Most everything he did was by hand, but he needed the lathe to rough turn the legs for items like tables and chairs. Otherwise it was chisels and adzes, files and knives, stones and sandpaper.

He was good enough, he knew, that he could make a very decent living doing hand-made cabinetry and the like. But . . . not as long as he lived on the farm. That was far too distant for people to drive just to view his stock, and likewise far too distant for him to commute back and forth from his store. Not and still be able to keep up with the daily chores at the farm, and also not without him selling the farm to start with, to gain the needed up-front capital to start his own business, to purchase the necessary stock, to lease the store itself.

It was, he wryly admitted to himself, what they called a 'Catch-22' situation. One that could have, very easily, made him a bitter man. It hadn't, and for one very important reason: he loved the farm.

Oh, it was hard work, no doubt about it. Nothing he'd ever make a fortune at, either. Dawn to dusk (if he was lucky and it was only that), seven days a weeks, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Some days harder then other. But, the satisfaction he felt, every night and every morning, was something beyond words. Something that his sister and brother, obviously, had never felt. Something that most of the townsfolk obviously didn't feel, didn't believe in, or had long since forgotten. But, not Michael.

A gloved hand once more wiped the inner glass, as Michael peered through the streaky film, seeing the approaching car now much closer. He decided to slow up a bit, just in case. Which was a very good thing, as it happened, for he barely fishtailed as the deer bolted across the road before him.

Unlike the other car, whose lights appeared like a lighthouse beacon as the vehicle abruptly lost control, weaving in a circle before pitching right off the road, and disappeared into the gloom of a copse of barren trees.

"Sweet Jeezus! Motherfu-!"

Michael sawed at the steering wheel, pitching his truck sideways as he fought for control, startled at seeing the other vehicle go careening out of control. He finally came to a stop about a hundred feet away, sideways straddling the road, then looked through the driver door window back the way he'd slid, wondering if he'd really seen the other auto go crashing off the lane.

"Damn!" he venomously cursed, shaking from the adrenaline coursing through him at the near miss. Then swore again as he slowly turned the pickup around and, very carefully, drove back up to the scene, trying to ease onto the shoulder without getting hopelessly bogged down in the growing drifts. He had no CB, no cell phone, so there was no way for him to call for aid or assistance. Which meant he had to stop. The realization that, the longer he delayed getting home meant the more improbable it was that he'd actually make it home meant nothing at the moment. What mattered was that someone might be hurt and, if so, would die if someone didn't stop and render aid. And that someone looked like him.

Already the blowing snow was covering the tracks. The deer, it seemed, had escaped unscathed. Unlike the car he was seeking. Michael couldn't see it from the shoulder, not even its lights. And it was dark out, and bitter cold. Reaching under the seat he removed a five-cell Maglite, turning it on and heaving a sigh of relief as the light shot out from the lens. Fine time it would be, he muttered to himself as he opened the door and stepped outside into the growing gale, to find out, now, that the batteries had died!

Leaving the engine running and lights lit (it would be just his luck to have someone hit him if he turned them out!) he carefully walked towards the barren leafless trees, branches whipping back and forth, trunks swaying from the gusts. It was easier to trail the vehicle now, he noticed, spying churned up leaves and soil, seeing the split raw bark from the side of a tree.

He finally found it a good hundred and fifty feet off the side of the road. By then he was doubly glad to have left his lights on, for visibility was virtually nonexistent, extending mere feet by the light of his flashlight, and he could just barely see the dim twin glow of his truck up the embankment. It was no joke, about people freezing to death yards from their homes. In weather like this, one could easily do just that, and Michael was very glad he would be able to follow the lights of his truck back to safety.

"Aw she-it," he muttered, finding the car at last. Except it wasn't a car, it was a van. Pure white, no sliding side door, no side windows or rear door windows either. It looked like one of those professional vans, in fact, except it was pretty well nigh mangled, bent in at the driver side almost halfway, the rear doors sprung but still holding.

None of that coaxed his oath from him however. What had, was that the van was tilted forwards a good bit, having slid down the bank of a fairly large pond. Easily half the van had broken through the ice, and the front was bobbing a bit, floating for now. There was no way Michael could enter the van by the driver's or passenger's door. For one, both were obviously damaged, jammed. For another, he'd have to wade out to reach them, and he'd freeze long before he managed any sort of aid.

Which left trying to enter by the rear door.

"Hold on in there!" he yelled out encouragingly. "Help's on the way!"

He doubted anyone could hear him, for the wind whipped the words from his mouth even as he shouted them. He laid the Maglite on the mangled bumper, then tried tugging the rear doors open. Then yanking. They creaked and groaned, but didn't move. Thankfully they'd sprung enough that, even if they had been locked, the lock sure wasn't holding the doors closed. He jammed his gloved fingers even further into the gaped opening, took a deep breath . . . then pulled.

Corded muscled arms tensed like steel anchor cables. Michael felt a flush of heat race along his arms as they rippled and strained. "Grawwwwwll!" he yelled, feeling the one start to give, then gave a triumphant cry as, with a shriek like a damned soul from Hell, tortured metal twisted and pulled free.

Picking up the Maglite he illuminated the inside. "Hello?" he yelled, then felt stupid for doing so.

"Hey!" someone faintly cried out, sounding panicked and hurt. "Up here! Hurry! Water's coming in! We're stuck and can't get out!"

"Hang on!" Michael yelled back, then gingerly wormed his way inside the pitch black interior. The back of the van was empty, save for a rather big trunk that had pulled loose from the floor bolt attachments, spilling its contents of blankets in a huge pile forwards, against a divider between the back and front cabin. No wonder I could hardly hear the guy up front, Michael thought, seeing that divider. There wasn't even a screen to it.

Carefully duckwalking forwards, so as to not make the van rock and possibly slide deeper into the pond, Michael finally reached the divider panel. There was something about that, and the walls and ceiling, too, that seemed . . . odd, to him, but his attention was more to the rescue then it was to his subliminal perceptions.

He finally found a handle and turned it, but it was either jammed, too, or locked. "Hey!" he yelled, "I can't get the damn thing open!"

"Break it down!" someone frantically screamed from up front. "And hurry! We're sinking!"

"Jeezus Krist!" Michael muttered. How was he supposed to break it down?? It wasn't like he could get a running start or something! He turned around, crawled on hands and knees to the back of the van, looking for the spare tire area. Maybe he could find and use the tire iron to pry the thing open!

It only took a minute, but it sure seemed like an eternity, before he found the spare tire well, removed the covering, then pulled out - yes!! - a tire iron. Then it was back to the front again, to pry the divider open. He could hear the faint dings and hisses of hot metal cooling, smelt hot spilled antifreeze, felt the bobbing of the van as it slowly started slipping further out - and down - into the pond. Could hear, as well, the increasingly frantic cries of two voices up front.

The pile of blankets were in the way, so he pushed them off to the side. Or tried to, anyway. They were far heavier then just blankets would suggest, so he started yanking them off one at a time . . . then froze.

He aimed the small spotlight of the flash downwards, sure he had to be wrong, had to be imagining things.

But he wasn't, and hadn't.

Cocooned in the midst of the blankets was a child. A naked child. A naked, tightly strapped in a ball, child. Boy or girl he couldn't say, for their head was totally covered in a black leather hood, and their privates covered by a strap as well. His jaw dropped, his eyes bulged. Surely he had to be imagining this!

But . . . he wasn't. Couldn't be. And he or she was still alive, it seemed, for as soon as the covering blanket was removed, and the icy frigid air kissed their skin, they immediately started shivering and jerking.

"What the Hell is this kid doing back here?!" Michael furiously yelled, glaring at the divider which still separated him from up front.

There was a pause, a long one, it seemed, before he got a reply, during which he noticed a silvery pool of water creeping from beneath the divider. "What kid?" someone yelled, as Michael tugged the kid further to the back of the shattered wrecked van and away from the water. "I don't know nothing about no kid!"

"Well, there's one back here!" he yelled back, trying to figure out how to release the straps, scowling as he noticed the small padlocks holding every buckle closed. Jeezus! He then attempted tugging the straps down, tried to loosen them at least. But they were far too cunningly placed, far too tightened and secure for him to budge. He tried using his Buck knife to cut through the leather, but the straps seemed to be strangely made, like thin metal was stitched between an upper and lower piece. Like it was made to be uncuttable.

There was a locked strap around little ankles. One each, above and below knees. Another wider one securing ankles to the tops of thighs. There was a strap around tiny wrists, holding them behind the back, palms together, and another holding elbows tight together. Michael winced seeing that; that alone looked painful to him. Two more straps went around those secured arms, holding them tight to the torso, a wide one was around the waist, a smaller one running between the legs, actually, in fact, pulled tight between the cheeks of the kid's butt. Yet another forced the kid's chest down against the tops of their thighs, holding them squished down in a ball.

"You OK kid?" he yelled over the howling wind outside, resting a gloved hand to their small shoulder. If they answered him he couldn't hear them. He could hear, however, the yell from up front. "For Christ's sake, hurry up! The water's up to my waist!"

He turned the flashlight forwards, seeing the growing spreading pool of water on the floor, silently cursing. "How the Hell could you not know about the kid?" he loudly swore, then slowly wandered the beam of his light around the van interior.

It was then what had been niggling the back of his mind came into sharper focus. The walls, the rear door, the divider, the ceiling and floor, were covered in acoustical foam tile. As was the interior of the shattered trunk. Sound-deadening, sound-proofing, acoustical foam tile. No windows. No skylight. Nothing here but that trunk . . . and that naked, shivering kid. "You bastards!" he softly hissed in a venomous tone.

"I dunno, honest!" came a panicked cry. "We . . . we stole the truck, don't know anything about her!"

Michael grabbed some blankets, swaddling the kid within them, then started crawling on his knees to the back of the van. 'Her', eh? he thought. How do they know if it's a boy or girl, when I can't tell, and I can see them?

The wind was blowing even harder now, the snow falling harder, too. It wasn't quite white-out, not yet, anyway, but, if it got much worse, it sure would be. Michael laid the bundle down on the ground, then carefully crept along the side of the van, holding onto a branch with one hand and shining the Maglite in the shattered driver's window. He could see the deflated airbag, looking like a popped balloon, and a terrified, white-faced man, scalp torn and bleeding, gazing back his way, eyes wide with pain and fright. Eyes that grew even wider with terror as the slowly foundering van lurched forwards and down the bank another few feet, headlights still incongruously working, surreally illuminating the ice from beneath.

"Hurry!!" he shrilly screamed, sounding feminine in his panic.

"What about the kid?" Michael snarled, unblinking eyes gazing into the driver's the entire time. For an instant he saw something flicker in those pained depths before a shutter dropped down over them. "I'm telling ya, I don't know nothin' about no kid!" he shrilled. "For God's sake, hurry up and get us out of here!"

Michael nodded, then walked to the back of the van again, boots slipping and sliding on the ice and snow. Bracing his back against a narrowly-missed tree trunk, he firmly planted his boots against the mangled bumper . . . then heaved.

Almost effortlessly, like a newly-christened ship sliding down the ways, the van slipped down the embankment as if it was greased, completely afloat now, although definitely listing bow down. It slid out quite a few feet, turning as it did until, as if it were God's gift to him for his decision, the deeply-crazed windshield faced him.

The water was already up to the windshield by now, chest high to the two inside, both of whom were now frantically screaming, shrill terrified voices like a rabbit caught by a fox. They struggled, they fought to writhe free of the debris jamming them in their seats. They pleaded and begged as the frigid water crept higher and higher. Pleas which abruptly cut off, when the van suddenly pitched forwards, the nose dropping several feet in an instant. And then there was only silence . . . and a short burst of bubbles.

Michael silently cursed, frozen to the bone, as he slipped, slid and struggled up the embankment, a blanket-swaddled weight in his arms. Behind him the van still floated, for how much longer he'd no idea. He'd no idea how deep the pond was, but some of them dropped off pretty steeply quite close to the bank. If it sank completely, it was even odds the van would never be found.

Part of him was shocked at his callousness, at what amounted to his summary execution. Granted, if he hadn't been fortunate (or was that unfortunate?) enough to have been right there when it happened, they'd've been just as dead. And so would the kid, too, he reminded himself. On one hand, he had an easier time with their deaths, then he did butchering a cow, sheep or chicken. Those he'd brought into the world, was there at their births; he'd fed them, cared for them, medicked their ills . . . stared into their eyes when he brought them in to kill.

While those two . . .

His only real worry, his only real guilt, was if they'd really been telling the truth. If they'd really just stolen the van and had no idea there really was a kid in the back. Granted, stealing the van was a crime, but not one worth being executed for. And, for all intents and purposes, that was exactly what Michael had done, by pushing that van deeper and abandoning the remaining occupants: he'd executed them.

Well, that was water over the dam now, he thought, puffing as he climbed higher and higher. He still had yet to get home, still had things he had to get done before the snow got worse. And now . . . what the Hell was he supposed to do about the kid??

Michael was very glad he'd left the lights on. While before he'd suspected he'd have a hard time finding his way back with them off, now he knew he'd have been lost! He still had another twenty minutes to go before reaching the farm. The nearest town was forty minutes, back the other direction. If he turned around now, that meant no less then one hundred minutes of traveling, and that was during good weather!

That also didn't account for the time involved in explanations, reports and the like. And no one, sure as sure, would give a good tinker's dam about dropout Michael and his farm, that if he didn't make it there tonight, he would likely lose most of his unprotected livestock.

Of course, if he didn't make it there tonight, odds were he wouldn't make it there for weeks. Any accumulation over two inches, and his truck might as well be dry-docked.

"Shit," he muttered, brooding. He really didn't have a choice.

Reaching the truck he pried open the passenger door, then gently laid the blanket cocoon on the floor, before closing the door and climbing in the driver's side. It was bitter cold inside, the moisture on the inside now frozen and frosted.

"Listen up," he said over the howl of the storm. "You're safe. Sorry about the cold, but this junker's got no heat," he apologized. " I tried to get those damned things off you, but they're locked on. Gonna have to use bolt cutters or something to get them off."

He thought he heard something from the bundled kid, but he wasn't sure. He was rather at a loss as to what to say. Besides, no sooner had he eased back onto the road, making a u-turn to head back to the farm, then he was far too busy concentrating to make small talk anyway, fiercely paying attention to where he was going, trying to peer through the ice-glazed windshield. The banshee howling wind was whipping snow like a curtain, and he was very worried that he'd never make it back.

----

Gabrielle wanted to cry. Very badly wanted to cry, hysterical racking sobs, in fact. But she refused to do so. Refused to give them that satisfaction, throughout this horrible ordeal.

Refused to give up hope, either, although from the very beginning she was very afraid she'd guessed what was happening.

She couldn't clearly remember just how this had all started. She knew she was in America. Again. Or, at least, had been; she'd no idea if that was still true.

Her insufferable parents had insisted she spend the summer with them in that barbaric land, and, of course, her wishes meant nothing at all to them. Now, why they couldn't have vacationed somewhere civilized, like Monaco or the Riviera, she'd no idea. However, dutiful daughter that she was, after making her opinion on the vacation plans perfectly clear, she capitulated.

In public, at least. In private, in her own rooms, Gabrielle certainly vented her indignation.

At least, she grumbled to herself, if she had to spend the entire summer in America, it was in their state of California. Her parents might fret about earthquakes, but Gabrielle knew they weren't likely to experience one - at least, not a bad one - during their stay abroad. Besides, that seemed something exciting, in a scary-exciting way. And Gabrielle understood California to be, well, more liberal and cosmopolitan then most of the other states. In fact, it had quite the reputation.

Still and all, she wasn't at all impressed or enthused. And it didn't take long at all to discover Americans, especially their servant staff, were quite poorly trained, badly motivated, and quite blase. Thank God Papa had been shrewd enough to bring along some of the House staff! Gabrielle had been assured, over and over, from both her parents and the Hotel management, that the service here was, as they put it, 'Five Star'. Which, in her opinion, was about forty stars short of a decent hotel in France.

It seemed that having a fancy mint on one's pillow was supposed to be significant. Gabrielle had snorted at that, when she first saw one on her pillow. From the beginning she'd known that the service here was going to be substandard, no matter the assurances she'd been given. To start with, they had had to summon a bellman, rather then have the concierge, upon check-in, have them already promptly summoned. And then it had been just the one, rather then the three necessary for all their luggage. It seemed to Gabrielle that the bellman had expected, as a matter of course, for them to carry their small hand bags. Outrageous!

And then, once at their suite, he'd simply sat the luggage inside, then patiently waited for his tip. Merde! He hadn't even unpacked and stowed away their things!

It might seem that Gabrielle was spoiled, an aristocratic snob. She really wasn't. Yes, she was used to being waited on. Yes, she was used to culture. Yes, she was used to wealth. And yes, at twelve and a half, she was also aware of the growing changes to her body, no small reason she'd been hoping for the Riviera this year, to experiment with some of the more revealing swimsuits . . . or none at all.

It wasn't a matter of being rude and spoiled, as it was having grown up used to being waited on. Her clothes were picked up after her, washed and laundered, folded and put away for her. Food and drink how, when and where she wanted it. Bathed, groomed and massaged as a matter of fact, taken for granted as part of her life. Dances, soirees, musicals, plays; the world of culture at her fingertips, and truly something she delighted in. Never questioned, just assumed.

So it was quite a shock to discover how loose and lax Americans were, when it came to culture, to service. Things Gabrielle had always taken for granted, a bedrock of her life, now was shifting sand under her pedicured feet. It wasn't that she thought herself better then others. Nor had she been taught her trained that such was so. Because she didn't, and hadn't. It was more a matter that her very life had trained her to have certain expectations, and now those expectations were not being met, not even close. It wasn't that, for instance, that she viewed, or thought, of the Hotel staff as being inferior to her. But, she certainly viewed their performance as substandard and inferior!

That summer had been dull dull dull!! So why Papa had accepted an invitation to the Ambassador's Ball in Los Angeles that November was beyond her. Obviously it had been important to Papa that she attend along with Mama and he so, with a minimal amount of fussing she agreed. It would only be for a week, anyway, and surely she could survive a week of privation!

Dull, dull dull!!

Again, the same Hotel. Obviously this was the best Los Angeles had to offer, she thought with a small sniff. Gabrielle probably would have enjoyed the football game she's attended, if she'd only understood the rules. And if she hadn't been surrounded by grown men that acted like boys, whooping and hollering, jumping up and down, or screaming imprecations down to the field because some striped person tossed out a yellow handkerchief. Still, she was very polite and demure, as graceful as possible, aware that the seating they had was obviously something of import, and determined to show her best manners and thus bring honor to her Papa.

Besides, there was still the Ball to look forwards to that Saturday, and surely even Americans couldn't mess up a proper Ball!

It was to be held in the Grand Ballroom and, from what she could learn and discern, was indeed the talk of the town. Everyone who was anyone would be there, and she felt so happy and thrilled for Papa that he'd been especially invited that her displeasure over things like service and attitude faded to insignificance. And she'd been so excited, so delighted, at the prospect! Had spent hours being cosseted, groomed, garbed, eagerly looking forward to enjoying the music, the measured paces, the cultured conversation . . . the playful flirtations she was, only now, coming to more fully understand, enjoy and look forwards to.

What a horror that had been! Loud raucous, cacophonous sounds that purportedly were music. Bland, uninteresting hors d'ouerves being circulated by bored looking, dull waiters that one had to flag to get their attention, rather then having them alertly scan for those that might desire a tidbit. And the dancing! Ugh!

She felt like a dainty herself, from the moment she'd entered, as uncouth forward young boys took one look at her and scurried over, some even deserting their own dates! Merde, even some of the men gazed at her with hot eyes, making her feel somehow soiled and common. She lasted about an hour, and that long only for Papa's sake, before pleading a headache and upset tummy, and retiring from the affair.

That, she could clearly remember, yes. The elevator ride upwards to the penthouse suite, she remembered as well . . . the start of it, anyway. After that, cudgel her mind as she tried - and she'd little else to do at the moment - things grew hazy, indistinct, after that. Nor did she have any idea how much time had elapsed from then until her next, reasonably clear, memory.

That, as indistinct as it was, had been quite groggily rousing, feeling her body being shifted, moved about . . . methodically stripped. And not at all gentle, not as if Antoinette, her maid, had been disrobing her. There was an odd medicinal taste in her mouth, her mind felt as if wrapped in cotton wool, her muscles refused to listen to her increasingly strident demands. Little strapped heels unfastened then pulled off, stockings just tugged down. Sat up by one set of hands as another tore the snaps and zipper in the back open, then worked the expensive, tailored dress - one of her favorites! - down her body, then completely off. Her little bra unsnapped then jerked off and over her small shoulders, then the thin shoulder straps of her chemise slip snapped, then that, too, wormed down and off. Then finally her panties, leaving her totally bare and naked.

She was shocked! Angry, furious! And growing no little scared by then, either. Tiny, perfectly manicured little hands fluttered in real, not artful, distress, weakly batting at the big hands that stripped her naked. Blurry vision cleared enough for her discern shapes and objects. She was in a room. Apparently another room at the Hotel. A single room, not one of the Suites. The window curtains drawn tight. Lamps lit, providing illumination. Two men, neither of whom she recognized, hovered around her as she lay atop the double bed. Her removed clothing tossed in a pile on an adjacent chair.

Her mind was still too foggy to think in English, she stammered out in French, "Wha . . . what is happening? Who are you? Leave me be!" Her only reply was a low snarled, "Shut up cunt!" and a rough cuff across the cheek, something that shocked her so badly her tongue clove to the roof of her mouth. Never, in her entire life, had she been struck, or spoken to that way!

They more carefully removed her diadem, her anklet, bracelets, necklace and rings. Every bit of her jewelry they removed, placing it in a small cloth bag. For a moment she thought that was all this was about, that she was being robbed, and as indignant as she was about that no small part of her was also greatly relieved.

A relief that was very short-lived indeed, as coarse hands started roughly groping, fondling her, making very rude comments about her body . . . and even more frightening promises of what lay ahead for her in the future.

What came next, as they evilly chuckled in her ear, was being 'prepared and packaged'. Her heart started pounding in true terror and dread then. They weren't going to be content with just robbing her it seemed. Or taking helpless advantage of her body. They were going to take her with them, and she didn't think that was to ransom her.

Especially not when, as part of their so-called 'preparation' and with truly diabolical glee, they'd roughly inserted two wide blunt plugs into her, taking amusement in informing her just what they were, what they looked like, where they were going, and why they were going there, before actually doing so. That was, as they put it, part of the 'preparation'. That she might as well get used to the sensation, since they'd every intention of using her themselves that way. At least, they coarsely laughed as they attached a wide strap around her thin waist then another between her legs, tightly buckling them both - and tightly pressing the plugs inexorably, and inescapably, deeper - until she softly cried out from the tightness and fullness, this way she'd get a head start into knowing what it felt like to have a man thrust deep in her, and also have something to enjoy during her 'trip'.

Then more and more straps, each one pulled tight, each set removing more and more of her freedom, in indirect proportion to her slowly returning ability to move and think. By now she was kneeling upright, little legs utterly immobile and helpless, as they started working on her arms. Her wrists had already been secured behind her, from the beginning, and no matter how she'd struggled she couldn't pull them loose. She wanted to kick, bite, claw, scratch, punch . . . and she couldn't do any of that. When they pulled her elbows tight behind her, forcing them to touch, she cried out in pain.

"Better gag her now, before the bitch gets too noisy," one had said. The other nodded, picked something up, then held it to her rosebud mouth, softly snarling, "Open up wide slut. This'll help keep you quiet, and you might as well get used to having a cock in that sweet mouth of yours, cuz you'll be doing a lot of sucking on real ones in your future!" he laughed.

Gabrielle recoiled in repugnance from the thing held before her horrified disgusted eyes. She couldn't mistake what it resembled, especially not after his words. It wasn't the shape itself that disgusted her, or what it feigned and simulated. Or, to be honest, even the idea itself, as lately, odd little daydreams of things like that had started perking in her mind, hand-in-hand along with her growing, maturing body. No. No, it was their brutal, callous demeaning attitude that she loathed, found revolting.

There was no way she'd open her mouth for that! Gabrielle clamped her small jaws shut, stubborn and resisting, shaking her head best she could, trying to pull away from it. Tears filled her huge eyes as a hand harshly, painfully grabbed her hair, stilling her motion, as the other hand poked the firm rubbery tip against her lips and teeth. "Open bitch!" he snarled, "Now!"

Yet still she refused, even when the other pinched her tiny nose closed. Instead of opening her mouth to breathe, instead she kept her teeth firmly clamped tight, parting her lips, noisily hissing through her teeth as she breathed. She didn't want that in her mouth, not at all. Especially knowing what that was supposed to represent, and what they intended for her in the future. As well, by now her body and mind had mostly recovered, and Gabrielle wasn't about to permit herself to be gagged, not when she was finally able to fight and scream!

Alas, they were just as wily and crafty as she for, not seconds later a callused palm covered her small mouth and nose, shutting off all breath. "You gonna open bitch, or do I suffocate you and put it in anyway, after you pass out?"

That shocked her, and she wildly tried to think of a way out of this. She couldn't, though, and it seemed she took too long to answer, for seconds later he just darkly laughed. "Fine, have it your way then!"

He tightened his grip on her body, tightened his hand over her mouth. As the seconds passed and her need to breathe started growing, Gabrielle finally nodded. Then nodded again. Then whimpered, pleaded, struggled, as her chest and lungs started crying out for air. Her ears started buzzing, then ringing. Her vision dimmed and blurred. She twisted, jerked, writhed, pleaded.

Then finally passed out.

How long she was unconscious she never knew. Not with any certainty, anyway. Long enough for that detestable thing to have been inserted in her mouth, then tightly held there with straps. Long enough to have some sort of hood placed over her head and tightly laced, leaving only her little nose exposed. Long enough for them to have folded her forwards atop her legs and strap her in place that way. Which was more then long enough to render her utterly helpless.

They ignored her for a bit, leaving her on her side as they walked around the room, softly talking to themselves. It was pretty pointless trying to get loose while they were in the room; after all, they could see her the entire time, and easily refasten whatever she might manage to wriggle free from. But she couldn't just lie there like a trophy. Besides, the position was uncomfortable enough - her arms painful enough - that she simply had to wriggle and shift. That didn't even count the twin plugs below that were stretching her, that she grunted, trying - and miserably failing - to push free from her. Or the gag filling her small mouth, compressing her little tongue down and making her helplessly salivate. Gabrielle furiously blushed at that, both at the helpless drooling, and at her tongue so effortlessly sensing the minute detail of the latex phallus filling her mouth, feeling every molded ripple and vein of it. She tried pushing that out, too, but it barely budged, and her heart plummeted, sensing there was no way, ever, she'd manage to get rid of it.

Which meant there was no way she could call out for help, either.

She tried, anyway, taking a huge breath before screaming at the top of her lungs, then despaired, hearing only a faint muffled idiotic grunt whuffle from her mouth. She knew, without a doubt, that no one in another room, or outside in the hallway, would ever hear her. She wasn't sure if someone across the same room would!

Well, obviously someone in the same room could, Gabrielle realized, as right after she tried to yell her abductors broke out into soft coarse laughter. "Oh, I just love the sound of that!" one chortled. "Go ahead cunt. Do it again," he rasped, at the same time roving his hands over her naked body.

Of course, she refused to give him that satisfaction, merely stiffened in outrage as he pawed her. He merely laughed, then threatened, "Do it again, or I'll make you hurt," he promised in a soft blood-chilling whisper. Outrage, indignation and fury warred with terror and fright . . . and started loosing.

Thankfully, before he could make good on his promise, the other muttered, "It's time. Stop fooling around. We'll have months to enjoy her before she gets worn out and broke."

Her memory got fuzzy at that point. Gabrielle couldn't recall what had happened, only really became aware of slowly, groggily waking, still bound and gagged, still hooded, still naked and helpless. She was laying on her side, surrounded by cloth; wool, it felt like. Beneath her, all around her, over her, too. She felt a distant hum, a vibration, rather like being in a car, but there was hardly any sound at all to hear, in fact, oddly quiet, as if the sound was muffled somehow.

She struggled until she was exhausted to get free, but she never managed to wriggle a single strap loose, let alone off. Nor could she expel those loathsome plugs, nor the gag. Her muscles were sore and cramping, her small jaw horribly ached from being held wide open, her face was soaked from uncontrollably drooling, and she was chafed, raw and aching from the plugs stretching and filling her.

She was scared, forlorn, despairing and miserable. Angry and furious, too, but when one is as helpless as she was, even that only goes so far. She had absolutely no illusions as to what her fate was to be, even if she steadfastly refused to look too closely that way. She also doubted that they'd be so careless as to slip up later, and she'd manage to escape then, for they had been too smooth, too practiced, in what they had done. Certainly they'd done this before, and even in the depths of her misery she sorrowed for the others they must have kidnapped and taken before they had her.

Hours passed. Long long hours during which her tortured bound muscles protested louder and louder, during which she felt herself growing further and further away from Papa and Mama. Hours which made it harder and harder not to just give up, sob into the hood that covered her face, and let her grief and fear out. But Gabrielle refused, a tiny defiant spark inside her stubbornly refusing to be quenched.

And then the world exploded around her.

She felt as if she was slowly spinning, then there came a loud bang and jerk, then another, and another, then a very severe one that sent her flying, coming to a jolting stop, then a final bang and jerk.

Then silence.

She'd no idea what had happened, none at all, although she'd suspected that the car - or whatever she was being carried in - had just been in an accident. She wasn't sure if, whatever had just happened, accident or otherwise, was a good thing, or a bad one. She still seemed to be surrounded by wool, and no matter how she tried to squirm, she couldn't move a muscle. Muscles that, by now, were cramping and resistant to moving anyway.

It only seemed like a few moments had gone by, before she heard sounds. Voices, to be precise. She couldn't tell how many, or where they were coming from. Gabrielle was desperately hoping that it wasn't the two that had taken her; that, instead, perhaps it was others coming to investigate. She truly hoped that was the case because, whether she liked accepting the fact or not, she wasn't getting out of this on her own.

She tried calling out, but she could hardly make a sound past that loathsome gag in her mouth, nor could she make any motion to attract attention. Still, she didn't give up hope. In fact, hope flared even hotter inside her, grimly determined never to give up.

Especially when she clearly heard someone call out 'Hello?' in a questioning tone!

She almost sobbed in relief when, at last, she felt someone start moving her. But, when the blankets around her had been removed, and the icy frigid air caressed her naked, sweaty skin, it felt like knives of ice were flaying her flesh from her bones. Gabrielle instantly started violently, uncontrollably shivering. It was a cold so intense it was, quite literally, painful in the extreme and made already cramping muscles knot up all the more. None of that mattered, however, not a bit, especially not when she heard a man's voice, full of outrage and fury, call out and demand, 'What the Hell is this kid doing back here?'

She'd been found! She'd been saved!

"Shit!"

Michael frantically sawed at the wheel, feeling the tires slipping off the shoulder. He was balancing a fine line between intentionally rolling off the shoulder, having no other way of discerning just where the roadway lay, as the drifting snow and howling winds had made vision virtually useless, visibility whited-out, zero, and going too far and slipping entirely off the road.

He'd already been an hour making a fifteen-minute drive, and his knuckles were white on the wheel, his muscled knotted and strained from tension. He wasn't worried about himself. Granted, he knew he could, very easily, die this night, and while he wasn't blase about death, neither did he truly fear it. As long as he'd always given things his best shot, what happened, happened.

However, it wasn't just his life hanging in the balance now. First off, there was his livestock: totally dependent upon Michael for health and survival. If he failed to make it back, all of the chickens, sheep and cows would die, either starving to death or, more likely, freezing to death in drifted snow.

Just as important was the kid, who was, in more ways then the livestock, even more helpless, even more dependent upon Michael. She, too, would die if Michael failed tonight, and that gave added grim determination and impetus to him.

He needed to be very careful. The turn off to the farm had to be near here. If he wasn't careful, and missed the turn off, not only wasn't he sure he could manage a U-turn and head back, but he wasn't at all certain he'd even be able to tell he'd missed the drive. Michael wasn't, normally, a praying man. He'd long ago accepted that more was accomplished by one's hard work and determination then ever happened by miraculous answers to prayers. But, he was praying now. Not for himself, and not, even, for the livestock and farm. But for the kid huddled on the floorboard on the passenger side, hidden beneath mounds of old wool blankets he'd scavenged from the van she'd been inside.

The snow was already three inches deep, and drifting deeper in places. That was already too deep for the old balding tires to handle, and how he was managing to continue to move was beyond him. If he ever came to a dead stop, he would be dead, for he didn't think he'd be able to get the old clunker moving again.

"Yes!" he hissed between chattering teeth, spotting a fleeting glimpse of the old mailbox that sat at the edge of the turn-off. Easing the wheel to the side, he carefully made the turn onto the drive, leaving off the asphalt and heading onto the graveled lane. All too soon gravel would change to packed earth, but at least it wouldn't be mud. Not as cold out as it was, anyway!

Thankfully the gale was blowing sideways, perpendicular to the lane, and had virtually scoured the snow from the roadway, drifting it to one side and leaving the gravel only dusted about an inch deep. That was good, very good, from one perspective. At least now his tires had some semblance of traction. On the other hand, the wind was now striking the entire side of the truck, and it felt as if it was tipping it up on two wheels at times. It definitely was pushing it off to one side, and Michael had to crab the truck to keep it going straight.

A mile. That was all he had further to go, to reach home, and safety. Off to his left were part of his fields where, if he was unlucky, some of the sheep might be at the moment.

Michael wasn't worried about the cows. Bovine-dumb they might be, but they still had more then a grain of sense to them. By now, the milk cows would be in pain, needing to be milked, and those four would certainly already be at the barn, lowing for him. The other sixteen, beef Angus, would also be there. It was the daft brainless ship he was worried about. Even in bad weather like this, they'd likely be scattered all over Hell's backyard, and he'd have a devil of the time getting them all in. Already he was accepting, with reasonably good grace, that he'd lose some of the sheep.

"Almost there," he rumbled to the blanket-cocooned kid on the floor, the first words he'd really spoken to them since first heading back. "Not much longer. Just hold on a little more. I know you have to be anxious to get out of all that junk and stretch. And get warm," he added. "Sorry about it being cold," he apologized, "But this old girl, well, she's not much for heat during the winter. And sure as heck the only air during the summer is if I put the windows down, but she's got grit, and at least she still runs," he said, patting the dash with his gloved hand.

"Soon as we get home, I'll get you inside, get you warm at least, afore I run out and take care of things. Might be a bit afore I can cut all those locks and junk offa you."

He thought he'd heard a somewhat indignant squeal at that. Couldn't really blame her if she had, he sure as heck would want out of that crap soon as he could, so he didn't doubt she felt the same way. Still and all, it wouldn't harm her none to be left like that for a bit longer, whereas it could be fatal for his livestock. Plus he had things to take care of, for his sake - and now, hers, too - before things got worse then they already were. If the forecast was right - well, at least right with regards to quantity, if not timing, anyway, for they sure as shooting had screwed the pooch there - this wasn't going to be just a snowstorm.

Not that most snowstorms here were simply 'just' a snowstorm anyways. But, this boded to be a bitch of a blizzard and, if they got what was forecast, Michael was planning on being snowed in for at least two weeks, if not far longer then that.

He talked to himself in his head, running through everything he'd need to do as soon as he parked. Muttering at the same time as he struggled both to keep the truck under control and find his way along the drive. No matter that the drive was indelibly graven in his mind, everything looked different in the midst of this screaming, howling storm. And he knew well enough that, if he made the slightest error, he'd get the truck stuck in a ditch, or worse, actually roll it off the side of the drive.

He actually whooped, jubilantly hollered when he saw, barely illuminated by the headlights, the porch steps appear out of the swirling blinding flakes. Carefully turning, he eased the truck to one side, parking it at the left side of the house, where the screaming, tearing wind was blocked by the looming bulk of the building.

"I'll be right back," he told the bundle. "Don't worry." With that, he opened the door and stepped out into the frigid night. Michael battled the storm, following the side of the house until reaching the front door, then went inside, swearing as the wind almost ripped the door from his hands. Closing it behind him, he felt by touch for the lantern, lighting it with his Zippo, then adjusted the flame before stepping through the mudroom and into the house proper.

Once inside, he lit a few more ready lanterns, then hunkered down in front of the Franklin stove, quite glad he'd had the foresight to bank the stove before leaving that morning before dawn. The last thing he needed, right now, was to have to struggle to cold start the dog gone beast!

Opening the door he piled some prepared kindling inside, then added some small logs atop that before using an old leather bellows to pump life into the coals. Within minutes the flames were eagerly licking the dried wood, and Michael then slid two larger logs inside, careful not to smother the growing flames before they'd properly taken hold.

Closing the door he stood up, removing the small kettle from atop the stove, then walked over to the sink, breaking the ice from the pump prime, then pouring the tepid kettle water in to prime the pump. Several minutes later there were four small kettles atop the stove, their icy contents slowly starting to warm.

Looking about Michael muttered. The entire house was an icebox. Until the Franklin got going, the only room here that would be warm would be the kitchen. He shrugged, accepting the inevitable, before heading back outside, bracing himself before opening the door.

This was going to be a truly bad one, he realized, seeing odd green flashes of lighting flickering through the utter gloom. Prepared or not, he wondered if he was prepared enough. Wondered if, maybe, this time, nature would claim him, and his.

"Ok now," he said to comfort as he opened the door, "I'm gonna pick you up now and take you inside. It's pretty cold still inside, but it'll warm up soon, I promise," he said as he effortlessly picked them up, then walked backwards to the door, trying to shield the kid with his body from the worst of the wind and cold. Moments later the howl of the wind eased as he shut the door of the mudroom, then headed inside to the kitchen.

He laid his burden gently down on the wood plank floor, checking the Franklin, adding another small log and using a poker to adjust the flaming wood before returning to face the bundle before him. It was going to be a while before he could do anything for them, so he wanted to try and make things as comfortable as possible while he was busy. He removed the blankets from the top and one side, revealing the bare skin of the kid, who was shivering even before he'd done so, pale skin slightly bluish and goosebumped. Using those he made a padded mattress of sorts before gently easing the kid on their side, back to the stove, then covered them over again with the remainder.

That was all he could do for now, and he had a lot still left to do. "I'm sorry kid," Michael apologized. "That's the best I could do for now. I'll be back as quick as I can with some bolt cutters to get you out of that stuff."

There were a few more indignant squeals, which again he couldn't blame them for, and again he had no other choice but to ignore them. Rising, he quickly started doing what was needed.

First thing was bringing in some of the logs from the mudroom, stacking them in the woodbox near the stove, where they could start fully drying before being tossed inside. Grabbing a kettle and a lantern he headed back out into the growing blizzard.

The cow byre couldn't be seen, and it was only a hundred feet away. Michael didn't bother with the lantern to find his way; that was an impossibility, and he knew it. But he'd need it once inside the byre. The snow was over the tops of his ankles on this side, and swiftly growing deeper. Shuffling his feet, he followed the path down to the byre by the expedience of feeling where the dirt of the path stopped and the grass began, and even then he almost got lost three times before the comforting side of the byre finally came into view.

As expected, the cows were already standing at the door, lowing and mooing, quite eager to get inside. Again he broke the ice of the pump before priming it, using the heated kettle water, then pumped and pumped until the troughs were filled, an exercise that warmed him considerably. Then hay pulled down, mangers filled, buckets topped off with feed, all the while his mind busy with scheduling what needed to be done.

Throwing open the door, he kept to one side, a grin spreading across his face as the cows started pushing and shoving their way inside. No fools them! He chuckled to himself. Once the last was inside he stepped out, closing the door behind him. Michael didn't bother guiding each one to their stall, for the simple fact that they each knew which stall was theirs, and would find their own way there. Later, once he'd caught up with everything else, he'd return and close the gates. Besides, he'd have to return to milk them, otherwise they'd start to dry up if he waited too long for that.

Then it was down to the sheep byre, taking the lantern and the kettle, which remained half-filled still. Once inside he whistled and called out, "Dog!", where upon Dog, his German Shepherd herder, poked his black nose up from a pile of hay and whoofed at him. "Get 'em boy!" he hollered, hanging the lantern on a peg hook. "Go get 'em and bring 'em back!"

Dog gave a bark, wagged his tail, then headed out into the blinding snow. This was going to take the longest, Michael thought as he started priming the pump and filling the troughs. The darned silly sheep were likely to be anywhere. If he was lucky, most of them would be nearby, and quite eager to be herded back to shelter. But, experience had proven to him that sheep could be the dumbest damned things, too, and no few would likely be scattered all over the place.

Troughs were filled with water, more filled with feed, then hay bales tossed down from the loft, flakes broken open and mounded into piles. He'd have to come out later again that night and do a better job, both here and at the cow byre, but for now this was enough to get the livestock settled in. At least the chickens could wait until daybreak; he'd given them enough in the feeder to keep them fed until morn anyway.

Then it was back to the door, drawing it open, icy frigid wind whipping him, calling out to the milling sheep there. Striding out, between him and Dog they got this bunch inside. They bleated, then bleated even happier as they discovered the waiting feed and hay. Once the last was inside, he looked the milling flock over with an expert eye then frowned. He had, maybe, about a hundred here, which meant another hundred were still outside.

"Great," he mumbled, fingers, toes, cheeks and nose already numb. "Just great. Dog!" he called louder. "Get 'em!"

Unlike Dog, who went running off into the night and blinding snow, Michael didn't dare do that. He'd be lost within ten paces, and finding his way back would be pure dumb luck, and he was pretty sure he'd used up every drop of luck he had just getting back here tonight. So he carefully felt his way, again using his feet, until he found the fence, and followed that off into the distance.

That wasn't ideal, at all, as the fence really didn't encircle the property at all. But it did lead a good distance off into the fields, and that was better then nothing.

Time started blurring. Michael felt like he was in Hell, blasted and burned by thongs of ice rather than flames of sulphur and brimstone. Back and forth he and Dog went, chivvying little flocks back to the byre, trip after trip, as his lungs burned with each breath, as limbs slowly turned to frozen leaden blocks as he pushed his way through the snow. Finally he called it quits, after stumbling back through knee-high drifts with the last group. He'd lost some for sure, he dully admitted, but there wasn't a blessed thing he could do about it.

He made one last check on things, then left Dog in the byre with the sheep, taking the lantern and the kettle - the water inside now frozen solid - with him back to the house. He only went as far as the mudroom, even as part of him screamed to warm himself at the stove. But he still had work to do, and work he did. From the crib at the side of the house he carried in log after log, cord after cord, until one entire wall of the mudroom was heaped with wood. Then back out to the pickup, carrying in the precious supplies he needed so badly, and that he'd paid for with sweat and blood.

And then it was back out to the cow byre, where there were four extremely irate cows not-so-patiently waiting. Removing his stiff, frozen gloves, Michael almost sobbed as he tucked his hands through his coat and under his armpits, shivering at the touch of icy fire, then gritting his teeth at the lancing pain as his fingers started thawing. He'd no real choice though, one thing for sure, no one in his right mind tried milking a cow with cold fingers. At least, never more then once! He chuckled to himself.

They were still pissed at having to wait so, warmed hands notwithstanding, they took bovine revenge as he milked them, trying to cow-kick him or swatting his face with their tails. Michael was too exhausted to take the pails back with him, so he simply set them outside. Cold as it was, Nature's refrigerator would keep the milk just fine.

Then it was the slow, careful hike back to the house, literally dragging with fatigue and exhaustion. He couldn't think of anything that still needed doing, and all he wanted to do was just sit atop the stove and thaw out.

"Awww, sheeee-it!" he exclaimed, the moment he stepped into the kitchen, having almost stumbled over the blanket swaddled bundle there. He'd forgotten all about the kid! Michael smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand, furious with himself. Granted, he'd been preoccupied with things, and doubly-granted it wasn't as if he frequently had a locked-up kid overnighting, but still! How the dickens did he just up and forget?!

He looked longingly at the stove, the temperature of the kitchen feeling toasty. "Hey kid, sorry I took so long," he said. "Just gotta get the bolt cutters now, and I'll be right back, OK?"

He didn't wait for an answer, just turned and trudged off. Back outside into the snow and ice, following the side of the house to the back, then carefully feeling his way down the path to his workshop. Michael was pretty sure he had bolt cutters, anyway. He certainly had lineman's pliers; like everyone else, they were used for fencing and fence repair. He didn't think, though, they were strong enough to shear hardened steel shackles but, worse come to worse, he had steel files. That would be a real bitch, he knew, having to file through each and every lock but, if that's what it took . . .

It was with great relief when, rooting through one of his toolboxes, Michael found a pair of eight-inch bolt cutters. They'd probably never cut a big padlock, but from what he'd seen of them, those weren't much bigger then luggage locks, although obviously better quality. Then, once again, back out into the snow, ice, and freezing yowling wind.

Once inside the kitchen again, Michael placed the bolt cutters atop the old wooden kitchen table. "OK kid, I found them," he said as he gathered three two-gallon, cast iron pots and started filling them with water from the pump. "Soon as I finish up here, I'll have you out of that junk in a jiffy."

Michael filled each one, placing them atop the stove before crouching down and checking inside, adding more wood to the fire. The house was slowly warming, the kitchen quite warm, in fact. He couldn't be sure but, if he was the kid, he'd want - and need - a nice hot soak after being held in that position as long as they had been. The kid's muscles had to be cramped and strained by now, so he wanted to get the water heating now. He should have done that earlier, before heading out to the livestock, he scolded himself, so the water would already have been boiling, then his jaw dropped as he glanced up at the wall pendulum clock.

Jeee-zus! he thought, shocked. He'd been about three hours already! Boy, he chuckled to himself, I bet this kid is royally pissed at me!

Hanging up his coat, gloves and hat, all of which were starting to drip as layers of snow and ice started melting, Michael then took the bolt cutters and hunkered down next to the kid.

"I'm gonna take the blankets off you now," he warned, "then start cutting this junk off." There was a faint muffed pained grunted moan from within the bundle at that, as Michael started peeling the blankets off one by one, laying them to the side, until once more the kid was exposed.

Michael stood up, brought over two lanterns, setting them on the nearby kitchen table after turning the wicks up. He wanted more light, to better see what he was doing, then crouched at the kid's side again.

"I'm going to set you up on your knees first," he told the kid - who, if the man in the van was correct, was a girl - before doing just that, "So I can get a better look at how all this junk comes off." Then, very carefully, did just that, placing the kid so they were kneeling upright, head still down, body held tight to their legs.

First thing he noticed was that the kid wasn't shivering any more, their skin no longer bluish, but rather a soft, pale fair pink. Second thing was that the kid was a tiny thing, although he wasn't sure just how small, not all folded up like this. They certainly didn't weigh all that much, that he knew for sure from having picked them up several times now. Strong fingers gently traced the leather straps securing her, checking to see where to start.

He picked the bolt cutters up, started to place them against the first lock, then paused. The bolt cutters were freezing cold still, and Michael suddenly worried about that. Ice cold hardened steel became brittle, could easily chip, or even snap. The last thing he wanted was to have his only fast means of taking the locks off break on him.

"Hey kid, I'm sorry," he said with more then a touch of chagrin as he set the cutters atop the stove, "But it's gonna be a few more minutes. I have to let the bolt cutters warm up, otherwise they might break when I try cutting the locks. Hey! I know!" he added, as the kid started grunting and jerking, irate and angry at being told about yet another delay. But he was rather surprised as she calmed down at hearing his explanation. Obviously as frantic as she was to get out of that junk, even now she was smart enough to understand the situation.

His strong wide callused hands helplessly waved. He wasn't good with kids, not that he didn't like them, because he did. But, he really hadn't been around them much. He couldn't count his brother and sister, of course, because they were, after all, his siblings. He didn't know what to do to comfort her, whether he should just talk, brush her small shoulders, or what. He figured stroking her shoulders would be OK, and started to, but jerked his hand back when she stiffened.

"Hey! I'm sorry kid. Didn't mean nothing by that. Just thought it would, well," he explained, an embarrassed tone to his normally confident voice, "Just thought it would, well, comfort you. Yanno?"

Actually, Gabrielle did know, once he explained. Her initial tensed jerk was the remnant of her fear and disgust at what her abductors had introduced her to, a reflexive bracing to that. Besides, she didn't want comforting, she wanted out. Out! And now!! And was very annoyed, vexed, angry and frustrated at the countless delays. She couldn't understand them, not at all. What could have possibly kept him waiting all this time, anyway??

Gabrielle didn't know how long she'd lain there, miserable and aching, feeling claustrophobic by now, needing to simply just move! Freezing at first, shivering, as she had been from the moment the van door had been yanked open and flooded the interior with an Arctic blast. She couldn't even get warm during that interminable drive back, as her rescuer's car had no heat!

At least now she was warm, very nicely so, and that helped. But also hurt for, once she no longer felt cold, every ache, stress and pain from her bound position felt a hundred times worse then before. How long she'd lain there Gabrielle wasn't sure, but it felt like hours and hours to her, and she wasn't at all happy or pleased at being left while he went off to do whatever he thought was more important to do first, before letting her go.

Besides, why hadn't he called the police, or taken her to them? Or even a hospital, or something? Gabrielle didn't understand that part at all. Wouldn't it have made better sense, wouldn't it had been more proper, more correct, to have summoned the gendarmes? Her abductors had probably already escaped by now, running free and unpunished! Why in the world did this man take her to his home, then just leave her on the floor like a sack of wheat?

Michael checked the bolt cutters, then the water in the pots, then stoked the stove again. "My name's Michael," he said, just to make conversation while she had to wait while they warmed. "You're at my farm. Again, I'm sorry things are taking so long, but I had to get the livestock in before they froze. Just took me way longer then I expected. Bit of a blizzard's blown in and, from the way things look, we're gonna get snowed in big time."

Gabrielle stiffened. Livestock? Livestock?! She had to wait, in misery and pain, while livestock, swine and cattle, or whatever, came first?!

"Anyways," he continued, unaware of her vexation and resentment, "I've got bathwater heating up now, you'll be able to soak once all this crap off of you."

Mentioning that brought a slight flush to his cheeks, as Michael became aware of some other particulars that, until now, hadn't dawned on him. It was patently obvious that the child was naked. What she was gonna wear after he'd gotten this junk off of her was beyond him. The only clothing here was his, he'd long ago donated his siblings, and his, kids clothing to Good Will. Owell, he shrugged, one thing at a time.

Checking the bolt cutters, Michael was at last satisfied. "Here we go kid," he warned them before starting.

First things first. Michael wanted to get that hood thing off first but, with the kid bent down as they were, he couldn't see the front of it very clearly. For all he knew there were locks or buckles or stuff at the front, as well as the crap he could see at the back. The hood seemed made of black leather. Good leather, too, he noted. Heavily stitched, with a heavy belt-leather thick collar around her throat, which was buckled - and locked - at the back. In addition, the hood was laced from the top of the head down the back, drawing the hood very snug. The lacing was one sixty-fourth diameter, braided strand steel aircraft cable he noted, eyes goggling at that, and also locked at the bottom.

Jeeee-zus! he silently whistled.

The hood looked somewhat bulky and, since he saw no sign of exposed hair, Michael assumed that the kid's hair was also beneath the hood. Maybe that was a good thing, he thought. That might have padded the kid's head and kept them from banging it when they got pitched out of the trunk in the accident.

Overlaying the kid's body was a harness of sorts, confining the body, pinning it down to the legs, as well as straps leading over the shoulders. No way the kid coulda wriggled out of that, he noted, and decided to start there. Slipping the jaws of the bolt cutters over the shackle securing the harness buckle closed, Michael squeezed the handles, pleased as, with a metallic ringing chime, the shackle cleanly parted. "There goes the first one!" he said with a smile.

Slipping the cloven lock free, Michael undid the buckle, slipping the harness over and off the kid, then carefully helped them sit upright, strong hands gently holding the kid by the shoulder as he eased them up.

The kid was in pain, he could tell that the moment he helped them sit up, hearing the faint muffled cries from beneath the hood, yet he suspected that this wasn't going to be the worst of the aches, either.

Then his jaw dropped, as did the cutters, slipping from his numb hand, as his eyes dropped downwards.

The kid was definitely a she, no doubt about it, he dumbly realized, eyes widening. Twin firm little cones, flushed from being compressed against her thighs, stood proudly out from her chest. Michael had never seen anything like them before, in his entire life. Not that he'd much experience with women. They were small, he could easily, with no trouble, fully cup and cover one with his hand. But, for all their diminutive size, they were utterly perfect. Absolutely exquisite. Topped by flawless little nipples, pale pink and puffy, the tips gently rising from the little nickel-sized aureole seas.

His cheeks turned a brighter pink, realizing he shouldn't be staring at them, especially not at a kid but, for what seemed an eternity, Michael simply couldn't pull his eyes away from them. Their shape, their proportion, their firmness . . . a sculptor would sob to see their perfection, yearning to somehow miraculously replicate them to their masterwork.

Shaking his head Michael tried clearing the cobwebs. He had work to do, and gawking like an adolescent wasn't going to get anything done. Besides, it wasn't fair to the kid - the girl, he corrected himself with another headshake. All the more so since she was helpless to cover herself, her modestly helplessly taken from her by the imprisoning confining straps that still held her.

"Ummmm, ahhh . . . OK now," he stammered, picking the bolt cutters back up. "I'm gonna take this hood thing off now, OK?"

The girl shook her head, quite vigorously, faint muffled grunts from beneath that assured Michael that she definitely wanted that off. And the sooner, the better, too!

He didn't see anything from the front to indicate there were additional locks, so Michael gently tipped her head forwards. One firm squeeze removed the lock holding the cable lacings, and another removed the lock securing the collar buckle. Laying the bolt cutters down, Michael then unbuckled the collar before working the lacings slack.

Gentle fingers eased the hood up, then off. Again his eyes opened wide, at the wealth of sable wavy hair that cascaded down once the hood was removed. Like liquid silk, it seemed, shining and shimmering. He glanced down, looking at her face for the first time, his face wrinkling in a frown at spotting the leather straps that went over her head, under her small chin and around her head, keeping whatever was in her mouth firmly hilted there. The inside of the hood was soaked with sticky saliva, and her face was just as soaked.

"Hold on a second," he softly said, rising up, padding over to the sink, returning with a dishcloth. Crouching again he gently wiped the sticky mess from her face and throat, then glanced up and finally met her eyes.

Huge eyes.

Huge emerald orbs, the pupils lined with a thin halo of bronze.

The most utterly gorgeous, most beautiful eyes Michael had ever seen in his life.

R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s - R e v i e w s

Monty

May we have some more, sir?

Flintstone3917

[email protected]

Michael was suprised ... I am in supense ... I hope ther is more comeing and soon ... THANKS for this much :))

Jack

Great story so far. I assume there is more to come. I am a fan of character development as much as the erotic/sexual aspects of a story and your characters have grabbed me.
You, Sir are a master story teller. Please inform me when you write more of this story!

Hot_rod_44

[email protected]

Great story but we need more when can we expect a follow-up?
Omg this story is sooooooooooo good! More please. :D
Wonderful story....can't wait to see where it goes from here. I hope he didn't run the gear with the boltcutters! BTW 'Summer Slave' has been one of my favorite stories for years!
A nicely written narrative, I think, except for a couple of details:
First, blizzards in Montana are WAY worse than described as far as the snow depth is concerned. Several INCHES of snow over a back road is nothing; a FOOT, usually more, is more common.
Second, why does the author persistently refer to the victim of the tale as 'them', 'they', etc., especially after early-on in the story, it is known that the victim is a female and would properly be referred to as 'she', or 'her'? That error is rather a bit 'jarring' to the reader in consideration of the fact that the English is well done otherwise. It makes me wonder if the author is a native English speaker, or someone who doesn't quite understand the finer points of the language.
In any case, I would be very interested to see where the story goes from its sudden stop.

Annoy a Mouse

Wonderful story (so far). I hope, considering how much work and effort that has gone into this, there will be more?

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