Thanks again to the team that makes me look like I'm not stupid, my editor, PapaKilo14, second editor Dan, my beta readers Denny and Black Phoenix. Everyone worked their usual magic.
This story is a challenge from a friend. He knows I hate a cheater. He asked me to come up with a situation where a normally faithful, moral spouse might be caught up in cheating. This is my response and it's a damned rare situation. I'm not justifying it, just saying it could happen. I'm sure readers will have pros and cons. I look forward to seeing them.
"Allender, are you ready?" her husband called. They were leaving for two weeks in the mountains on an elk hunt. She was looking for her foam pad. She knew sleeping on the ground would become very uncomfortable without some high density foam between her body and the earth, and the ground could be miserable and cold.
"Brian, have you seen my Ensolite pad?" she called.
"I put it in the truck already," he called back.
She grabbed her backpack off the floor by the door and they went to the truck. It was going to be a long drive. Brian Saline watched his wife come outside and down the sidewalk. He still couldn't believe he had talked her into marrying him. They had been married three months and his heart still pounded every time he looked at her. She was a tall, slender dark haired girl. Her hair was that dark, blue/black color you sometimes see. She was wearing tight blue jeans and a button-up white blouse. She looked so sexy he wanted to take her back inside and fuck her right then. She was obviously not wearing a bra. He could see those large, firm breasts sway and jiggle inside her top and as she swung her backpack into the truck he marveled at the way she filled out the denim of her jeans. She was a gym rat and it was easy to tell in the way her ass jutted out, making men drool on themselves.
She climbed in and looked at him. "What?" she asked.
"I just can't believe how beautiful you are," he told her.
She smiled, her teeth flashing white in her creamy face. She had that rare pale, almost translucent skin and she was careful since she spent a lot of time outdoors, running through their neighborhood every morning and spending many afternoons by the pool in their backyard. They both loved hiking and camping and shared a love for hunting. This was the second time they had gone together and he knew she was a crack shot with any kind of weapon. Her father had raised her deer and moose hunting on the Upper Peninsula and she had taken many deer and two moose. Neither of them had ever killed an elk and they were looking forward to the hunt. She was hoping to take one with a bow. Brian wasn't much into bow hunting, but he admired her for doing it. She looked at her boyish husband and felt all warm inside. She knew how lucky she was. She was a little horny looking at him. He was an amazing lover and Allender couldn't get enough of him. They were going to wait a while to have kids. They were just enjoying being married to each other.
Brian was a dream come true to her. They'd met their senior year at college and she knew she'd found the other half of her soul. He just had an air about him that melted her. He was scary smart, witty and he had a sense of humor that matched hers. He was an outdoors guy just like she was and she thought he was the hottest man she had ever met. Those big brown eyes, a swimmer's body and he was the most amazing love she'd ever imagined. She couldn't get enough of him and he obviously felt the same way about her. Allender was in love, in lust and married to the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
It was a long way to Colorado and they stopped for the night in Des Moines. Late the next afternoon they rolled into Salida and met their guides there. They were hunting the Big Baldy Mountain area and they were driven back into the wilderness where they found their base camp. The journey from there was by horseback and they would begin the next day. They had two guides and a third man that tended the camp for them. They were introduced to the guides and they liked one of them right away. Peter Thompson was a little cowboy about five feet eight and a hundred and twenty pounds. He looked to be in his late forties and he was wiry and light on his feet. The other guide was Raines Parker. He was a whole different animal. He was about six five, looked like he weighed two hundred and fifty pounds and appeared to be a refugee from the sixties. He had long black hair, tied back in a ponytail and he was very quiet. Allender thought he looked like he was in his late twenties and was very good looking. His arms were heavy with muscle and his traps were so large he looked like he had no neck. When he shook her hand she felt very small. Since she was nearly six feet tall herself, she was a little unsettled.
"Don't mind Raines," Peter chuckled. "He ain't said five hundred words in the three months I've known him. He's a college boy. Played football for the Raiders for a while. He knows the woods though. His daddy was a Forest Ranger around these parts and he knows Big Baldy like the back of his hand."
They ate dinner and Brian and Allender got their first taste of bison. Raines cooked and she went over to ask if she could help him. "No, I've got it," he said. His voice was the lowest bass rumble Allender had ever heard. If a grizzly bear could talk, she thought that was what it would sound like.
"You can set the table if you want," he told her. "Dishes in that cabinet over there. Silverware in the drawer underneath."
She got the table ready and Peter poured a nice red wine. The bison was delicious and Raines was a good cook. They talked about where they would go and when she mentioned that she wanted to use a bow Raines' eyes lit up.
"Do you bow hunt?" she asked him.
He nodded. "What kind of bow you got?" he asked her.
"I'm shooting a Bear Motive 6 with a 65 pound draw weight and Quest Power Punch arrows with 125 grain HellRazor points," she told him. "I'm learning longbow, but I'm not confident enough to try it yet. I'm making my own bow, but it's not done yet."
He looked at her for a while. "I'm surprised," he told her, "impressed too. Most women can't handle that heavy a draw."
"Well, that's a change," Peter laughed. "Raines ain't easily impressed. You a bow hunter too, Brian?"
"No, it's too much work for me," Brian laughed.
"Well we'll send those two off to sneak around and we'll actually kill something," Peter told Brian.
"We're going to kill something too," Raines told him. "My clients have taken elk with a bow, Allender. We killed five last season."
Her big blue eyes were shining with excitement. "I want something nice," she told him. "It doesn't have to be huge, but I want a nice one. I've killed a moose and a black bear with a bow. Brian just wants an elk."
"He'll get one," Raines told her. "If he can get Peter to shut up long enough to get close. Peter's really very good. He could sneak around too but he's lazy. He always gives me the bow clients."
They made an early night of it and got up at six in the morning. It was still very cold and Allender shivered until she got her cold gear on. They put on lots of layers and by the time Allender was dressed Raines had breakfast ready. They ate quickly, eager to get going and when they were through, Raines had the horses tied outside. Allender tied her bow on the back of her saddle and they climbed on. She was a little stiff from the ride the previous day and she felt like her joints were creaking. She soon limbered up and when they left the trail she kissed Brian. Brian and Peter continued up the trail they had been on and Raines led her on a winding route that led around the mountain and steeply up the slope. They rode for an hour and suddenly the vista opened up and she was looking down into a large canyon.
Raines pulled glasses out of his saddle bags and she followed.
"Three o'clock," he told her, "about two miles out on the other side of those aspens."
She looked and she made out half a dozen elk moving in a clearing.
"What do you think?" she asked him. "That second bull looks pretty big from here."
"He's pretty nice," he told her. "He's no record but he's nice. You interested?"
"Do you know of anything better?" she asked him.
"Yes, but it's a ways," he said. "Let's have a go at this one and see how we do. It's better to take a nice one than miss on a really nice one."
She agreed and they rode into the canyon. It was warming up and Allender was beginning to get hot by the time Raines pulled up and dismounted. They tied the horses and she took off two layers. She felt like she was being watched and she glanced at Raines. He was looking at her in obvious appreciation. What the hell? She felt a little self-conscious. Her face flushed a little and she turned to face him.
"What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said. "You're a very beautiful woman. I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable."
She shrugged it off. "Brian tells me that." For some reason she felt like she should mention her husband. "Forget about it. Let's go hunting."
She pulled down her bow and got her arrows. They made the stalk and when they got close to where the elk had been they took a peek. Allender's heart sank. They were half a mile away and moving farther.
"Well, should we try to get ahead of them?" she asked.
"No, I don't think so," Rains mused. "We'd have to climb that wall and we couldn't take the horses. By the time we got up there's no telling where they would be. Let's take the next canyon south and see what we spot.
They made two more stalks that day. One came up empty and Allender didn't want the bull she got close enough to take. It had a broken antler and Raines agreed that she should pass it up. It was getting late and they decided to head back. They rode in companionable silence for most of the trip. Just before they reached the cabin Raines stopped.
"I have an idea," he told her. "It involves getting up about three and riding for three hours but there's a big bull out there that I'd love to put you on. What do you think?"
"I'm game," Allender told him. "Listen, Raines; I'm not disappointed in today. I just love to be out here. I want an elk, but that's just a bonus. Being in this place, doing these stalks, that's what it's all about to me."
"Good girl," Raines told her. "I like the way you think. Let's go get dinner."
Brian and Peter were already back when they arrived. They had seen elk but they were down in a canyon that they couldn't get into from their position and they were going to try to take one tomorrow. They ate supper and Allender and Raines turned in early for their trek the next morning. It was very cold when they got up and they ate a quick breakfast and saddled the horses before the others got up. The ride through the dark forest was a little unsettling to Allender and she was glad Raines was with her and knew where they were going. As the sun came up they were close to the area they wanted to hunt and at ten thirty Allender spotted a group of elk in an aspen thicket. They made a stalk and came out about two hundred yards from the biggest elk Allender had ever seen. It had begun to rain and the elk were restless. Raines found a draw that would give them cover.
"We need to do this now," he whispered. "They're going to move to better cover. When we come up, you take him if you have a shot. This is a very good bull, Allender."
She eased closer, waiting for the bull to lower its head to make the draw. It turned a little more broadside and Allender drew down and let the arrow fly. It was a perfect shot; just behind the foreleg and a little lower than center. The huge animal flinched and took off as if shot out of a cannon. Allender was trembling with adrenaline and she threw herself on Raines.
"Did you see that? I got him, Raines! You couldn't have made a better shot!" Her arms circled his neck and she pulled him down for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "He was huge! How long do we wait to go look for him?"
She became a little calmer and realized her body was wrapped around his and she flushed a little more. She disengaged and drew away a little.
"Let's go get the horses and then we'll trail him," Raines suggested. It was now raining very hard and the temperature felt like it was plummeting. The sky was completely overcast and there was a cold vapor rising from the earth. They brought the horses back to the place she had loosed the arrow and began looking for the trail. Crashing through the aspen thicket it was easy to trail and when they reached the edge of the meadow after a quarter mile they quickly found the elk almost exactly in the center of the clearing. Allender got Raines to take some pictures and she took one of him standing by the elk too.
They got immediately to work field dressing the animal and he helped her quarter it. They wrapped it in plastic he had brought and put it in canvas bags for transportation. By the time they had it strapped to the backs of the horses a heavy snow was falling and visibility was near zero. The wind had begun to howl and, incredibly to Allender, lightning was crackling all around. She was very frightened and Raines was setting quite a pace for being nearly blind. After half a mile he drew up in front of her and got off his horse. He cupped his hand around her ear and shouted to be heard over the howl of the wind.
"There's a rock wall about twenty feet ahead. Keep an eye out for an overhang, a deadfall a cave; anything we can use for shelter. We need to find someplace to hunker down."
She nodded. They moved forward and the wall came into sight. It went up out of sight into the storm and they turned to the right. They followed it for maybe half a mile and it came to a gradual end.
"We have to go back the other way and try that," Raines shouted in her ear. The ground was covered with snow now and it was coming thicker if anything. They retraced their steps and by the time they had gone a hundred yards they could no longer see their tracks. Allender was wearing good gear but some water had gotten through in a number of places and she was shivering as the heat leeched away from her body. A dark opening in the wall appeared ahead and Raines dismounted and checked it out. It was large at the opening and went back about fifteen feet before pinching down to a narrow throat. They led the horses inside the first room and peered inside the narrow passage. It appeared to open up past the throat and they could see another small room, maybe six feet across and six feet deep. Allender was shivering uncontrollably now and Raines could tell she was in trouble.
"I'm going to find some wood to make a fire," he told her. "Take the stuff off the horses if you can. We can use the blankets and pads they have under the saddles. Find my lighters in my pack and I'll get a fire built as soon as I can. Working will help keep you from freezing."
Allender was so cold she could hardly concentrate, but she started unsaddling the horses as Raines took a hatchet and disappeared into the snow. She cursed her stupid, stiff fingers as she fumbled at the cinches. She managed to get the saddles off and she put the pads on the floor of the small room with the horse blankets on top of them. She put her foam pad down and moved the pads and blankets on top of it. Fumbling clumsily at Raines pack she managed to get it open and find a dry bag with three lighters and a can of fluid inside. She put them out and made a circle of large rocks just inside the narrow part of the shallow cave. The smoke should be able to escape when they built the fire there and it would also give the horses some heat. By the time she finished Raines was back with an armload of dry wood he had broken off of standing trees. He quickly broke off small branches and built them into a little teepee in the center of the rock circle. He broke up gradually larger pieces until he had pieces as large as his wrist on the top. Allender helped and they soon had a respectable pile built up.
Raines squirted some of the lighter fluid on the smallest branches and he soaked them well. He made a little trail of fluid away from the fire and lit it with the lighter. The flame ran up the trail and the pile burst into flame. In ten minutes they had a nice fire going and Allender was holding her frozen hands out to the flame. She was still shivering and her teeth were chattering. Raines was very concerned when he looked at her and saw that her lips were a bluish color.
"Allender, are you wet?" he asked her.
"Yes, some of my clothes are wet and I'm still freezing," she managed to get out between chattering teeth.
"We've got to dry your clothes," he told her. "You'll never get warm as long as you're wet. Take off everything that's wet and wrap up in the blankets. We'll hang your clothes on sticks by the fire to dry."
The last thing she wanted to do was take off her clothes in the frigid air but she was freezing.
"Don't look," she told him.
"I swear," he promised. "Are you going to be modest or alive?"
She went and got the blankets and stripped down to her bra and panties. Her bra was wet too and she took it off, quickly wrapping herself up in the blankets. She hurried back to the fire and Raines gathered up her clothes. He thrust sticks into the rocks and hung her clothes around on the sticks close to the fire. She was still shivering uncontrollably and Raines was getting very worried. Past a certain point of hypothermia she was unlikely to recover and they needed to warm her up quickly. She was very drowsy and lethargic and she didn't notice him stripping off his own clothes. She roused up a little when he picked her up and placed her on the saddle pads he had carried close to the fire. She felt a blast of cold air when he opened the blankets and then she felt his warm skin on her cold body. He shivered when he felt her against him.