Betrayed by a lover, Jamie rents an isolated cabin on Lake Huron, wanting only to be left alone. Instead, he is pulled from his solitary existence as an artist and tumbles headlong into the legend of Saint Nicolas.
As a young man, Nicolas accidentally killed a man intent on murdering three children, only to have the man's malicious spirit rise up against him. Fleeing through the centuries from the Krampus, the evil troll-like creature that dogs his steps, Nico finds refuge with the young artist who takes him into his home and bed. But Jamie has questions. Who is Nicolas, and why does the Krampus want to destroy him?
When the Krampus begins to torment and torture anyone Nico comes in contact with to punish him, Jamie’s life is put in danger. And Jamie isn’t sure whether he can help Nico defeat his nemesis or if he’s merely a pawn in the Krampus’s game.
JAMIE STARTLED awake. “What?”
He had trouble breathing, the crushing weight on his chest seeming to have followed him up from his dreams. But that couldn’t be right. He’d rented the cabin for its isolation. No one should be there. Did he still dream?
A warm breath brushed against his cheek, sending a shiver of dread and strange anticipation through him. “Easy, baby,” a silky voice whispered in the darkness. Sharp teeth nipped his earlobe and pleasure and pain sparked along his nerves. His eyes adjusted to the moonlight filtering through the sheer curtains, and he stared in amazement at the man gazing at him with wild green eyes, long pale hair, high cheekbones and a slender neck he craved to run his tongue along.
The stranger laid his weight on him, driving the air from his lungs and making Jamie struggle for every breath. Shifting position, the man sealed his full lips over Jamie’s, drawing a long groan from Jamie when an impossibly large cock slid against his. In sudden panic he reached to shove his unknown visitor away and touched hot skin and lean muscles. Of their own volition his hands roamed lower, following the curve of the stranger’s back to the rounded swell of his ass. He drew a quick breath and the man laughed into his mouth, pushed his tongue deep, thrusting inside to match the movement of his hips as he ground against Jamie’s aching dick.
Heat pooled in Jamie’s stomach. God, what was happening? The thing in his bed looked like a man, but his every instinct shouted otherwise. His skin was warm when it should have been cold from being outside. And how had he gotten in? All the windows and doors were locked tight against the winter storm. It was as if he’d just materialized in Jamie’s bed. “Who—”
He cried out when a hand pushed between them and grabbed their cocks, stroking them together until he lost the ability to think. So close! He grabbed the man’s firm ass and yanked him tighter against him, rising up to shove into his strong grip.
The triumphant hiss in his ear shot ice through his veins. “So naughty.”
“No!” Jamie struggled to sit up, scrambling back against the headboard. He blinked, finding himself alone in the room, only his ragged breaths disturbing the silence of the cabin. A forgotten anxiety knotted his stomach. Naughty. He hated that word, tossed about by the boys he once knew in school. The ones he’d suck off behind the gym, desperate for a gentle hand in his hair, balm against his loneliness. He’d been terrified his parents would find out he was different, that he liked girl things and found boys much more exciting than he should. They would know he was gay and there would be hell to pay for their freak of a son.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. God, that had been ages ago. The last shreds of the dream dissipated, and he reached for the bedside light, fumbling in the darkness for the switch. Low light stung his eyes and he blinked at the empty bedroom, unable to believe the attack hadn’t been real.
He flung off the heavy quilts and slid to his feet, clinging to the post at the foot of the bed as a wave of dizziness struck him. Laughter from the other room jolted him. Heart pounding, he bolted for the door and it crashed into the wall as he flung it open. The reddish glow from the banked fire on the hearth lit the main room of the cabin, though the kitchen area remained in shadows.
Jamie’s gaze swept the rooms, focusing on the dark corners. No one jumped out at him. Nobody sat on the couch. His coffee cup remained undisturbed where he’d left it on the hearth. Of course. The cabin was isolated, miles from the nearest neighbor. Who would bother to come way out there, especially with the threat of another snowstorm on the way?
He ran a trembling hand through his hair, pushing the sweat-drenched bangs from his forehead. Christ, the dream had seemed so real. The cold of the great room finally registered, creeping up from the hardwood flooring. Shaking, he crossed to the fireplace and stirred up the coals, adding another log.
With a sigh, he sank into the cushions of the worn couch and pulled the woolen afghan up around his bare shoulders. The log caught and the fire crackled, sparks dancing up the flue. Recalling his dream and the hard body against his, he shrugged when his cock perked up.
“It’s been a while,” he acknowledged, watching the flames lick at the oak log. He’d signed a year’s lease on the cabin, right after catching his boyfriend in the stairwell of their apartment building, making out with their neighbor. It hadn’t been the first time, either, though again Patrick had his apologies ready. That had been over six months ago, and since the cabin stood miles over rough terrain from the nearest town, he’d rarely seen another human being in all that time.
“Just the way I like it,” he told the indifferent fire burning its way through the wood. But the stranger’s lips in his dream had been soft, his thrusting tongue sweet in Jamie’s mouth. He hadn’t liked the violent aspect of the dream, but if that had been a lover in his bed? His dick pressed against his thigh, and Jamie reached under the heavy blanket, moaning when he took its heavy weight in his hand. Drawing lazy circles on his balls, he let the pleasure build slowly, lifting his cock while in his mind the stranger licked the glistening head, his pale gold hair a curtain of silk against Jamie’s sensitive skin. He moaned as the man slid his tongue down the thick vein on the underside of his cock.
His mind flitted over the question of whether the guy would fuck him or want it the other way around. Didn’t matter to him. He liked it both ways. Rolling to his back, Jamie continued to stroke himself while he tugged his tight balls, then pressed a finger against his hole. He remembered the lube in the nightstand drawer by the bed, but he wasn’t about to stop, and hissed when he pushed the finger inside. The man’s cock had been huge in his dream. What would it feel like as it stretched him open? Would it be enough to fill all the empty spaces inside him?
It was a moment before the tolling of a bell outside the cabin registered. What the fuck? Jamie sat up, trying to hear past the pounding of his pulse in his ears. His cock throbbed and he groaned in frustration, knowing he couldn’t chase his pleasure until he found out what was going on at the dock. The only one to boat in was the man who dropped off his monthly supplies, and he’d been and gone two days ago. Who else would be using the dock? Jamie had been isolated for months without anything disturbing his peace. But this night he’d had a wildly erotic dream and now this. What made tonight so special?
With a deep sigh, he got up and returned to his chilly room to dress. Thermal underwear was a must, along with snow pants and a wool sweater. Nights in Alpena, Michigan, averaged around twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit in early winter but could drop to the teens when sleet swept off Lake Huron. Stomping into his boots and sliding his arms into a heavy coat, he pulled on gloves and a hat and opened the front door. Freezing air struck his face, catching at his breath, and he almost returned to the warmth of the great room behind him.
“Dammit.” He pulled the door closed and maneuvered over the icy porch and steps. The bell tolled again, and he hurried through the pristine snow blanketing the yard and surrounding forest. Even if it was only an animal that had ventured onto the dock, if it had slipped on the icy surface into the lake, he had to try to save the poor creature. It could take only moments to freeze to death in the subzero temperatures of the water. The lake shimmered in the moonlight as he approached the bank, a wide expanse of silver stretching in all directions.
His heart stumbled when he spotted a form sprawled on the dock jutting from the snow-covered bank. A canoe lazily bumped into the wood planking, sending the bell chiming into the night. Forgetting the danger of the slick wood, he hurried to the man’s side, praying it wasn’t already too late. He knelt and peeled off a glove, letting out a held breath when the man’s clothing proved dry. Biting his lips at a surge of anxiety, he rolled him onto his back.
The man’s features hardly registered as he hastily loosened the stiff scarf and searched for a pulse. He leaned closer and relief washed through him when a faint breath warmed his cheek. “Thank God.” His gaze ran over the man’s large frame. “But I can’t carry you. Can I wake you up?”
A melancholy smile flittered across his face. “Talking to yourself again, Jamieson,” he muttered. Maybe he’d been spending too much time alone after all. “Well, let’s try to get you up.”
He slid an arm under the broad shoulders and lifted the man into a sitting position, resting the heavy body against his chest. He patted a white cheek and worry creased his brow. The man felt ice cold.
A shudder ran through the long frame and the stranger began to shiver in earnest. Thick lashes fluttered, and Jamie lowered his head to catch the words that whispered past blue-tinged lips.
“What? I can’t understand you.” The foreign language sounded familiar. Spanish? No. With the man’s olive complexion and the dark waves of curls brushing his shoulders, there was a chance he might be Italian. He sounded like the foreign exchange student from Italy Jamie had known in high school. “Can you stand up?” he asked, hoping the guy knew English.
Jamie helped him to his knees and heard the man’s deep breath before he struggled up, leaning a heavy hand on Jamie’s shoulder. “Grazie. Thank you,” he said. The slightly accented voice sounded sexy even in the frigid air, and Jamie looked at him with sudden interest. Incredible hazel eyes met his gaze, dark with exhaustion and pain but also curious, stirring a small ache of pleasure inside Jamie. It had been a while since anyone took notice of him.
“Let’s get you inside,” he said, self-conscious as the man continued to stare as if intrigued with his face. Feeling the heat of a blush in his cheeks, he glanced aside. Sure, he was attractive enough. Freckles dotted his nose and cheeks, and at times his mop of red hair could be unmanageable. Previous lovers had called his lips deliciously full, kissable. Too bad that hadn’t kept any of them in his bed. But he had nothing to gain this man’s attention.
Putting aside the bitter thought, he left the man a moment to secure his canoe to the dock. The stranger leaned against the railing, head down as he waited, and Jamie swung an arm around his waist and nudged him toward the cabin, walking gingerly on the icy wood planking of the dock. He’d broken a path through the snow to the structure, but it was still a steep climb, the man seeming to grow heavier with each step. They reached the halfway mark before the stranger stumbled and dropped to a knee, breathing hard. Tremors ran through the large frame under Jamie’s hand.
“Please, it’s not much further,” he begged. No way could he carry him, and staying out here in the snow was unthinkable. The temperature had dropped lower and his face was growing numb. The man must be frozen through.
Muscles bunched under Jamie’s fingers, and the stranger heaved to his feet, a moan torn from deep inside his chest. The walk became a nightmare after that, each step forward a small triumph over pain and exhaustion. Jamie lost all sense of time. There was only whiteness and cold and the porch light promising heat and safety if they could reach it. At long last they stumbled up the steps and Jamie shoved open the door, coming close to dropping the man as they crossed the threshold into the stifling warmth of the cabin.
Slamming the door shut behind them, Jamie somehow managed to keep the dead weight in his arms from sliding to the floor.
“Couch,” he barked through frozen lips, and they staggered across the room, the man crumpling onto the cushions as soon as Jamie eased him down. Jamie looked at him, not sure what to do, then shook off the panic skittering along his nerves. He had to warm the guy up. He knelt, cupping the man’s cold face. “Can you sit up?”
A small grunt escaped the blue-tinged lips and Jamie helped him into a seated position. He removed the man’s heavy coat, then got to work on the snow-encased boots. The laces were impossible, and he tugged off his gloves to work on the knots, his fingers stiff with cold.
“Fuck,” he muttered, reaching over and grabbing scissors from the coffee table drawer and cutting the strings. He slid the boots off, then very carefully rolled down the socks, holding his breath while he removed them. The toes were white with cold but—thank God—no sign of frostbite.
He looked up, his heart clenching when he saw that his guest had fallen asleep. Pain lined the man’s face, and Jamie set his lips, knowing he still might be too late. He had to warm the chilled body and hope his heart was strong enough to survive the shock. And there was also the threat of pneumonia…. Shoving that fear aside, he began to undress the man, lifting the bulky sweater over his head. He tried not to notice the defined muscles of his chest and arms and strong thighs as he removed his jeans and thermals. The dark cotton briefs were dry, and Jamie left them on in relief, embarrassed by his body’s reaction when the man was plainly suffering.
After a brief hesitation, he searched the pockets for a wallet or anything to identify him. Not even a phone. Who was he? Didn’t matter. Jamie had to get him warm. He stripped down to his blue panties. Shivering, he stirred up the coals in the fireplace and added one of the thicker logs. That should keep burning for the rest of the night. He almost hated to disturb the sleeping man, but with some tugging and pushing, he was able to pull the blanket from under him. Stretching the long frame out on the couch, he lay down beside him and covered them both with the thick afghan. The man felt wonderful in his arms. It had been too long since he’d had someone in his bed, even if this man still shivered with cold. He should begin to warm up soon enough.
Jamie yawned as exhaustion caught up to him. He blinked sleepily, then fell into a heavy doze with the man’s warm breath on his neck.
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