Sam stopped at the junction and looked both ways. The wipers on his truck were doing their best to keep the snow off the window, but it was coming down heavier than they could cope. He grabbed the map from the passenger seat and tried to find the best route home, but that detour he encountered 10 miles ago was proving to be more than a minor inconvenience.
Guessing it would be better to move towards his original direction, Sam took the right turn and followed a winding mountainous road to another junction. He could not make out any of the signage and the map he was reading was useless, so he gambled on a left turn. The radio returned only static and the snow was getting heavier. Sam looked into the back seat to see his fishing tackle box and a woollen blanket. He knew there was a gallon of water in the trunk but it didn’t stop a wrinkle of worry creeping up his spine.
By the time darkness had fallen, he hadn’t passed another car in over an hour. Sam had all but resigned himself to parking up and sleeping in his truck when he spotted a light in the distance. He gripped the wheel a little tighter and kept one eye on the road and the other on his destination. On the side of the road he saw a large entrance, lit up with solar powered spotlights, highlighting a sign that read “The Riverfront Lodge”.
“A lodge.” He turned on his signal light, half wondering if anyone would even be able to see the blinking light in this blizzard, then pulled across the road and up the driveway. Small torches in the ground lit the way and soon he parked in a spot by the door. Sam killed the engine then sat back in his seat and let out a tight breath between clenched teeth. He didn’t want to admit to himself how worried he was about being caught in that blizzard. But now under the soft porch light of the Riverfront lodge he was able to relax a little. He pulled his coat closed, before he got out of the truck and hurried through the heavy snow to the front door. He stomped his feet on the welcome mat to knock off the loose snow, before walking through the door and quickly closing it behind him.
The lobby of the lodge was warm and welcoming. Right in front of the doorway was an ornate staircase that led up to the second floor. To the right an open library room with large arm chairs and sofas surrounded a roaring fire which was framed by a rich oak mantle piece that held a Christmas garland and other ornaments. Several people sat around the room sipping what Sam assumed to be hot chocolate or hot whisky, talking quietly over the soft music that was playing from a vintage record player in the corner. To the left was the reception area. A tall standalone counter stood by a window with a modern computer on top of it, a bowl of seasonal candies next to it and a rack of keys on the wall at the back. There was a large sofa against the other wall and a coffee table adorned with many leaflets and magazines advertising local amenities.
He felt very out of place in his ratty jeans, work boots, navy long sleeve and blue and white flannel shirt under a duffel coat he’d easily been wearing for a decade but his insecurities were not alarmed enough to make him want to go back out into that blizzard.
Three people stood behind the counter, two of them talking amongst themselves, the third with a customer. An irate customer Sam noted. He approached the counter as the customer left and and tried to get the attention of the other two staff members but one of them, a male, turned to him with a frown, looked him up and down, scoffed, then turned on his heel and disappeared through a door next to the rack of keys.
Sam watched in shock as the door closed then turned back to the other staff member who was looking at him with a smile.
“Hi, how can I help?” she said. She was curvy and smiling, her blonde hair in tight curls around her face and by the uniform she was wearing, Sam guessed she was a concierge or manager.
“I’m looking for… directions…to Washburn?”
“Washburn?” The staff member said with both eyebrows almost disappearing into her hairline.
She was laughing, Sam realised. At him, one hand on her hip, the other on the counter as if she needed assistance in standing up.
“That’s hilarious.” she dabbed her eyes with the sleeve of her uniform then turned and left through the same door the guy had walked through.
A little taken aback by the abrupt departures by both of the staff members, Sam turned to the other one member of staff who was now working on the computer. He first noticed her piercing blue eyes, the rich red hair full of loose curls, and the deep frown she wore as she typed furiously on the keys, obviously searching for a solution to the irate customer’s problem. She wore a tight fitting navy blouse with a name badge that said “Larissa - Manager”
“Excuse me…” he said softly as he took a half a step in her direction.
“One second sir, I’ll be right with you.” she spoke without looking up and Sam clenched his teeth in annoyance.
He waited a moment but she continued to work on the computer. After a few minutes had passed, Sam tried again, “Excuse me, I’m looking for-”
“One second sir, I’ll be right with you.” This time she lifted a hand off the keyboard long enough to hold up one finger in his direction, but just as quickly took it back and continued to work on the computer.
Sam felt his annoyance increase and was on the verge of just turning around and walking out when he remembered the blizzard that was going on out there. “Look,” he said, clapping his hand flat on the counter, a little louder than he intended, in an attempt to get her attention. “I just need to get directions.”
Larissa stopped typing and slowly turned her head to face the guy who just slapped her counter. “I’m sorry sir, I should have dropped everything the minute you walked in. Forget that the paying customer I was talking to before you arrived, needs assistance in sourcing a new suit for his wedding tomorrow that our dry cleaning service are unable to deliver in this blizzard, that’s a non issue now that you are here. So… what can I do for you?”
“I’m sorry, I tried to talk to the other staff members that were here earlier but one ignored me and the other laughed at me.”
“Oh but that’s ok, I’m here now ready to bow to your every whim.” Her voice was flat and dripping in sarcasm and the smile she plastered on her face was anything but charming. Sam felt his anger pulsing in waves around his body.
“I need directions,” he said flatly.
“Directions?” She arched an eyebrow at him as if questioning his sanity.
“To Washburn.” He scratched the back of his neck. “I was driving on the 405 but there were roadworks on and I got detoured. I think I missed the detour turn and got turned around. So I’m looking for directions to Washburn.”
“Okay, well first, you’re about 20 miles from Washburn, and in normal conditions it would take about 30 mins to get there. But the road is closed, so the state police called earlier to let us know. So unless you have an ATV you will not make it to Washburn tonight.”
“Perhaps you didn’t notice the blizzard going on out there?”
“Is there any way to get there?”
She came around the counter and walked to a large topographical map on the wall. Sam followed and found the marker for the hotel on the map was a small monopoly hotel game piece. She pointed out their current location and then showed him Washburn. “So you see us and you see Washburn.”
“Yeah…wow I’m really off course.” Sam rubbed his hand over his face and screwed his eyes shut for a second, then took a step closer to the map. “So the 405 roadworks are here, and my detour brought me this way…And you say this road is closed?”
“According to the state police, this road, this one… and this one, are closed.”
“Shit.” Sam studied the map for a little while longer and found one questionable route that would take him home in what would normally take an hour and a half, but in this weather could be 3+ hours.
“Feel free to study this map, as long as you need, sir.” She pursed her lips and returned to the counter where she got back to work on the computer.
Sam weighed up his options. He didn’t relish going back out into that blizzard, but neither did he fancy staying at this lodge, which he was sure would make more than a small dent in his wallet that wasn’t really able to take much more abuse after everything he had to shell out on top of the cross country move..
He turned back to the counter to ask about the cost of a room, and if there were any vacancies but as he approached the counter and put his hand on the edge, another customer came rushing over and slapped the bell a few times.
“Hey, hey, so the priest cannot make it, half the guests are snowed in elsewhere, the catering company is charging us whether or not they can deliver the food and my parents are stuck in Boston.”
Larissa turned to the lady who was still slamming her hand on the bell and smiled in sympathy. “I understand you are stressed-”
“Stressed?” The lady covered her face with both hands and Sam thought she was crying but when her hands came away, there were no tears there, instead it was pure fury. “Stressed does not begin to describe what I’m feeling right now. You have guaranteed me the perfect wedding venue and instead I may not even get a wedding. This location, which you assured me was easy access from multiple directions, has proven to be impossible to breach from ANY direction!”
“Hey now,” Sam stepped in and held his hand up in front of the frazzled woman. “This is a freak snowfall this year and they have not seen anything like this in 20+ years in this area,” he said, spouting what he had heard on the radio earlier when he decided it was time to get back home, albeit that turned out to be too late. “There is no way it could have been predicted.”
There was a pause.
The customer stared at Sam. She looked him up and down her mouth agape at his audacity at trying to calm her down. She turned to Larissa and shouted, “Who the hell is this guy?”
“I apologise for the inconvenience you are experiencing-” Larissa started but the customer cut her off.
“Inconvenience? You mean the inconvenience of my wedding being destroyed?”
“It’s not her fault!” Sam said not understanding that he was making it worse.
“Stay out of this, it’s got nothing to do with you!”
“Please refrain from interrupting, sir.” Larissa looked at him with a pointed glare.
“I need you to fix this.” The customer was pointing at Larissa then offered one final glare at Sam before turning on her heel and walking away.
Sam looked at Larissa who was now glaring at him with full force. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to-”
“Butt in where you’re not wanted? Cause my paying customer to yell even more? Stop me from having a chance to calm her down?”
“Look, I was only trying to help!”
“Help?” Larissa scoffed. “So you’re an expert in customer service?”
“Then you have the solution I need to this blizzard.”
“Then what in the world were you thinking?” Larissa’s voice was louder than she meant but it had been a hell of a day and she wasn’t able to reel it in, despite the glances from other customers.
“Clearly I was thinking I could help.”
“You were wrong.”
“Message received.” Sam made sure his coat was buttoned up “Thanks for the wonderful hospitality.” He turned and stalked across the room to the front door.
“My pleasure!” Larissa called out after him.
He slammed the door and hurried through the snow to his truck. His anger was raging and he gripped the wheel tight enough to whiten his knuckles. Whatever time it took him to make it to Washburn, it would be time better spent than staying at that lodge.
Sam went over the route in his mind before reversing out of the parking space and driving slowly down the drive. Half of his brain was screaming at the insanity of his leaving the warm comfort and definite safety of that lodge, the other half was egging him on in his stubborn storm-out.
And then there was his cock which wasn't sure how to react except that it was paying attention. He tugged on the crotch of his jeans to make room for whatever was going on down there as he reached the bottom of the drive and took the left turn then drove as fast as he dared, all the while willing his wipers to improve.