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Due North

By Katya Kolmakov All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Romance

Fly You, Fool

Kissing a 75% corporeal man is rather funny - but not at all disappointing. It’s sort of a decaf kind of kiss. Nonetheless, Etta enjoys it immensely. Officer Thorne is considerate, and does that thing that looks very good in films: he wraps his arm around her shoulders and leans her a bit backwards. What Officer Thorne isn’t aware of is that for a feminist independent woman in the twenty-first century that’s not an invitation to sack in his arms, chest heaving in a shuddered breath. For a woman who hasn’t had any in two and a half years, that’s a chance to grab and pull and ravish.

The back of Officer Thorne’s neck - Etta’s most favourite spot in the opposite sex, and she’s picky regarding her necks - is warm and smooth, and little nape semi-curls tickle her fingers. Etta promptly falls backwards. 75% of weight of a large male body is still 75% more that Etta is used to; and her not so shuddered breath is knocked out of her.

Officer Thorne starts mumbling apologies, but - noteworthily - he isn’t moving away. Etta shows more initiative, and pulls him down again. After a few minutes of enthusiastic snogging, he lifts his head, and Etta has to concede, somewhat see-through time travellers do blush. There’re adorable spots burning on his high cheekbones. She’s disheveled his hair, and she’s not sure where his cap went.

“Ms. Ryan, I apologise for my forwardness...” Really? Etta specifically remembers being the forward one. “You are endlessly alluring, but I have to declare that my intentions towards any woman could not be considered honourable.”

She’s very much alright with dishonourable ones, Etta would like to answer, but alas, Officer Thorne is clearly of courteous - and somewhat thick - character.

“I cannot make any promises to any woman, except my beloved Linnet,” he announces with aplomb, and Etta senses a trap. She bites, of course. She has a weakness for sappy romance stories. She might be shuffling Orwell volumes at work, but there is a shelf of Olivia Dane’s novels in her bedroom.

“Who’s Linnet?” she asks, and Officer Thorne settles on her bed, supported on one elbow. His face gains a dreamy expression. Definitely not Stephen Hawking level of intellect we’re observing here.

“She is my one true love. Madame Katerina predicted that I would meet my Linnet as soon as I finished my mission in the future.”

Awww, he’s such a poppet! Keeping his chastity for a woman he has not met yet! And then Etta has to ask herself, whether he indeed is keeping anything, since his hand has just brushed at her hip - considerately and gently - but nonetheless, the hand is 75% warm and wide and long-fingered.

“Well...” Etta is quickly discovering her previously undiscovered seduction skills, and strokes the brass buttons on Officer Thorne’s muscular, well-defined chest. “Until you’re done with your mission, you’re technically not spoken for, and if, say, a woman doesn’t actually require any promises from you...” She raises an eyebrow, hoping this gesture meant the same in 1911.

Apparently, it did, since Officer Thorne smirks - of course - lopsidedly, and leans to her lips…

...and dissolves into thin air with a very surprised expression on his noble, long-nosed face.

“Bugger!” Etta announces into an empty room.

A long sympathetic sigh from Mr. Thornton the Cat follows, and Etta opens her special drawer to fish out a tool to aid her agitation. Au contraire to the crude ideas one could get here, it’s a book - Ms. Dane’s latest masterpiece Blind Carnival.

In the morning, before work Etta sends an email to the 90s looking site of the Olympic Greens organic farm. Seriously, two colour print and a visitor count?! She politely explains that she’s researching officers from the sistership of the Titanic, and she has a reason to assume that Farmer Thorne is a descendant of John Crispin Thorne, the Fifth Officer of RMS Olympic. She isn’t even lying that much. She has researched it; and she can apply for a small bursary from the Royal Navy if she indeed conducts this investigation. The problem would, of course, arise in how to submit Officer Thorne’s interview transcripts.

For the next three days Etta receives neither an answer from Farmer Thorne, nor a visit from Officer Thorne. Etta is surprised to notice she’s bored.

Coming home, she feels hopeful every time opening the door; but only on day four she’s finally greeted by a white toothed gleaming smile of Officer Thorne. There’s an alarming development, though. The transparency levels have risen to 50%.

“Ms. Ryan, I regret to rush you, but I think I might be on the path of recovery… Or approaching my death. I seem to have regained my consciousness for a second, but I overheard my nurse discussing my prognosis… It is sadly not that bright. I am afraid that I might be punished for not venturing on my mission.”

Etta throws her handbag on the floor, and rushes to her Mac to check her Inbox. Sadly, no response came from Farmer Thorne.

Etta looks at her half present ghost, sighs, and goes on kayak dot co dot uk.

Five days later, with a suitcase and an excited looking ghost tagging along, Etta ventures. The first hour of her way too long journey is spent her head in a paper bag. It turns out Etta is physically incapable of flying. She arrives to Amsterdam fully defeated by vomiting, earaches, and inexplicable back pain.

The next five hours she’s hibernating in the Amsterdam airport. Officer Thorne who still hasn’t melted into the air despite the bright sunlight streaming through giant windows, is patting her hand, murmuring comforting nonsense.

The whole spectacular sick incident bore two results: they have bonded, as he has repeatedly expressed his profound and clearly sincere gratitude for her going through ‘the ordeals she has to face for his sake.’ He properly should feel grateful. Etta has never felt worse, and still she’s adamant to help him.

The second result is that hardly any sexual tension is left between them. His high-cheekboned face is now forever reminding Etta of how he was holding her hair over the plane’s loo, and he probably would never be able to look at her the same way after she projectile vomited through him onto the seat next to her.

She thankfully sleeps through the next eight hours on the plane to Toronto International, after consuming a healthy dosage of Jameson. She is unloaded by a helpful flight attendant onto an uncomfortable seat in a large hall with torturously bright lights; and then there’re customs, which Etta doesn’t remember; and then more flying and more vomiting.

Etta is grateful to all goddesses and deities for one thing: there are plenty of hotels in Winnipeg Airport - and she crashes. She’s lulled to sleep by brotherly, asexual stroking of her hair by Officer Thorne’s hand. And Etta is alright with it.

A new day arrives, Etta opens her eyes, and jumps out of the most comfortable bed she’s ever slept in in her life. The birds are singing - not exactly, it’s the radio, but it does the job. Etta dances into her shower, and after half an hour of blanching and scrubbing and gurgling, clean and fragrant, wrapped in a soft, perfectly white robe she orders something called a ‘prairie breakfast.’

The amount of food on her plate makes her eyes boggle and her mouth water. Eggs; ham; bacon; more bacon; three pancakes; a waffle; two slices of toast; and six mysterious little packages that turn out to contain jam and peanut butter; a bowl of fruit - Etta doubts cantaloupe and grapes are exactly ‘prairie’ food - all of this is accompanied by a giant pot of coffee!

Etta manages a third and then climbs under the duvet for a nap. The two thirds left become her lunch, which Etta is chewing while conducting her research.

The weather outside is amazing. The sun in the sky - twice the normal amount of blueness above Etta’s head makes her gasp in delight - is shining, the trees and the grass are green, and there’re butterflies. Etta has never seen that many butterflies fluttering over proper urban landscape!

The similarity to a Disney cartoon - and Etta does feel like a Snow White here - is only aggravated by the view of two bunnies and three squirrels that Etta notices while waiting for her cab. Etta snaps thirty pictures of the bunnies, who are blissfully munching on grass on a lawn. She refrains from photographing the squirrels. They’re engaged in the activity that Etta no more desires to partake with Officer Thorne. The spring is indeed in the air.

The rhythmical squeaking is hard to ignore, though; and when the cab finally arrives, Etta’s cheeks are burning. The memory of the ‘eek-eek-eeeek-eek-eek-eeeeek’ is haunting Etta’s mind through her whole trip to the farm.

She pays an obscene sum of money, climbs out of the car, and here she is. Olympic Greens Farm is in front of her; she inhales decisively, and marches towards the entrance gate.

Facing Farmer Thorne, Etta is having an Arctic experience.

Firstly, the man is huge. The photos she found online properly didn’t give him credit. Looking up from her ridiculous incomplete 5’3’’ - no heels either, she’s no idiot from a harlequin novel to wear stilettos to a farm to charm some lumberjack shaped totty - Etta is speechless at the view of his glacial blue eyes. They are as if outlined by the fluffiest, longest black lashes Etta has seen in her life, and the thick, glossy, ebony eyebrows make the semblance to a husky dog only more prominent.

At the same time, the built and the lazy heavy movements remind her of the video of polar bears she watched in the morning while researching Winnipeg. Apparently, the Winnipeg Zoo has some prodigious polar bear enclosure, with a glass tunnel where one can observe the swimming bears from underneath. Etta is planning to visit, but first she needs to gather her bearings and actually talk to the man.

She can’t see much of Farmer Thorne’s face due to his large black beard - a few streaks of salt decorate all this pepper - but as far as male specimen go, these shoulders and these hips win every possible award in the survival of the fittest contest. Who cares what the chin and cheekbones are like, when one is built like this?

“Miss?” Farmer Thorne addresses Etta - probably far from the first time. She’s standing in front of him, blinking slowly. She’s been doing it since he came out of his house. “Can I help you?”

Etta has a long list of the things he could do to possibly help her out, but she’ll refrain from mentioning them. She’s an adult - though sexually unsatisfied - woman, and knows the difference between her fantasies and reality. Except when it comes to 1910s naval officers - but that’s beside the point at the moment.

“Hi...” Etta croaks out. She sounds like she’s eaten woodchips with her fish. “I’m Etta Ryan. I’ve previously emailed you regarding my research.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Goodness, Farmer Thorne is like a concentrated version of Officer Thorne. He’s taller, wider, and heavier - probably from eating all those prairie breakfasts that Etta familiarized herself with this morning, and working manually. Under his - hackneyed - worn out checkered shirt muscles are bulging on his chest and arms; the sleeves are rolled up, and the forearms are giving Etta palpitations. The denim is also well worn, and perhaps has shrunk from all this washing, since it hugs his strong, sculpted thighs in the compliance with Etta’s most cherished bedroom fantasies. The voice is also lower, and with that strange Canadian drawl to it. It’s like a Septic film character speaking, but very articulate and slow.

His question finally reaches her brain. Is he a bit thick?

“I’ve written you an email some time ago. I am an employee of the London Public Library, and I’m conducting a research on...”

“I’m not interested,” he throws to her - making her freeze with her mouth half open - and then he turns around and starts marching towards a large red building, the likes of which Etta has seen on half of the postcards sold in the Winnipeg Airport.

He’s just lost 78.9% of his suffocating sexiness. Even the view of his pert, well shaped buttocks under almost bleached out jeans, can’t pacify Etta’s indignation.

She minces after him.

“I’m sorry, you probably didn’t understand! I am not selling anything, I...”

“Not interested,” he barks again, and disappears inside. There’s some banging and clanking. Etta is standing like Lot’s wife, when he reappears with a large spade in his hand. He notices her frozen in the same spot as before. One eyebrow twitches. Did he expect her to leave?

“Listen, miss...” The cold blue eyes run her face.

“Ryan,” Etta supplies, jerking her chin up.

“Miss Ryan, I don’t need any visitors today. I’m busy, and I have...” He stops and shakes his head. Has Etta mentioned that he has a luscious mane of heavy dark waves, with a few silver locks above his forehead and on his temples? Quoting Galavant, hells yeah. “So, I’m sorry, can’t help you.” He doesn’t sound at all remorseful.

There’s some strange scraping noise at the background, but Etta ignores it. She’s busy panting and huffing and puffing, and wondering whether helping - potentially nonexistent - Officer Thorne is worth enduring this brute. She decides to give it another try.

“Mr. Thorne, your family history is remarkable. It needs to be researched and reflected in an academic article.” Etta is lying through her teeth. “Did you know that your ancestor was an officer on..?”

The scraping coming from behind the building is getting louder; and some sort of squeaking or shrieking is added to it now.

“I know about John Thorne, the Fifth Officer on Olympic. I was named after him,” the farmer grumbles. “Listen, it’s just a very bad time, heh?”

Despite the very unpleasant situation promising Etta a failure to help out her Officer Totty, Etta can’t hold back a giggle. Did he just say the famous Canadian ‘heh?’ They sell tees with the words Canada, heh? in the lobby of her hotel.

Her daft giggle makes him narrow his remarkable eyes at her, and his jaw is now set - probably, she can’t see because of the ridiculous beard. Who cares with these deltoids?

“Mr. Thorne, perhaps I could come back... Blimey, what is this noise?” Etta can’t help it anymore.

“Squirrels,” Farmer Thorne grits through his - shockingly perfect - teeth.

Etta’s jaw slacks. Surely, the squirrels are not participating in the same activity she had the misfortune to have observed near her hotel! No living being can make such noises while procreating!

“How? What could they possibly be…?”

“One fell in a pool again,” Farmer Thorne booms, makes an irritated low rumbly noise in his throat, and starts walking around the building, weighing the spade menacingly in his large, long fingered hand.

Etta squeaks in terror and dashes after him. She might not know much about farming and squirrels and their mating rituals, but she’s not letting this barbarian clobber a poor fluffball to the head with that dirty spade of his!

Also, a pool?! Since when farms have pools?!

The pool is a large plastic basin, about six feet in diameter, and two feet deep. It’s clearly a children’s lawn pool, and Etta shortly wonders whether Farmer Thorne has sprogs.

The squirrel is alone and is currently most reminiscent of DiCaprio’s character from - ironically - the film describing the tragic fate of Officer Thorne’s ship’s sister. The poor animal is paddling with it tiny front paws, scraping on a sloped side of the pool. Etta feels both sorry for the plonker, and somewhat confused by why it would continue these efforts. Etta would like to point out that there are small stairs on the other side of the pool.

Farmer Thorne lifts his spade, and with a loud dramatic ‘No!’ Etta hangs on his log like arm.

“Please, no! It’s just a silly animal! It’s not its fault!”

Farmer Thorne slowly tilts his head and gives her a dark look. Etta feels her lips quiver. The squirrel is pitiful. It’s wet, and looks pathetically skinny, its eyes glassy and terrified.

“Let me go, miss.” Farmer Thorne’s tone is bleak and even.

“Promise me you won’t kill it! I know it’s just a rat in a fur coat, but please!” Etta realises her feet are not touching a ground, and his rock hard bicep is bulging under her hands. “Please...”

His sapphire eyes are studying her face, and Etta would properly like to know what he’s like under all this hair. But only after she saves the poor animal!

“I wasn’t going to kill it,” the farmer eventually mutters, and Etta lets go of his arm, lands in the grass, and presses her hands to her chest. “Just getting it out.”

He scoops the squirrel with his spade and shakes it off onto the grass. The critter is heaving and twitching on the ground, not capable of running away. Etta comes up to it, in small sideway steps, and slowly scoots over it. The orange fur is rising frantically on its side, and the tail is wet and lacks any allure. The paws are jerking.

“Will it be alright?” Etta asks, and realizes that while she’s studying Squirrel Jack, Farmer Thorne is studying her.

“Yeah, give it half an hour.” Does the man have to speak as if he’s monetarily penalized for each word and a certain volume level?

“Should we maybe… move it somewhere?” Etta asks, still watching the animal. It seems to breathe less greedily now, and it even blinked, and is now glaring at Etta with one eye.

“It’s fine. The dogs are locked.”

And then Farmer Thorne picks up the pool as if it’s a tea saucer, and topples it onto its side. Etta notes two things. Firstly, his muscles moving under the shirt and his thighs tensing when he does it - that’s pretty much porn. Secondly, he made sure that the water didn’t get onto the squirrel.

“The dogs won’t wash here anymore, after this jerk.” He throws the squirrel a derisive look. Etta hides her glee from the fact that the pool is for dogs, not children, even from herself.

He then gives her a measuring look and emits a long, martyrly sigh.

“You have an hour for your questions. Coffee?”

Eight words, and Etta is the happiest woman in the world, and they - meaning Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde - say women love with their ears! He had Etta at ‘you.’

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