Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Pulling Even
Book Seven of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2004, 2009, 2011

Chapter 36

Sunday, February 3, 2002

Duane was tired and just a little bit drunk as he went to bed after midnight, and he had every reason to be. He'd spent long days behind dog teams recently, and he may have gone more miles before, but this was different. Saturday had been the Warsaw Run, the big local endurance race at Spearfish Lake. It was another hundred miler, from the lakefront of the town of Spearfish Lake, through the woods on the North Country Trail to Warsaw, then returning to Spearfish Lake on the railroad grade. Duane had been told that the race had been run considerably differently in years past, and it had been changed around to minimize night running for the benefit of the more inexperienced mushers and teams. Josh and Tiffany had been peripherally involved with the first Warsaw Run, back in '87. They had been powers in the race in the early years; each had won it three times before they started doing the Iditarod, that had them in Alaska when it occurred. The Warsaw Run had also been Phil's first exposure to dogsled racing – a second place in '93 – and Candice's too, finishing fourth the previous year.

Since Run-8 Kennels had started doing the Warsaw Run again, they shied away from using the top-line dogs in order to keep from blowing the amateurs away too badly, and mostly ran second or third line dogs as a training run. But, they did like to have the exposure in the race, so both Candice and Duane were running training teams in the event.

A hundred miler was a big event for most of the competition – for most of the racers it was the longest race they ran all winter. It was almost a bore for Duane since it mostly ran over trails they ran virtually every day, and the distance was an everyday distance too. Just to make life a little more interesting, Josh and Tiffany let him choose the dogs he'd take on the race, so long as they weren't dogs earmarked for going to Alaska. With a couple exceptions, like a retired leader known to be a very good dog, he picked out dogs that had just missed the cut of going to Alaska. So, he thought he had a pretty good team when he stood out on the ice in the darkness of early Saturday morning waiting to start. This was the day the sailing trip in the Bahamas ended, he'd thought absently, so Michelle ought to be on her way back, or pretty close to it. He'd missed her for the last couple weeks, and only had one brief phone call reporting that the weather was great and they were having a good time.

After the race got under way, it proved he did in fact have a pretty good team, and he pushed them. Though starting midfield, he was the first musher into the rest stop and checkpoint at Warsaw several hours later. Start times were equalized at Warsaw by varying the minimum length of the rest stop, so that meant he was first out of the checkpoint on the return trip with a big lead. It would be unfair to say he loafed on the way back, but he kept up a good trail pace and never saw another musher. He got back to the crowd waiting for the finish in the late afternoon and crossed the finish line at a good trail pace. It wasn't until he was being interviewed on the loudspeaker in front of the crowd that he found out he'd broken the course record, set by Josh in '93! "Not a bad run for third-rate dogs," he told the announcer modestly, and truthfully.

"I think that's a little leg pulling from a Grand Canyon boatman," the announcer said. "Like I said this morning, Run-8 mushers won this race six times in the early years and were second several times. They say that they're just using the race for training now, but Duane MacRae's rookie of the year finish shows just how much of that you can believe. I'm told they call this guy 'Icewater', and that's just how cool he is. Icewater, in addition to the check, you get a nice trophy to put on the mantle."

"That's the problem with being a Grand Canyon boatman," he replied, still being modest and honest, but wondering where this guy came up with the "Icewater." It had to be Nicole – they used their AT nicknames with each other occasionally. "Our rafts don't have a mantle to put it on," he continued, "But I'll find a place for it." Maybe in the Canyon Tours office, he thought; it would tickle Al. It would be fun to show to Michelle, too; the one downer about the whole thing was she hadn't been here to see the race. But all that had been earlier, and now the bed felt good.

Sometime later, he found himself dreaming. When he tried to remember his dreams later they were fuzzy; all he could remember was he was in the Canyon by himself with a dog team, go figure, when a UFO landed. Michelle got out in the nude and came to make love to him in the sled basket. That part was more real, he could see her, smell her, feel her, taste her lips . . . somewhere their dream and reality merged . . .

"Good morning," Michelle whispered sweetly, her face about two inches from his. She seemed very real, not like a dream at all; somehow they were in his bed, and not in a sled basket. "I didn't want to wake you up."

One hell of a dream . . . he opened his eyes wider, and looked into the deep blue-violet of hers only inches away. He was aware of her long blonde hair casually resting on his bare skin, of her nude body snuggled next to his, one arm thrown around him, as he had one around her . . . and her other hand had a comfortable but firm grip on his erect penis. Right, one hell of a dream . . .

"Oh, Duane, I missed you so," she whispered again before her lips met his and their tongues met open mouthed. Wishing it were real but scarcely able to believe it was, he figured he'd better enjoy it. She felt so real as his free arm rubbed her back, cupped the cute curve of her bare ass, her skin soft and warm and delicate. As their mouths stayed locked, somehow they rolled so she was on top of him, her hand still on his incredibly hard shaft, and he felt her guide it into her wonderful tight wetness, felt her slide him deep into her body, felt the slow, rhythmic repetitions as he held onto her butt trying to help as they continued to kiss . . . felt his excitement rising, peaking, holding there just short of release . . . and then he came violently and she did too, gripping his shoulders firmly and he held her hips and under some primordial urge jammed himself as deep into her as he could as she screamed and moaned and bucked and shuddered in his arms.

What a dream . . . or was it? It somehow seemed too real . . . the possibility of it being a dream seemed to fade as he thought about it, tasting her lips and tongue on his as their hands continued to feel each other as their bodies recovered. Finally her lips pulled away, and he heard her whisper, "Thanks, Duane. After the last two weeks you have no idea of how much I needed that."

"Michelle?" he said softly, still not a hundred percent sure this wasn't a dream and hoping it were real, "I thought you weren't going to be back till morning."

"I got a break on the flights," she said. "We had a good trip and a lot of fun, but I realized that I'd rather be with you. I hope I didn't bother you when I came in. You seemed totally out of it, and I was tired after four flights in the last eighteen hours, but it felt so wonderful to just be in bed with you again."

"No, Michelle, you didn't bother me at all. I'm a little surprised that you're here, but I can't think of anything more wonderful. I missed you a lot, too."

"I know you're probably going to only be here a few days," Michelle replied, "before you head to Alaska and I won't see you till the first of April, but I want all the time with you I can manage."

"We'll have a few days," he told her with a smile. "It looks like it's going to stay cold for a while, so I don't see us leaving till the middle of next week or so."

"Then we'll just have to do the best we can while we can," she smiled. "Then we'll be together all summer, and for a long time after that. But let's not talk about it now, and I can tell you about the trip tomorrow. You're still plugged into me and I can feel you getting hard again. Let's not let it go to waste."

*   *   *

The days when you could meet an arriving passenger at the boarding gate at Camden Airport were long gone, driven away by September 11, so Nicole had to drive by the passenger pickup several times in the dark. She'd heard during the day that Michelle was back and that she and Duane had worked out a few things, but Randy had taken a different flight. It had really been screwed up, so he was now hours later than her getting back. Given how much he distrusted airlines, he was probably livid, she thought. This wasn't going to be fun.

Eventually Randy appeared alongside the road. She turned the Chrysler to the curb, put it in park, and popped the trunk. There was no point in getting out to help; by the time she could have undone the seat belt he had his bags in the trunk and was slamming it.

In a few more seconds, he was opening the right side door. Nicole was glad to see him; it had been over two weeks and there hadn't been many phone calls. He plopped down into the right hand seat as she said, "Hi, lover . . . " then gasped, "Randy, what the hell happened to you?"

She'd never seen her husband in such a mess in his life. He had several bruises. His eyes could not be called anything but bloodshot, and his skin pretty well matched – he had a granddaddy of a sunburn.

"I'll tell you what, Nicole," he sighed as he settled into the seat. "It's good to be home. When I get back to Spearfish Lake I may never leave again. God, this feels good. Those damn airline seats are cramped for me – what must they be like for some poor bastard who weighs three hundred pounds? And Jesus, what a cluster fuck getting back here. I think I was at half the airports in the Midwest. I knew my luck with airlines was too good to last."

"Randy," she said again as she put the car into drive, "Don't evade me! What the hell happened to you?"

"You know, Nicole," he sighed, "I learned my lesson. I'll never make a raft guide. I can work that hard, but I will be damned if I can play that hard."

"Scooter warned you back at the wedding that Grand Canyon raft guides have a reputation to maintain. It sounds like you had some fun, and have some stories to tell," she smirked.

"I didn't think she meant it quite like that," he said. "A lot of it was fun when it happened, but in the bright light of day, well shit, it's the morning after. I'm not too sure that next time I don't want to go with Crystal and Preach. But hell, however you cut it, it's good to be home."

"I'm glad to have you home," she smiled. "I've really missed you. There's something I want you to do for me – I've been needing it so bad it hurts. I know you're a little achy, but it'll clear up. Besides, Michelle said you'd done such a good job of keeping your hands off of her that you'd be real anxious to get them on me, and that might be a little inspiration."

"I'll do my best," he said. "But damn, Nicole, it's good to have you to come home to. Those people live a hell of a life, and I don't think I could do it in the long term."

"I know you can't," she smirked. "I know I can't, either. That's why I love you, Randy."

– 30 –

– 1:54 PM 2/8/2009

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