Demi rushed to speak. “I’ll be fine. I have Nito. And from the looks of that old man now, he’s done attacking. You do what you need to for Rudy. He’s the one that’s important now.”
Glen rushed to do Whit’s bidding and Whit paused in his preparations to pick up the bullets. Then he put them in his pocket and threw the weapon in the corner. He wasn’t taking any chances that Fred could go ballistic again.
“Demi, grab my phone and see if you can call Norrie. Tell her to get Clive to meet us at the junction with the service vehicle so we can get Rudy to town faster. Having the truck with the plow will ensure we can use the highway into town.”
“On it.” Demi, listening for long minutes finally had to admit, “She’s not answering. I’ll text her. Your new phone usually gets through.” Her fingers flew over the keys, and she waited with her heart pounding for an answer.
Just before they were ready to leave, Demi groaned with relief. “Whit, she sent a thumbs up. She’ll get them to meet you. Here, take your phone in case you run into trouble.”
“No. You need it. We’ll be fine. I hate to think of you being stranded.” He looked at Fred and then back at her, sending the message she couldn’t ignore.
“No way. I have my own phone. It might not be as good as yours, but it works. Take this phone so I can stay sane. Go.” She leaned in and kissed his lips, pleasing him greatly because she instigated the tenderness. Then she moved to where Glen was fussing with Rudy, trying to get a scarf tied around his face for more protection.
She ran into her bedroom, unconcerned for having released Nito, and ran back with a balaclava that she thrust at Glen. “Here use this. It’ll keep him warmer.”
Meanwhile, Nito ran over to where the old man still cowered on the couch, saying nothing. The wolf stood guard; his grumbling reduced in strength to growls of pure warning.
Soon, with all three working together they had Rudy ready. Demi quickly donned her outer gear and then held the door open while Glen and Whit carried Rudy’s body out to the sled. They waited while Demi fought the wind to get the quilt down so they could lower the injured man.
As a unit, Glen and Whit secured the injured man onto the pallet with rope. Then waved in her direction, words blown away before she heard them. With a roar of the large machine, they sped to the corner and were blanketed by the vicious storm… invisible within a few seconds.
Demi stood under the porch, shivering, and looking out into the darkness. Though she could see the vicious snow blowing sideways in the wind, that was it. Normally, the distant trees were visible. Tonight, nothing but a wall of snow appeared. She finally had to accept that the many stories she’d heard about the Alaskan winters were quite true.
Not sure why she wasn’t frightened for having to deal with the unknown, she shrugged and walked to the door where she knew Nito stood on the other side waiting for her.
Without saying a word, she stepped back into the cabin, took off her outer gear and went to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee. It was going to be a long night. And the last thing she wanted was to spend it with that hateful old man who was glowering at her again.
“I’m leaving. You know you can’t keep me here against my will.”
“I could if I wanted to. Nito will do as I say. But you know what? Go. Open that door and see where your truck is or if you can even find it buried in the snow.”
Fred stood slowly and went to do as she suggested. He opened the door and looked out to see the mountain of white where he’d left his vehicle. Shivering, he slammed the door shut and stood terrified that the wolf might not let him return to the couch.
“Nito. Stop it.” Demi came forward to stand between the man and the angry beast… teeth snarling with dislike. Once Fred got back to the safety of the couch, she grudgingly offered him a coffee. “If you want some, it’ll be ready in a minute.”
“Yeah. Okay. I could use something stronger to put in it.” His voice filled with a belligerent whine.
Demi grinned without humor. “Like father like son. Rudy asked for alcohol too, and I’ll tell you what I told him. We don’t keep it in the house. Not when Glen’s earlier addiction has a chance to flare up again. Easier not to have temptation around. You’ll have coffee or nothing.”
“Fine. Ahh… thanks.”
Demi brought the mugs to the coffee table and put one in front of Fred. Then she took her own and curled up in the big chair nearby.
She had no idea what to say to the man they intensely dislike. With teens, it always came easy. The words were there when she needed them. Not now. And so, they sat in an uncomfortable silence. It lasted so long; Nito finally relaxed and went to the door signaling to go outside.
Realizing it had been ages since he’d had a break, and not sure if she trusted him to go outside with his bandage, she dithered until he barked his order. Understanding she couldn’t keep him indoors; she quickly opened the door praying he’d be back. Then she returned to her coffee, and found Fred staring at her, a strange look on his face.
“What?” She had to know.
“How could you?”
“Again. What? How could I what?”
“Have Glen live here with you? He’s a queer. You know that and yet you pretend it doesn’t matter.”
“Because it doesn’t.”