If You Go Down in the Woods Today by L.M. Brown
A male/male paranormal romance
There was a bitter chill to the October air that Dave hadn't felt yet this autumn. The unseasonably warm September had ended and the cooler weather appeared to have finally arrived. Bundled up against the wind, Dave called for Nipper to come out of hiding from under the sofa.
"You're definitely a fair weather dog, aren't you?" he teased as he tried to entice his year old Labrador with one of his favourite dog biscuits. Nipper's head emerged just long enough to grab the treat from his fingers before retreating back out of reach.
"You're coming for your walk," Dave informed the dog sternly. "Just a quick run round the park and then we'll come home."
Nipper gave him a look that clearly said he didn't see the point when he was perfectly happy right where he was.
Two biscuits later and Dave finally managed to persuade Nipper out from his hiding place. He put the dog on his lead and with promises of more treats and the best spot in front of the fireplace on their return they set out towards the nearby park.
Once he was out of the house Nipper was an enthusiastic about his walk as ever. It was always the same—a total trial to get him out of the door, followed by boundless energy.
The park was fairly deserted when they arrived. The kids who had hung out there during the warm summer months were mostly absent and only the really committed joggers were doing their daily circuit of the lake. Dave strolled round the edge of the water, Nipper straining at his lead to chase after the ducks.
"This way, boy," Dave chided. "They don't want to play with you."
About half way round the lake Dave came to the place where the path veered off in two directions, one continuing round the lake, and the other heading into the trees. The shade of the trees had always been a welcome relief from the hot summer sun and Dave had got into the habit of taking that particular route when walking Nipper. Even though the summer was over, Dave encouraged Nipper away from the lake, even as he told himself he was not looking for a certain tall, dark and handsome man who walked his own Collie at just this time of day.
Sure enough, they were only a short distance away from the lake when Dave spotted the Collie, and his owner just a few feet behind him, both heading in Dave's direction.
Dave had always hesitated to let Nipper off the lead so near to the lake and today was no exception. He suspected that as soon as he gained his freedom, the little rascal would be diving into the water and frightening the ducks to death. They were almost level with the handsome Collie owner when Nipper's lead snapped and the dog made his break for freedom.
"Nipper, come back!" Dave called, but Nipper ignored him. Dave wondered why he had spent so much time and money on obedience classes. Nipper seemed perfectly capable of following commands, but only when he wanted to.
Dave watched it horror as Nipper enthusiastically jumped at the Collie, eager to make friends. For a few brief seconds Dave thought it was an ideal opening for him to make conversation with the man who had caught his attention on so many walks through the park. Then he saw the man's furious expression and quickly re-thought.
"Don't worry, he's perfectly friendly," Dave assured him. "He's never bitten anyone."
The man scowled at him as he tried to pull the Collie away. "You shouldn't let dogs off the lead if you don’t have control over them."
"I didn't," Dave replied. "The lead snapped."
The man clearly didn't like being contradicted and he tried again to step away. Unfortunately, Nipper was underfoot and his broken lead was tangled around the Collie's lead.
"Get away!" the stranger snapped.
Nipper ignored him and Dave watched in horror as the man moved as though he was going to kick the Labrador out of the way.
"Nipper, come," Dave shouted, and this time Nipper obeyed him immediately. He ran straight to Dave, who was crouched down ready to grab hold of the broken lead.
He tied the two parts of the lead together as best he could and glared at the Collie owner. Any attraction he had ever felt towards the man had vanished with his vile attitude.
Dave opened his mouth to give the man a piece of his mind. His words died on his lips as he watched the Collie strain at its own lead, hard enough to pull the man off of his feet and straight into the mud. Dave managed not to laugh, though it was a struggle. Then he heard the distinct sound of a giggle coming from the trees behind him.
"Think this is funny, do you?" the stranger snarled. "This is Armani."
Privately Dave wondered who the hell would go walking the dog in such an expensive suit. Then he heard the laughter again. It was definitely coming from behind him, but when he turned round there was no one in sight.
Nipper had heard the sound too. He pulled at Dave's hold and shot off into the trees, his lead trailing behind him. "Nipper!"
"Well, aren't you going to help me up?" the stranger demanded.
Dave ignored him as he hurried after Nipper. The unpleasant man could get to his feet on his own. Nipper was Dave's only concern. The last thing he heard was threats of cleaning bills as he scrambled to find his errant dog.
He tripped over tree roots, caught his scarf on a branch and twisted his ankle sharply when he stepped into a pot hole. The sound of laughter seemed to be all around him and he began to wonder whether he was chasing the laughter or Nipper.
He caught sight of Nipper through the trees and quickened his pace as best he could. "Nipper, come back here!"
It seemed as though he'd been chasing after Nipper for hours when he finally caught up with the mischievous animal. He'd had no idea there were so many trees in the park. Unless he'd been chasing round in circles, which was certainly a possibility, the park was far bigger than he had ever given it credit for.
The canopy of leaves above him was a beautiful array of gold and orange, with just a hint of green, the last lingering trace of summer, before autumn's grasp was complete.
Nipper barked and tugged against Dave's grip again, but this time Dave was ready for him and he didn't escape. Dave looked back over his shoulder to see what had caught the dog's attention and his jaw dropped in shock.
The man standing before him was like no one he had ever seen before. His long hair was the colour of the autumn leaves, neither entirely golden nor entirely red, but every colour between. His eyes were green and held the spark of amusement as he studied Dave and Nipper. Even more unusual was the man's tattoos, all vines and leaves, stretching over his entire body in an intricate pattern. Like his hair and the woods around them, the tattoos were autumnal in their design and colour.
The most unusual thing about the man, however, was that he was standing in the middle of the trees on a chilly October day wearing nothing but a smile.
Dave blinked owlishly, wondering if he was imagining things. Nipper gave a bark and tried to run towards the naked man and Dave realised he wasn't a figment of his imagination.
"You can let the dog go," the man said in a quiet voice. "He'll come to no harm here. All creatures are safe in my woods."
The man nodded and placed his hand on the trunk of the nearest tree. A squirrel scampered down the branches and onto his arm. It waited until the man produced some seeds—from Dave couldn't imagine where—then scurried off again with its prize.
"How did you do that?" Dave whispered.
"The creatures know me, and they know I mean them no harm."
Dave wasn't entirely sure he agreed with them. This man was the strangest being he had ever seen in his life, and it wasn't just because of his lack of clothes. Dave shivered and tried not to let his gaze wander below the man's waist. Nope, it was no good, he had to look.
The light spattering of hair across the sculpted chest tapered down across his abdomen. The man's cock, long and thin, jutted out from the red and gold curls. Dave licked his lips. Now he was looking at the other man's erection he couldn't seem to stop. From the obvious twitching it appeared the man wasn't bothered by his frank appraisal.
"Who are you?" Dave asked, finally looking the man in the eye again.
"I'm Leif, the one who brought you here," the man replied.
"Brought me here? I just followed Nipper when he ran off on me."
"And Nipper was searching for me," Leif explained. "I called you here, summoned you into my woods."
"I was already in the woods."
"Your woods, not mine."
Leif smiled as he stepped closer. "Look around you—closely mind—and tell me what you see."
Dave did as Leif suggested. "Trees, bushes, the sky, nothing unusual."
Dave wasn't sure what he was supposed to be looking for, but he scanned the area, hoping to see whatever it was Leif wanted him to. Try as he might, he couldn't see anything out of the ordinary, except for the naked Leif of course. Then suddenly he saw something, just a flicker at the very edge of his field of vision.
"What was that?"
"No. They are drawn to places were magic has been performed, like here."
Dave's stomach flipped uneasily. "What do you mean?"
"I opened a portal between our worlds. When you entered the woods you were in your world, now you're in mine."
Dave had heard enough. "This is ridiculous. Come on Nipper, we're going home."
Leif didn’t try to stop him from walking away and Dave walked swiftly in the direction he had come. Fairies and magic, yeah, right.
He had only been walking a few minutes when he saw Leif leaning against a tree directly ahead of him. Dave carried on walking straight past him. It wasn't until he arrived back with Leif for the third time that the strange man spoke.
"You'll always return to me," Leif said. "These are my woods and the portal I created to bring you here has closed. I won't be able to re-open it for another year."
Leif didn't so much as flinch in the face of Dave's anger. "I've been watching you for a while now, waiting until the time was right to bring you to me."
"What are you, some sort of stalker?"
Leif frowned in confusion. "I don't know this word, stalker, but I'm a wood nymph."
"A wood nymph. I'm sure you've heard of us in your world."
"Aren't they supposed to be female?"
Leif shot him a look of annoyance. "The nymphs of your world all came from here. Only a handful of females chose to cross over to your world permanently. You'll find in this world that nymphs come in both sexes."
"And you think you're one of these nymphs?"
"I am one. This is my wood, or at least it is the wood I'm charged with caring for."
Dave had heard enough. "How do I get out of your wood? How do I return home?"
Leif sighed. "I already told you, the portal is closed for another year. Your home is with me now."
"This is ridiculous!"
"You'll be perfectly safe here."
"Says my kidnapper."
Leif had the grace to look guilty. "I thought you'd want to come here. I've seen your joy when you walk through the woods. I've watched you take pleasure in spending time with nature. I've seen the way your eyes followed the other man these last weeks. You desire other men."
Dave snorted a humourless laugh. "Definitely a stalker."
Leif stepped closer. "I saw the way you looked at me as well. You could not hide your lust."
"That doesn't mean I want to stay here. You took away my options and that makes you a kidnapper as well as a stalker."
Leif gave a sharp nod. "I may not know all your words, but your meaning is clear. I'll take you to the village and you'll not see me again until one year has passed. I'll return then to bring you back here and send you back to your world."
Dave didn't believe him and set off to find the park he knew once more. Only when the sun was starting to set, and he had returned to Leif more times than he could count, did he resign himself to the truth. He wasn't particularly happy about Leif's plan, but it seemed he had no choice, and at least being stuck here for a year was better than being stuck here forever.
* * * *
The village was old fashioned and like something out of a story book. There was no sign of electricity wires or telephone cables. The roads were dirt tracks and although the clothing worn by the people wandering around was quite modern, there was still a quaintness about the place that made Dave feel as though he had stepped into another time.
Dave and Nipper were greeted by the locals with warmth and a touch of reverence. He suspected the latter was because he had arrived with Leif, who was clearly adored by the villagers, who went out of their way to ensure he had everything he needed. Dave tried to ignore the heat in Leif's eyes as he assured the people he had everything he wanted. Only Dave could detect the lie.
He watched with trepidation as the wood nymph vanished back into the trees. He had to fight the urge not to run after him.
When Leif had disappeared from sight Dave turned to look around the village, the place that would be his home for the next year. It was as far as you could get from his comfortable modern house in the middle of the bustling town. He had no idea what he was going to do for the next twelve months.
* * * *
As it happened, Dave had no problems keeping himself busy during his time in the village. There was always work to be done and never enough people to do it. There were fields to be harvested, animals to be fed and cared for and repairs to buildings to be done. Every extra pair of hands to help meant the job was done that little bit sooner.
Nipper settled into life in the village just as easily as Dave. There were other dogs in the village, but they were all working dogs. Nipper on the other hand was simply spoilt rotten by everyone who met him. Dave did suggest training Nipper to be more useful, but the children wouldn't hear of it. Instead he wandered from house to house, earning treats and cuddles by the dozen. Dave suspected Nipper wouldn't want to return home with him when the time came.
Dave tried to push such thoughts out of his mind as soon as they entered. He was a little scared at how quickly he had settled into life in the village. Even more terrifying was the thought that this world was starting to feel like home.
* * * *
The days stretched into weeks, and the weeks into months. The autumn leaves fell and the land became a barren winter landscape. The villagers had enough food stockpiled to last them through the winter. Dave tried not to recall the news reports about the bad harvests that were being experienced, and how this was another piece of proof that he was no longer a part of the world he had grown up in.
The icy grip of winter held the village tight. Dave introduced Christmas to the people and helped them celebrate the holiday in as traditional a way as possible. He suspected some of the meaning was lost in this world without Christianity, but the concept of gift giving was something everyone understood.
Winter's grasp couldn't last forever and the fresh buds on the trees signalled the arrival of spring. The days had long since started to blur together, and Dave was surprised to find he had been there more than half a year. In all that time he had not set eyes on Leif once. The wood nymph—he no longer had any doubt that is what he was—kept his word that Dave would not see him. His presence was felt in the village though, and many a villager spoke of seeing the handsome nymph flitting between the trees when they walked through the woods. Dave's anger at having his choices taken from him had long since gone and he started to look out for Leif himself, but he was disappointed never to see him.
Crops were planted, the weather became warmer and Dave was soon enjoying a summer more glorious than any he could recall. The colours were more vibrant, the air fresher and the sky a clearer blue than he had ever seen.
Dave no longer lied to himself about wishing to return home. He was happy and content in the village. He wasn't sure when he had realised it, but at some point in the last ten months he had come to accept that this was his home and he had no wish to return the one he had once known. He had everything he wanted here, or almost.
* * * *
As the summer drew to a close Dave found himself looking at the leaves. He searched for the tell-tale signs of autumn's arrival, the slight chill to the air, and the golden and amber canopy of leaves to return.
He even admitted to himself that it wasn't so much the autumn he was eager to see, but Leif. He knew the wood nymph would keep his word and return as he had promised. Dave never doubted this. All he had to do was wait just a little longer.
* * * *
Dave woke early and knew today was the day. He wasn't sure how he knew, but something in his gut told him he was right.
Nipper, who had never really got rid of the habit of hiding under pieces of furniture, refused to come out when coaxed, but Dave left him there, knowing he would emerge when he was hungry. Dave knew he wasn't going to go back to his world today. His decision had been made a long time ago. Nipper could stay under the bed. He wasn't going anywhere either.
Dave dressed quickly and walked out towards the woods. Village life started early and there were already many people up and about their morning chores. He waved to each of them as he passed. They were his neighbours and friends now.
The woods were the same as Dave recalled. He had not entered them since Leif had left him in the village. He wasn't sure why, though a large part of the reason was because he had been so busy, with little time for idle walks in the woods. Today was different though. Today was the day when he would finally have everything he'd ever wanted, or at least he hoped so.
He hadn't been walking for long when he saw Leif ahead of him, sitting back against a sturdy Oak tree. The wood nymph looked just the same as a year ago. This time Dave didn't look at him as though he were crazy. He looked at him with the eyes of a man who had learned to truly appreciate nature and all that it encompassed.
"Are you ready?" Leif asked as he gracefully rose to his feet.
Dave nodded and stepped closer. He didn't need to say anything. Leif wasn't asking about returning him home and they both knew it. Dave had dressed quickly before leaving the house, throwing on a shirt and trousers and slipping into his shoes. With so little material to get rid of he was as naked as Leif in a matter of seconds.
Leif smiled and held out his hand for Dave to take. His flesh was warm, almost hot to the touch, despite the chill of the air. Dave thought nothing of leaving his clothes behind in a messy pile as Leif guided him deeper into the woods.
The trees seemed to draw closer together, their branches twining together above them, making a tunnel that seemed to stretch into infinity.
Dave followed Leif down the tunnel until eventually it opened up into a wide clearing.
"It's like summer here," Dave said as he looked at the fresh green leaves of the trees now surrounding them.
"It's whatever I want it to be," Leif explained as he steered Dave to the very centre of the clearing and the thick mossy mound. "As much as I love the autumn, crispy autumn leaves do not make the most comfortable beds."
As Dave sank down onto the moss he had to agree with that.
"Why me?" he asked as Leif sat down beside him.
Leif didn't reply with words. He eased Dave back onto the floor and kissed him deeply and thoroughly. Dave could feel the nymph's erection hard against his thigh and his own cock, which had been a little too cold to show any interest until now, rose in response to Leif's touch.
Dave thought nothing about the fact that they were in the middle of the woods, where anyone could see them. As someone who had always enjoyed a few creature comforts he was surprised at how much he didn't care about them right now. All that mattered was Leif and the way he made him feel.
Leif pulled back from the kiss and drew in a shaky breath. "If we do this, it's forever," he whispered. "It can't be undone."
"I know. I want this. I want you."
"You don't understand. Wood nymphs are immortal as are those they take as their mates. Spilling my seed inside you will seal your fate."
Dave nodded. "I understand and I want you to do it."
"Once you are bound to me you can never return home."
Dave reached up and brushed his hands through Leif's hair before pulling him down for a brief kiss. "I am home, Leif."
When the wood nymph came a short while later, buried deep within him, Dave felt the truth of his words more than ever. There was a lot he didn't know about his new lover, and no doubt a lot Leif had to learn about him. Yet Dave felt content in the knowledge that they had a lifetime to get to know each other and an eternity in which to love.
You can download the collection of short stories that this one is from at Silver Publishing.