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Italian Ice by EM Lynley

Italian Ice by EM Lynley

Author:EM Lynley [Lynley, EM]
Language: nld
Format: epub
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00


18

THE hotel concierge arranged seats for Trent and Reed

on a special evening excursion to Stromboli, where

they’d be part of a smal group hiking to the top just

before sunset. They were walking through the town

square, toward the harbor, when a blond guy with a

large green backpack smacked into Reed and spun him

around. He hadn’t been watching where he was going

and didn’t even apologize. Trent glanced back to see

him wander over to a trash can and start digging around

in it before puling a ripped paper cup from the garbage

and shoving into his backpack.

The hotel’s launch took a party of seven the

twenty kilometers toward the most famous island in the

chain. The sun stretched out low toward the horizon,

making the jutting peak appear even more formidable,

and Trent wrapped his jacket more tightly around his

shoulders as sea spray and breeze whipped his hair into

his eyes. Reed stood next to him at the ferry’s rail, close

enough for intimacy without an overt display of their

relationship.

A local guide met them at the harbor, took them

to a tiny square in front of a low church, and reminded

everyone how strenuous the climb would be. An

Australian couple in their twenties had come equipped

with hiking boots, and a pair of young German students

also appeared more than capable of the climb. The

seventh member of their party was a lone Italian man in

his early forties wearing sturdy shoes, Chinos, and a

long-sleeved button-down shirt under his tan jacket. He

seemed to be arguing—and gesturing wildly—with the

guide, who eventualy shrugged in apparent

acquiescence. Everyone signed the now ubiquitous

liability waiver before the guide led them along a narrow

street that soon deteriorated to a dirt trail. Within five

minutes, they’d left the tiny harbor and church square

below them and begun to make their way up.

The first hour wasn’t any more difficult than other

trails Trent had climbed, as they folowed the

switchbacks up the side of the mountain. Then things

changed. The last portion of the hike was practicaly

straight up what seemed to be sheer rock, except

where a few tenacious plants grew from the cracks

between enormous black boulders. Everyone was

grabbing at the vines for support and leverage, helping

each other up the steep hilside, any semblance to a trail

far behind them. The Chino-wearing loner trailed the

rest of the group, and it seemed the guide wanted him

to return to the harbor, but he insisted, and with the help

of the others, he struggled up the most difficult sections.

Trent’s chest heaved and his heart pounded as

they climbed. The air was fresh and salt-tinged, but the

sulfurous scent of the volcano grew thicker as they

ascended. He sucked black sand and sulfur into his

lungs with each gulp of air. Reed grinned and took

every opportunity to prolong the touch as he helped

Trent up the hil. By the time they reached the edge of

the volcano’s crater, the smal group had become a

team, the shared exertion and exhilaration of their

climbing bonding them. Al but the single man who eyed

everyone suspiciously, especialy Trent and Reed.

“He is Italian,” said one of the Germans, a grad

student from Munich named Dieter. “Perhaps he has an

animosity against homosexuals.” His tone was cheerful

and supportive, despite his formal-sounding English.



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