Way back in 2011, I wrote a short story about a guy who gets chased by Bigfoot and stumbles across a Bigfoot hunter in the forest. It was a cute story, if I do say so myself, but very short and not particularly satisfying. Even though I made it available for free, few people read it. (It’s still available here under the original title Finding Love through Bigfoot.)
So this year, I’ve gone back to the original story, tightened up what was there, and expanded it to a novella!
Bigfoot Hunters in Love is a more involved story, over three times longer than the first, which follows Stuart and Jake through several encounters with multiple creatures that might or might not be Bigfoots. The story also includes some guest appearances by Tom, Kevin, Sue, and Shadow from my novel Billy’s Bones a few years after the incidents in that story. And it features a wonderful, quirky cover designed by fellow author J. Scott Coatsworth!
When Stuart bought a house in the country, he thought he’d have some quiet time to write. The last thing he expected was to be chased through the forest in the middle of the night by something massive and hairy that can run on two legs. When he literally runs into a ranger named Jake, he learns the bizarre truth: he’s just had a Bigfoot sighting.
Jake rescues him, but Stuart soon discovers he hasn’t seen the last of Bigfoot. There’s a family of the creatures out there, and Jake has been tracking them for years through the state parks of New Hampshire. Soon Stuart finds himself caught up in Jake’s quest… and in very close quarters with the handsome ranger himself.
“You can take the sleeping bag if you want,” Jake volunteered, still crouched at the entrance to the tent as he unlaced his hiking boots and removed them.
“That’s okay. I’ll just stretch out beside you on the mat. Can I borrow one of these blankets?”
Jake crawled inside and zipped up the door flap. “I suppose you could do that, but that insulating pad’s not very thick. You’d probably be more comfortable—and warmer—if we laid the sleeping bag out beneath us and shared a blanket. Up to you. I’m fine with whatever you want to do.”
Stuart wasn’t sure if Jake’s suggestion was sound wilderness survival logic or just an excuse to get close. Maybe it was both. Was Jake gay? At this point, Stuart couldn’t really say he cared. The light of the campfire had revealed a handsome, rugged man with a strong jaw softened by several days’ worth of beard growth, unkempt blond hair, and striking, emerald green eyes. Stuart would normally have considered the man to be extremely hot, but now that he was no longer pumped up on adrenalin, the only thing he could think about was lying down somewhere comfortable and closing his eyes for a while.
“All right,” he said.
“Do you mind if I sleep in my skivvies?”
“I guess not.”
Jake didn’t bother unbuttoning his shirt. He just slipped it over his head, along with his undershirt. The harsh, bluish light from the LED flashlight wasn’t exactly mood lighting, but Stuart was nevertheless impressed by the muscular arms and chest revealed. When Jake shucked his jeans, Stuart had to force himself to look away. In just a pair of gray boxer briefs, Jake was as beautiful as a Greek statue, though a bit hairier. And even though his crotch was covered by his briefs, it was easy to tell the Greek statue comparison didn’t extend to that part of his anatomy.
“You don’t have to keep the robe on,” Jake said.
“You know I’m naked under this.”
“I do,” Jake replied. “I’m just sayin’ it’s up to you. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable tangled up in that thing all night long.”
Stuart eyed him warily. It wasn’t that he was shy exactly, but Jake stripping to his underwear already felt kind of sexual. Now he wanted Stuart to get naked? “Um… you’re straight, right?”
Jake was in the process of unzipping the sleeping bag he was sitting on. He stopped and looked up with a sour expression on his face. “I wasn’t making a pass at you,” he said coolly, “but if it makes a difference, no. I am not straight.”
“Bisexual, I suppose. I’ve fooled around with both.”
Stuart took a moment to process this. Did it really matter? Maybe. “Sleeping naked with some guy I’ve just met feels a little weird to me.”
“So don’t do it then.” Jake sighed, and his expression relaxed. “Look, just because I like men doesn’t mean I have the hots for every guy I meet.”
To his surprise, Stuart felt a little hurt by that though he knew what Jake meant. “I know that.” He decided he might as well come clean. “I’m… gay, actually.”
Jake snorted and shook his head. “I don’t see how that changes anything.”
“Is it that unusual to be uncomfortable sleeping naked with a strange man?” Stuart asked defensively.
“I guess not,” Jake conceded. He went back to unzipping the sleeping bag. “Like I said, it’s up to you. Gay, straight, bisexual… I’m still not gonna be gropin’ you in the dark. I said you could sleep without the robe if it would make you more comfortable. If it doesn’t, then don’t do it. Now why don’t you scoot to the front of the tent while I lay this out?”
The conversation died for a few minutes as Jake spread the sleeping bag over the insulated pad that covered the floor of the tent, then spread a blanket over it. The blanket was soft on one side, like polar fleece, but had a heavier insulating material on the reverse side. Jake slipped underneath it.
“Go ahead and crawl in,” he told Stuart.
Stuart stubbornly clung to the bathrobe as he wormed his way into the makeshift bed. It was a tight fit with both of them lying side by side, and the damned robe kept wrapping around his torso and legs in uncomfortable ways. But it wasn’t until Jake had switched off the LED lamp and plunged them into darkness that Stuart announced, “I’m going to lose the robe.”
Wrestling his arms out of the stupid thing and pulling it out from under him was much harder than stripping before getting into bed would have been. Jake didn’t get to see him naked this way, but by now Stuart was beginning to think that would have been more dignified.
He tucked the robe under his head for a pillow and muttered, “I’ll try not to rub against you in the night.”
Jake chuckled. “Whatever.”
They settled down, lying back to back, and in the close quarters, it wasn’t actually possible to avoid touching. Stuart could feel Jake’s warmth against his skin and the gentle rhythm of his breathing. It made him feel surprisingly safe and comforted, despite the fact he was in the middle of the forest, snuggled up to a total stranger—a man he might have considered to be crazy had they met a few days ago.
Within minutes, he was sound asleep.