This Magic Place -- Chapter 2

    The first thing I noticed was the amount of sunlight in the house.  There were windows everywhere.  There was oak flooring in the entryway, and as Kevin told me later, all the flooring, basement and attic included, was finished in oak.  Even though there were layers of dust everywhere, you could tell the structure was still in good condition and would require only minimal repair, painting, cleaning and polishing. 

    The entryway opened into a fairly large room with parquet flooring and doorways leading to other rooms.  There was a large chandelier in the center of the room with a curved staircase on the right leading to the second floor.

    Kevin put his arm around my shoulder and pointed straight ahead, "This is sort of a reception area and that room over there," pointing to the left, "was the dining room, and this," as we walked into it, "was the family room.  You can see with the bay windows you get a great amount of light coming in.  There's an office towards the back on the right, the doorway furthest down.  The family room is the other doorway, in front of the stairs."

    "Where's the kitchen located?"

    "Behind the dining room."

    I headed toward the kitchen, "Let's get a look at it."

    While I was expecting a large kitchen, I wasn't prepared for this.  The room was gigantic. The north wall, from east end to almost the west end was windows. There were a variety of sinks, prep, standard, deep well, with cupboards beneath each. Then between each sink was a solid cabinet with eight to ten drawers clear to the floor. The top surface was a cutting surface.

    Most of the windows were missing glass as were the French doors in the northeast corner opening into the walled herb garden; and that in itself was interesting. I went out to take a closer look. Many of the plants I didn't recognize but some, such as onions, garlic, leeks, basil I was familiar with. There was a wrought iron table and chairs at one end of the garden but no umbrella although the fixture was there.

    Whoever had put the wall in had used a certain amount of imagination and ingenuity in that it was something of a mosaic of brick, cinder block with open cut out designs in them and glass brick. The glass brick would provide ample light magnification and a certain amount of heat on partly sunny, overcast cold days, while the cut-out designs in the cinder blocks provided for air circulation. I finally went back in and continued my examination of the kitchen.

    Over in the southeast corner of the kitchen was a large enclosed pantry with the shelving still intact. Next to that was a walk-in and next to that a freezer walk-in. Everything for the walk-ins was still intact except for the compressors and perhaps the door seals would need replacing.

    Apparently there had been two ranges running east and west against the wall of the freezer walk-in as gas and electrical outlets were still intact along with a rack anchored in the ceiling for hanging pans and skillets.

    On the east wall was a rather large work area, along with warming and proofing ovens, which surprisingly were still there -- surprising at least to me. A rather small fireplace next to the French doors into the herb garden completed the picture. It didn't look large enough for open spit roasting or anything like that but perhaps was used for bread products and smaller dishes.

    I walked over and started examining cupboards and opening drawers. "These are in good condition.  All they need is a little tightening up and cleaning and polishing."

    Kevin came over and looked at them.  "They're solid oak and this is a dry climate so there wouldn't be any warping or cracking."

    "All I'd have to do is get somebody in here to tighten them up and replace the fixtures and then clean and polish all of it and they'd be good as new.  Wow," as I continued my snooping, "there's even flour and sugar bins and racks for baking sheets and shallow pans.  I haven't seen anything like that in years."

    "Right.  What do you think of this table?"

    I had only glanced at the table as I walked across to examine the cupboards.  Like everything else, it was gigantic, easily twelve foot in length by about four or five foot in width.

    "This is birch; isn't it?"

    "Yes, or whatever butcher blocks are made of.  You'd want to keep that; wouldn't you?"

    "Oh, definitely.  What was over here?" looking at the northwest corner.

    "I'm not sure.  Breakfast nook?"

    "Maybe.  It'd be a good place for one."

    We finished the inspection of the kitchen and started upstairs.  The master bedroom faced the west and was quite large with high ceilings and an attached bath.  The rest of the bedrooms were smaller but still large.  The guest bathroom at the end of the hall was small almost to the point of afterthought and would definitely need to be overhauled and enlarged.  Closet space also was small and would need to be addressed.  Windows in the bedrooms were oversized with native stone ledges.

    We came downstairs and went on down to the basement which accessed off the kitchen.  It was comprised of several rooms, completely finished, oak floors, knotty pine walls, and sound-proof ceilings.  There were double size, dug-out bay windows on three sides.  It was almost like stepping outside in broad daylight, it was so light.  A door at the west end of the room opened into what Kevin said was a furnace room and boiler and a small bathroom.

    "What kind of furnace?"

    "Gas, forced air and the boiler was replaced right before Jensen decided to move. There's also air conditioning, refrigeration, which you will rarely use.  It was installed about two or three years ago." 

      We came upstairs and out through the herb garden into the back yard and inspected the servants' quarters and the storage sheds.  From there onto the orchard.  Again, a surprise as it extended back almost the length of a city block.  With a full harvest, there would certainly be enough to supply the town.  There definitely were several varieties of apple, cherry, apricot, peach, and I think plum.  As we walked back toward the house, we came across the spring, now boarded up.  I asked Kevin about it.

    "The spring is probably dirty by now and will need to be cleaned out and a new pump and sandpoint installed, but other than that, it's in good condition and the water is potable.  And if you notice, off to the side of the spring, there is what used to be a small arbor, which is broken down now, but they had several varieties of grapes at one time."

    As we stood in the back yard I looked off to the north to the stand of trees in the distance.

    "The trees over there or forest or whatever," I asked, pointing, "Is that part of the property?"

    "Yes, as I said earlier, it extends all the way from here west to the entrance of your access road and north and south to access roads. There's a fair-sized creek that runs through and a variety of wildlife. The property on the right, the owner's wife died and I doubt that anything much will be done with it. The property to the north of yours, the owner uses as winter pasture for his cattle. I think at one time, he had a trailer up here but no other improvements. Your property runs east of the orchard to the high rocky ridge that you can see from here.

    "Wow, there's a lot more to all this than I had thought.  Well, I think I have seen enough, shall we head back to town?"

    "Sure.  Oh, I didn't show you the attic.  Want to take a look?"

    "No, I'll take your word for it.  You said it was finished off?"

    "Yeah, floor, walls, and ceiling all finished.  There's a small bath and several closets up there.  There are a lot of small windows and the lighting is quite good ."

    "What did they use all that space for?  You said it was just he and his wife and two kids."

    "I honestly don't know.  Don't know whether they anticipated having more kids when they built the place or whether there was some other plan in the making. I know I was really surprised when I first walked through the place after Mr. Jensen moved out."

    We reached Kevin's Blazer and he reached in and grabbed the thermos, "Coffee?"

    "Yeah, thanks."

    He handed me a cup and we stood there, looking around, not saying much of anything.  I got the camera and took a number of shots of the house and surrounding property.

    Finally Kevin looked over at me, "Penny for your thoughts?"

    "Well, I don't know what the hell I would do with all this space.  But, yes, I am interested, so I guess --  yeah, let's head back to town and work up a bid and see how eager he is to sell this place."

    "Great."  We got in the Blazer and started back to town, talking about what all would need to be done and probable costs.  I glanced at my watch, surprised to find that it was late in the afternoon and lunch had come and gone.

    Once in the office, we pulled up multi listings of other mountain properties that had sold during the last year for reference and after a lot of discussion and a great deal of figuring and refiguring, finally came up with an offer.  Kevin keyboarded the information into the computer, printed it and handed me the original.  I glanced over it, signed it and handed it back to Kevin and he put it in the fax machine and sent it on its merry way.

    "Well, we should hear something from him in the next day or so."

    I sat there thinking about all my mixed emotions. The cost for one thing was more than I wanted to pay, but on the other hand, the property was too good to pass up; and if truth be known, I would probably go higher. Did I really want this large a place and the expense of renovation?  And the cost of keeping it up? Yes, I did. I was also scared to death he would accept my offer.  The whole thing kept going around in my head.

    "I need to eat and get my mind off this."  I got up and started for the door.

    "Wait a minute," Kevin said.  "I'll go with you."

    As we headed across the street, Kevin looked over at me, "You know the definition of mixed emotions; don't you?"


    He grinned at me.  "It's when your mother-in-law drives your brand new Cadillac over the cliff."

    I sort of groaned and shook my head.

    "C'mon, I'll buy you supper. You'll feel better after you eat."

    We headed for Swilars and sat in one of the booths and after ordering, I sat there staring out the window not saying much.



    "Answer a question for me.  Do you want the place?  Yes or no right now, don't think about it, just give me a yes or no, right now."

    "Yes, I do."

    "There's your answer.  Feel better?"

    I thought about it, "Yeah, I do."  We started talking back and forth and about that time, our orders arrived and we both dug in.

    "Are you planning on going back to Albuquerque tomorrow?" as we sat drinking coffee, the smoke from our cigarettes drifting lazily upwards.

    "I think so.  There's no reason for me to stay, and like you say, we probably won't hear anything for a day or so.  We've got each other's phone numbers, so as soon as you hear anything, give me a call."

    "Yeah, I will.  Well, I think I'll head back to the office for a while."

    We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  The gas station was still open, so I decided to get the Cruiser serviced. All I would have to do in the morning would be get up, eat and leave.

    Upon arriving at the motel, I stopped at the desk, paid the bill and headed for my room.

    I walked through the door and the red light on my phone was blinking.  Thinking that Kevin probably needed some additional information about something or other, I picked up the phone and called the desk.  The night clerk said there was a message and then apologized for not thinking of it when I was there paying the bill, but a Kevin Tartaglia had called and wanted me to call him right away.

    "Hang on and I'll dial the number for you," he said.

    The phone didn't even complete a full ring, "Kevin Tartaglia."

    "Hi, you miss me that bad?"

    "Oh, if only you knew.  I just called to congratulate you."

    "For what?"

    "You just bought a house

    "What?" I damn near dropped the phone.

    "He accepted your offer.  Isn't it fantastic?  When I got back to the office, the fax machine was blinking and Jensen had already written back accepting.  He wants to close tomorrow.  Can you stay another day?"

    I sat down on the side of the bed.  I needed to.  "Holy shit.  Uh, well, uh, yeah, but is he coming up here tomorrow to close?"

    "No, he called his attorney here in town and we'll do it through his attorney.  He won't be present.  Wow! I didn't think he would accept that offer.  I thought it was low, considering his original asking price.  And that fast, too. Man, isn't it great?"

    "Yeah, I think so.  I mean, yeah, it is.  Give me some time here to get my wits collected and the shock to wear off."

    "Okay, I'll let you go.  Come on over to the office tomorrow about 10 o'clock and we'll head over to the attorney's office, okay?  And now, I've got to get home or I'll be in trouble -- hell, I'm in trouble all the time. See you tomorrow."

    I said goodbye -- at least, I think I did -- and sat down on the bed lost in thought.  My mind was going a million miles an hour.  There were so many details and thoughts running through my mind I was half afraid they were leaking out my ears.  I grabbed a notebook and started writing.  I finally got to bed about an hour or so later and laid there for what seemed like hours before falling asleep.

    The wake-up call, complete with cheerfulness, came at seven o'clock and seemed earlier.

    I eventually headed over to Swilars for breakfast and arrived at the Kevin's not completely awake and slightly early.

    "Good morning, congratulations."  Ugh, more cheer.  "I called the attorney right after I talked with you last night and he'll have the paperwork ready by 10:30, so we've got a little bit of time to kill.  I called Dac this morning and he wants to meet you and look over the property.  Is that okay?  I know you wanted to check out the other contractors here in town and I'll call them for you later.  Also, here is a list of things that you will want to take care of in Albuquerque and here to make the move as easy as possible for you."

    "Thanks." I took the list and shoved it in my pocket.  "Where do we meet with Dac?"

    "At the property after we close on everything.  Oh, that reminds me, we need to go to the bank and arrange for a transfer of funds from your bank in Albuquerque to this one and get a cashier's check for the bid amount and of course, my commission," the last with a big happy grin.

    "Yeah.  I know my bank has electronic funds transfer and I assume the bank here in town has the same."

    "Yeah, they do, as a matter of fact."  He looked at his watch, "Why don't we go on over to the bank and get the money end of things taken care of and then on over to the attorney's."

    We went to the bank where after showing all kinds of ID, the account executive asked for the amount of my deposit. When I rattled off a figure, she got this started look on her face and suddenly the attitude toward me changed. Immediately. Money talks. Loudly. Anyway, I was granted the privilege of opening an account, ordering checks, transferring funds from the Albuquerque account and got the cashier's checks and then headed for the attorney's office. 

    After introductions were taken care of we got down to business and after signing a bunch of papers -- I wonder what I signed? -- tendering the checks and signing a few more papers, the sale was over and done with and I was the owner of the home in the mountains.  Kevin gave me the keys to the house and that was it.  No ceremony? To me, this was a momentous event, something more than just signing papers and tendering checks and should have been marked with something, at least a fanfare -- a harp glissando in the background or trumpets would have been at least called for.

    We walked out of the attorney's office onto the street. I think I was in a state of shock. "I don't know about you, but I need a drink."

    "Me, too.  It's been an exciting morning."  Back to Swilars we went.

    The same bartender was on duty when we walked in and sat down.  "Hi, Paul,"  Kevin said as he laid some money on the bar.  "We need a couple of shots and beer chasers.  Dave is now the owner of the Jensen property."

    Paul reached over and shook hands with me.  "Hey, congratulations.  I'm really happy for you." He glanced over at Kevin, "Keep your money, Kevin, this will be on the house.  I'm really glad, Dave," as he glanced back at me, "Now the house will have someone in it that can take care of it and it won't be lonely anymore."  We finished our drinks, talked for a bit more then headed back to Kevin's office.

    As we were going through the door into Kevin's office, he turned to me, "When do you want to meet with Dac about the renovation work?"

    "Right now would be okay with me.  Can he meet us up there?"

    "Let me give him a call and find out."  He picked up a phone and dialed a number and spoke for a minute or so and hung up.

    "He said to go on out to the property and he would meet us there. So, you ready?"

    "Yes, but let's take my car, you've taken yours the last two times."

    We got into the Cruiser.  Kevin looked around, "Wow, brand new.  Oh, it smells go good.  How do you like it?"

    "Love it, bought it about an hour before I drove up here the other day.  A joy to drive, a fantastic sound system not to mention a bunch of other nice options."

    "How does it handle?"

    "Well," as I slowed down and pulled into a turn-off, "Why don't you try it and give me your considered opinion."

    "Are you sure?"  I could see the excitement on his face but then his manners got the better of him.  "I'd better not, what if something happened?"

    "It's insured.  That was taken care of before I left the dealership.  Go ahead, you'll love it."

    Kevin jumped out and was around and opening my door before I had the engine turned off.  He got in, adjusted the seat and mirrors and looked over all the controls, fastened his seat belt and gradually pulled out onto the highway and brought it up to cruising speed, slowed down, speeded up, swerving back and forth across the highway, checking responses.  Then finally settling down to around 65mph.

    "Oh, if I can just sell about two or three more mountain properties, I will just about be able to afford something like this.  Damn, this is better than sex.  Well, certainly an alternate. I'd better let you take it, I don't want to take any chances," as he started pulling over.

    "It's no big deal, Kevin.  All I'll be using it for is to haul limestone and fertilizer up to the house for the patio and deck that I'm going to put in."

    Kevin got this shocked look on his face and turned to me, "You're going to haul manure in a Land Cruiser?" then saw the grin on my face.  "Shit!  You had me going there for a minute; you know that, don't you?"

    "Yep, yep.  Enjoyed every second of it, too.  Keep driving, we're almost there anyway."

    As we reached the turn-off, we noticed a jeep pulling onto the access road.  "That would be Dac, I imagine."

    We pulled off and followed the jeep up to the house and parked a slight distance away.

    As Dac got out of the Jeep, I noticed that he appeared to be about my height, slender, long legged with black hair.  I turned around to get some construction notes out of the car that I had made earlier.

    "Dac," Kevin said, "This is David Rinehardt, Dave this is Dac Tartaglia."

    I turned around, reaching to take his hand mumbling something about glad to meet you and so forth and looked into his face and . . . God, I've never seen such a beautiful human being. The blue of his eyes was so dark as to almost appear black were it not for the brightness of the day. His nose was neat and straight, the general shape of his face was somewhat angular with high cheekbones. His eyes were almond shaped and fringed with dark eyelashes and accented with narrow arching eyebrows. His mouth was wide and his lips were neither thick nor thin but in perfect balance with the rest of his face. It was like when God made his face, everything fit, there were no left over or missing pieces. His complexion was light contrasting with the darkness of his eyes and black eyebrows. But it was his eyes that captured, captivated and held me spellbound from that moment on. The only jarring note that marred this perfect symmetry of his face was the sadness that I saw there. But oh, I could get lost in those eyes. And did.

    I took his proffered hand and something happened. To both of us. No, there wasn't an electrical surge up both our arms that brought about instant lust. But there was something. I felt it and so did Dac and somehow I knew it, not only just from the widening of his eyes and arching of his eyebrows but on a more unconscious level. And there was another expression on his face -- a sort of recognition of . . .  what? Something, but what? I didn't know. I couldn't quite identify it, yet it wasn't unfamiliar. And we seemed unable to stop gazing at each other.

    And Kevin stood there watching all this take place, wondering what the hell was going on.

    We eventually disentangled and Dac said, "I understand from Kevin, here, that you're wanting to get some renovation work done."

    I looked at the house -- I had to, every time I looked at his face, I literally was struck dumb. "Yes, there's quite a bit of work on the grounds and access road that needs to be done and then the house, outside and inside.  The biggest share of the work will be on the inside of the house, some walls will have to come down or moved or both, bathrooms and closets will need to be enlarged.  On the outside, there is brick work, tile work, glass to replace, and so on.  Anybody that I do eventually hire will have to make a complete commitment to this, no half days here and somewhere else the rest of the day.  Would you be able to do that?"

    "I don't have anything going at the moment, so yes, I could make that commitment.  Otherwise, I would want to finish what I was doing before I started something like this.  This will be a fairly involved job and I wouldn't want any outside distractions."

    "When could you start?" 

    "Tomorrow morning at eight o'clock.  I'll need the rest of the afternoon to make arrangements for myself and contact the guys that work for me."

     "I can set up a drawing account for you to take care of payroll and other expenses. How much would you want deposited?"

    "I'll work that out tonight but I'd prefer to have the money deposited to the company account and I'll take care of payroll and other expenses out of that."

    "Good enough. Have the figures for me tomorrow morning and I'll meet you up here at eight o'clock," and I glanced at his face one last time and got lost again.

    "See you tomorrow morning." and he reached out to shake hands, "Thanks a lot," and it happened again, the sensation of . . . something, and we both were aware of it.

    Kevin and I got back in the car and headed out.

    "You want to check out the other contractors when we get back in town?"

    Somehow checking out the other contractors was no longer important or significant.  I would have hired him even if he wasn't competent to operate a shovel. "No, I don't.  I don't need to."

    "You seemed to be pretty impressed with Dac."

    Impressed wasn't the word for it.  "Yes, very much." Some of the other things I had been thinking about Dac must have snuck into my voice as Kevin glanced over at me as though he was about to ask, then changed his mind and didn't say anything.

    I dropped Kevin off at the office and went on over to the motel.  I made several calls getting utilities connected and found out that they had never been disconnected as was the same with the phone service.  So that became a relatively simple matter.   

    That taken care of, I made arrangements with a moving company in Albuquerque to work up an estimate as to what it would cost to move me up here.  I then looked up the one kitchen appliance dealer in town and got a run-down of what they carried and found out they could get any brand they wanted from their suppliers in Albuquerque and that they had all the necessary catalogs. All I needed to do was make selections and they would take care of the rest.

    All that had taken about an hour-and-a-half and left me with a pile of notes and dates and a growling stomach. I looked at my watch and discovered it was past noon and decided to go and eat and then to the appliance store. 

    I knew pretty much what I wanted in major kitchen appliances, and that took up another forty-five minutes of making selections and paying for them and opening an account with the store for other things as they came up.

    I then went to the lumber yard, hardware store, a local contractors' rental agency and the gas station and opened accounts in my name with Dac's name also listed.

    I was through with the errands in town and was driving back to the motel and something seemed to be pulling me back to the house. There wasn't any reason for my going back out there but yet . . . I guess it was an attack of ownership and I just wanted to walk around the property in private.  At least that's what I told myself as I headed out of town.

    I topped the rise and down into the clearing where the house stood and there was Dac's Jeep. He was here. Excitement started building in me immediately.  And, I realized, this is what I had really come up here for, hoping to see Dac again.  He was like a magnet to me. It was more than physical. I didn't know what exactly, but I wanted to find out.

    He must have seen me coming as he came out the front door just as I was getting out of the car.  A smile lit up his face as he walked toward me.  I wondered if he was experiencing some of the same feelings as I.

    "Hi, what are you doing up here?"  He was standing right in front of me with a big smile on his face and I immediately got lost in his eyes.

    "Oh, I just wanted to come up and walk around a bit," I said.  (Liar!)

    "Oh, well, I was just taking measurements in the house and trying to work out how I would go about re-doing the closets and bathrooms."

    "Well, don't let me keep you.  I was just going to walk through the orchard and see what kind of fruit trees there are.  It's so quiet and peaceful up here, it's a good place to think."

    "Yeah, or take a nap.  I'll meet you in the orchard in a little bit as soon as I finish up here."

    "Okay."  And with heart pounding, I headed for the orchard, thinking of him. Dac was about an inch taller than I, probably 6'1" or 2", with very black, slightly curling hair growing down part way onto his neck, long arms, beautiful hands with long, narrow fingers -- for a construction worker?  I wondered about the sadness in his eyes and what demons peopled his private life. As he walked away, the picture was completed as I noted the slim, compact body with long legs, not to mention a prominent bulge in his jeans and a round, compact bottom.

   By the time I got to the orchard, I had managed to get myself under control and my mind on other things again.

   The orchard was in rows, three rows being apple trees of different varieties, the next two rows were cherry trees, and the next row appeared to be apricot. The next several rows were peach. I noticed a tank wagon standing towards the back of the orchard and figured it was probably used to haul insecticide to spray the trees.

    No one had picked the fruit during the last year or so and it was evident by the amount of decaying fruit laying at the base of all the trees and the sweet sour smell of rot. I thought back to my youth, growing up on the farm and how nothing ever went to waste. Use it up, eat it up, wear it out, don't ever throw it away, my Dad used to say. I was appalled that something could go to waste like this and vowed that this would be cleaned up, trees pruned, fertilized and watered regularly. It would not go to waste next year. I wondered if there was someone that would be willing to take on the job of a full-time gardener. He could have the guest cottage or at least part of it. I would have to ask Kevin or Dac about it.

   I started walking toward the house, thinking about my brothers and sisters wishing they could see all this and wondering where Dac was.

   "Lot of fruit trees; aren't there?"

   I jumped half a foot. There was Dac squatted up against an apple tree with a grin on his face.

   "You startled me. I didn't see you come into the orchard."

   "I sort of snuck in when you were down at the end of the rows and was too lazy to walk all the way down there, so I just squatted down and waited. Figured you would see me but when you didn't, I spoke up."

   "Yes, I noticed. Did you get all your measurements taken?"

   "Yeah, and some ideas about the closets and bathrooms plus some ideas about running double projects and on and on. We may have to remove one of the bedrooms but I'll know more tomorrow. I'll get it written up tonight and go over it with you tomorrow when I see you."

   And we kind of ran out of things to say and stood there looking at each other, not saying what we wanted to say (at least what I wanted to say). But it just wouldn't come out.

   Finally, "Well, I guess I better head back to town and get something to eat." I started walking towards the car.

   Dac came up behind me, "Uh," I stopped and turned around. I thought for sure he was going to say something. "I really want to thank you for hiring me for this job." And I knew that wasn't what he wanted to say.

   "You're welcome. You had good recommendations from Kevin."

   He took a step closer and reached out to shake hands. And it happened again. Dac got the same expression on his face. I so much wanted to step closer, hold him in my arms, touch his hair, hold his body close to mine, feel my face against his.  We stood there looking at each other and I thought he must surely know what's going through my mind, how can he not know, it must be smeared all over my face.  As it was, his expression still was one of wonder, of observing.

    We finally released hands, I said goodbye and started toward the car.

    I had taken only a few steps when, "Where you gonna eat?"

    "Well, I was just planning on eating at Swilars," as I glanced back over my shoulder and continued walking.

    "Yeah, me too, I haven't been to the grocery store lately, so it looks as though I eat out.  We might as well eat together and get better acquainted."

    "Okay, I'll meet you at the restaurant."

    "I've got a couple of things yet to do here so I'll be a few minutes behind you."

    "Right," as I got in the Cruiser and started toward town.

    On the way back my mind kept going back over that last conversation.  Was the supper invitation more than casual?  Part of me said no and a louder voice said yes.  I couldn't answer why.  Wishful thinking?  Probably, I thought.  God knows I'm certainly attracted to him, the vision of his face swimming into my mind.  So what?, part of me said.  He's not the first good looking guy you've ever laid eyes on.  Yeah, I know but there is something about him that's different than every one else I've met.  What?, my little voice nagged.  I don't know, dammit, give it a rest why don'tcha.

    I pulled into the restaurant parking lot feeling like I had participated in a heated and losing debate.  I walked in and took a booth towards the back and my mind wouldn't quit, wondering why a booth at the back.  I told the waitress when she stopped by that someone else was joining me and we would order then.  She handed me a couple of menus and left.  I had gotten about half-way through the menu, looking up every few seconds to see if Dac had arrived and missing him when he did.

    "Hi, what are you having?" as Dac sat down opposite me.

    I looked up and was again transfixed by his blue-eyed smile and was suddenly floundering.

    "Uh, oh, uh, probably the Baron of Beef.  Sounds pretty good."

    "Sounds good to me, too," continuing to gaze at me.

    I was suddenly uncomfortable as though he was seeing too much.

    "You made it back sooner than I expected," glancing up at him, again, head-on into that gaze of his.

    "Uh-huh, took a short cut."

    The waitress appeared brandishing a coffee pot. We both nodded, got coffee and placed our orders.

    I took a sip of coffee and sat the cup down with my hand loosely around it.  Dac picked his cup up and took a sip and instead of sitting it down to his right where it was, he sat it down immediately in front of mine, his hand next to it and about two inches from mine.  Why this singular occurrence caught my attention, I don't know but I couldn't help noticing it.  Was it intentional?, accidental?  He's right handed the same as I and most people would have put the cup back where it had been.  He didn't.  Why?  His hand moved closer to mine.  I wanted to reach out and take his hand in mine as I had earlier today. 

    I moved my hand closer to his, barely touching. He didn't move his hand away, instead he reached for a cigarette, took it out, and fished for a lighter and lit it -- all with one hand, never taking his hand away from mine.  Oh, how I wanted to reach over and take his hand and hold it in mine. I was sure he wouldn't pull back and I . . . Damn, I couldn't do it.  I didn't have the courage.  Oh, you are such an emotional coward, I thought.  Was I making all this up in my mind? 

I must apologize to all of you. Two readers pointed out an error in Chapter 1. David was living in Albuquerque at the time he won the lottery and drove from Albuquerque to his destination. I neglected to put that in the story. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.

Let me hear from you. Hope you enjoyed this. Don't forget to include TMP in the subject line if you decide to write. Harlequin