This Magic Place -- Chapter 3

    The moment passed because the waitress arrived with our orders, hands moved away, the moment lost. A portent of things to come? Perhaps, but not tonight. She began setting the plates down.

    We began eating, not talking a lot, a companionable silence despite my attack of hormones.

    I glanced up at Dac, "Boy, I'm hungrier than I thought."

    Dac glanced up, "Really good beef; isn't it?"

    "Yes, I was just going to say the same thing.  Where do they get their beef?  Somehow I can't see this coming from Albuquerque. There's a different taste and texture to it. Better, actually."

    "I think they get their hamburger there from a placed called Sysco's but the good beef is from Wyoming.  They have another restaurant in a little town just outside of Lander, Wyoming and they buy from the big ranches."

    "Oh, I assumed that this was the only one.  So," changing the subject, "are you a native to these parts?"

    "Yeah, I grew up on a ranch just out of town.  My Dad had a small herd of cattle and did carpentry work on the side.  That's where I learned.  My Mom taught school."

    "You have brothers and sisters?"

    "No, I was an only child.  With me on the scene, I think they decided they didn't want any others."

    "That good, huh?"

    "Well, depends on your point of view.  I didn't get away with too much but not for lack of trying. All in all, though, I think raising a child turned out to be a bit more than they had bargained for. I'm glad I grew up in this part of the country, though, rather than in town or in some of the others states I've heard about.  What about you, what part of the country do you come from?"

    "Oh, pretty much the same as you.  A small town in Kansas, out on the farm.  I have a bunch of brothers and sisters. I was ready to leave, though. Probably some of the people I grew up with were ready to see me leave, for that matter."

    "That bad, huh?"

    "Afraid so.  I'm surprised I ever managed to grow up.  Anyway, after I got out of school, I moved to Seattle and worked and lived there for about ten years and decided I'd seen enough rain to last me a lifetime and decided to try New Mexico.  Which I did.  I've been here about five years."

    Our small talk continued for another fifteen or twenty minutes over coffee and cigarettes.

    Dac looked at his watch, "Well, I still have all this stuff to get written out before I hit the sack, so I better get going.  I'll see you at the house tomorrow at eight o'clock."

    We said our goodbyes and left.  I went back to the motel, left a wake up call with the clerk and alternately watched television and made notes to myself about stuff that I needed to do and finally took me and my fantasies of Dac to bed and eventually sleep.

    I got the car packed with my stuff from the motel and was at the house around 7:45 the next morning waiting for Dac.  He showed up a few minutes after me, handing me a manilla envelope.  We sat in the Cruiser drinking coffee and eating sweet rolls, going over projections of expenses, materials, overall project cost and so on.

    "We can run double projects up here without getting in each other's way," he said, looking over his notes.  "We can have somebody in here doing the electrical while the people are putting in the sprinkler system and doing the landscaping."

    "Yes, but wouldn't you want to do the wiring after the walls in the house have been moved?  I notice you have about three or four that you plan to move."

    "Yes, but they'll be out before the wiring even begins and we'll be working on something else while they're here, and we are going to have to remove one of the bedrooms" and we continued like this, going back and forth with questions of each other and so on.  The price he was asking was hardly cut rate, but as I understood from Kevin -- and I believed him -- his work was worth the extra money.  I okayed everything that Dac had written out after asking a barrage of questions, trying to find errors, and mainly, assuring myself that my judgment in him was well founded.

    "So then, when will you actually get started on all this?"

    Dac looked at his watch, "In about thirty minutes.  I called my crew last night and told them to get up here by nine a.m., no later.  We're going to start on the access road and get it patched for the time being and put the asphalt on later.  We'll work an extra hour so that it will be a full eight-hour day and then tomorrow we will start at seven a.m. and work through until four with an hour for lunch. We don't work Saturdays or Sundays.  That's our regular work schedule.  The men like getting off at four as it gives them an extra hour to take care of other chores they have and on the weekends they do catch-up. One of the guys has a bit of a trip getting home, so all in all, it works out well for all of us."

    "I understand you'll be moving in here as soon as you get things closed up in Albuquerque?"

    "Yes. I may be camping out on the floor with a Coleman lantern and sleeping bag until everything gets hooked up."

    "You already have electricity," Dac stated.

    "I do?  Well, the lights didn't work the other day, I tried them."

    "That's because the mains were turned off at the fuse box.  I turned it on and went around and checked all the outlets and you're up and running.  I don't know why the electric company didn't disconnect after Jensen moved out, he may have not told them and they just kept sending the bills to his new address, but there won't be any problems with that. 

    "Now the phone lines, I didn't check that, but I would imagine that if you have already made arrangements with them, things will be up and running by the time you move in.  Oh, look," he said, pointing.  I looked and off toward the stand of trees to the north of the house was a doe and her fawn. "They must feel pretty safe to be grazing during the daylight," Dac said.  "Usually, they are pretty much nocturnal and stay under cover until nightfall. Neat, huh?"

    "Yeah, I just hope we don't run them off permanently with all the noise we're going to be making."  About that time, I could hear a car approaching, two or three, I thought, as they got closer.

    Dac's crew had arrived.  Introductions were made and I said my goodbyes gave Dac my phone number and headed towards town and on to Albuquerque.

    The project had begun.

   I had talked with Dac a few times to see how he was doing and if he was having any problems.  He always sounded so happy to talk to me, and to tell you the truth, I was happy to talk to him. It seemed like we kept thinking of things to talk about just to keep the conversation going. We even got into a discussion on the differences in weather between the new place and Albuquerque. One time when we were talking, he asked me if I wanted him to come to Albuquerque and give me a hand.  I turned him down, but it was tempting.  He assured me that everything was going fine and they were actually a bit ahead of their schedule.  Later in the week, I got a call from the appliance store wanting to know when I wanted to have the kitchen ranges and other appliances installed and I made arrangements to have them delivered and installed the Monday after I moved in.

   While Saturday was actually moving day, the moving company had called me Friday morning wanting to know if I was ready enough for them to come by late morning and pack up and then leave first thing Saturday morning. It was fine with me and they showed up around 11 o'clock and got everything packed and left, with a detailed map on how to get to the house once they got there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was I ahead of my own schedule but with the movers now taken care of, I only had a couple of boxes left to put in the Cruiser and I was free to leave. I thought of Dac. I would get their early.

    I took a last look at the place I had lived in for the past several years and said goodbye and drove away at 12 noon.  It's always somewhat sad to leave a place that you have lived in for years but in this case, it was counterbalanced with the excitement ahead and that helped. One way of life coming to an end, another one just beginning. I wondered what all would happen.

    I arrived in the middle of the afternoon and got to the house shortly afterward and was happy to find that the access road had been completely finished and was smooth riding right up to the front door.  Dac met me at the front door, practically grinning from ear to ear.

    "Hi, you.  I sure missed you.  You're early, too. How was the trip up?"

    "I missed you, too.  Even had dreams about you. The trip is over with, and that's the best part."

    "When's the moving van going to be here?"

    "Later this afternoon but probably first thing Monday morning," I said.  "Their idea of first thing in the morning is usually around ten or eleven o'clock."

    "Okay.  So you're here for good?"

    "For better or worse."

    He gave me a big smile, "It'll be better.  I know it. Well, c'mon, we've got a lot done so far and I want to show you," and Dac grabbed me by the arm and started walking through the house, pointing out the changes.  "All the walls have been moved, closets enlarged, bathrooms enlarged, an additional bath in one of the guest bedrooms. The bath and shower in the master bedroom is really huge, you could get two or three people in the shower, no trouble at all. And we are all ready for the electricians and they'll be here this coming Monday.  It'll probably take them about three to five days to completely re-wire the house and then after they finish, the plumbers will take over. 

    "I got you hooked up so you have facilities and hot water in your bathroom. At least until the plumbers get here and take it all apart and put it back together again. Oh, and we got the tile flooring in the kitchen all done. The terra cotta and the pattern really looks nice. I didn't think it would but for an area that large, it looks good."

    "Wow, I'm impressed.  This is going faster than I thought it would.  Dac, you're doing a heck of a good job," his face lit up along with a blinding smile.

    "Oh," as I remembered, "The kitchen appliances will be delivered Monday morning and installed.  The moving van, in all probability, will not show up until about the same time.  In the meantime, I'm going to unload the Cruiser and get that put away and then head into town and buy some basic furniture."  I started towards the door, and hollered back at him, "If the moving van shows up while I'm gone, or you get terribly lonely and need your hand held, give me a call on the cell phone and I'll come right out."

    "I don't know, I'm already pretty lonely. I may get worse. You need some help with unpacking?"

    "I wouldn't turn you down."

    "I was going to help one way or the other," he grinned at me.

    "Then why did you ask?" I shot back.

    "To give you the illusion," he said.

    "Which is?"

    "That you're in charge around here," with a big smile.

    I laughed.  "You're probably right.  By the end of this project, I may be working for you."

    "Only if you have good references."

    "Oh, I do, I wrote them myself."

    We got the Cruiser unloaded in record time and the clothing put away in the closet and I left for town.

    I selected furniture for the kitchen, living room and my bedroom which was to be delivered Monday morning.  I stopped in the hardware store and picked up a large ice chest and then the grocery store for stuff for supper and breakfast and dumped a bag of ice on top of it.  I got back to the house around 3:30 with sales slips and delivery schedules and a variety of notes I had written to myself.  The moving van had not arrived and I resigned myself to Monday morning.

    Dac's crew was working in various rooms in the downstairs part of the house.  I finally located him in my bedroom measuring the window ledge.

    "Hi, did you buy out the store?"

    "Well, they all had smiles on their faces when I left," I said.  "I don't know whether they were glad to see me leave or glad that I spent so much money or both.  I just bought furniture for the kitchen, family room and the bedroom."

    As I looked around, I noticed that my sleeping bag had been unrolled and a lamp set up next to it.  Dac followed my gaze and turned kind of red in the face.

    "I saw your sleeping bag over in the corner, so I unrolled it for you and set up the lamp and checked to make sure you had electricity up here.  Hope you don't mind."  He was standing right behind me with a kind of an embarrassed look on his face and without thinking, I put my hand on his shoulder, and gave him the biggest smile I had handy.

    "I don't mind at all.  I appreciate the extra hand."  Maybe he recognized the expression on my face of wanting to do more than just touch him, and maybe he wanted to do the same. I know I was certainly thinking it, but suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, we were in each other's arms in a tight hug.  He broke away first, looking more than a little shocked and looked at me with eyes opened wide.  He took kind of a shaky breath.

    "I'm really glad you're going to be living here, and I . . ." and he stopped and just turned and walked out of the room.  My heart rate had practically doubled and I was breathing like I had just run up a flight of stairs.  Damn, what was he going to say?

    I headed downstairs and the men were finishing up and getting ready to leave for the weekend. I went out to the Cruiser and got the ice chest and took it to the kitchen.  Dac came in shortly afterwards, trying to look as if nothing had happened and not succeeding very well.  We both were thinking about it.

    "We're closing it down for the day," he said.  "You going to be okay up here?"

    "I thought you were going to stay the night and hold my hand in case I get fearful and fainthearted."

    "Ask me. I might," with a glint in his eyes.

    "Yeah, I'll be fine.  Have the men already left?" I asked him.

    "Yeah," looking the question.

    "Wanna have supper with me? I promise not to take advantage of you."

    "Damn, you're no fun. I didn't know you had anything to eat up here.  I was going to invite you to eat with me," he said. "And I was planning on taking advantage of you."

    I laughed. "Okay.  I'll accept your invitation if you'll accept mine."

    Dac looked at me and laughed, "Nothing like a little circular conversation to spark the intellect.  Okay, what've you got to eat?"

    "Oh, stuff for sandwiches, smoked oysters, Greek olives, fruit, a cherry pie, milk, juice, thermos of coffee in the car."

    "Sounds good to me. How much is it going to cost me?"

   "Oh, c'mon, you think I'm that penurious?"

   "Penurious!? Wow, I'm impressed. I don't even know what it means but it sure sounds good. That being the case, I accept, since you're not penurious. Where do you want to eat? And how do you get penurious, by the way?"

    I muttered something about smart-mouth, and answered him end to front, "Bad parents. Let's try the front steps and watch the sunset.  Here, grab hold of the end of this," as I grabbed the other end of the ice chest.

    We sat on the front steps enjoying the peace, eating ham sandwiches, smoked oysters and olives, washing it down with orange juice and managing somehow to keep talking, joking back and forth.  And it hit me, that I was happier than I had been for a long time and a great deal of it had to do with Dac's company.  Usually, sitting with another male, there was a form of underlying competition going on, almost a form of sexual tension, and if the other male happened to be gay, then it could really got complicated.  I didn't give it a lot of thought at the time, just that it was nice to be sitting with someone that I was comfortable with and hoped that we would be able to do this again. I looked over at Dac and he had this little smile on his face.

    "You acting like the Mona Lisa for a reason?"

    "Huh? I don't know what Mona was smirking about. I could speculate, though."

    "I do."

    He turned, facing me, "What?" Mr. Disbeliever.

    "She was thinking about getting Penurious."


    "Yeah, he was the guy that lived a couple houses down from her. She'd had her eyes on him for some time and decided she was going to teach him the ways of the world. It's true," as I noticed the look on his face. "I wouldn't woof you."

    "Yeah, right. Woof, woof. God will probably get you for that or better yet, Mona will."

    We finished eating and Dac put his plate down, lit a cigarette and looked off in the distance at the line of trees.  And then, completely out of the blue, "You ever thought much about love, friendship, that sort of thing?"

    I looked at him, the surprise showing on my face, I'm sure, "Sure, who hasn't?  Can't say that I've been very successful with either.  What brings about this line of thought?"

    "I don't know, really.  Just that I need to talk with someone about this. It's something that's been bothering me quite a bit lately.  The only other person I could talk to would be the priest and he's elderly. I mean, I don't have anything against elderly people, it's just, I don't know . . . I've never been very comfortable around him. Well, there are some other reasons why not."

    "Sure, I'd be happy to listen and help, if I can."

    "I suppose I'd better explain a little bit about myself. I told you the other night that I grew up on a ranch. Which I did and it was pretty lonely most of the time.  I've never had a really close friend.  Nearest neighbors with kids was a good ten, fifteen miles away.  Dad was too busy to take me over there just to play.  We were always too busy trying to make ends meet.  Besides, if my Dad thought I was bored or didn't have anything to do, he took care of that real quick.  So, I sort of grew up a loner.  I was the same way in high school and college, sort of kept to myself.  The fact that I was way ahead of most of the other students academically didn't exactly endear me to them. They didn't want to have much to do with me.

    "I kept telling myself that I didn't need anyone and that works for a while.  Then my folks passed away two, three years ago. Mom first and then Dad later and I guess their passing brought it all home to me, this feeling of aloneness.

    "Everyone I know has someone.  You know, a wife or husband, girlfriend or boyfriend.  I'm alone, and even when I'm with other people, I still have this feeling of aloneness.  It's just been on my mind so much lately. It would be nice to be able to confide and really connect with someone and know that you are being understood, and not just tolerated."

    He looked off in the distance.  "I know this sounds strange, but for some reason, I seem to be able to talk to you.  And I don't know why, really. I don't know whether you feel the same way or not."  He sort of ran out of gas and stopped and I was busy thinking about what he had just said and the same feelings that I'd experienced and I guess he was waiting for me to assure him and I kinda dropped the ball. Then finally, "I don't know why the hell I'm telling you this, I'm acting like a wimp, and --"

    "You're not acting like a wimp.  I'm sorry, I was thinking about what you just said and it brought up some memories of my own and I guess I was trying to think about two things at once and not doing a very good job of it."

    "You not a wimp. You're reaching out and you need to, everybody needs love, affection, to be appreciated.  And you and I do connect. And I think the reason we do is because we are on the same level, emotional and intellectual -- you see and recognize values in me that I see in you. You feel comfortable around me as I do with you because of this mutuality. Well, my good looks probably attracts you to no end."

    He gave a snort, "Oh, aaaarrrgg."

    "I do know what you're saying, though.  I've been alone most of my life.  I never had a close friend, either.  I was closer to my brothers than anyone else. One brother, especially. I never met anyone that I wanted to live with for the rest of my life.  I've wondered why or if there was something wrong with me.  I never could come up with any kind of answer, so I guess somewhere along the line, I just kind of accepted it and went about my business.  I didn't like it but I couldn't think of any way of getting around it -- at least that I was satisfied with. 

    "I mean, I've seen those ads on television where you advertise for relationships and all that sort of thing but I just can't see myself doing something like that.  Or going to church socials and listening to all those gabby women with their blue hair in the hopes of -- yuck, it'd drive me nuts. Or the singles bars. It's just not me.  Besides, I was busy with work and I had my various little hobbies and interests that took up most of my spare time.  But there were times, late at night, when I wished things were different.

    "One of the reasons I asked you to have supper with me is that I'm comfortable around you, too.  I don't have to compete with you. We can spend time getting to know one another and enjoying each other."

    He let out a long-held sign and turned to me, "I'm glad, so glad. What's the other reason?"

    "I was afraid you'd ask. This is kinda hard to explain.  When I first shook your hand, there was something that passed between us or happened between us.  I felt it and I know I did, and I think you did too from the expression on your face.  And it happened again the other times when we shook hands, and that one time when you grabbed me by the arm to show me all the things that you had got accomplished while I was in Albuquerque.  And, well, the other reason, I guess is -- well, I like you, I like your company.  And there, I've probably embarrassed the hell out of both of us."

    He turned and faced me, "You didn't embarrass me," and changing the subject, "You felt it, too?  I thought it was just me."

    "Yes, I felt it.  I don't know what's going on.  I've never had anything like this happen before.  Have you?"

    "No."  He looked away, "But I decided that I wanted to get to know you.  And then this thing, I wanted to understand what was happening.  Besides, there were some other reasons, too."

    I wondered what the other reasons were and started to ask him, then, "You know, I've never had a friend before that I could talk to, like we are right now. It's just . . . God, it's such a relief, and that's not the word, exactly."  He looked out at the line of trees in the distance. 

    "I've tried to be friends with other guys around here and women, too.  But for some reason, it just doesn't seem to work.  Maybe you're right, maybe we weren't on the same level. I know every time I started talking about things I was interested in, they looked at me like I was an alien or something or I'd broken some kind of rule.  You know, it's like there are only certain things they can talk about, or feel safe talking about, like work, sex, TV, and sports.  Macho male. Mainly, I think they are afraid to be themselves.  Someone might think they're weird. It was the same thing in college.  These last couple of years have been kind of lonely."

    He looked at me, "That's why I was so glad you got this place.  I thought maybe you and I could . . .  Well, you know what I'm trying to say?"

    "Yes, I know what you're saying."

    I reached over and gave him a hug, and a smile spread across his face, "Would best friend like a cup of coffee?"

    He looked over at me and gave me a grin, his eyes dancing, "Yeah, best friend was wondering if you were going to get off your lazy butt and offer me one."

    I laughed and got him a cup of coffee and we sat there thinking about what had been said, and perhaps what had not been said.  "You know, having the money to do all these things is nice and exciting and it's fun but it wears out real fast."

    He looked at me kind of funny, "And is this . . . this . . . friendship between you and me, is it going to last or is it going to wear out pretty fast, too?"

    "I don't know. I don't think so, not if we are both willing to work at it. Both people have to first like each other, to learn about each other, and to be there for the other. You know, to care and love each other.  Otherwise, the friendship will fail. Hmm, I just now remembered something I read. The author said that love is basically understanding the other person. What do you think?"

    "I think this is going to be a smashing success. Besides, once you get to know me, you'll find out what a tremendously interesting person I am.  Very intelligent, too. Fascinating comes to mind, also."

    "You're a piece of work, all right. You know, I don't even know how best friends are supposed to act around each other, exactly.  You got a manual on it?"

    "Oh, yeah, complete with video tape instructions. I don't know.  Hang out together, I guess, do things with each other, talk to each other, share problems.  That sort of stuff."

    "Yeah, okay, sounds good."

    "Oh, I forgot," making a slightly wicked face at me, "Telling each other their secrets."

    "Yuuuh, say what?  I don't know about that.  I got some really raunchy ones."

    "Hot damn, this gets better by the minute.  I'm all ears."

    "Yeah, well, pull 'em in, Bud.  You first. Besides I want to know how you got the name of Dac."

    "How did you find out about that?"

    "That's just it, I haven't found out anything. I told Kevin that I thought it was an unusual name and he said there was a story behind it but I would have to ask you about it.  So, I'm asking."

    "Kevin and a couple of my cousins are the only ones that know about it.  My real name is Zachary except I couldn't pronounce it when I was little and the closest I could come was something that sounded like Dac, at least that's what my Mom said.  Anyway, they laughed at me and started calling me Dac and I guess it stuck and that's been my name ever since."

    "What a letdown . I'm disappointed.  I thought there was something, you know, sort of bordering on the risque or even sinister about it."

    "You wish. Nope, just more name than I could get my mouth around."  He glanced at his watch, "I didn't realize it was so late.  I probably better be going and let you get to bed."

    "Okay, I guess I'll unpack some of those boxes we brought in from the Cruiser then take a shower.  Before you go, give me a hand with this stuff."

    "Sure," as we picked up the debris from supper and took it back to the kitchen.

    "See you Monday morning," as he headed for the Jeep.

    "Cinnamon rolls with morning coffee would be acceptable."

    "Oh, ha, ha. You have such a bizarre sense of humor, David," and got in his Jeep and took off.

    I spent Saturday unpacking, reorganizing, cleaning, and mostly thinking about Dac and our conversation and missing his company.

    Early Sunday morning found me on the front steps with a cup of coffee thinking about what I was going to do with the day. I hadn't slept all that well. I'd had a number of dreams that kept waking me up, some good (about Dac), some not (not about Dac). I sat there wondering what he was doing.

    It's amazing how sometimes in your life when you wish for something, it actually happens exactly the way you wish it. And sometimes things happen that turn out just as you would have wished them if you'd been on the ball in the first place. I heard the sound of a vehicle. It sounds just like Dac's Jeep, I thought. Hope, hope . . . And he topped the rise and dropped into the clearing, coming to stop a few feet away. He hopped out, carrying a white paper bag held high in one hand and a big cheesy grin.

    "You were so insistent about those damned cinnamon rolls and I happened to remember that the bakery is closed on Monday and without 'em, you would be utterly impossible to deal with all day long. And I didn't want to have to deal with your attitude. So I decided to bring them out today. Where's the coffee? Oh, good morning," as he swept past on his way for coffee.

    "Good morning. On the counter in the kitchen, help yourself. Thanks for the cinnamon rolls. You are going to share; aren't you?"

    "Can you imagine me refusing? Would I refuse my best friend? I do all kinds of things for my best friend that he doesn't even know about, let alone appreciate."

    "Would best friend shut up before he gets clout in mouth, and give me the damned cinnamon rolls."

    "Here, here," handing me the bag. "Best friend will now shut up and proceed to stuff face."

    We sat there eating a cinnamon rolls and something kept nagging at the back of my mind and finally my brain started working.

    "Hey, I just remembered. I got a flyer in the mail a couple days ago from that bakery. They're open seven days a week."

    "Ooops." Dac got a bit red in the face.

    I laughed. "You just missed me so much you just had to get your scrawny butt out here. You don't even know their hours, do you? All right, best bud, spill it."

    "It is not scrawny. It's just very trim and uh, consolidated, sort of. Well, anyway, I got all my stuff done yesterday and I was kinda at loose ends today and I thought maybe you and I could do something or go somewhere together."

    "Consolidated? Wow, I've never heard it described that way. Oh, well, yes, as a matter of fact, I would. I didn't sleep all that good last night and I'm not all that motivated to get things done today."

    "Were you sick?" concern showing in his face.

    "No, just a bunch of dreams that kept waking me up."

    "Oh, about me, and how much you missed my sweet face?," complete with a lift in his voice and big grin.

    I made a face, "Dreams, not nightmares, Dac." Boy, if he only knew.

    "Oh. Well, where would you like to go? We have a full day."

    "Don't know. You got something in mind?"

    "Well, yeah, I do. You ever been fly fishing? I know a couple of rivers that are high up and pretty secluded that are good trout fishing."

    "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I have. I spent a couple weeks in Wyoming and I did some fly fishing in one of the mountain streams there."

    "I suppose your fly rod's in the moving van between here and Albuquerque?"

    "Well, no. I suspect it's living in somebody's garage at the moment. It sold in the garage sale before I left."

    "Oh. Well, it doesn't matter, I have three and an extra pair of waders. You can use my stuff. Wanna go?"

    "Sure." I grabbed the coffee mugs and started back into the house. "Let me get my camera and lock up."

    "What do you want a camera for?," as I finally reappeared.

    "Maybe to take a picture of your 'consolidation,' why else?"

    Dac glanced at me and muttered something about "likely story."

    I smiled, thinking you don't know the half of it, boyo.

    We got in the Jeep and started out. We drove through the gate, stopped and I got out and locked it behind us.

    "You know, what I'd like to do with that thing is to motorize the gate with key access down at this end and put in a two-way voice box between here and the house with an open-shut-lock switch at the house end. Something like that possible?"

    "Yeah, there's a guy that has a small appliance repair place in town that used to work for a company that did that type of work for a lot of the movie stars that live around Santa Fe and Taos. I guess privacy and tourists were becoming a major problem. I can have him come out and work up an estimate, if you want."

    "Yeah, I wish you would," thinking that would take care of the nuisance of getting in and out of the car all the time.

    Dac didn't say anything for a while, then, "Seems like a waste of money to have a lock on the gate end with just one key unless you're going to be giving out a bunch of 'em. I'd think a keypad would work just as well."

    "No, I'll have two keys made, and one for emergencies. Three all told. And I don't trust keypads, too easy to change combinations or break into and short out and they're not all that reliable in the long run. I don't want to have to replace the damned thing every year."

    "Oh." There was sort of an unasked question floating around in the air. Silence.

    Now who is being led on here, I thought. I didn't mind since it was Dac.

    "I'll have two made, one for me and one for you and one that I'll hide near the gate that we both know about."

    "You're giving me one?"

    "Why wouldn't I? We trust each other, we'll still be friends after this project is over with. You're a little flaky but I still like you. I know you won't go blabbing it to other people."

    "Oh, okay." He didn't say anything but the way his face lit up, I could see he was really tickled about it.

    "Okay, I'll call that guy and get him out here first thing Monday," and glanced over at me and smiled. "And you're the flaky one."

    "I wondered if you were going to respond." We were approaching town and my stomach gurgled. Unlike 'gaydar,' I must have something like 'foodar,' I thought. It seems to go off whenever I'm in the vicinity of a good place to eat. "You have anything for breakfast?"

    "Just a couple of those cinnamon rolls. You still hungry? 'cause I sure am."

    "Yeah, let's stop at Swilars and get something. We could get some sandwiches and stuff to take with us. I don't want to starve up there in case you get lost and can't find your way home."

    "Lost? Me? I never get lost. I grew up in this part of the country. Boy," in mock disgust as we pulled into town.

    "Dac, Swilars is left not right," I said in my most pleasant voice as he buzzed around the corner heading the wrong way.

    He looked over at me, started to say something and grinned and we both started laughing.

    We finally got to Swilars, went in, ordered and when it arrived, placed a large order for sandwiches and things to go with it and got busy demolishing breakfast, our anti-starvation kit arriving as we were finishing up.

    We paid the bill and hit the road, both of us in good moods, laughing, teasing each other, and I suppose, acting like a couple of giddy teenagers.

    We headed north out of town, taking the east fork of a junction and heading into the mountains. The road got narrower as we began climbing and the air noticeably cooler as we went through stand after stand of pine. Dac hadn't put the top back on the Jeep yet and I shivered, hunching down in the seat.

    Dac slowed down and pulled off the road and reached in the back.

    "What?, you lost already?" I asked.

    "Here, you're getting cold, put this on," handing me a jacket. "I should have told you to bring a jacket but I forgot. I am not lost," and tried his best to glare at me and started smiling in the middle of it.

    I laughed and put the jacket on and I could smell Dac's scent on it. I loved it immediately. Hope he forgets to ask me to return it, I thought.

    "Don't want you to catch pneumonia or something. Then you'd want me to sit by your bed and feed you chicken soup and read to you and stuff."

    At that point, I was ready to throw the jacket in the back seat along with my shirt. "Would you really feed me chicken soup?"

That's it for another chapter. Let me know what you are thinking about this story. If you write, don't forget to use TMP in the subject line. Thanks, Harlequin.