When they pulled out on to the highway, Charlie turned over to him. "You ok?"
"Yeah." Wayne said, mustering a weak smile. "I'm fine."
"Are you sure?"
He laughed. "Don't worry about me Charlie, it takes more than that to faze me."
She turned her attention to the road ahead. "My dad ... " She sighed. "My dad's just a bully Wayne, he'd never actually be brought to causing violence. He's just trying to protect me." She put her hand on his as it lay on the gearshift.
Wayne smiled, this time it was genuine. "I'd do the same."
"That's why I like you. So where are we going?"
"We're going up into the valley, to Julian Hill."
"Whoa, isn't that where all those old farmhouses are?"
"Yeah, actually. It's mostly just to look around. They didn't set a price in the ad." He turned to her briefly. She was already looking at him and the sudden eye contact caught him by surprise. "Being unsure is sometimes better than knowing without a doubt that it‘s out of your price range." He smiled, turning back to the road. "Besides, it's nice countryside and I haven't gotten you out of that fair until today."
Charlie laughed, "That's true. Well, I'm glad it's to go explore something. I love discovering new things." She was stroking the top of his hand softly with her thumb. "And it's always better when you get to share it with someone."
There was a stretch of silence, not an awkward silence, but the kind that is common while listening to the droning engine of a car. Charlie was resting her head against the window and staring up at the sky when she noticed it. "What is that?"
"What?" Wayne asked.
Wayne smiled. "Oh, that." He looked over to his left. Outside the car, down in the valley was Wayne's workplace. He watched it, as the treetops growing in the embankment rushed past in a parallax panoramic. "It's coming from there." He said, nodding in the direction of the stacks; the smoke, like columns of cotton, reaching up to the ceiling of the earth.
Charlie leaned over to his side. He was taken aback by their proximity and distracted long enough to have coasted outside of his lane. He swerved back on his side of the yellow line and tried to ignore the heat radiating onto his shoulder from her body. He wasn't doing a good job of it.
"I know that smell!" She said, in a moment of enlightenment and stuck her face into the nook of his neck. "Yep, that's it."
Wayne was laughing, still trying frantically to remain on the road, let alone in his lane.
"You work there!" Charlie exclaimed triumphantly.
"Yes I do."
Charlie sat back in the passenger seat. "Well that's good, if you get this place you won't have to commute as far."
"That's one of the main reasons I was looking to check it out." Wayne said. He suddenly felt cold in the places where she had been close to him, as though his body was crying out for her touch. "I don't know though. I mean, look at these places." He said, leaning in toward the windscreen so that he could see up the steep slope of the valley. "These houses are huge."
Again there was silence as they made there way around the bend in the valley, taking a less travelled road that led them through a winding path to the top of the hills.
"We should be getting close." Wayne said.
"Let me see this." Charlie pulled the paper from the center console and flipped through the pages. "Where's the ad?"
"Um, should be on the last page." Wayne was still craned over the steering wheel, awed by the grandeur of the homes on the hill.
"We passed it, just now."
"Yeah, it says thirteen sixty two. That's back there."
Wayne slowed and pulled over. He turned and leaned between the seats to get a look behind him before conducting a U-turn.
It took him by surprise when he felt the warmth of her touch, he must have jumped, because she had pulled away for a split second. Wayne froze, and remained between the seats as if something terribly interesting had caught his attention on the trunk of his car. When she returned, he felt her parted lips brushing against the side of his neck. He could tell from their firmness that she was smiling. His eyes closed when he felt them soften and share his flesh with the welcoming warmth of her tongue.
"That ... " He said, taking in a sharp, unconscious breath. "... feels amazing."
"Does it?" She said, her lips not leaving their small conquered domain upon his body.
In that moment, Wayne was ready to submit himself completely to her. His heart raced, pumping a powerful cocktail of hormones through his body. This triggered a series of events that made his mind numb and susceptible to her every whim.
"Let's go check it out." She said, releasing her control over him and returning to her seat.
Wayne slumped groggily into the drivers seat, his body screaming for its dominator to return. "Definitely." He said, his mind struggling even to maintain a semblance of comprehensible speech. If stringing a coherent sentence was difficult, pulling a U-turn and operating a standard transmission motor vehicle was going to be a feat fit for Gods. With an internal shaking of his mind, he depressed the clutch and checked one last time that the way was clear before pulling out on to the highway and turning around.
Sure enough, Charlie was right. Two long winding driveways down the road, they found their destination. The gate to the fenced property was opened. They made their way up the valley side to a pristine plateau that opened into a deciduous forest that was clearly transported directly from a postcard or a fantasy novel.
Charlie was glued to the window. "Wow."
"It's too bad."
"What do you mean?" She asked.
"It's too bad I won't ever be able to afford this. This is beautiful."
"It is, isn't it?"
Their awe was premature. The true magnificence was waiting for them after they crossed an ancient yet well kept covered bridge.
"Oh my God." Her words were separated by long intervals of spellbound silence.
Wayne was speechless, his eyes soaking in every brick of the archaic structure.
"Wayne, this is amazing."
"I can't believe this is hiding just a few miles behind my factory."
As they pulled up to a horseshoe driveway, an elderly couple walked out of the solid wooden doors at the front of the field stone structure.
"I guess those are our landlords." Charlie said. "Did you call them?"
"They didn't leave a number, just an address."
"Oh." She said, looking at the page, slightly embarrassed that she hadn't noticed this fact herself. "So it seems."
The car slowed, the popping of the gravel shifting beneath its wheels waned until becoming silent as they came to a stop.
The old couple waved, smiles on their faces.
Wayne and Charlie looked at each other.
"Well, this is it." She said.
"Yeah, I guess it is."
"We shall." Wayne smiled, and without thinking, took her cheek in his hand and leaned in for a kiss.
"I meant go talk to the landlords." Charlie said, after blissfully accepting his lips.
"I'm just playing the role." He said slyly.
She gawked at him, playfully slapping his arm. "You scoundrel." Her door opened and she cheerfully stepped out on to the driveway.
There was no backing down now, Wayne had no choice but to get out and make his way around the car to be at Charlie's side.
Their hands grazed and she clasped his immediately as if it were a passing insect unsuspectingly devoured by a Venus fly trap. His heart pounded against his ribcage once again. Charlie was giving it a good workout today.