Here’s a longer excerpt from Romance One. I’m still tweaking this, but would love to have your comments.
Darwin arrived at Marianna’s campground earlier in the day. She found him attractive, but unprepared for camping. She’s curious about why he is there, but happy to have a paying customer. He’s there on business – his employer holds a mortgage on her property, and wants the land. He’s not above a little flirting to get information his company can use against her.
This is their first conversation of any significance, and it’s a challenge, as I need to establish the mutual attraction, his duplicity, and her hesitation, and do a little foreshadowing. Does it work?
[Marianna is in the pump house for her well].
Marianna was replacing a clogged filter when it started to rain . She could hear it lightly tapping on the tin roof, slowly increasing in volume and frequency. By the time she had put away the tools and opened the door, it had become a heavy, wind-driven downpour. As she headed for house, she looked over to Darwin’s site. She could not see him, but it looked like there was a light inside his truck. He might be drier sleeping in there, she thought. By the time she reached the house she was soaked through to her underclothes.
She shucked her wet clothes in the kitchen. She put a kettle on the stove, and while it heated she went upstairs to her room, and put on some sweats. The kettle started to whistle as she was heading back down the stairs, and as she entered the kitchen there was a knock at the door. “Just a minute,” she called, turned off the stove, and briefly considered changing. She decided to get the door. Her hope that it was another guest lasted only until she opened the door and saw Darwin in her porch, in a shiny yellow rain poncho that was too thin to last a week. “Yes?”
“Sorry to bother you, but I was hoping to charge up my phone. Given the weather, I can’t use the outlet at the site.”
“No, of course not. Come in. Wait – hang your poncho over to the left there,” she said, indicating a row of hooks in the porch behind him. “I’m just making some tea. Would you like some?”
“That would be warming, thanks.” Darwin hung up his poncho in the porch, and stepped into the kitchen. “Wow – this is gorgeous.” Darwin surveyed the large kitchen. It ran the length of the back of the house, with a wall of windows facing the ocean, above a long counter. The windows and pink cupboards were decades old. A modern fridge and stove along the far wall contrasted with a huge old wood burning stove opposite the windows. “Do you use that,” he asked, pointing at the wood stove.
“Sometimes. If the power goes out, and it’s a good source of heat in the winter. What kind of tea would you like? I’m making herbal for me – hibiscus, but I have others. Please, take a seat at the table.”
“Just regular tea – with lots of sugar, thanks.” Darwin walked over to the table. Where can I plug in my phone?”
The kettle started to whistle. Marianna turned off the stove and poured the tea. “Sorry, over here.” Darwin walked over to her, close enough that she could smell a mix of the lingering vinyl scent of the poncho and something like a cedarwood soap. He plugged in his phone. She took a step sideways to put a little distance between them.
“This one mine?” he asked, indicating the mug with the brownish tea.
“Yes. I know it’s not a proper tea cup, but I prefer a larger serving.”
“That works for me.”
She poured water into her mug. The water turned bright red. He wrapped a hand around his mug. Large hands, she thought, but that doesn’t mean anything. “Spoons are in the drawer in front of you.” He took a spoon, and offered her one, but she shook her head. “No thanks – never in herbal tea. Sugar’s on the table.”
Darwin crossed the room and sat at the long side of table, in a chair opposite the window. She followed. Definitely works out, she thought.
“You get rain like this much?”
“Not too often. And it usually passes quickly.” She sat down at the short side of the table.
“Oh? You checked the forecast?”
“No,” Marianna said, “But you can’t rely on the forecast here anyway. Sometimes there is heavy rain on one part of the island, and just a light shower next cove over.”
“Must be bad for business, though.”
“Usually when people go camping, they’re prepared for bad weather.”
“And you’re saying I’m not?”
“I don’t get many tent campers, and they’re usually, more…”
Marianna blushed. “Well, no offence, but you look like you work in an office, and you didn’t show up on a bike.”
“People do? But yes, you’re right, I do work in an office. I work out, though. How can you tell I work in an office?”
“It’s late summer, and you have no tan. Short hair, neat nails. And a lucky guess.”
“So you were checking me out?”
“I’m in a service business – I need to know my customers.”
He sipped his tea. “Usually campgrounds have a shelter or some something for rainy weather.” A gust of wind splashed water against the kitchen window.
“I’m hoping to build one next year. I was going to this year, but I had to upgrade the water system, which cost more than I was expected, and it’s hard to get bank loans, especially when you are not an established business, and especially when you’re a woman. As it is, my mortgage is with a shady outfit, at a ridiculous rate, but that’s all I could get. I’m hoping to transfer to a more respectable company next year, and that should free up some funds for a picnic shelter.”
Darwin digested this news. Her interest rate was very fair, under the circumstances, but if she thought she could refinance, she might be more resistant to takeover plans.
“What made you decided to start up a campground, especially with the financial challenges?”
“After I finished my marketing degree –“. The light flickered once, a second time, and went out.
“I guess I can’t charge my phone now.”
“It may not be out very long. I’ve got a generator if it is. For now, I’ll light candles.” Marianna got up and went over to the counter.
“No need. I just need to get a match – there’s already candles beside the table.”
“So this happens a lot too?”
“No, I just like using candles.” She got up, moved some candles from a shelf to the table, walked over to the stove, and returned with a long match. She lit the candles, put the match on the stove, and sat down again.
“Now isn’t this romantic?” said Darwin. “I’m a lucky guy – just got here, and I’m already enjoying a candlelit evening with a beautiful woman.”
Marianna felt the heat of her blushing, and was grateful it was too dark for him to notice. Her hair was a ragged mess from the rain, and she was wearing worn sweats. But no one had shared her bed since that French cyclist at the beginning of the summer, and the season was almost over. Darwin was a little odd but seemed decent. The changed light made him look more rugged, and his stubble was noticeable. “Just trying to show you some good old fashioned Cape Breton hospitality.”
“So you’re from here?”
“No. My family’s from here. I’m from Toronto, but my mother was from here. This was my grandmother’s place, and I used to come here in the summers. I moved out here a couple of years ago, and started turning it into a campground. What about you? How far have you travelled to get here?”
“I’m working in Toronto now, “said Darwin, “but I’m actually from down Yarmouth way. Moved to Toronto when I was 17, and never looked back.”
“So I left the corporate world, and you sought it out.”
“Looks that way. But tonight we are both here. Funny how that happens.” Darwin reached over, gently took her hand, and started stoking his thumb across her palm. She looked up at him, but he was looking out the window. He turned to her, smiled, and took a sip of tea. She smiled at him and took a sip. Another gust of wind splashed water against the windows. The lights flickered on and Marianna jumped up. She picked up her mug with both hands.
“Well, there we go. Power again.” She walked over to the counter, feeling foolish. He was charming enough, but as pleasant as it might be, she didn’t need a one night stand with a pale gym rat who probably wanted to share her bed because he thought it was a better option than a tent in a storm.
“I think the rain is slowing,” said Darwin. He got up and walked around to the window. “Yes, it’s clearer now, and I’ve taken enough of your evening. I can just leave the phone here, if that’s okay with you?”
“Thanks for the tea.” He bought his mug to the counter, then checked his phone for messages and texts. “No signal. I guess with the power outage it might take a while to restore cell service. Your website said you have internet service, but I’m not picking up Wi-Fi.”
“I don’t have it yet. The internet is a shared computer up front, but it uses the cell service for internet, so until the cell network is back there’s no internet.”
“Well, I wanted a vacation. Guess I can get some reading done. Thanks for the tea.” He opened the door to the porch and put on his poncho.
“You’re welcome. Hope you have a good night and keep dry.”
“You too. I mean, I’m sure you’ll keep dry, but have a good night.” He opened the outer door, and Marianna was relieved to see the rain had almost stopped. She waved as he closed the outer door, then closed the inner door, and leaned her back against it. She touched her palm where Darwin had stroked, and smiled. His phone buzzed. She walked over to the counter, and saw New Message, from Carla, the words “miss you” and a heart. It was only there an instant before the phone locked and the screen went blank.
Just another pig, she thought. It’s a good thing the power came back on before that went any further. She considered calling him back to tell him there was message, but decided against it. He could get his damn message in the morning.