Nicole’s Fantasy Ch. 02

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The day is still warming so you decide not to put your coveralls back on yet. You drink from your canteen and eat a little. To be sure you get back before dark, you strike off in the direction of the road. It’s a little sad leaving the tree, but the joyous grin that has been on your face for what seems like hours keeps coming back as you remember and replay your experience. Your legs are tired but they soon remember the rhythm and the way is downhill. The drips from the canopy are a constant companion now, hitting the ground and underbrush with a splat that makes the whole forest seem to be alive and twitching. You decide to put the scarf over your head to keep your hair dry for as long as possible.

After a while you hear running water off to one side and you angle over to see a little stream bounding down the hillside next to you. The brook is only a hand deep and you can see the rocky bottom easily. Thin shelves of ice are slowly receding as the water flows under and around them. Exposed roots of nearby trees frequently change the course of the water for a short distance before it forgets them and resumes a downward run. You follow along as close as you can, going around trees and occasionally hopping over to the other side to find an easier path. Various animal tracks can be seen in the snow and mud of the banks but you don’t meet any of their owners. Next to the brook the bushes and grasses are thickly coated with ice, the branches or blades leaning precariously in all directions.

You are startled by the rising metallic whine of what might be an electric saw. The sound is far away, but loud compared to the soft susurrations of the dripping forest and running brook. As you continue downstream, you can occasionally hear hammer strikes on wood and some other unidentifiable hum. Again, two more passes with the saw, a long pause, and more hammering. You can tell you are only about fifty meters away and you approach cautiously. The ground is still sloping steadily downward and you stay as close to the stream as you can. Looking down the waterway, you see a piece of structure that looks like it sits right on the stream. Movement attracts your attention to a man carrying a long plank atop the structure. You catch a glimpse of long denim trousers, a tool belt and a well-tanned back. You stop and think–do you want to approach this guy? You’re all alone out here and he could be dangerous. But, he seems to have an honest occupation, and he could probably tell you the quickest way back to the road. Hmmm… You decide to get a bit closer before making your decision. Another twenty meters and you see the structure is probably a house built in a small clearing and it forms a bridge over the stream just after it tumbles down a two-meter incline.

The man is maybe a hundred eighty centimeters and well muscled, not like a body builder but like a man who labors for a living. His tool belt has a dozen woodworking tools in it and rides low on his hips which you can see just above the waistline of his jeans. He has a brown beard, mustache, and sideburns with a slightly red tint. You are about to back off and go around him to find the road when you hear him whistling one of your favorite songs. You mentally slap yourself for being too paranoid and start walking toward the house. The purr of a portable generator masks the sound of your approach so you watch him fitting boards to make rafters for the roof over one end of the structure. The outside walls look as if they are made of small trees stacked up, their ends interlocking to form the corners. The span across the little stream is laid upon two massive tree trunks and will eventually have large picture windows on both sides. A pickup truck with various lengths of lumber in the bed is parked near a large tent, the generator, the electric saw, and a cold campfire. He climbs down from the roof and starts to fetch another plank when he spots you standing above him at the edge of the clearing.

“Holy sh–” he blurts, jumps back a bit, and puts his hand on his heart, “You ’bout scared me outa two years growth.” He walks over to the generator and turns it off. The sounds of the forest and brook seem to get louder to fill the silence left by the little engine.

“Sorry,” you grin, “I was just admiring your handiwork.”

“Oh, well, thank you ma’am. I’m no Frank Lloyd Wright, but it’ll keep me warm next winter.”

“Ma’am?” you think to yourself, “He’s probably older than I am…” Then you remember the scarf and, trying to be nonchalant, you pull the wet thing off and wring it out. You are rewarded with a smile that shows nice teeth.

“It’s obvious you aren’t from around here. You must be staying over at Whispering Pines” he says, then adds hastily, “uh, I’m Scott Carpenter,” he tips an imaginary hat and then puts his hands on his hips. He is covered in a fine layer of sawdust.

“I’m Nicole Mason, from Australia, and yes, I’m on holiday.”

He laughs. “A mason and a carpenter. Between the two of us we could build just about anything, hey?” Now it’s your istanbul escort turn to grin. You decide he’s alright and walk/slide/run down the incline to his level.

“It looks like you’re doing quite alright all by yourself. This is going to be fabulous!” You turn and look up at the bridge over the stream. From this angle, the house looks like it’s suspended from the high trees behind and on either side of it.

“This side’s going to be a studio. I’m trying to finish it first so I can move in and pack up my tent. The other side is going to be the main house,” you hear the excitement in his voice and you can tell that his eyes are looking at the completed structure.

“And you’ve done all this by yourself? How ever did you get those huge trees up there?” you wonder.

“Oh, no, I had help with those. They weigh a few tons each. Gotta have two trucks with cranes just to pick them up. All the main structural members are going to be made from whole trees, if I can swing it.”

You frown slightly. “You cut down these beautiful trees?” you say, slightly accusingly.

“No way, Miss Mason. I wouldn’t do such a thing, even though I own the land. No, I only buy trees that have been damaged by fire or other natural causes. And even then, there has to be a way to port the tree here. It’s not like there are many roads through the forest–a good tree for building is mighty hard to come by,” he shakes his head ruefully.

“Oh, I see. Then your work here is even more impressive,” you smile disarmingly, “and call me Nikki.”

He smiles back. “All right, Nikki. Pardon me, but being alone for days at a time has made me forget my manners. Would you like something to drink? I’ve got hot water for coffee or cocoa, and uh, beer. But we’d have to cool it in the stream for a bit unless you like it warm.”

Standing still, you’ve been getting steadily cooler, even standing in the ever-shifting sunny spots. “Hot cocoa would be grand, thank you, um, if it’s not too much trouble–“

“Not at all.” He disappears into the tent and for a few seconds you don’t hear anything. Then the tink of metal mugs and pouring of water heralds his return without his tool belt, wearing a flannel shirt with a tartan pattern and carrying two steel mugs. His has coffee in it. He hands you the one with the spoon. “It’s just instant, so you’ll have to stir it a bit,” he says apologetically.

“Mmmm, thank you.” You stir the mug and wrap your hands around it and inhale the aroma. Your hands drink the heat as you sip and you look for a place to sit down. The tailgate of the truck is down and has a few planks that cover the bed so you carefully hop up to sit on the wood. Ahhh, this is much better than cold metal, stone, or snow, and your legs thank you.

“So tell me more about this castle you’re building.” you say, with real interest.

He gives a little laugh and says “Funny you should call it that, it’s actually going to have a tower over here on the main building. I want to be able to climb up to the tops of the trees, or at least the lower branches and see what it’s like being as tall as a tree. Maybe I’ll add a tree house.”

“Oooh, I’ve been wishing I could do that all day,” you say wistfully.

“Everything in the house will be made of wood. I’m not even using nails if I can help it. That’s why I need whole trees for the load bearing supports and the outer walls. Interlocking grooves, pins, and wedges is all you need to hold it together. Of course, you have to pressure-treat certain parts to prevent too much movement as the seasons change…” He goes on to explain about the split-stone floor for passive solar heating, water pipes buried in the earth and running under the floors for heat exchange, an underground cellar for cooling, three fireplaces, retaining walls, vapor barriers, etc. You listen in fascination as he describes his dream home. You imagine the rooms he describes, bathed in the golden glow of polished wood, warmed by sun or fire, cooled by earth or breeze. His eyes occasionally come back to earth to meet yours and gauge your reaction. Here is a man obviously inspired by a vision, a dream given form by nature and his own hands. He has set his goals high enough to be a true challenge, but real enough to touch every step of the way. His love for the forest is palpable and he isn’t trying to conquer it or subvert it–he wants to live in harmony with it. You come to an easy decision.

“I saw a big fallen tree this morning on my hike. If I tell you where it is, would you give me a ride back to Whispering Pines?” you ask with a grin.

“One that fell in the storm last night?” he asks excitedly. “If you take me to it, I’ll even buy you dinner.”

Without a thought about how tired your legs are, you blurt “It’s a deal.”

“Then we’d better get a move on, it still gets dark pretty early this time of year.” He quickly puts away the cups and brings out a torch and a can of spray paint. He throws a tarp over the saw and the generator avcılar escort and then opens up the pickup truck to retrieve an orange hunting vest, rifle, a gadget with a little screen, and a Stetson cowboy hat. He answers your stare at the rifle with “Nothing should bother us, but I’d rather have it and not need it than vice versa. He slings the rifle over his shoulder, attaches the torch to a loop on one side of his jeans, the can of paint on the other side, and the electronic device to his belt. “Ready when you are,” he says with a smile.

You set off for the fallen tree, retracing your footsteps as best you can. “Um, what sort of things might we meet out here?” you ask warily.

“Mountain lion and bear are the critters that you have to watch out for,” he sees your wide-eyed look and adds “but it’s been a fairly mild winter, so they probably aren’t too hungry…’cept for the bears which are just waking up this time of year,” he teases.

It is practically raining under the trees and you put your scarf back on, but you’re quickly getting wet. He offers you the vest, which seems to be fairly water repellant and you accept. He holds it for you as you put it on and then your backpack again. The stream has grown steadily as more and more snow melts in the warm sun. When it comes time to cross he gallantly steps in icy water that is almost knee deep and lifts you, effortlessly, to the other side. You like the feel of his strong hands on your waist.

He tells you that the edge of his land is right about here and that the land belonged to his uncle before he died. You’re not sure how big an “acre” is, but the number sounds like a lot of land, judging from how far you have hiked so far. He explains that to recover a tree from the Forestry Department requires that he be the first to claim it, fill out an environmental impact form, and pay a fee based on the size of the tree. A forestry officer will have to come out and inspect the tree and decide whether to allow it to be removed.

There are breaks in your trail, but it’s fairly easy to spot your footprints ahead. It looks like a different forest walking uphill in this direction–nothing looks familiar. You eventually leave the swiftly moving stream and head back toward the ridge. Soon your tree comes into view. He whistles appreciatively.

“That’s a beauty. Probably a hundred and thirty footer. Straight as an arrow…with only minor imperfections,” he talks half to himself as he walks along the length of the tree.

Suddenly, you’re a little self-conscious about him finding some evidence of your presence, but he doesn’t even go all the way to the top of the tree. He spray paints some identifying markings in orange on the exposed roots and near the wide base. Then, he gets out the device with the small green screen and extends an antenna. You look at the screen and realize that you’ve seen one before. It’s a global positioning unit just like the one Mulder used to find the Antarctic base in the X Files movie.

“Oh how clever. Can that remember where we are and guide you back here?” you ask.

He is pleasantly surprised. “Yes, exactly. And I’ll give the Rangers the position so they can come out and inspect it. Everything’s high tech these days. You can’t get lost if you’ve got one of these babies.” He pauses and says quietly, “Trouble is, when you see it in terms of numbers, the forest doesn’t seem as big anymore–it takes away some of the mystery and majesty…” You put a comforting hand on his arm, the sleeve is cold and wet. He brightens and looks at you with a grin, “At least I don’t carry one o’ those damn cell phones. Now, how about that dinner?”

Downhill and downstream you trudge once again. The warmth of the sun is almost gone and it is dusk under the dripping canopy. The stream is now wide enough that it takes a few careful steps for him to carry you across. You put your arms around his neck and feel the muscles of his shoulders and the slight movement of his collarbone. You admire his profile as he concentrates on the footing. It feels like he could carry you all the way back to his dream home but he sets you gently, and a bit reluctantly, back on your feet. Your feet hurt from all the kilometers you’ve crossed and climbed, but you wouldn’t trade this day for anything. Looking at his back and shoulders as he blazes the trail ahead of you, you smile a secret smile, thinking to yourself “And it’s not over yet…”

Even the effort of hiking doesn’t keep the chill away now, so it is with great relief that you arrive back at his place and sit down on the tailgate again. He starts the pickup truck and turns on the heat. “Come sit in here while I g–,” he stops. “Could I ask a big favor?”

“Sure, what?” you reply as you climb in the passenger side of the truck.

“Uh, could I use your shower? I don’t have enough hot water around here for a real bath and I’m tired of taking cold ones. Besides, if we’re going to have a nice dinner, I’d like to be a little more presentable,” he smiles hopefully.

“You şirinevler escort and me both,” you say ruefully as you drag the wet scarf off your head and run your hand through limp hair.

“Great. Be back in a jiff,” and he closes the door to the truck and enters the tent.

While he’s gone you look in the visor mirror. Besides the hair you don’t look too bad. The cold has given you rosy cheeks and your skin feels tight and healthy. You stare at yourself, trying to figure out what to do.

“Am I crazy to want this guy?” you ask yourself. “No, he’s wonderful. Am I crazy to tell him? Probably. But you’re going to do it, aren’t you? Very probably. Good Lord girl, what did that tree do to you? I don’t know, but I liked it…a lot.”

In a minute or so he comes back with a duffel bag and climbs in. “Better put your seat belt on, the road is a bit rough,” he says as he latches his own seat belt. You do the same and he drives slowly down what few people would call a road. The heat feels wonderful on your feet and legs and you put your hands out to the vents to grab more. With an occasional lurch the truck makes its winding way downward and then sharply upward as it meets the main road. The wheels spin briefly on the wet gravel beside the road and then you pick up speed. You look back and there is not even a mailbox to mark the steep entrance to his castle.

Ten minutes later you arrive at the Whispering Pines lodge. The stairs to the second floor feel like climbing a mountain but you make it to the room, which has been freshly made up by the maid staff and is cozy warm. You hang your scarf and his vest up to dry and flop down in the big chair to take your boots off. You are quickly frustrated by stiff fingers and wet laces and you are still trying to figure out what to do about the man in your room. You want him. Badly. And he’s being the perfect gentleman. Dammit.

“Here, allow me,” Scott says pulling out a pocketknife and kneeling at your feet.

“Oh, thank you,” you say with relief.

He chooses what looks like a nail file and makes quick work of loosening the knots. Then he carefully pulls your boots off and sets them near the heater to dry. You pull your socks off and feel your skin breathe, the soft carpet feels like a cloud, but you start to shiver. That does it. You are cold, tired, hungry, horny, and now suddenly impatient and a little angry at nothing in particular: society maybe. Why does it have to be so complicated? Your clothes have been chafing you ever since you put them back on at the tree. They are sticking to you like cold, loathsome muck.

What the hell. In two swift moves you peel your clothes off and kick them into a corner. You almost gasp as your skin reacts to the air. You can feel the warmth start to creep in, but it’s much too slow. You want hot water and a hot body and you head for the bathroom. Scott is over by the window, stunned (“As he should be,” you think with a naughty grin), so you cock your hip, give him a one-eyed look over your shoulder, and invite him to wash your hair. Then you slink into the bathroom and close the door leaving it slightly ajar. The rest is up to him.

Water on. Hot. Shower on. Step in. The steaming jets of water rake across your flesh just like the ice needles did, but now temperatures are reversed. It feels like fire touching every goosebump but you know it’s just an illusion. Your neck, your breasts, your stomach take the full impact, the rest of your skin has to be content with steam or runoff. Eyes closed, you slowly lean forward and let the liquid flames climb up your chin, your lips, your nose, each centimeter tries to resist and then gives up in relief. You inhale the steam and feel it all the way to your lungs. As the jets reach the top of your head the hot water burns across your scalp like a forest fire, chasing the cold water before it.

A pair of arms encircles yours and draws you back in a gentle embrace. Your cold back and shoulder blades meet solid warmth and finally the shivering stops. The tension in your arms and shoulders melts away as you lean your head back and sigh. For a long moment he just holds you, with his cheek touching your head and his arms covering yours.

He whispers, “Ohhh, Nikki,” in a sigh of his own and you turn to put your arms around him. Again the temperatures make you focus on your skin. Your back is stung by fire and his chest feels almost cool as your hot breasts press up against his ribs. He looks about to say something but you preempt him with a quick kiss, his beard and mustache tickle your nose and chin. With a shake of your head and a look, you indicate no talking and then you hand him your shampoo. He looks longingly at you and then picks up your mood, smiles, and decides to play your game. You turn around as he squeezes shampoo into his hand and begins to rub it into your hair. Thank goodness the water doesn’t sting anymore or you wouldn’t be able to concentrate on his touch. With slow circular motions he gently washes your hair, combing it thru his fingers and messaging your scalp. When he’s done, you turn around and reward him with the sight of your body, head tilted back to rinse your hair, arms lifted to run your hands through it. You try not to look at him but you can tell he is excited and appreciative. Then you hand him the soap and quickly turn around again.

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