Typical. It was just typical of Gippsland to have such a dramatic downpour of rain, Charlotte thought grimly, and it was just as typical that it had to happen whilst she was driving along the most dangerous section of the Princes Hwy. She could feel the balding tyres of her '89 mazda sedan drifting in the deep puddles, and her windscreen wipers were swiping the pelting rain so fast she could barely see the car in front of her. At this rate, she might get to Kilmany, her old home town, by christmas! She sneezed and shiverred and madly began pressing buttons to get the old heater to work, and every effort was wasted as not even an ounce of heat came out. She'd been at the airport long enough and was sick of the drive already. What an effort to get her luggage and then her car all out at once. She felt lonely dragging everything around by herself; watching families assisting each other with the heavy baggage. She'd dropped one or two things here and there and had to put everything back down again and re-pile them over her luggage carrier.
A horn beeped and the traffic slowed even further. It was dark and gloomy and charlotte found no comfort wherever she looked; she'd be best to pull over and have a rest. she looked at her clock which read eleven forty five am; that made her already fifteen minutes late meeting the lawyer and she still had another twenty Kilometres to travel. Charlotte was a happy go lucky girl who thought herself happy and content with what her life had been several months back. She'd lost her parents when she was quite young and had been left in the care of her loving Pa, and they'd had a happy life. They hadn't been Poor but neither had they been well off. They had lived on a property that was about twenty acres worth and most of it was bushland. The rest was what charlotte had kept her two horses on. Oh how she had loved her horses it was her first and only love right now. Painting was her second. She couldnt remmeber when she began painting, she just knew she'd always wanted to be a painter. Her apartment in London and the house she was on her way to returning to had been filled with numerous canvases she'd either painted in a haste or painted over time. They were all landscapes and she'd spent the past two years painting landcapes all over the world. She'd been to Paris and Italy and Spain and was just on her way to egypt when she'd received an unpleasant phone call from a 'lawyer' saying she'd better return home immediately.
Her Pa had had a massive heart attack.
She'd met so many important contacts, and quite literally impressed them all, not one of them would guess at her lifestyle; Her messy, artistic London apartment. Big enough for only herself and a boarder. It was all she could afford over there, though and it had made the comforts of home so much more meaningful. She'd even adopted a little of an accent. It wouldnt last long over here, charlotte was an aussie down to her bones.
Normally Charlotte would be excited to begin such a new and exciting chapter in her life, a move back from England to her old hometown would be such an adventure, at least it would of been if it weren't for the death of her Pa, which was the reason for her revisitation. Except it wasn't really a revisitation come to think of it. This time, Charlotte was here to stay. She'd seen the world as it was and she'd made a promising career in painting which she was going to follow up here. She was sick of the hustle and bustle of the busy city life in London anyway and felt that a change couldn't really have come at a better time in her life. A return home to the country was exactly what she needed, that and the fresh air couldnt be more welcoming than what it was now; especially after dealing with this traffic.
“You're gonna love it here sal.” she told her dog lovingly, Patting her on the head. Sal, a golden retriever who she'd saved only months ago from a pompous such and such of a man in an outer town pet shop in England, had proven herself more than the once and there was no way charlotte was going to leave her friend behind.
“Once we get there that is. The traffic is dying off but the weather seems to be getting worse.” No wonder the grass was so green and luchious she thought mockingly.
Charlotte had been really close to her Pa, he'd been her only living relative after her parents had died in a car crash twelve years ago. She'd been only ten then, and after looking after her aged Pa for eight years he'd paid for her to go to the most pristegeous Art school in the world; The London Art University, where she'd worked her butt off for the years she attended. But now her Pa's death had withrdrawn her from the course with two years left unfinished.
Luckily, under the circumtances, the school agreed to refund one years tuition fees so she had something to live off without having to sell herself on the street. She had no idea what condition the house was in at the present but her fears abated as she turned into the well-manicured gardens filled with bright daisies and deep-red roses. It would look gorgeous in spring she thought happily, a smile returning to her pretty face for the first time that day. She stayed that way as she got out of the car, stretch and leant across to retrieve her phone and wallet out of the car, straightening just in time to miss being run over by the suave silver Jaguar that roared into the undercover car park. Her temper flared instantly as she stamped over to where the solidly built man was getting out of the smooth car door, and he turned on her with an arogant grin.
“Sorry I'm late. Had stuff to do.”
“Stuff? Stuff to do? You were supposed to be here an hour ago Mr..Mr?”
“For the record, so were you. On another note though,” he cut in smoothly pushing past her and making his way to the front door. He unlocked the gigantic twin doors with the flash looking key he held in his strong musculine hands. For a lawyer, he was quite built. He didnt look like he sat at a desk all day, his rough hands made their way into hers as he lifted one up to kiss gently.
“You don't remmber me do you Char?”
Charlotte finally looked up into the brown deep-set eyes that she'd been avoiding since their meeting. No-one had called her that since her pa had been alive, even then he was only one of two men to ever call her that.
“Jake? Jake Treloar?...” She whisphered incredulously. He'd wanted to be a farmer, just like his dad, and here he was in all his glory, a lawyer, opening her Pa's house to her. She couldn't contain her excitement and threw herself up into his arms “Jake!” she yelled at his answering smile, just as Sal ran over to greet him also. After introductions were made between her old friend and her playful dog, she invited him inside for coffee and to catch up.
“Char, I'm sorry bout your Pa. I really am. The day he died, it was a great loss to the community. I'll come inside so you can sign these papers but I really have to rush, I've got a date at lunch. Im a bit late” he smiled rakishly, his white teeth strikingly bright against his tanned skin.
“A bit late?” she teased easily. She was afraid they'd still be weary of one another after the way they parted when she left for England, but obviously not. Jake proceeded to show her around the newly renovated house. “Its changed heaps since you left hey? I've helped your Pa with most of this stuff he had an amazing gift to remodel houses. You should've seen what he's done with some of the houses around here”
“What do you mean?” She looked up at jake curiosly, guiltily. She should be the one to be talking about her Pa's works so proudly not Jake.
“You do know he funded a lot of the redovelopments around here dont you? He won the lotto a few months back.
Fist division. Thirty million dollars. You didnt know?” He asked, sounding surprised that she had no idea about any moneys left over to her. “It's written right here on page four. To be left to my Grandaughter, Charlotte Grace Smith, the sum of Five million dollars, the remainder of all my funds. As well as,” he continued with his matured drawl, “Ah there it is. Right there, his house, cars and property. twenty acres.”
After not hearing a response for a minute or two, Jake looked up into bright blue eyes shining to the brim of tears.
“I'd like to puchase some of your newly aquired property for my own usage... our properties join right down the middle and im in need of quite a lot more land.” He'd try and help her adjust back into this new way of life as much as he possibly could.
“Excuse me?” Her voice, he noticed, had taken on a more exasperated tone and he hurriedly attempted to exmplain the offer in more friendlier terms. Perhaps he should have waited a while before bringing it up. He'd only wanted her to be thought of and she needed to face the facts that she might actually need help looking after all this newly aquired wealth. He hadn't known what she was up to every second of the day in London but hed seen her pa every other day and he knew the basics of what she was doing with herself.
He moved quickly to her side, “It isnt what I meant Char. I mean you will probably need a hand with the property it's a big job and your Pa said you were quite into your work as a painter so you might have limited time? I can help you by taking some land and putting it to good use.”
“How dare you Jake... I mean... that is an extremely selfish proposision.” she practically spat out his name in tears and for the life of him, he couldn't work out what he had done that was so selfish and intended to ask such a thing when she began working herself into a state.
“Is it?” he asked maddeningly “it seems entirely practical to me. I can hardly leave you alone to work out your finaces when you've basically been living off nothing in london!”
“I had only the very best in london” Charlotte sniffed, and began to lie effusively when she wondered how he knew of her life in london. Her pa! she'd bet her life on the two becoming best buddies in her absence.
“You've been checking up on me havent you! You sneaky waif. And now you think because I am desperate so and a women that I need you riding up on your white horse willing to save the damsel in distress? Well for your information you selfish greedy... selfish man... I do not need your help. In any way shape or form!”
“I can tell from the small size of you that you havent been eating well; you're tiny and you'd be right to assume that I've been keeping an update through your pa.” For the life of him he couldn't workout where a night on a white horse or a damsel in distress came into the conversation but if she was a bit loopy by now he couldn't blame her she ahd had a hard time of late so he had heard.
She certainly hadn't grown selfish, nor greedy or conceited. She had on the other hand grown more confident and a lot more stubbor. If that was possible.
She was still his charlotte he wondered. And with this knowledge dawning on him, he swiftly picked her up and his head went down to meet hers in a strong, passionate kiss.
“You insuferable little chit,” he declared as his open mouth met hers. Charlotte shocked into being kissed full on for the first time in her life in such an open and needing way could do nothing if not return the kiss and as she began to hold on to his arms tighlty and get swept up in the awe of it all he pulled away, his eyes fierce and angry.
“I was only trying to help.” he ground out. “And now look what you've gone and done you little brat... You're no different from when I first knew you.”
Charlotte began to feel dizzy and sick, but couldn't stop her body from wanting his kiss. How dare he say such a nonsense thing to her she had changed, very much since she'd seen him last. She wasn't the little girl he used to try and shake off as a youngster. And she'd soon enough show him too!
“I can handle all of this myself thankyou very much for asking and I'll thank you to never kiss me again. It was insufferable and I've had better.” There she thought ruefully, that should put him in his place.
With eyes brimming full of honest and boyish laughter Jake soon let out a snort, which he failed to make into a faux cough and soon he was chuckling his heart out with laughter.
Charlotte glowered at the rangy figure, so very much at home on the hearthrug, the elegant cut of the black shiny suit jacket moulding athletic shoulders, the long legs more than capable of standing the fashion for a slim style. How dare this fancy-pants stide into her home and tell her she didnt know what she was getting herself into and that she couldnt handle it. She'd show him!
“Where do I sign the papers?” she cut in gingerly. “You are totally impossible and I don't ever want to see you again!”
Jake treloar watched the play of emotions suddenly transform the previously well controlled face of the beautiful young woman before him. He was puzzled, not a state he often found himself in.
Charlotte finished berating him with a tight mouth, her bright eyes glaring at him angrily and stormed upstairs and into what used to be her room, slamming the door shut she stopped short of falling onto where she'd last left her bed. “what the?” she mouthed silently. And then she faited. Within an instant Jake was there, helping her over to the smooth leather couch and easel that was in the place of her old bed. Her pa had done everything in his power to creat a quiet and peaceful escape for his dear grandaughter and had succedded in doing just that. It was charlottes dream, he knew come to life. It was her own private studio where she could paint at her leisure.
Jake returned upstairs with fresh water and a wet face washer squeezed over her face, thank god she didnt have to wear any make up he thought proudly.
What was her background like now he wondered silently, eyes intently upon the lips he'd just felt upon his own. He would put money on the fact that she'd never been kissed before, well apart from the time he tried his very hardest to put the moves on her when they were young besties. Yes, Charlotte was still as fiery and yet just as innocent as when she had walked out of his life. She was not the person she left Kilmany being, She was even more stunning, more confident and more fiery. That much had quickly been established. She was also a lot more stubborn than he knew her to be, more proof that she had learnt to be more assertive than the next person. She must have done it tough to get where she was in life. Her pa would be proud. Like her pa, he was too, ectremely proud of her- why he felt the need to lookout for her he still wasnt to sure about- but unlike her pa, Jake was once again becoming incresingly enthralled with the girl before him.
He stroked his chin, contemplating his situation as he took an impatient few steps around the room.
She generally wanted him gone and today, he admitted nothing had gone at all to plan. Charlotte had spent a few years over seas and wasn't at all a plain sight for eyes. As he had thought a few times today, already, she was in fact quite beautiful, he would bet she'd had her fair share of rakes rnning round after her and was surprised to think that she had stuck to her studies; he knew the potential she had in becaoming a brgiht and passionate person and yet he could have sworn she'd never been kissed before. If she was here with no beau or no-body chasing her, then why did she not want him around? She'd been alone for so long that he assumed she'd want some friendly company, and surprisingly she was telling him to leave her alone.
Jake remembered the nervous trembling of her lips just before he leant in to kiss hers and his mouth twisted in sensual recollection. He sat up as she started, her lips parting unconsiously in an invitation he could not resist. As he stroked one finger gently along her jaw, he bent and kissed her, catching her in his arms and drawing her into his warmth. For a moment the slender, supple figure was pliant in his arms, the lips returned the pressure of his, hesitatingly, with a naivety that he kept questioning to accept, and was still, the very last thing he expected. Then, she jerked back, abruptly freeing herself, anger turning her eyes a pure, hard blue. Instinctively her hand came up to strike him and Jake pressed the blow with the palm of his hand. The sound of the slap rang through the small room, then she was gone, a rushed absense.
Jake listened to her footsteps as she ran back downstairs, the slam of the door, the unmistakable click of a lock somewhere. He stood rubbing his tingling cheek, a look of rueful surprise on hs face. Of all the things he had expected to happen this morning, it was that his dear Charlotte was not only untouchable, but, quite literally, untouched.
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